Posts

Quartieri charctuerie

Tom’s talking Italian at Quartieri

The latest Whampdinner took us down the KHR and (via the ever-splendid Black Lion) into Quartieri, to see what all the fuss was about regarding apparently authentic Italian pizzas…

It’s cheery inside, smart but laid-back, with one wall housing a remarkable array of herbs and chilis, quite a sight, and wonderful to know they’re going straight into the dishes.

Quartieri herb garden

Browsing the menu in advance I immediately got the impression these were ‘serious’ pizzas, as many appeared simple, without too many toppings, and no additional ones (though there were some less-standard choices available, and a special, a lemon-based one which sounded intriguing).

My table quickly devoured a charcuterie board, and looking across the room I noted an elegantly presented salad indicating care and attention. This seemed to have what looked like crisps placed on top; Mark noted several comments on these, in some cases accompanied by quirky Italian terminologies for fried this or that, but I think we’re all in agreement that yes, those were crisps!

Quartieri charctuerie

The bruschetta was good, as was the gnocchi (we tried some as a bonus starter) – somehow light yet rich, with a tantalising softness to it and just a little ‘edge’ as well. For both these dishes, I’d have liked a touch more salt, but then I’ve probably mashed my tastebuds due to decades of, well, getting mashed.

Quartieri Bruschetta

Quartieri gnocchi

I selected the Puttanesca pizza. With simple pizzas there’s nowhere to hide, so there has to be seasoning and taste; and indeed this was delicious, with strong flavours and satisfying dough. For sure, it had a touch of class and confidence to it, which I think is is what we were hoping for with this type of venture.

I was puzzled by all the toppings being in the centre (from the menu: Agerola fior di latte, slow food capers, and Caiazza black olives from Selanova), and although I admired the intention of these dark, intense olives being unpitted, this did inevitably mean it wasn’t easy to get a taste of everything in one bite. More puzzling was the omission of the stated Casa Marazzo organic tomatoes, especially as the whole menu sings-out “tomatoes!” throughout. The bonus addition of basil added a nice dimension though. Whatever, I’d happily have been back to try other options at 8am for breakfast given the opportunity. (Well perhaps 10am).

Quartieri pizza puttanesca

Service, via the friendly but professional Luka, was efficient, and we enjoyed a chat with the effusive founder, Tony, who seemed to be an exact 50-50 Italian / English mix. Us simpletons were amused and confused in equal measure initially, when Tony read menu options in vibrant Italian before sounding like a Kilburn pub landlord moments later.

We tried two reds: Aglianico Quartieri 17 – “savoury, meaty notes and plum fruit characterise this dry house red” – indeed it was dry, quite a refreshing wine to start off with, then Piedirosso Pompeiano 20 – “a medium bodied red with hints of strawberry on the nose and strawberry & blackcurrant on the palette” – a similar lightness (12.5% ABV) but with rather more to it, to match up against the grub.

A note about the chili oil – it was excellent. That sort of heat which creeps up, transpiring to be far more complex and indeed spicier than expected. Now, I tried to stitch-up poor old Goetz on my table, by assuming a nonchalant manner and suggesting “put tons of it on, it’s very mild” – however, as Goetz already knows I’m an idiot, he saw through my devious plan immediately – dismissing it with a chuckle and a bite of his calzone. Doh!

High quality pizzas, then lounging about in The Black Lion a couple of doors down – sounds like a sensible Kilburn-based evening, does it not? Welcome, Quartieri – we look forward to next time.

Mobile Press Photos at 248 Kilburn High Road by Jean Smith, 1979

Tracking down Kilburn’s misplaced cinema

Many buildings in Kilburn have interesting stories, but few can match 248 Kilburn High Road. The site, now demolished, has recently been given permission for two new-build blocks of flats. Residents will be living on top of a slice of media history.

In October 1908, American-born George Washington Grant and two partners formed the Biograph Theatre Company. They saw cinema as the growing medium and opened two Biograph cinemas in the Holloway Road and Peckham in 1909. The busy working-class area of Kilburn was a good place for their next venture. The partners approached Madame Goubert of 65a Brondesbury Villas (who owned several plant nurseries in Kilburn), and suggested opening a cinema and adjoining skating rink on her nursery ground behind Brondesbury Villas and the High Road. An application was made in her name on 19 November 1909, but it was refused by Willesden Council. Biograph persevered and in May 1910, The Biograph Theatre with 600 seats opened on the other side of the Kilburn High Road at No.236. The trade newspaper, Era, said, ‘It is doing remarkably well and is prettily decorated in brown and gold and is very cosy.’

By then the group had a chain of nine small cinemas in London. Unusually, the manager of the Kilburn branch was a woman, Mrs McCullah. However, the cinema had a short life and closed in 1917, unable to compete with the nearby Oswald Stoll-owned Grange Cinema. This had opened at the end of July 1914 with more than 2,000 seats, making it the largest purpose-built cinema in England. It was superseded in December 1937 when the iconic Gaumont State opened across the High Road with more than 4,000 seats. Biograph found it difficult to keep its chain profitable, and in 1922 the partners voted to voluntarily wind up the company.

Initial researchers of early cinema believed that the Biograph was situated behind today’s Speedy Noodle restaurant at 236 Kilburn High Road, on the corner of Grangeway. However, Grangeway was built after 1914. After the Biograph closed, 236 is not shown in the street directories until 1921 when Gerrard Costumiers opened there. The costumiers appeared again the following year, but in 1923 it appeared to have moved to 248 Kilburn High Road. In fact, it hadn’t moved at all – but this section of the High Road had been renumbered. The correct position of the original Biograph cinema is opposite Buckley Road, (near today’s Tricycle Cinema). Access was from the present day 248, with the cinema building reaching back behind the narrow shop front, almost as far as Grange Park. Several buildings lay behind the shop fronts.

From 1926, the cinema building was for many years a billiard hall run by W. Jelks and Sons. They made billiard tables in their Holloway Road factory and ran halls around London. The numbering of the building changed several times and was shown at various times as 246, 246a and 248.

Sadly, no photos of the old cinema seem to exist and all we have of this section of the High Road is one taken in 1979. This shows Mobile Press Photos who were at No.248 from about 1951 to the early 1980s. The long wall of the building behind the shop originally housed the old cinema.

Mobile Press Photos at 248 Kilburn High Road by Jean Smith, 1979

Mobile Press Photos at 248 Kilburn High Road by Jean Smith, 1979

In 1931, Joseph Littman, who became a millionaire property speculator, bought the shop at 248 for his wife Evelyn as a gown and costumiers. Joseph had been born into a poor peasant family in Poland in 1898, had no schooling and had difficulty reading and writing. But he had a very good memory for figures and knew how to deal with people. The family first migrated to New York and Joe Littman came to London in the early 1920s. He married Evelyn Gold in 1925 in Paddington and was naturalised as a British citizen in 1935. Over the years he acquired large numbers of properties on the High Road and elsewhere in Kilburn. Then he bought properties in Oxford Street and the West End. Modestly, Littman said, ‘I have done pretty well for myself in ten years, but I would have still been keeping shop if I had not been willing to take the risk.’

He pioneered a funding technique of sale and leaseback that is widely used today, known as the ‘Littman Cocktail’. He sold the property to a large financial institution such as a building society, leased it back on a long-term lease of 99 or 999 years, and then sublet it to the occupier on a short lease. That way he made money as the property increased in value over time.

Joe was a modest man who lived a simple life dedicated to his family and friends. Towards the end of his life he suffered from poor health and died of lung cancer in one of his hotels, the Palace Court Bournemouth, on 20 August 1953, aged 55. He left £3.2 million, worth about £82 million today.

Fast-forwarding 50 years, in January 1986, Steve Flood and Stuart Colman opened Master Rock Studios at 248 in the old cinema building. 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 recorded, or had their albums mastered here including Elton John, Jeff Beck, U2, Eric Clapton, Roxy Music, Simply Red, Oasis, Robbie Williams and Suede.

Flood and Coleman wanted the very best quality mixing and recording equipment so they bought a Focusrite console. Focusrite was founded in 1985 with the aim of producing the highest-quality recording console available at the time, regardless of cost. The prohibitively expensive design, however, limited production to just two units. One console was delivered to Master Rock Studios in Kilburn and the other to the Electric Lady Studio that Jimi Hendrix had built in New York.

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.”

Despite being busy, the studio had financial problems and in 1991 the business was put up for sale, eventually closing in March 2000.

248 High Road by Dick Weindling, September 2013

248 High Road by Dick Weindling, September 2013

Haven't had a carrot this good since Noma.

Did the Kilburn sun shine on Summers dining?

There been a ‘pop-up’ take-over of our usual food reviewer’s spot, Tom’s Diner, as WHL pulled rank to review Summer’s dining.

As we reported a couple of weeks ago, three young guys have taken over the Sir Colin Campbell on Kilburn High Road and are collaborating with Ruairidh Summers, an ex-St. John’s chef on his first solo venture. Perhaps we were too enthusiastic in promoting it because when we tried to book a table in the restaurant there was only room downstairs in the bar, but by time we arrived a table had become available upstairs.

WHL had some friends over from Neukolln in Berlin (it’s where people from Hackney move now that Hackney has been come too gentrified and expensive). How did they find Summers?

They certainly felt at home with the decor which had East End/Berlin/Williamsburg distressed paintwork furnished with simple chairs and tables plus an extensive gin menu and choice of beer and cider. No Hoxton cider though, as it was out of stock.

Kilburn via Hackney/Williamsburg/Berlin

Kilburn via Hackney/Williamsburg/Berlin

When it came to ordering food, the suggestion is that dishes are ordered ‘for sharing’. Ruairidh is Irish, so appropriately – for a pub in Kilburn – there is an Irish flavour to the menu, with crubeens (deep fried pigs trotters) as one of the starters. We also ordered asparagus (nice and seasonal) with whipped cod’s roe, which had a slight flavour of bacon, and rabbit terrine with pickles. Oh and the spouting broccoli too. Plus home baked sourdough bread. Monika wasn’t a great fan of the cod’s roe but I loved it. And we polished off the lot.

For mains it was pork belly with carrots, brill with samphire and clams, plus a side of colcannon. I meant to order the pearl barley, wild garlic and goats curd as well but though we were told we had ordered it, it turned out we hadn’t.

Mains are always the most difficult part of the menu to get right, you don’t want to be kept waiting too long after the starters have been cleared away, but not rushed either and they are the most complex dishes to cook. Summers was still in the soft opening period and could harden this aspect up a little for the next visit. Also on the menu was a beef shin and Guinness pie, which looked really good – and I don’t eat beef – and as it comes for two is truly a dish for sharing.

Haven't had a carrot this good since Noma.

Haven’t had a carrot this good since Noma.

Service was from two young waitresses who were a little nervous and still getting to grips with menu and space. However, they needn’t have worried quite so much, they were charming and did a fine job. When a restaurant has certain buzz it adds to the enjoyment the meal, and Summers had it. The room was full of 20-30somethings enjoying their meals, with a gentle backdrop of 80s Indie music, shared with the pub downstairs.

Mmmm. Desserts went down rather well.

Mmmm. Desserts went down rather well.

After mains it was into the home stretch of desserts – we shared an apple crumble and rice pudding with rhubarb. Not being a huge fan of rice pudding I took a cautious bite, and then another one and another one – I might not have been a huge fan before, but I am now.

There are subtle changes to the menu each night, so you might not get the same starters or desserts we had, but I’m pretty sure they will be just as good. And how did our Berlin friends like it? Sehr, sehr gut.

You could be barred from entry after midnight

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.

Mother and son.  Image credit: B. York

Kilburn butcher who saved two lives

West Hampstead Life is less local than you might think. One of our Australian readers, Barry York has been in touch to ask if we could help find any descendants of George Ross Huckstepp.

Apart from having a great surname, Mr Huckstepp was a butcher in Kilburn in the 1940s and 50s. He lived at 2e Dyne Road. He also saved Barry’s life.

Barry’s mother Olive did not have a happy marriage. She married in 1947 but by 1952, when Barry was just a baby, she had reached a depth of depression that made her suicidal.

Mother and son. Image credit: B. York

Mother and son. Image credit: B. York

Forty years later, Olive told Barry how, when he was a baby, she took him with her to a bus stop opposite the local butcher’s shop (in Dyne Road/the Kilburn High Road) and stood there waiting for the bus; not to catch the bus, but to jump under it. With him. What saved her life, and Barry’s, was the kindness of the butcher, Mr. Huckstepp, who knew her as a customer. On seeing her standing there in a distressed state, he read the situation, and quickly came out of the shop.

As his mother recalled “He saved me from killing you and suiciding myself. He came out and said ‘What is the matter?’ and he said ‘You go for a walk, a short walk. Then come back and I’ll give you two ounces of liver’. The thought of that was in my mind and I thought ‘Oh, liver, how lovely, two ounces off my ration book’. I went back and he gave me a good talking to and he said ‘You go back home and you cook that liver’.”

She returned home, cooked the liver as instructed and shortly afterwards emigrated with her family to Australia. “It’s funny how life can turn out” pondered Barry. He’s trying to track down more information about the kind butcher. All he knows is that George Huckstepp was born in Kilburn in September 1900 and died in 1967 at ‘Plovers’, Sandhurst, Hawkhurst, Kent. He and his wife, Kathleen, retired from the butcher’s shop around 1960.

Does anyone remember him? Are any of his descendants out there? Apparently George Huckstepp had a son and a daughter. Barry would like to thank them for saving his life. If you do have any information please email Barry.

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

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.

Mouse Man image_ft

The Mouseman of Kilburn – No, not that one!

Many people know about Robert Thompson, the furniture maker known as the Mouseman of Kilburn. But he lived in Kilburn, North Yorkshire. But it’s a fair bet hardly anyone knows that Kilburn in North West London had its own Mouseman.

Thompson, born in 1876, dedicated his life to the craft of carving and joinery in English Oak, and after hearing one of his craftsmen say that they were, “All as poor as church mice.” he carved a mouse on the church screen he was working on. The mouse became his company’s trademark and survives to this day.

Kilburn London’s Mouseman was interviewed by a reporter for the Willesden Illustrated Monthly at his lodging house in Kilburn in 1937. He was well known locally as he had spent years in Kilburn and Willesden exhibiting his ‘mouse circus’ in the streets. He said that his best days were Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with markets the best pitch for his performances.

The reporter simply records his real name as S. Jackman, giving no more detail than that. It’s a sympathetic article, looking beyond Jackman’s “rugged and weather-tanned features” to reveal a man of “astonishing intelligence and more than ordinary fibre and independence, a story full of surprises.”

Mouse Man image

The reporter and Jackman sat in the yard besides his “extraordinary paraphernalia”, the large box on wheels that Jackman trundled round the streets. In the photo, the long rod protruding from the box served as the ‘stage’ for a troop of white mice that performed gymnastic feats. There was also a small stuffed dog, Jackman’s faithful companion on the road until it died 15 years previously. From that time, it was exhibited in a straw bed on top of the box. It was one of the Manchester breed, said Jackman; ironically a type of terrier well known for its skill as a rat catcher!

Jackman supplied very few biographical details. His parents were English and emigrated to America, where his father worked in the Chicago stock yards. Jackman was born there but returned to England as a young man. It’s hard to establish what he did next, but he told the reporter he entered the armed forces, serving nearly 12 years in the Navy and Army, including World War I.

I joined the Coldstream Guards and was with the Russian Relief Force, in which I was a sergeant. I went to Murmansk and to Lake Onega.

He worked as a cook and often served meals to General Henry Rawlinson. At the end of World War I, Rawlinson was sent to Russia as the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces who were attempting to overthrow the Bolshevik government. In August 1919, Rawlinson organised the evacuation of the Allied Forces from Murmansk and Archangel.

General Rawlinson

After the War Jackman started performing as a member of ‘Lord’ John Sanger’s Circus.

My job was that of a pot-pourri clown. I played 123 instruments – making music on almost everything. I got music out of a revolving bicycle wheel with piano wires stretched across it. I could make anything play.

Sanger’s Circus was started in the 19th century by the charismatic, self styled ‘Lord’ George Sanger and his brother John. They soon went their separate ways, dividing their circus property and setting up their own tented shows.

Jackman said he left Sanger’s “when they had the big fire at Tunbridge Wells.” But he was confused, in fact the fire broke out in the Big Top at Taunton, one hot July afternoon in 1920. About 1,500 people were watching the show when it’s thought a member of the audience dropped a lit match. It set fire to the grass and then the flames spread to the tent. Four people died and many others were badly hurt.

Sangers programme

Jackman had worked as a piano tuner, but by 1937 there was very little demand: “I blame the wireless” declared Jackman. He had also been employed for a while as an inspector at a company making wirelesses. “I can do anything”, he confidently told the reporter, even including television among his many interests.

Jackman had started his ‘mouse circus’ after leaving Sanger’s in 1920. Before settling in Kilburn, he’d often walked to London from Southampton, pushing his box, accompanying the shows by playing a fiddle.

Where did the mice come from? Jackman said his sister in Tunbridge Wells kept his stock of 400 white and brown mice, and when he needed new performers he simply went and got them from her. One free source was now denied him:

In my piano tuning days I frequently discovered mice inside pianos and would capture them and train them.

The reporter asked Jackman why his hair was so long.

Well, so as to be different from anybody else.Colonel Cody (Buffalo Bill) and Barnum had long hair. It makes me look more like a showman.

Jackman never charged for his shows but passed round the hat at performances. His ambition was to buy a large tent and tour the country with his circus:

But the tent would cost £35 and the Mouse Man will have to find silver or many more coppers in his hat before he is able to realise his dreams.

World War II almost certainly put paid to Jackman’s street performances but other than the facts reported in the article, we haven’t been able to find out any more about the man. Does anyone know what had happened to him and his performing mice?

mussels tagliatelle BLK

Tom must have mussels at Kilburn’s Black Lion

I’m a bit late with this one but wanted to give an overdue shout-out to the Black Lion in Kilburn. I regularly enthuse about the place before even getting to the food and wine; it’s such an appealing venue to chill out in, worth looking silly taking photos of the ceiling for, or indeed any elements of its charming Grade II listed interior (I’ve just learned that from the website!)

mussels tagliatelle BLK

I tucked into mussels tagliatelle; celery, tomato, white wine, cream and Parmesan merging nicely together to coat very well-judged pasta. Plenty of it, piping hot, proper food. Friends eagerly devoured a Parma ham-wrapped salmon with elegant little lentils shimmering like jewels in a yoghurt-based sauce, and a veg wellington which was apparently really decent; such an encouraging sign when fair attention is given to vegetarian options.

A bit odd not to show sides on the menu, but we were able to order some greens and things; the waiter was entertaining and polite at the same time, ensuring we all had a thoroughly splendid time.

veg wellington boot BLK

Wine was excellent, and our only regret from the evening was not quite being able to manage dessert; full of my favourite things like brownies, crumble (apple and blueberries are on the current menu – sounds lovely), banoffee or key lime pie… And as for the cheeseboard, last time I chose that option, mellowing out on a leather sofa one lazy Sunday afternoon, it proved such a generous portion I didn’t eat again all day… fantastic!

Black Lion Kilburn… I raise a hearty glass of Malbec in your direction – and we’ll see you again soon.

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

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.

Merryl See Tai

Help trace Mr Glassup’s class of 1962

A few weeks ago the BBC ran a story about that first democratic camera, the Brownie. The article triggered some readers to send in their own Brownie photos and these included a couple of photos taken by Merryl See Tai in West Hampstead. Merryl’s on a quest to try and identify the people in one of the photos – the 1961/62 class at St Mary’s school on West End Lane taught by the astonishingly well loved Mr Glassup.

Merryl See Tai now lives in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, but at the start of the 1960s, Merryl and his family were in West Hampstead

Our family (parents, older brother and sister) left Trinidad and Tobago in 1959 and travelled to England by boat. I was eight years old at the time and entered primary school. My brother joined the RAF and my sister entered secondary school. The Brownie 127 Model 2, was a gift from my father shortly after we had arrived. I remember keeping it spotlessly clean, practising, without film, to hold it firmly and steadily and to gently squeeze the shutter button rather than pressing it. My mother and I returned to Trinidad and Tobago in 1962.

Merryl See Tai in West Hampstead 1960/61

“I was 10 years old in this picture taken by my sister in 1960/61 in our back garden at 43 West End Lane, West Hampstead, London.”
Merryl See Tai

In 1962, aged 11, Merryl was a pupil at St Mary’s Church of England school. Today, the school is on the corner of Quex Road and West End Lane, but back then it was much further down West End Lane, almost as far as Kilburn High Road, where Teddy’s Nursery is now. The photo below was taken in mid-1962, just before Merryl and his mother returned to Trinidad & Tobago. Merryl is keen to trace as many people as possible in it. He has never seen any of them since.

“I’ve tried off and on over the years to search on the internet for some of the names that I remembered but without success. I did come across some references to Simon but thought that the USA was the wrong place. I would love to get in contact with some of the old classmates to see how they are doing now. The BBC articles have triggered some serious nostalgia.”

St Mary's School Kilburn 1962_labelled_700

Mr Glassup’s class of 1961/62 at St Mary’s Kilburn. Click to enlarge.

As you can see, Merryl has been able to put some names to faces and furnished a little more detail that might jog someone’s memory.

“Simon De Groot lived in the council flats at the corner of West End Lane and Kilburn Place. His friend Lawrence Harris lived in a flat there also. Peter Carter’s father had a greengrocer shop nearby on Belsize Road. Michael Schaeffer’s father was an American pastor and they lived close to the Abbey Road Studios. There was another Michael and his brother Gerald, I think? There were two girls named Louise and another girl whose surname was Turner. There was also Barry Carter and his sister June, and Andy Patel had a taller brother called David.”

The BBC article actually reached Simon de Groot, as well as Sarah “Betsy” McClain, who was two years ahead of Merryl at St Mary’s, and her brother Andrew who was a year younger than Sarah. Sarah recalled the class teacher Mr Glassup very fondly.

“It is very nice for me to share knowing Mr. Glassup with somebody. I wrote to him until he died in about 1980 or 1981. He used to talk in class about his experiences as a prisoner of war. I remember so much. I know that on the last day of school I was devastated that it was over.”

Mr Glassup, class teacher at St Mary's Kilburn in 1962

Mr Glassup, class teacher at St Mary’s Kilburn in 1962

Simon de Groot also extols the virtues of Mr Glassup.

“I look back on Mr. Glassup as the best teacher I ever had. He and his colleagues not only did a terrific job of giving us the basics of the “3 Rs” but they, especially Jim Glassup, somehow made school challenging and fun at the same time. Truly unsung heroes in a lot of ways.”

Can you help? Were you at St Mary’s School in the early 1960s? Do you know any of these people, or are you any of these people? Do please leave a comment below, or alternatively drop us an e-mail and we can pass your details on to Merryl, now 64, pictured below with his wife Margaret.

Merryl See Tai 2015

Gym-article

The 2015 West Hampstead & Kilburn gym guide

The 2017 version of the West Hampstead gym guide is now available.

New Year, new fitness regime? It may be a cliché, but the statistics bear out that January is the most popular time to join a gym. If you want to make sure you’re not part of the other cliché – giving up in February – then make sure you choose the right gym for your budget, lifestyle and fitness needs. Here’s the third annual West Hampstead Life gym guide to help you.

The biggest change from last year is that Gloves Boxing Club, on Broadhurst Gardens, closed in March. It’s been replaced by HIIT Gym, which took over the premises and opened in October.

Luxury (£££)

Virgin Active, O2 Centre Swiss Cottage

Virgin_ActiveO2

Spacious and well-equipped, with multiple fitness studios and a pool, this is more health club than gym, which is reflected in the membership cost. I can imagine just going for a dip in the pool followed by a spell in the sauna or steam room, and a rest in the café afterwards. Mmm. Not that I’m recommending this as a viable fitness regime, of course.

NB There’s also a Virgin Active in Cricklewood, for those based that side of West Hampstead.

Prices have gone up a little from last year’s rates, and this year there’s no “get the rest of January free” joining offer. Both memberships include access to the gym, classes in the studio, pool and sauna.

  • Full Flexi Monthly (rolling monthly contract): £102/mth + £30 joining fee
  • Minimum 12-month contract membership: £95/mth  + no joining fee

Movers and Shapers, 148 West End Lane, West Hampstead
Positioned as an alternative to a conventional gym, Movers and Shapers offers 30-minute intensive classes in small groups using Power Plate machines, and they have also recently added a HIIT (high-intensity interval training) studio with TRX suspension equipment. Free trials are available if you want to find out more. Read about my experience at Movers and Shapers here.

  • Course of 10 classes: £149 (limited offer; classes valid for 3 months)
  • Course of 20 classes: £259 (limited offer; classes valid for 6 months)
  • Full Monthly membership – £125/mth (access to unlimited classes at any time)
  • Off Peak Monthly membership – £99/mth (access to unlimited classes at off-peak hours: 12pm-5pm Mon-Fri, and all day Sat and Sun)

No joining or admin fees; includes initial and ongoing health consultations.

CrossFit Evolving, 50-52 Kilburn High Road (under HSBC bank)
CrossFit is a fitness philosophy that began in the US and has now spread to hundreds of CrossFit gyms (or “boxes”) across the world. It claims to help you work on all aspects of fitness through tailored workouts using a wide variety of different exercises. It’s not cheap, but if you’re looking for a serious training regimen, this may be the club for you. There are free taster sessions on Wednesday evenings if you want to see what you’re getting yourself into!

  • Full, peak-hours membership: £170/mth
  • Off-peak membership: £140/mth (Off-peak hours: 8am-6pm; after 8pm)
  • Single, off-peak WOD (workout of the day) session: £15

Mid-range (££)

Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre, Adelaide Road, Swiss Cottage
A Camden-run sports centre with plenty of equipment – I visited on a Saturday afternoon and thought it was busy but didn’t notice queues for any machines. There are lots of classes too, though the popular ones get very booked up. The standard membership covers access to gym, classes and pool. There’s also a climbing wall, sports hall and squash courts, for all of which sessions can be paid for separately. See the full price list of memberships, concessionary rates and pay-as-you-go prices on the Better website.

  • Standard monthly membership, with access to gym, pool and classes: £54/mth (£55/mth from February)
  • Premium monthly membership, as above + access to sauna, steam room, and other gyms and spas in the network: £77.50/mth

There’s also a joining fee of £35, though it was unclear from my phone enquiry whether this could be waived or not: “Yesterday we charged it, today we didn’t”… so it’s probably best to drop in to the centre and negotiate in person.

Bannatyne’s, Marriot Maida Vale, 4 Greville Road (just off Kilburn High Road)
This is quite a good-value choice if you’re after a gym membership that includes extras like a sauna and swimming pool. There’s also a fitness studio, and classes are included in all memberships.

  • 12-month minimum contract – Off-peak (Mon-Fri 6.30am-4pm): £29.99/mth
  • 12-month minimum contract – Peak (valid any time): £39.99/mth
  • Flexible contract (on a rolling monthly basis, with 30 days to cancel) – Off-peak (Mon-Fri 6.30am-4pm): £36.99/mth
  • Flexible contract (on a rolling monthly basis, with 30 days to cancel) – Peak (valid any time): £47.99/mth

On top of this, there’s a £25 one-off joining fee (though apparently they’ll give you a goody bag and possibly some sessions with a personal trainer “to soften the blow”) and if you want to use the gym towels, add £6 to the monthly membership fee.

HIIT Gym, 198a Broadhurst Gardens, West Hampstead

The recently-opened HIIT Gym is located in Gloves’ old premises, a cool industrial-style building that was originally the ticket office of the Metropolitan Railway. The gym’s instructors lead small classes in HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workouts, mixing it up with a variety of different techniques and equipment. There’s also the option to monitor your progress with  a heart-rate monitor belt (available from the gym at £50). There are three levels of membership available, all on a rolling monthly basis with no contract. Free one-week trials are available if you want to try before you buy.

  • Primary: £39 for 4 sessions a month 
  • Standard: £49 for 8 sessions a month
  • Champion: £69 for unlimited sessions a month

My Fitness Boutique, West Heath Yard, 174 Mill Lane, West Hampstead
My Fitness Boutique, up by West End Green, offers some 50 classes a week including Zumba, spinning, yoga and circuits. All are pay-as-you-go, so if you like trying out different classes without having to commit to a contract, this is a good choice. Prices haven’t gone up since last year.

Example prices (from website):

  • Introductory 5-class package (intro offer only): £25
  • Single class: £12
  • 30-day pack (unlimited classes): £75
  • 90-day pack: (unlimited classes) £165

Budget (£)

The Gym Group, Unit D2, 41 Fortune Green Road, West Hampstead
No-frills budget gym open 24/7 with card entry. There’s no need to sign up to a minimum contract.

  • £20.99/mth (+ £20 joining fee)

Fit4Less, 34a-36 Kilburn High Road
Another gym with functional workout equipment and none of the luxury extras. As well as free weights and cardio machines, there’s TRX equipment and kettlebells. Personal training is available too.

  • Anytime gym membership: £22.99/mth + £29.99 admin fee
  • Anytime gym membership + locker hire: £32.99/mth + £29.99 admin fee

Outdoor gyms: Kilburn Grange Park, Swiss Cottage, Maygrove Peace Park

SwissCottageOutdoorGym
I must admit I haven’t tried these, but they look like a great idea. According to Camden’s website, they are “suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels”, so give them a go next time you’re out for a run! Best of all, they’re free!

Kilburn Ironworks bar

Will Kilburn Ironworks steal NLT’s thunder?

Kilburn Ironworks barmen

Barmen hard at work

On Friday evening, business partners Will Partridge and Jimi Pearce opened the doors of Kilburn Ironworks to welcome suppliers, the press and a few other invitees.

Kilburn Ironworks is where Vince Power’s eponymous bar/club used to be on Kilburn High Road near the junction with Iverson Road. It has changed almost beyond recognition with exposed brickwork, an open kitchen and a girder that almost seems to float above the bar. Some late-addition railroad tracks in the floor are a nice industrial touch, but thankfully there’s no sense of any theme being rammed down your throat.

Which leaves plenty of room for drinks.

Kilburn Ironworks front seating area

Kilburn Ironworks front seating area

When the bar officially opens on January 1st, it will offer a wide range of beers both draft and bottled and mostly from British breweries such as Beavertown and Meantime, as well as fashionable favourites like Iceland’s Einstock.

There’s also a cocktails and shandies list – still in its early stages, but first tastings were encouraging!

Kilburn Ironworks bar

The kitchen won’t open until the end of January, and if the drinks offering sounds like One Sixty’s the food will be different. Still quite meat-heavy by the sounds of it, but no pulled pork in sight, Will assured me. Their plan is to have a relatively simple menu with a focus on more British style dishes.

The bar is well positioned in that cluster of the North London Tavern and Brondes Age. It could easily take trade away from both. There’s plenty of seating, and with experience of running bars in Islington and Shoreditch, Will and Jimi should know how to get (and keep) the crowds.

Fortune Green Air Ambulance

Air ambulance lands in NW6 twice in an hour

Thankfully we rarely see the London Air Ambulance hovering over West Hampstead, but this lunchtime the red helicopter landed first on Fortune Green, and then about an hour later in Kilburn Grange Park.

The red helicopter was back within the hour and looked as if it was trying to find a landing spot in Kilburn. It eventually set down in Kilburn Grange park and shortly afterwards a Kilburn resident tweeted a photo of ambulance crews.

Although one person had tweeted that there had been a stabbling, which was then picked up by a couple of other people, the cause of the commotion has not been confirmed. But here’s what Donks80 saw:

Later in the evening, the police were still in attendance:

NLT_pate

North London Tavern misfires with new menu

North London Tavern; a tavern, in North London (Kilburn to be precise) offering “traditional British meals.” It has recently been refurbished but I am glad that the ambience has not changed. It is still busy, friendly and noisy with intellectual conversation.

The brand new menu is certainly very British, with a whole section dedicated to chops, and mains consisting mainly of meat and poultry, two fish dishes and one vegetarian. It also features an interesting ‘Morsels’ section (meaning mouthfuls) including British favourites such as pig’s head croquettes, and old spot scratchings.

NLT_chop_300I ordered smoked mackerel pate to start. It was as I expected, tasty, most certainly plentiful and presented in a no frills manner. There were however suggestions that it was too smooth (perhaps mixed by machine rather than by hand) and that chunks of mackerel were not decipherable.

For main I had a Barnsley lamb chop, with mash and purple sprouting broccoli with almonds. Things got a little fine dining at this stage when the broccoli arrived in its own mini casserole dish. I really liked the pairing of broccoli and almonds. When it came to the meat, it was hearty and flavoursome but slightly over done and the amount of mash was overwhelming.

I was too full for dessert (see above re too much mash) but I did sample a fellow diner’s cheese, specifically Blue Murder with truffled honey and oatcakes. Cheese and honey – a surprising combination! But one that works, even if you don’t like truffles (like me) as the truffle is so subtle that you can’t even taste it.
I will give them the benefit of the doubt and hope that the extremely slow service is purely down to new menu teething problems.

If you are looking for inventive fine dining, this is not it, but for local, hearty, meat orientated British food at a reasonable price (we paid around £35 each including ample wine) NLT is a good option.

[Jo blogs at http://dinnerwithjo.com/]

Jonathan
Service was a bit of a shambles – friendly, but far from sharp and we had to ask for pretty much everything at least twice, and Tom… well… Tom can tell you about Tom. My food was ok, but too easy to find fault – the butter on my potted rabbit should surely have been set not completely melted (no doubt left on the pass under the lights), the Barnsley Chop was ok, but for a place that specialises in chops, I’d expect it cooked as requested (it was medium-well not medium-rare), and the proportion of mash to chop was wrong. Neither of the desserts I fancied were available and it’s not that big a dessert menu so in the end, even with them comping a main course and a bottle of wine, I was left feeling like I’d overpaid. Will be a while before I return for anything more than a pint.
NLT_potted_rabbit

Tom
NLT_salad_300I love the North London Tavern, but they had an off-night on this occasion. Water and wine (twice) failed to appear, and the spinach in my starter salad hadn’t been adequately washed. The goats cheese and pear worked well, though the dish was a little insubstantial even for a first course.

My main failed to appear, and the staff were very honest and apologetic in explaining it had indeed been missed; an error in the kitchen. They also informed me they’d be knocking it off the bill, which was much appreciated. When it arrived, I was a little nonplussed to find the plaice on the bone, having checked it was to be a fillet; however it was excellently and delicately cooked. The spinach this time was great; a large portion and not overdone. The potatoes, lentils and shrimps added further dimensions and made for a pleasingly hearty dinner, but there was a lack of seasoning, and I’m still not sure whether the ‘broth’ in the bowl was intentional or just cooking liquor. Not a bad plate, but lacking refinement.

My dessert of blue cheese with good quality oat biscuits and truffled honey was an enjoyable, decent portion, though I didn’t detect much truffle and, being British, I’d like a bit of butter on the side, ideally.

I’ve enjoyed the food in NLT very much in the past, so I will be back.

Nicky
The NLT has changed a bit since my last visit. It used to be a cosy, slightly chaotic Kilburn pub, good for meeting friends on a Friday night, with a straightforward gastropub menu in its restaurant. It seems to have morphed into a slightly spruced-up Kilburn pub and embraced its ‘Tavern’ roots with an ‘English chop house’-style restaurant concept. (Seriously, reading down the list of chops, stout, oysters and Eccles cakes I felt transported to Dickensian times, or perhaps present-day Shoreditch.)

All fine, if it could deliver hearty food and a warm ambience – but there were too many errors to overlook, mainly to do with the slow, disjointed service, that all added up to a less-than-relaxing experience. On the night of our visit, it felt like the restaurant had big ambitions that it couldn’t quite match. The food was fine, for the most part – my fish and chips were perfectly pleasant – but I’m not sure why I’d choose to dine at the NLT over many of the other excellent pubs in the area.

NLT_fish_chips

Philip
I’ve been to the North London Tavern a few times before and I’m aware of its reputation as a decent quality gastropub, so I was expecting a hearty good quality meal from an affordable traditional British menu; this is exactly what I got.

I started with the Chicken Liver Parfait – excellent rich flavour and gorgeous creamy texture, served with a nice amount of fresh leaves and onion jam, and very tasty artisan toast. A perfect portion size for a starter – enough to feel slightly sated, but still hungry.

NLT_pate

For the main, I went for the predictable old favourite – the ribeye steak and chips. It’s advertised as coming with either “stilton hollandaise or peppercorn”. I wasn’t sure if there was meant to be comma between the Stilton and hollandaise, or if the chef had found a way to combine these two (potentially conflicting) flavours into something edible. I guessed that the staff wouldn’t know either (they generally seemed very unsure of everything) so I ordered the steak rare and just said ‘Stilton’ for the accompaniment, expecting a creamy Stilton flavoured sauce, potentially with undertones of hollandaise. There was some amusement within the group when the steak arrived with a HUGE slab of Stilton atop. This slab melted into the hot steak, and the overall effect was extremely pleasing – though the flavour of the Stilton overwhelmed the steak to the degree that I could barely taste the meat (which was most certainly NOT rare) – yes, I could have removed some of the Stilton to prevent this, but I’m not that clever. The chips and green leaves combined with the steak to make a lovely meal, firmly within the ‘what I expected from this kind of place’ bracket.

For dessert, I had a chocolate brownie sundae – think Eton Mess but with chocolate brownie instead of berries. This was well executed, and perfect after two heavy and strong flavoured courses, with the merging of chocolate, cream and vanilla ice cream perfectly complimenting each other, and nicely light on the stomach. Overall, I was very satisfied with the food and wine for the price. The North London Tavern did exactly what is very clearly says on the tin; good quality hearty food and wine, traditional British menu, reasonable price.

Kilburn_map_Dyne Road

Man dies by Kilburn High Road pub

[updated]
Sometime around 1am Sunday morning, police closed Kilburn High Road between Dyne Road and Christchurch Avenue. Initial reports were that a man in his early 30s had died following an altercation at a pub, believed to be the North London Tavern. Subsequently, staff at the NLT told one customer that a man had had a heart attack and then collapsed. There has been talk on Twitter of another incident on Dyne Road.

Police are yet to release a statement on what happened last night.

Kilburn_map_Dyne Road

Kilburn_map_black

Love & Liquor’s location: Made in Kilburn or Maida Vale?

MaidaVale_annotate

In an interesting exchange this afternoon on Twitter, locals called out Love & Liquor (formerly The Westbury and before that The Red Lion) on Kilburn High Road for trying to perpetuate the idea that it was really in Maida Vale and not Kilburn.

In an astonishing coincidence, while this was happening someone made a small edit to the Wikipedia entry for Kilburn High Road Station, which placed the station in Maida Vale.

Read the exchange below (or go to Storify if you can’t see it).

kilburnlogo2

Kilburn gets bookish with week of events

kilburnlogo2

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.

Sculptures by Yunsun Jung

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.

night-tube-lb-700

24-hour tube: Mind the gap between PR and reality

From September 12th 2015, the tube will run all night on Fridays and Saturdays on the Jubilee, Victoria and most of the Piccadilly, Central and Northern lines. Around six trains will run every hour on the “night tube”.

Map from http://www.tfl.gov.uk/

Map showing where the 24-hour service will run (image from http://www.tfl.gov.uk/)

No doubt many West Hampstead and Kilburn residents will rejoice at the arrival of a more convenient way to get home from town after a night out, but what about the noise disruption to those who live near to the station or tube line?

Gareth Powell, London Underground’s Director of Strategy and Service Development, told us: “We will of course work with residents to help resolve any problems. However, as our services already run for up to 20 hours each day and we carry out engineering work overnight, the potential for disturbance from night time services at weekends is expected to be limited.”

This rather assumes that those late night/early morning services, and the engineering work aren’t already disturbing the sleep of those who live right alongside the railways or by stations. Indeed, it’s unclear how much TfL has considered the possible impact to people living in areas such as West Hampstead, which is relatively unusual with both station and tracks located above ground and very close to a densely-populated residential area (tube-facing apartment in West Hampstead Square anyone?).

As well as the (admittedly relatively quiet) noise from trains running along the line, will there be irregular bursts of sound coming from platform announcements and raucous passengers disembarking in the early hours.

Of course, for central London businesses, there is little downside. Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers said: “This move will give more customers the chance to enjoy a drink or meal out in the city centre with the peace of mind that they will be able to get home safely and quickly.” and also makes the point that “a later-running London Underground will offer more chance for the gradual dispersal of customers from the busy city centre.”

How do West Hampstead locals feel about this? Nervous about the potential for disrupted sleep, or looking forward to late nights out in town without the exorbitant taxi fares? Over to you in the comments below.

kilburn_fire_ft

Tricycle escapes damage from Kilburn fire

A fire broke out in a kitchen on the upper level of the Brondesbury Medical Centre on Kilburn High Road last night, meaning customers at the neighbouring Tricycle Cinema had to be evacuated.

Last night's scene on Kilburn High Road - photo from Twitter by @bartnowak79

Last night’s scene on Kilburn High Road – photo from Twitter by @bartnowak79

The theatre performance had ended for the evening; however around 400 cinemagoers were in the building for a screening of Gone Girl when fire crews arrived at around 9.40pm. London Fire Brigade confirmed on their website that the fire was under control by 11.10pm. They managed to contain it to the kitchen where it started, so the only damage to the public area was to one TV screen, and some smoke damage to the adjoining areas.

Staff at the Tricycle box office today confirmed that the theatre and cinema complex was unaffected by the fire, with no smoke or water damage.

However, the doctors’ surgery was closed, with notices on the door advising patients of alternative medical services.

The door to the Brondesbury Medical Centre this morning

The door to the Brondesbury Medical Centre this morning

sandwich & chips

Tom’s cheesed off in Kilburn’s Black Lion

Where do a group of animated, hungry Italians (and other assorted nationalities) go to celebrate a birthday? Pizza? Pasta? Not on this occasion – instead, everyone made their way to the Black Lion in Kilburn, for a repeat of similar festivities a year ago. How did we get on?

Classiest-looking dish was a squid special with stir-fried veg, which the birthday girl Eliza described as “Lovely! Very delicate taste, soft batter and sweet & sour sauce. Cooked well, and very nicely served! I really like it when they spend some time on the presentation of the dish.”

Fish and chips proved popular, and as last time I had this in the Black Lion, the style was towards a less-crisp batter, which I’m still not quite sure whether or not is intentional, though the fish was fine and plates certainly seemed to be cleared.

I was a little nonplussed with my Cheddar cheese sandwich, though. At around the same price as the steak option (£9.95), I looked forward to a hearty, thick wedge of mature Cheddar, especially as previously when I grabbed a cheeseboard in the pub one Sunday afternoon, it turned out to be mammoth in quantity (and not lacking in quality either). However, here we had layers of thinly sliced, very mild cheese which looked somewhat ‘commercial’ and lacked flavour. In fact, upon reviewing the photos, I was surprised to see there was actually more than one layer present – it rather felt like a salad sandwich with just a mere snipping of cheese.

The thin end of the wedge?

The thin end of the wedge?

The pear chutney wasn’t so much a chutney as some marinated, cooked pears, which were pleasing all the same, while the bread, salad, and general feel of it were fab; so it mystifies me as to why it should be let down in terms of the key ingredient – especially at £10 a pop?

Triple-cooked chips were a deep bronze colour, and tasted great if a touch oily. Crisp / fluffy, triple-cooked textures were not in evidence at all though, and I do think it’s important for such things to reflect what’s described on the menu (and for those preparing the food to know what to do on a technical level – competition is fierce out there!)

Friendly staff were on hand to assist with birthday cake presentations again, and all enjoyed the evening in this most attractive of local boozers. It’s a welcoming, relaxing pub, but perhaps just needs a bit of extra quality control to get it right back up where it belongs.

RSPCA Cambridge Ave NW6

“They had no choice”: Kilburn’s Animal War Memorial Dispensary

The recent commemoration of the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War has focused many people’s thoughts on the service men and women who fought, died and survived the conflict. Ten years ago, attention centered on the millions of animals and birds that served alongside British, Commonwealth and Allied troops in all conflicts during the twentieth century. The memorial to Animals in War in Park Lane was unveiled on 24 November 2004. An inscription reads, ‘They had no choice.’ But Kilburn is home to a much earlier – and more active – memorial to the nation’s service animals.

RSPCA Cambridge Ave NW6

Horses, dogs and donkeys were the most commonly used animals – mainly for transport and haulage, but camels, elephants, pigeons, bullocks, dogs and goats were all pressed into service. They suffered from exposure, lack of food and disease, dying alongside their human companions.

The Park Lane memorial was the fulfilment of an idea that dates as far back as the early 1920s when the RSPCA proposed a memorial for animals that had served in WWI. A committee was set up, funds were raised and the site chosen was Hyde Park corner. In 1925 photographs of the proposed memorial were submitted to Westminster City Council but there the project appears to have stalled.

Instead the RSPCA decided on a more practical commemoration, in the form of the Animal War Memorial Dispensary in Kilburn, where, in the words of a contemporary report, ‘the sick, injured or unwanted animals of poor people could receive, free of charge, the best possible veterinary attention, or a painless death.’

It took many years to find a site for the Animal War Memorial Dispensary. The RSPCA acquired 10 Cambridge Avenue in March 1931 and that May, the freeholders allowed a change of use from a private house to a ‘free dispensary for sick and injured animals.’

The memorial inscription on the Kilburn building is echoed by that in Hyde Park: ‘To all animals who suffered and perished in the Great War knowing nothing of the cause, looking forward to no final victory, filled only with love, faith and loyalty, they endured much and died for us.’

Thirty one sculptors entered the competition for a memorial design for the main facade of the building. Frederick Brook Hitch of Hertford was the winner. The panel over the entrance had to be removable, as the RSPCA only held a lease, not the freehold of Number 10 Cambridge Avenue.

RSPCA plaque on the outside of the Dispensary in Kilburn

RSPCA plaque on the outside of the Dispensary in Kilburn

A local paper recorded the official opening on 10 November 1932, by the Countess of Warwick. But the dispensary had been at work for over a year, during which time 6,000 animals had been treated. The ceremony was preceded by a meeting at St Augustine’s School in Kilburn Park Road, presided over by the Chairman of the RSPCA, Sir Robert Gower.

By the mid 1930s, more than 50,000 animals and birds had received attention at the Dispensary. At the rear of the well-equipped premises were glass fronted kennels and catteries with a loose box for horses. There was accommodation on site for vet and an assistant, providing 24 hour care. In 1936 alone, 9,756 animals passed through the doors.

Plaque side 1 RSPCAThe RSPCA clinic at Cambridge Road is still open. The main door is flanked by two marble memorial panels. They record that 484,143 animals were killed by enemy action, disease or accident and that 725,216 animals were treated by the RSPCA during WW1. We now know the overall mortality figures were far higher, with an estimated 8 million horses dying in WW1.

Plaque side RSPCAThe horse is the animal most often associated with the European conflict. In 1914, the British and German armies had a cavalry force of some 100,000 men, but the development of trench warfare rendered cavalry charges unviable as a military tactic. But horses and mules were still needed to transport materials and supplies and to pull guns and ambulances. The animals also had to be fed, watered and tended. Strong ties developed between horse and rider. The Daily Mail on 31st December 1914, carried an article by a Welsh soldier serving in the Royal Field Artillery. He’d been with his horses for several years before war broke out. He said;

I could talk to them just as I am talking to you. There was not a word I said that they did not understand. And they could answer me – I was never once at a loss to know what they meant. Early in the retreat from Mons, a shell crashed right into the midst of the section with which I was moving. My gun was wrecked. I was ordered to help with another. As I mounted the fresh horse to continue the retreat, I saw my two horses struggling and kicking on the ground to free themselves. I could not go back to them, I tell you it hurt me. Suddenly a French chasseur dashed up to them, cut the traces, and set them at liberty. I was a good way ahead by then, but kept looking at them, and I could tell they saw me. Those horses followed me for four days. We stopped for hardly five minutes and I could not get back to them. There was no work for them but they kept their places in the line liked trained soldiers. They were following me to the very end. Whenever I looked, there they were in the line, watching me so anxiously and sorrowfully as to make me feel guilty of deserting them. Whether they got anything to eat, I do not know. I wonder if they dropped out from sheer exhaustion – I hope to Heaven it was not that. At any rate, one morning when the retreat was all but over, I missed them. I suppose I shall never see them again. That’s the sort of thing that hurts a soldier in war.

During the Gallipoli campaign, horses became so weak they collapsed and died in the mud and shell holes. When the New Zealand Forces were sent home, their horses were divided into three classes. Some mares were kept for breeding purposes; other horses were transferred to the British Army. Of the final group, many were destined to be butchered for meat.

Dead horses in 1918 (image copyright free via the Imperial War Museum)

Dead horses in 1918 (image copyright free via the Imperial War Museum)

Dogs accompanied sentries on patrol, carried messages and worked as scouts, ‘sniffing’ out the enemy ahead. Others acted as medics, sent onto the battlefield equipped with basic supplies that allowed a wounded man to tend to his own injuries. They might also stay with a fatally injured soldier until he died.

Pigeons were very reliable when it came to sending messages. It has been calculated that they had an astonishing 95% success rate getting through to their destination. The Government even issued a special ‘Defence of the Realm Regulation’ to prohibit the shooting of homing pigeons. Offenders were warned they faced six months imprisonment or a £100 fine.

A pigeon named ‘Cher Ami’ was awarded the Croix de Guerre for work in the American sector around Verdun in 1918. On her last mission, Cher Ami was shot but delivered a message that gave the co-ordinates of 194 soldiers cut off behind enemy lines. The men were rescued. Cher Ami recovered and was sent back to the USA where she died in 1919. Her body was put on display at the Smithsonian museum, Washington D.C.

There is newsreel footage of animals in service during WW1; but be warned many of them make for unpleasant viewing.

http://www.britishpathe.com/gallery/war-animals
http://www.theatlantic.com/static/infocus/wwi/wwianimals

Kilburn Passion

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 Logo

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.

Kilburn murder (Illustrated Police News 18 Sept 1897)_ft

Wife murdered with a chopper in Kilburn… in 1897

In September 1897 the newspapers reported ‘a shocking tragedy’ at Kilburn. In the early hours of Saturday the 11th, and after an evening spent drinking, James Harris killed his wife Annie and tried to kill his seven-year-old daughter May. He also assaulted his son, 10-year-old William and then attempted suicide. Annie died, but the children survived and Harris was later sentenced to be hanged for his crimes.

Kilburn murder (Illustrated Police News 18 Sept 1897)

James Harris was born in Buckingham around 1864. He came to Kilburn and worked for John Wicks, a local builder who lived in Hawthorn Villa a detached house just north of Kilburn Brewery. Today this would be on the Kilburn High Road close to Dyne Road. Here he met John Wicks’ eldest daughter Annie, or Mary Ann. She was about eight years older than James and when she became pregnant they were married at Holy Trinity Church in Kilburn on 2 June 1879.

James said he was of full age, but in fact he was about 16. They had five children but three died in infancy. The two who survived were William and May, both born in Kilburn. After staying with John Wicks at Hawthorn Villa, they lived at various addresses in the neighbourhood and by 1891 they were all sharing one room at 35 Palmerston Road. By 1897, the family had moved to number 30 and James Harris had then been employed for five years as a platelayer on the nearby Midland Railway. He seemed happy in his work and had an allotment garden by the railway line.

30 Palmerston Road was a three-storey terraced property in a generally respectable working class neighbourhood, but sanitation was poor and most properties were split between several families. Over the years Palmerston Road gained a bad reputation and featured frequently in reports by Hampstead’s Medical Officer. There were many manual workers among the street’s residents: labourers, shop workers and servants, with some employed by local businesses such Kilburn Brewery or working on the buses, as there was a large bus depot in the road. In 1897, three families shared number 30; the Harris family lived at the back of the house in one room on the second floor. The 1901 census shows five households of varying sizes in the property, a total of 20 people.

It seemed that the Harris’s home life had been unhappy and turbulent. In fact, the family’s behaviour was so objectionable that the landlord had given them notice to quit, having received complaints from other tenants in the house. Annie and the children were subjected to beatings by Harris but the violence escalated to another level the night of September 11th.

James Harris’s neighbour George Brown had returned to No. 30 around 10pm and wanted to go to bed but met Annie Harris on the stairs. She said she was scared of her husband, fearing he’d batter her when he returned home. Brown waited up until Harris came in. He judged Harris had been drinking but he certainly wasn’t drunk. When the two men went up to the family’s room, Brown saw ten-year-old Willie but no one else. Annie had hidden herself and May in the toilet on the landing. Willie was sent out for beer by James who seemed upset because there was no food, until Brown pointed to some fish on the table, which William had brought.

After having a drink, James went to ask Annie to come back to their room. When she refused, James took an axe and split the door panel, forcing Annie out of the WC. After another drink he accused Annie of being unfaithful with his brother and punched her in the face. Brown managed – with some difficulty to disarm Harris, who picked up first a chopper, then a wooden mallet and lastly a knife, rushing at Annie, saying he would ‘chop her bloody head off and knock her bloody brains out.’

Brown remembered Harris saying, ‘Annie, between this and five o’clock to-morrow morning I will kill you stone dead.’ ‘Now the light is growing dim, now is the time the deed must be committed.’ As he was restraining Harris, Annie said, ‘George, if he wants to do it, let him do it.’ Harris gradually became calmer and said he’d go to bed, but made no move to do so. Instead, he sat with his feet on a chair and his head in his wife’s lap. Brown stayed until he was certain that Harris was asleep, even waiting outside the door for a while. Then, as he put it, ‘Harris seemed all right, so I went to bed.’ He was woken by a violent knocking at his door around 4.45am. There stood the two Harris children. The little girl’s face was covered with blood but the boy seemed unhurt and he said: ‘Oh, Mr Brown, do come up, father is killing mother and cutting his own throat!’

Brown went to find a policeman, calling up neighbour Mr King on the way. When they rushed upstairs they found the Harris’s door was locked and broke it down. Brown described the scene:

We then saw a fearful sight. The woman was lying in a pool of blood, with her head nearly cut off, and the man was lying across her. His throat was cut in a dreadful manner. Everything in the room had been knocked about, showing there had been a desperate struggle for life on the part of the woman.

Amazingly, Harris was unconscious but still alive.

The children were taken to Hampstead Workhouse at New End where they were visited by a reporter. He was impressed how well they recalled what had happened. William, poorly clothed, neglected and very dirty, proved to be a good witness. But given his young age and upbringing, the following statement shows signs of being edited.

I remember everything that took place on Friday, because my mother had been crying very much, and had been saying to me and my sister that she wished that she was dead, and that she would soon be ‘done for.’ My father, although he said he was a teetotaller, was very far from being so, and although many people thought he had taken nothing intoxicating for five years, they were quite wrong. For a very long time he had been drinking heavily. His treatment of my mother was awful, and time after time – I know I am only a little chap, but so it was – I have been the means of preventing him doing her a serious injury; not by my being able to by my strength to do so, but by begging him not to hurt her.

William said he was particularly scared that night, because his father had taken a chopper to have it sharpened, ‘and it was this with which he finally hit my mother and went for May and me.’

William claimed his father was drunk when he came home. The children tried to sleep as James and Annie kept up their violent and noisy quarrel: ‘Father kept hitting mother and did not leave off, although she cried very much.’ Eventually things got quieter and his mother climbed into bed with her children.

William was woken by a dreadful scream. His father had hit Annie with the chopper and then set about William, hitting him on the back, arm and head.

I think he thought he had settled me, for he turned and hit my sister three terrible blows, and then looking at mother, who was screaming, said, “I’ll do for the lot of you, and you first.” He struck her three times under the ear with the chopper and at last she fell out of bed and lay in front of the fire-place with only her petticoat on her.

Fortunately James had hit his son with the flat side of the blade and the boy was badly bruised but otherwise unhurt. William managed to get past his father, unlock the door, grab his sister and go downstairs for help but on the way he dropped the key. Here William’s story is a little at variance with George Brown. William said that Mr King came upstairs and tussled with his father who was trying to find the key to lock them out.

William’s closing paragraph makes sad reading.

My mother told us, on her last birthday, that she was thirty-four and that she was “tired of her life.” My father was always cruel to us and I and May are all the children that are left out of five that my mother had. But father was always beating us.

The reporter also spoke to May, whose head was heavily bandaged. Clearly in shock, she had blotted out the climax of the night’s horrors as her memories stopped before the attack began. ‘I saw mother wring her hands and say: “It is all over.” After that mother locked me in a cupboard and said, “Do not move, or your father will kill you.” I stopped there for a very long time.’ She said she was released by her brother on Saturday morning.

James Harris was taken before the magistrates on October 16th, accused of having murdered his wife, attempting to murder his daughter and trying to commit suicide (which then was a crime). Harris had inflicted a serious injury to his neck and throat: ‘He presented a pitiable sight, and was so weak and ill that he had to be carried into the court.’ The magistrate was surprised Harris had been discharged from hospital so quickly. Medical opinion was that he would never speak again. Harris was remanded and sent to gaol.

At his second court appearance on November 6th, it was suggested that because Harris still could not speak he could write down his answers, but it transpired he could neither read nor write. The magistrate questioned whether it was actually possible to put Harris on trial, as he was unable to instruct his solicitor, let alone plead ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty.’ But on balance he decided to proceed with the evidence. A doctor told the court that James was unlikely to regain his speech but might be able to whisper.

A workmate said James believed his wife was having an affair with his brother George, who had stayed with the family for a few months when he came out of the army. When George Harris said this was untrue, James became very agitated but could not speak. William Young, a stableman, lived in the room next door to the Harris family. He testified that on the night of the September 10/11, he was disturbed by noises from their room. It eventually went quiet around 3am, but he was woken around 4.45am by Mrs Harris yelling, ‘Mr Young, Mr Young, murder!’

As Young bravely opened their door, Willie and May rushed past him. Mrs Harris was sitting on the side of the bed and her husband was searching for something near the coal-box. Young beat a hasty retreat and went to Mr King’s house, a couple of doors away, where he was joined by George Brown and they all went to find a policeman. William also gave evidence, saying he was woken by his father hitting his mother and May with a chopper.

When James Harris appeared at the Old Bailey on November 22nd, the question of his ability to stand trial was again discussed as he couldn’t communicate with his solicitor. The judge asked the jury to decide, adding that if they thought Harris was unfit, to also determine ‘if the incapacity is by reason of his own unlawful act.’ The jury answered ‘yes’ on both counts. Harris was asked if he was guilty or not guilty and shook his head. He also managed to say ‘no’ but this was only audible to someone standing immediately besides him.

The trial was adjourned until January 12th 1898. The picture then painted of James was a positive one – a hardworking teetotaller, a family man. A couple of workmates testified that James had told them he was leaving Kilburn, because his brother and wife were ‘too thick.’ George said his brother James was kind to his children and his wife but again denied any ‘improper intimacy’ with Annie. Several witnesses said James had been teetotal, only ‘giving way to heavy drinking’ shortly before the night in question. It’s hard to balance these opinions with those expressed by young Willie Harris. Could the boy have exaggerated? Maybe James was a hard working man, driven to drink by his belief his wife had an affair with his brother, resulting in weeks rather than years of mistreatment of Annie and his children.

The jury held James Harris responsible for his actions and found him guilty. However, they must have believed the character evidence, as they added a strong recommendation for mercy. Harris was sentenced to death but reprieved a week later: ‘He showed signs of intense relief when the news was conveyed to him that he was not to die.’ He would have been imprisoned or held in an asylum, but no records have surfaced of what happened to him after the trial.

Annie Harris was buried at Hampstead Cemetery on Fortune Green Road on September 18th 1897. During the trial, it was reported that William Harris was a pupil at the Westminster Union Industrial School in St. James’s Road, Tooting. This was a workhouse school and presumably he had been sent there by the Hampstead authorities. In the 1901 census, May – now 11 – is shown as a visitor with George Plant, a stoker at a refuse destructor, and his family in Oldham. George Plant, like James Harris, was born in Buckinghamshire, so he may have been a friend or distantly related.

In just a few moments this horrific murder destroyed a family.

KilburnFestival2011

Kilburn Festival cancelled

KilburnFestival2011

The Kilburn Festival, an annual event in Kilburn Grange Park, has been cancelled less than a month before it was due to take place on July 13th.

Some 10,000 people typically attend the family-friendly day, which comprises stalls, street food, live music and lots of kid-friendly activities.

The trustees say that they “do not have sufficient funds to put on a safe and quality festival this summer, but are hoping to plan events later in the year, and to be able to deliver a summer festival in 2015.”

West Hampstead Life understands that it is a lack of funding from Brent Council that has led to this situation. The local elections meant that Brent changed its dates on funding decisions and simply wasn’t able to make a decision in time over the Kilburn Festival funding. Other Brent-sponsored events have apparently also suffered as a result.

West Hampstead share

Local election 2014: The results

As the dust settles after an emotionally intense Friday evening at the Somers Town Community Centre, it’s time to recap the results from the four wards we’ve been covering.

First up, West Hampstead

John Bryant Liberal Democrats 836
Natalie Eliades Conservative Party 800
Nick Grierson Conservative Party 811
Richard Griffiths Green Party 327
Zane Hannan Green Party 343
Keith Moffitt Liberal Democrats 943
Magnus Nielsen UKIP 202
David Pearce Trade Union and Socialist Coalition 67
Angela Pober Labour Party 1,166
Gillian Risso-Gill Liberal Democrats 901
Phil Rosenberg Labour Party 1,179
Andrew Saywell Conservative Party 715
Quentin Tyler Green Party 250
James Yarde Labour Party 1,082
Total (inc. rejected)   9,622
Turnout   38%

Labour managed the clean sweep here (something residents will hope they can do to the streets as well), with the shock being the removal of Keith Moffitt. One suspects that if Keith had been standing in Fortune Green he’d have got back in, but the slightly more transient nature of the West Hampstead population may well have meant that national politics played a larger role here and his personal reputation counted for less.

West Hampstead share

Fortune Green next

Ian Cohen Conservative 893
Juan Jimenez Green Party 326
Nancy Jirira Liberal Democrats 950
Leila Mars Green Party 403
Lucy Oldfield Green Party 318
Richard Olszewski Labour & Cooperative Party 967
Andrew Parkinson Conservative 739
Flick Rea Liberal Democrats 1,151
Lorna Russell Labour & Cooperative Party 1,028
Nick Russell Liberal Democrats 865
Tom Smith Conservative 686
Phil Turner Labour & Cooperative Party 904
Total (inc. rejected)   9,246
Turnout   39.2%

Hard to know what’s more astonishing here: Flick coming top of the poll on a day when the Lib Dems were obliterated nationally or Labour dispatching the Tories into a distant third. The Lib Dems actually came top in Fortune Green with 32.1% of the vote, vs. Labour’s 31.3%. The Conservatives were well back at just 25%, although Ian Cohen’s 893 placed him fifth overall only 11 votes off fourth placed Phil Turner. Despite the outspoken animosity between some Labour people and Flick, hopefully these three councillors can work together on local issues.

Fortune Green share

From the two marginals, to the two safer seats

Kilburn

Sarah Astor Green Party 402
Douglas Beattie Labour 1,661
Richard Bourn Green Party 276
Maryam Eslamdoust Labour 1,611
Thomas Gardiner Labour 1,543
Janet Grauberg Liberal Democrats 876
Sheila Hayman Green Party 286
Jack Holroyde Liberal Democrats 746
James King Liberal Democrats 883
Nick Vose Conservative 411
Tim Wainwright Conservative 409
John Whitehead Conservative 357
Total (inc. rejected)   9,483
Turnout   38.31%

It was billed as a two-way fight, and that’s exactly what it was although in the end Labour’s margin of victory was more comfortable than many had thought. The Lib Dems – two of whom are former Kilburn councillors – found that their local credentials weren’t enough to unseat the incumbent Labour couple who have moved out of the area, while Mike Katz’s replacement came top of the poll.

Kilburn share

And finally… Swiss Cottage

Chris Butler Liberal Democrats 300
Tom Franklin Green Party 433
Roger Freeman Conservative 1,294
Andrew Haslam-Jones Liberal Democrats 230
Helen Jack Green Party 367
Andrew Marshall Conservative 1,340
Jill Newbrook Liberal Democrats 347
Ben Nunn Labour 1,029
Sheila Patton Green Party 339
Simon Pearson Labour 1,008
Gretel Reynolds Labour 960
Don Williams Conservative 1,221
Total (inc. rejected)   8,886
Turnout   34.67%

A low turnout in Swiss Cottage, which is predominantly made up of the redbrick properties of South Hampstead. The Conservatives were always expected to hold this comfortably, but in the end the margins were a little close for comfort, with Labour polling very strongly indeed – in no other local ward did two candidates get more than 1,000 votes and not get a seat.

Swiss Cottage share

West Hampstead councillors_ft

Labour sweep Lib Dems out of West Hampstead

Labour_victory

Labour pulled off an astonishing victory yesterday evening, and redrew the political map of north-west Camden. West Hampstead and Fortune Green have been a fortress for the Liberal Democrats, with each ward headed by a popular councillor: Keith Moffitt in West Hampstead and Flick Rea in Fortune Green. This morning Keith – one time leader of Camden Council – is no longer a councillor, while Flick becomes the Lib Dems only councillor in the borough.

Labour won five of the six seats available in the two wards as well as holding Kilburn fairly comfortably despite a robust campaign from the Lib Dems. Swiss Cottage was a safe Conservative hold, although Labour ran them much closer than expected and before postal votes were counted it looked as if an upset was even possible.

Last night belonged to Labour, which gained 10 seats in Camden to give it 40 of the 54 on offer. All 10 were taken from the Lib Dems, who also lost two to the Conservatives in Hampstead Town and Belsize. The Greens kept their seat in Highgate, where turnout almost hit 50%, albeit with a different councillor – Sian Berry replacing Maya de Souza. The Greens will be disappointed not to have got a second seat there.

It was apparent as soon as the count got going that the situation looked good for Labour and worrying for the Liberal Democrats. With the dubious benefit of knowing what had happened in the rest of the country well before the count even began, the orange rosettes were already nervous and stress levels were clearly rising. There was an air of despondency hanging over the Conservatives milling around the counts for West Hampstead and Fortune Green – especially the latter ward, where they had high hopes of getting at least one seat.

Camden_count

Of the two wards, West Hampstead was called first but everyone knew the result. Only Keith had any chance of surviving the cull but there was no recount called, which meant the gap couldn’t be that close. John Bryant was the first name to be called and polled just 836 votes – the lowest of the Lib Dems and only 25 clear of Nick Grierson, who was the highest polling Conservative. Keith cleared 943 votes, but with a turnout of 38%, it was always going to need more than 1,000 to get in. Angela Pober was the first Labour candidate to be called out (names are are read out in alphabetical order) and she brought in 1,166. Gillian Risso-Gill took 901 votes – the farmers market hadn’t been enough to save her. Labour’s Phil Rosenberg won 1,179 votes – the most of anyone in the ward, and then James Yarde brought up Labour’s tail with 1,082 – 139 votes ahead of Keith and bringing 20 years of council service to an end.

West Hampstead's new councillors  James Yarde, Angela Pober, Phil Rosenberg. with Tulip Siddiq (second left)

West Hampstead’s new councillors James Yarde, Angela Pober, Phil Rosenberg. with Tulip Siddiq (second left)

Keith wiped away a small tear and then made a point of congratulating all the newly elected councillors. Not all losing candidates that night were as gracious. Nor were all winners. Night like these can bring out the worst of tribal party politics, though there were mercifully examples of generosity of spirit from all parties.

In the end, a combination of hard graft by the Labour candidates and the national swing had been too much for the personal vote for Keith to overcome. It was still a surprise. Labour had known that Keith would be the hardest incumbent to dislodge, and it proved the case, but it’s always a coup to remove the leader of a party.

The CNJ's Dan Carrier interviews Keith Moffitt after he loses out to Philip Rosenberg in West Hampstead

The CNJ’s Dan Carrier interviews Keith Moffitt after he loses out to Philip Rosenberg in West Hampstead

Attention switched to Fortune Green, where a recount was ordered. We already knew that the Tories were out of this. “If only Ian Cohen had had six more months”, one Conservative told me, seeming to forget that the Conservatives only finalised their list of who was standing across the two wards at at the last minute. Ian himself was still smiling, taking the hit on the chin. He’ll still be popping up at local meetings I’m sure.

Waiting for the Fortune Green recount

Waiting for the Fortune Green recount

Lorna Russell had already been told she’d polled enough to get in – and promptly collapsed. Labour really hadn’t held out that much hope for Fortune Green, expecting the Tories to do well and the Lib Dems to put up a strong fight. No-one but no-one had really thought Flick was vulnerable and, as these pages suggested, perhaps the other two Lib Dems could ride that wave to safety.

Keith Moffitt and Flick Rea look anxiously at ballot papers

Keith Moffitt and Flick Rea look anxiously at ballot papers

The reality was that Flick came home very safely – she actually topped the poll in Fortune Green, proving that personal votes can and do make a difference. Lorna was a surefire second, which meant the recount was between Labour’s Richard Olszewski and incumbent councillor Nancy Jirira.

Finally, the returning officer called everyone up to announce the final two wards – Fortune Green and Highgate. Fortune Green was first. The Conservative’s Ian Cohen (once thought of as a possible Lib Dem candidate) had done very well: 893 votes, more than 150 ahead of the next Conservative and narrowly in fifth place overall. Close but no cigar. Nancy was the next from the big three to be called – 950 for Nancy, agonisingly short of the 1,000 mark. Then Richard… 967. It was enough. Just 17 votes between them. Labour supporters whooped and cheered, knowing they’d done the unthinkable and obliterated the Liberal Democrats in their own backyard.

Flick took 1,151 votes and Lorna 1,028. Labour’s Phil Turner got 904 votes.

That left Flick Rea as the de facto leader of the Lib Dems in Camden. Outside the Somers Town community centre, she was in a feisty mood, and expect her to make a nuisance of herself in council meetings.

What does it all mean for local residents? At one level, not much – after all Camden was Labour before yesterday and remains Labour now – only with even more control. The Conservatives become the official opposition party.

On a more local level, it means that our new councillors have some big shoes to fill. They’ll have to learn fast how to navigate their way around the council and expectations will be high. Up in Fortune Green, Flick may well find that she’s bombarded with queries from locals who know and trust her to help them and simply don’t know much about the new Labour councillors. She’ll need to work with them though if she’s not to drown in case work.

It had been a long afternoon and evening. Labour gathered on stage for a victory celebration worthy of any cup-winning football team. Frank Dobson MP – who’d appeared for the photoshoots with winning teams in his Holborn & St Pancras constituency – had long gone home, but Hampstead & Kilburn hopeful Tulip Siddiq was very much still around. She’ll be hoping that the Labour surge in north-west London carries her to Westminster next year, while her Conservative rival Simon Marcus has to pin his hopes on a blue revivial nationally if he’s to stand any chance.

Meanwhile, congratulations to Phil, Angela, James, Lorna, Richard and Flick for winning their seats in two closely fought battles. We’ll be talking to them all – as well as some of the Lib Dems who’ve been pushed out of the way – over the coming days. You can also see a full breakdown of all the votes and the swings for the parties. I’ll leave the last word to long-time resident Tony Penfold, who tweeted last night: “Some good people who helped make West Hampstead what it is have left the stage, newbies now have to walk the walk. Whamp is watching”.

Spedan Tower plaque

John Lewis is 150… but what’s the Kilburn connection?

This year sees the 150th anniversary of the opening of the first John Lewis shop on Oxford Street. Named after its founder, there’s a local connection as John Lewis built a mansion in Hampstead and his son John Spedan Lewis was living in Mortimer Crescent, Kilburn, during the 1920s.

John Lewis worked as a draper’s apprentice in Wells, Somerset before borrowing a pound – or a sovereign as it was then called – and coming to London to seek his fortune. He worked as an assistant and then silk buyer and then in 1864 bought 132 Oxford Street, on the corner of Holles Street, the shop where his business blossomed and expanded. In 1906 he bought the Peter Jones store in Sloane Square.

John Spedan Lewis was his eldest son, born in 1885. The name ‘Spedan’ was chosen to commemorate Ann Speed, John junior’s great aunt. The family home was Spedan Tower, a turreted mansion set in three acres at Hampstead, overlooking Branch Hill. John Spedan led a very sheltered childhood with few friends; his father rarely entertained and holidays were generally spent with the family at Weston-super-Mare. Instead of going to university, 19-year-old Spedan entered his father’s business and it was he that began to develop the partnership model, after he realised that the income he, his father and his brother Oswald were receiving far exceeded the total payroll of his father’s staff.

John Spedan Lewis

John Spedan Lewis

John senior wasn’t having any of it and nothing much could be done until 1914, when John Spedan was put in charge of Peter Jones, which was making large losses. His father insisted Spedan spend his working day at Oxford Street, stipulating he could travel to Sloane Square only after 5pm. Losses continued at Peter Jones but when John Lewis insisted his son give up the shop, Spedan refused. Instead he traded his lucrative partnership with his father for an uncertain future, namely complete control of Peter Jones. Despite dire predictions of bankruptcy, Spedan turned the business round and by 1919 he had converted an annual loss of £8,000 into a profit of £20,000, and began plans to introduce his Partnership idea. His financial success prompted reconciliation with his father, who declared, ‘That place is a great credit to the boy – a very great credit!’ In 1923, Spedan rejoined his father in partnership at Oxford Street.

Spedan believed women had an important role to play in business and that year he married Sarah Beatrice Mary Hunter, a graduate of Somerville College, Oxford. She’d joined the company before her marriage and continued to play an important role. Spedan and Sarah moved from 37 Harley House on the Marylebone Road to North Hall in Kilburn (even then, estate agents called it St John’s Wood). They lived there from 1925 until 1930. The large detached property, built in 1861, stood where Mortimer Place now meets Mortimer Crescent. Lewis also owned the house opposite, 6 Mortimer Crescent, which was used as staff quarters.

Spedan Tower plaque

Spedan Tower plaque

John Lewis snr died in June 1928, aged 93. The Hampstead home went to Spedan who sold it. Spedan acquired his brother Oswald’s share in the business and, while he was living in Kilburn, he launched the John Lewis Partnership in April 1929. He transferred the equity capital to trustees on behalf of the employees by means of an interest-free loan of nearly a million pounds, to be gradually repaid out of profits. But he was cautious and until the plan proved sound enough to hand control to those who worked in it, Spedan retained a controlling interest. This meant he could end the experiment any time he wanted. The final handover was delayed by the war until 1950.

There is a short film where John Spedan Lewis outlines his business philosophy:

The extensive grounds surrounding North Hall allowed Spedan Lewis to indulge his life-long love of natural history and wild animals. An ‘owlery’ was built to house his collection of pheasants and owls (managed by a Mr Gander!), as well as various animal enclosures and a kennel run. Spedan Lewis financed expeditions to collect rare species, which he bred in captivity and gave to zoos. In 1927 and 1928, he wrote in the ‘Gazette’, the firm’s house journal:

‘The Birds at North Hall’
I have here a small collection of birds which are, for the most part, rather exceptionally interesting. To see them properly takes about three-quarters of an hour or a little more. The birds can be seen without going through the house, so visitors in this way need not have any fear of causing inconvenience.

Although an appointment was necessary, ‘partners would be very welcome to bring friends, especially children.’

Spedan Lewis also collected wild animals. A colleague described what happened during regular games of tennis at North Hall: “He had a tennis court made with cages at each end in which he kept lynxes. One of those cages was up against the back netting so if you went to pick up your ball, there was a lynx about a foot away.”

In 1929, Lewis moved his family and menagerie from Kilburn to the Leckford estate in Hampshire (today owned by Waitrose). North Hall and 6 Mortimer Crescent (‘the cottage’) were put up for sale by the John Lewis Company in 1932. The details give some idea of the scale of the property.

Very quiet situation: sunny aspect: good garden and first-rate hard tennis court, billiard room, panelled drawing room (patent dancing floor), panelled dining room, fitted library. 7 bed rooms, 3 bath rooms, electric light; central heating; drains all recently put into perfect order; garage for 2 large cars; cottage opposite divided into maisonette for 2 married servants.

Despite the “first rate” tennis court, there was a lack of buyers and the company tried to develop the site. A proposal was made in 1933 to replace the main house with seven smaller ones, and although the authorities were inclined to give permission, instead the house was reported as sold in January of the following year, for just under £3,000, worth about £175,000 today.

Constance Lynn was Spedan Lewis’ secretary and housekeeper from 1928 to 1961. She reminisced about her employer and her punishing work regime.

We used to work in London during the week and go to Leckford, Mr Lewis’s country house, at the weekends, still working. It was a seven-day-a-week job. We were sometimes expected to work until midnight and produce the answer at the breakfast table. Hours and weekends were nothing to Mr Lewis. And holidays were, in his own words, ‘plainly inconvenient’. We didn’t get any rest. Occasionally I was allowed a weekend off and went home. We just grabbed what we could. Really, we gave our whole lives to Mr Lewis. I think it was the pure magic of the man. We could have murdered our boss at times but we had the many perks which most secretaries don’t have, like being taught to ride, taught to drive a car, taken to Switzerland. I shall be ever grateful for the education I got with him.

The Lewis skiing holidays might last a month, but although enthusiastic, Spedan wasn’t very good.

In 1955, John Spedan Lewis retired on his 70th birthday, (a move he later regretted and tried to reverse) and lived at Longstock Park, Hampshire, until his death in 1963.

What was he really like? Undoubtedly a reformer and altruist, Constance Lynn revealed Spedan was also a demanding employer. The preface to ‘Retail Trading’ (1968), a privately published collection of John Spedan’s memoranda, put it even more bluntly:

He was vain and cantankerous … sometimes cruel in the intellectual arrogance with which he treated individuals who were his mental inferiors … he certainly sacrificed his family to his dream of partnership.

For a more balanced view his Times obituary said:

To the last an unrepentant and indeed aggressive individualist, he yet created one of the most distinctive and successful co-partnership organisations. A man of high purpose, unbridled imagination and great courage, he was outspoken but had in many respects the most kindly and generous disposition. He was an all-round sportsman, an omnivorous reader, greatly interested in natural history and music.

Even the John Lewis Gazette acknowledged his views were like salt, “that can either sting or give savour”. It concluded, “His was simply the uncompromising voice of a great individualist.”

In 1941, North Hall was unoccupied and was being used by Hampstead Council as a temporary furniture store when it was badly damaged by a V1 flying bomb. (The same bomb forced George Orwell to vacate his flat across the road, at 10a Mortimer Crescent). The site was subsequently cleared and now forms part of the Mortimer Estate. Spedan Tower in Hampstead was requisitioned by the War Office and in 1947, became home to a number of German scientists undertaking ‘secret research work for Britain.’ The house has been replaced by houses and flats. A Heath & Hampstead Society plaque commemorates John Lewis and John Spedan Lewis near the site of their old home.

Wiggins Sculpture

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.

Site of Lion Gararge, corner of Greville Rd and Kilburn High Road

“I only meant to stun him” – A 1930s Kilburn murder

On 12 May 1937, the whole country was excited when George VI was crowned King after the abdication of his brother Edward VIII. Two days later at 4.30 am, a taxi driver went to buy petrol at the Lion Service Station at the corner of Greville Road and Kilburn High Road – Today, the site of the garage lies under the block of flats next to the new Kilburn Library.

Site of Lion Gararge, corner of Greville Rd and Kilburn High Road

Site of Lion Gararge, corner of Greville Rd and Kilburn High Road

Entering the office, the taxi driver was horrified to find George Cotton, the night attendant, slumped on the floor with blood streaming from his head. He called a policeman and George was taken to Paddington Hospital. George, who had served in the Royal Army Service Corps in WWI, didn’t regain consciousness, dying the next day and unable to tell anyone what had happened. He had been living with his wife Ethel at 94 Alexandra Road. She sobbed bitterly at the inquest, confirming George was unable speak to her at the hospital.

The police began a major hunt for the murderer, issuing descriptions of three men and a request for information about a blood-stained wheel spanner found at the garage. £16 and 10 shillings had been taken from the till, worth about £850 today. But the trail appeared cold until Allan Gregory walked into West Hampstead Police Station, (then a few doors away from the Railway Hotel on West End Lane).

Allan was interviewed by Detective Inspector Isaac Spash of New Scotland Yard and admitted that he’d killed George Cotton. Spash was a career detective who had joined the Metropolitan Police in 1914 and worked his way up to be the Divisional Inspector at Golders Green.

Allan was a 35-year-old motor mechanic from Maygrove Road who’d needed cash badly. So in the early hours of Saturday night he’d gone to the other end of Kilburn to ask his friend George Cotton if he could lend him some money, as he’d done before. When Allan got to the service station he found George asleep in the chair behind the desk. Allan said:

I watched him for several minutes and he was not disturbed. I thought the till would be full because of Coronation time, the temptation was too great for me and I found a screwdriver and forced the till open. The noise of the drawer snapping open disturbed George and I ducked down so that he would not see me. After waiting until he settled down I picked up a spanner, when George turned and looked at me. I dashed forward and took the money from the till. George started moving again. I got into a panic because I did not want George to see me and I hit him with the spanner. He fell out of the chair onto the floor. I had no intention of killing him; I went there to borrow money. When I hit him I only meant to stun him. I lost my head and slashed out at him, not realising what I was doing. I have known George for a number of years, the last thing I wanted to do was kill or seriously injure him.

Sir Bernard Spilsbury, the eminent pathologist who conducted the post mortem, said that George Cotton had died from three violent blows to the head with a heavy weapon which had badly smashed his skull. After 20 minutes the jury at the Old Bailey on the 19 July found Gregory not guilty of murder, but guilty of manslaughter. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

California Gypsies

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:

TasteKilburn_graphic

Get a Taste of Kilburn

Kilburn is teeming with eating options, but how many have you actually tried? Now’s your chance to sample something new during the first ever Taste of Kilburn food festival, which launches on Saturday.

At 11 am in Kilburn Square (the southern end of the high road near WH Smiths), the Deputy Mayor of Brent opens proceedings with a ceremonial cake cutting (rumours that the cake is a Belgian bun from Gregg’s are unconfirmed). You’ll be able to taste some of the participating restaurants’ dishes in the Taste of Kilburn gazebo. There will also be plenty of vouchers handed out by volunteers who, we’re told, will be fetchingly dressed as Easter bunnies.

It’s not just small restaurants taking part. Alongside old favourites such as the ever-popular Vijay, on Willesden Lane, and pubs such as The Earl Derby, some of the world’s biggest chains are also supporting the event, with vouchers and offers of their own: McDonald’s and KFC are joining in, and Nando’s have promised to dispatch some of their staff dressed in chicken suits (to compete with the bunnies perhaps?).

In total, 27 businesses are taking part and offering special deals to customers which will be valid for the run up to Easter. It should be a great day out and opportunity to try new Kilburn restaurants or rediscover old favourites. If you miss out on the launch event, look out for the Easter Bunny handing out vouchers on Kilburn High Road, or visit the Taste of Kilburn information table at the Tricycle Theatre.

taste-of-kilburn-ft

Taste of Kilburn is an initiative set up by a group of local business owners, with the support of Brent Council, to celebrate and promote Kilburn as an eating destination. Find out more, and see a list of participating restaurants, here.

Tricycle Young Company members

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.

Barbara Buttrick_ft

Battling Barbara Buttrick and the Kilburn Empire

In the 2012 London Olympics, Nicola Adams won Britain’s first gold medal in women’s boxing. Until recently, however, boxing was not seen as a sport for women. More than 60 years ago, The Kilburn Empire, which was at the southern end of the High Road – where the Marriott Hotel is today, played an important part in this story.

Barbara ButtrickIn February 1949, there were numerous press reports about “battling Barbara Buttrick”, a boxing typist from Hull who was due to fight Bert Saunders in an exhibition match at the Kilburn Empire. The bout was scheduled for March 7th, and she would become Britain’s first professional female boxer. But the fight was opposed by the Variety Artists Federation. Defiantly, Nat Tennens, the licensee of the Kilburn Empire said, “the show goes on”. Barbara’s promoter Micky Wood said, “There are women lion tamers, snake charmers, and trapeze artists. Why should this girl not box? She lives for boxing.”

After continued pressure from the Variety Artists Federation and the British Boxing Board of Control, Tennens wrote to the London County Council saying the match was cancelled and that instead Barbara would now give an exhibition of training, shadow boxing and punch-ball work. Further attempts were made for “Battling Butt” to fight female opponents at other venues in 1950.

She toured the country and Europe on the carnival circuit challenging women to fight. “I liked it,” Barbara said, “You worked hard but it was better than a nine-to-five job.” Born in North Yorkshire in 1930, Barbara, who was only 4’11”, was called The Mighty Atom of the Ring.

She found a new trainer, Len Smith, who she eventually married and they moved to America in 1952. In 1957 Barbara became the first women’s world boxing champion. She was delighted and very proud when, in 2010, the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame added her to its roll of honor – alongside Muhammad Ali.

Watch a 3-minute interview with her from 2013 from Adjust Production – she’s still got some moves! And below, some footage of Barbara in her youth.

holidayinn_ft

The West Hampstead hotel guide

Can you recommend a hotel in West Hampstead? It’s a question we hear surprisingly often from locals.

Many people don’t have spare rooms available for when friends and family come to visit, so it’s useful to know about local accommodation. For this guide we’ve cast our net wider than we normally would, as there aren’t many options in West Hampstead itself. Kilburn, Finchley Road and Belsize Park are all good bases for a few nights’ stay and are within easy reach on foot or by public transport. Prices given are for comparison from the hotel’s quoted rates, but can vary quite a lot, so check with the hotels themselves.

West Hampstead

Charlotte Guest House 

CharlotteGuesthouse

Describing itself as a “traditional guest house”, this is more B&B than hotel, which is summed up in the (mostly positive) Trip Advisor reviews. Guests praise the “friendly staff” and “value for money”, but also point out that though comfortable, it isn’t luxurious. It has a great location just off West End Lane on Sumatra Road. Example price: Double/twin ensuite: £60

274 Suites, 198 Suites, 291 Suites 

These three properties on West End Lane are all owned and managed by Magic Stay. There are around 25 serviced studio apartments in total, each with a kitchenette. Online reviews are mixed: some are critical of the noisy location and “dated” facilities but it looks like it could be a good option for a longer-term stay or if self-catering is a requirement.  Example price: Midweek advance bookings from £59 per night. Call 020 7431 8111 to book.

Dawson House Hotel

This is more South than West Hampstead, but within easy walking distance of both West End Lane and Finchley Road. Recent Tripadvisor reviews praise the “friendly and helpful” staff and good breakfasts. A double room is £109, or £90 if you book online.

Finchley Road/ Swiss Cottage

Holiday Inn Express

HolidayInn

The 3*-rated Holiday Inn’s location on busy Finchley Road may not make for the most restful stay, but its proximity to many shops and restaurants (it’s right opposite the O2 centre) will appeal to some. It’s described as “clean and comfortable” though rooms are “small”. It’s also near Finchley Road stations, and West Hampstead is a short walk away. Double rooms start from £94 per night.

Langorf Hotel

Quality Hotel Hampstead

Double room at the Quality Hotel Hampstead

Double room at the Quality Hotel Hampstead

These two hotels are both set just off Finchley Road, on Frognal. Both are classified 3-star, and have reasonable online reviews, though the Langorf loses points with reviewers for the “tired” state of its interior decor. The Langorf is offering advance bookings starting at £65, and the Quality Hotel’s rate is around £119 per night, though discounts are available.

Marriott Regent’s Park

Large, clean business-style hotel (rating 4*). Many reviewers praise its “friendly” staff and “great customer service”. Don’t be fooled by the name; the hotel is nearer to Swiss Cottage than to Regent’s Park, and it’s on the good old C11 bus route which is handy for West Hampstead. Rate: from £139 per night for a double room.

Maida Vale/Kilburn Park

Marriott Maida Vale

Another large 4* Marriott Hotel which is a bit confused about its actual location – this is situated on Kilburn High Road in close proximity to Kilburn Park station. It boasts a swimming pool and gym, as well as the bizarrely-named Bar Hemia. The lowest rate I found on the website was £112 per night. Reviews mention that it’s “good value” though a little more “dated” than would be expected from a Marriott.

Quality Maîtrise Hotel

Like the Marriott, the 4* boutique-style Quality Maitrise Hotel is at the southern end of Kilburn High Road, convenient for Kilburn Park tube station and a 15-minute walk from West Hampstead. Reviewers comment on its “modern and stylish” appearance, but the rooms are small. Room rate for a standard double is around £120.

Belsize Park

Haverstock Hotel

Haverstock

Compact 3* boutique hotel near Belsize Park tube station and within walking distance of Hampstead Heath. Rooms are on the small side, but well-equipped and clean. Reviewers mention the “amazing” showers. Breakfast is available at the hotel restaurant next door, but it’s worth noting that you need to leave the hotel to access the restaurant. Double rooms are around £120. West Hampstead is an easy C11 bus ride away.

See all these hotels mapped in our business directory.

Gallery pub quiz_ft

Pub quizzes in West Hampstead and Kilburn

Gallery pub quiz_ft

Starter for ten… where and when are the best pub quizzes in West Hampstead and Kilburn? This is a question we get asked a lot, especially during the cold winter months. The Black Lion on West End Lane seems to get a lot of love on Twitter for its Sunday night quiz, but what are the other options?

I set out to investigate the perplexing conundrums of which pubs hold a quiz, where are the biggest prizes to be won, and why are they all on a Tuesday?

The Gallery – Monday, 8pm

The Gallery, on Broadhurst Gardens, kicks off a week of #whamp trivia. It’s £1 per person to enter, with a maximum of 8 on each team. The winning team takes the jackpot, with runners-up getting a bottle of wine. There’s also a bonus point for the best team name.

North London Tavern – Monday, 8pm

General knowledge, sport and music rounds feature at the NLT’s quiz. There are also game show games, such as Play Your Cards Right, in between rounds to win free drinks. The entry fee is £2, and the winning team wins the pot. For the lucky team in second place, it’s free shots all round.

Black Lion, Kilburn – Tuesday, 8pm

The Black Lion on Kilburn High Road (quiz points deducted if you go to the one on West End Lane by mistake) is also £1 to enter. The winning team takes the pot of money at the end of the night, and there are bonus “free drink” questions along the way.

Earl Derby – Tuesday, 8pm

This is a music-themed quiz, so expect to hear plenty of song snippets from different genres to identify, as well as a picture round and other musical trivia. The winning team scoops the money pot, second prize is a bottle of wine, and the team in third place wins a “mystery booby prize”. £1 per person to enter.

The Priory Tavern – every 2nd Tuesday, 7.45 for 8pm start

Quizmaster Ben Jones hosts each fortnight, with questions across a range of topics. It’s £2 entry per person, and maximum team size is six. The winning team takes 90% of the night’s money pot. The remaining 10% is put in a Prize Pig for the highest-scoring quiz team of the season (approximately 10 quiz nights). The winners can also enjoy a round of drinks for the table, as well as branded gifts – tonight’s is a set of Peroni pint glasses. This quiz has its own Twitter account – follow @PrioryQuizHead for sample questions.

The Alliance – Thursday, 8.30pm

The Alliance has the largest prize pot of all, as the jackpot gets rolled over each week the tiebreaker question at the end doesn’t get answered correctly. The total currently stands at £1,273, so get yourself to Mill Lane on Thursday if you fancy your chances. Questions range across the usual categories, such as sport, food & drink and general knowledge. The team with the highest score on the night wins a meal at the pub. There’s also wine for the winner of the picture round. £2 to enter.

Sir Colin Campbell – Thursday, 9pm

The Sir Colin Campbell’s weekly quiz features a picture round plus a good mix of general knowledge, some local and London questions, as well as a bit of music. There is also a cumulative jackpot prize after the quiz itself.

Black Lion West Hampstead – Sunday, 7.30 for 8pm start

The pub advises booking in advance for this popular quiz night, especially if you have a bigger team (maximum 6 people) and want to settle into a booth. Sunday roasts are available all evening in case you need to nourish your brain cells. Questions include a picture round, name the song, and a cryptic round. It’s £2 to enter, and the cash is divided in varying quantities between the teams in first, second and third place.

Over to you – Which NW6 quiz gets your vote? Have I missed any out? And why DO so many take place on a Tuesday? Comments are open below.

HartLova4

Loaves with heart at Hart & Lova

HartLova4

Andrea Hartlova gets out of bed at 3.30 each morning to cycle from her home in Islington to her new bakery Hart & Lova in Kilburn, such is her passion for her craft.

Together with master baker Nicolas Juaneda, she produces bread, pastries and cakes and serves Monmouth coffee from the attractively bright and airy Belsize Road shop and café, which opened earlier this week.

Andrea has an impressive baking CV. Having trained as a pastry chef at patisseries in her native Czech Republic, she moved to the UK 11 years ago, and worked at bakeries such as Euphorium in Islington. For the past couple of years she has baked cakes in rented premises in King’s Cross, and supplied her wares to outlets including Harvey Nichols.

HartLova1

Her ultimate goal, however, was always to open her own bakery; she just needed the perfect location. She believes she has found this in Belsize Road, as she wanted her business to be at the heart of a small community with regular customers – not an anonymous high street shop “where you never see the same customer twice”. Belsize Road already boasts some popular businesses: Ekin, Cocoa Exchange, The Priory Tavern and Little Bay all draw regular customers.

Andrea says she already feels part of a close-knit community. The process of renovating the shop – previously an empty unit that had once been a video shop – took six months of hard work, as the building was in a bad state of repair and needed rewiring and decorating. In that time she got to know many neighbours, who would regularly pop in to check on her progress.

Now the wait is over, and the residents of Kilburn and South Hampstead no longer have to go to West End Lane or Maida Vale for freshly baked bread and pastries. Hart & Lova looks set to be a great addition to the shops on Belsize Road and should do well, whether customers are after a coffee for the morning commute, a loaf of bread at the weekend, or a cake for a special occasion.

Judging by the delicious samples West Hampstead Life tried at the launch event this week, Hart & Lova should be around for some time to come.

Izabela Szypulska, café assistant, serves a croissant

Izabela Szypulska, café assistant, serves a croissant

 

kilburnthunderbolt_ft

The Kilburn Thunderbolt

On Thursday night 5 July 1877, a huge storm burst over London. Just after eight o’clock, people in Kilburn saw a vivid flash of lightning and heard a loud burst of thunder, this was followed by a second and then a third. After the third peal of thunder, a ball of fire struck Bridge Street at the bottom of Kilburn on the Willesden side of the High Road. (This street has now been demolished). Residents said, ‘the terrific crash sounded like the discharge of one of Krupp’s guns or the Woolwich Infant’. This is a reference to the 35-ton Armstrong, the most powerful gun in the world, made at the Arsenal in 1870 for HMS Devastation.

For some seconds, the whole area seemed to be enveloped with flame; people screamed and some fainted with shock. The telegraph wire running from Mr Carpenter’s post office and shop in Manor Terrace to Kilburn Park Road was completely fused. Molten liquid poured down and instantly coagulated into lumps of clinker on the ground. Choking, thick, bluish-yellow smoke filled the air. A little girl called Elizabeth Frost, who lived at 6 Bridge Street, had her hair severely burnt. The volume of the clinkers which ranged from the size of a walnut to a man’s hand, was thought to have been about two bushels (equivalent to 16 gallons). Some of these were shown on display in the offices of the Kilburn Times in Carlton Road.

43 Kilburn High Road - what was part of Manor Terrace

43 Kilburn High Road – what was part of Manor Terrace

Despite the sudden violence and shock, surprisingly little damage was done to people or property – just a few windows were broken in Mr Brown’s, an undertaker in Oxford Road.

In 1888 George Symonds, a leading scientist, read a paper at the Royal Meteorological Society called ‘The Non-Existence of Thunderbolts’. As you can tell from the title, he argued that thunderbolts did not exist. He noted various examples, and used the Kilburn incident as his main argument that material did not fall from the sky during thunderstorms, which were just electrical discharges. He said that the clinkers in Kilburn were from the fused telegraph wire. The nature of thunderbolts has been a controversial issue for many years: but the Kilburn fire could have been caused by ball lightning.

They say that lightning never strikes twice in the same place, but on 14 July, l810 the Watford coach was hit by a ball of fire as it passed the Kilburn Wells. The Gentleman’s Magazine reported that a woman passenger was hurt and the ring on her finger was melted.

A clipping has emerged (via @Tetramesh) from New Zealand’s Taranaki Herald, describing the incident (via the National Library of New Zealand’s archive)

kilburnthunderbolt

KilburnXmas

Kilburn gets festive

This Saturday, it’s Kilburn’s turn for Christmas fun. The Kilburn Square festivities run from 3.30pm-5pm, and there’ll be carol singing and the switching on of the Christmas lights. It’s all happening outside WH Smiths on Kilburn High Road.

According to the organisers, this year there’ll be a special tree where everyone can place their own wish for Kilburn.

Tom_headshot

Tom reexamines Small & Beautiful

Wandering along Kilburn High Road on another olive-hunting mission recently, I noted that Small & Beautiful, had undergone a bit of a facelift and refurb. Peering, in I noted the bar now faces the street, and the general scheme of things looked a little tidier and, perhaps, a touch more serious? I’d had a couple of disappointments on recent visits, so this seemed a good time to try again…

Glancing at the board, the special of asparagus ravioli with cream & mushroom sauce sounded nice (and in hindsight I perhaps should have given this a go), but in the end I went for cod fish cakes with coriander and spring onions, served with salad and sweet chilli sauce. These arrived via a slightly confused process when ordering chips. “French fries?” asked the waitress a couple of times… “No – chips – like what those two are eating” I explained, pointing impatiently at a middle-aged couple who looked like they should be in church, not a Kilburn restaurant.

There were also a few nervous moments when ordering repeated glasses of Pinotage; with it being the priciest wine by the glass, I wanted a warm glow of confidence that this was what would arrive…but I tempered my anxiety by reminding myself that whilst I can barely order a baguette in France, here’s this keen, friendly young lady, about 18, who’s ventured over from Eastern Europe, and grabbed a job in a town which might seem a little intimidating until one knows better… A case of “it is what it is” to some degree, though staff training is of course key in any eatery.

So, decent fish cakes; nice texture and neat presentation. A bit of a harsh background note, possibly the coriander clashing with something, but along with the decent chips and tomato ketchup I was happy enough. Broccoli a touch over, green beans fine, though I do wish a slab of butter or dash of oil would be standard when ordering veg, anywhere on the planet.

Chocolate fudge cake for dessert (wow, I’m so adventurous!) – and full marks to the waitress here for grasping the seriousness of the situation when I said, very firmly, “NOT TO BE HEATED UP!” – now that does wind me up, that does. It’s a cake – it’s already been cooked – once is enough!

Back in business then? Well, yes, though some might feel it’s lost a little of its ramshackle charm in its refit – but it’s not vastly different. I note it’s owned by the Nona group now, and their pizza joints have received some good feedback recently, too. All in all, it’s an evolution, but let’s hope there’s no revolution. Small & Beautiful is in its own little world, and long may that continue.

FatalityWillesden

Police chase has fatal conclusion

The first reports on Twitter were of a trespasser on the tracks, causing delays to the Metropolitan Line and then the Jubilee Line, and then services out of Marylebone, which all indicated it was around this part of London. Add in police helicopters over Kilburn and it seemed clear that something major had happened.

Around 4.30pm, police officers stopped a man in Christchurch Avenue, Willesden Green who they believed him to be in possession of drugs. The man broke away from the two officers and escaped on foot. Both officers followed on foot.

The man was pursued and observed from a distance for around 40 minutes, during which time he was seen to run into gardens, climb over fences and go onto railway lines.

At 5.12pm, the man was hit by a train on the line near Dartmouth Road, Willesden. The man, believed to be in his 20s, was pronounced dead at the scene. Officers await formal identification and confirmation that next of kin have been informed. A post-mortem examination will be arranged in due course.

Hey Jude, you weren’t too bad

After days of bleak warnings from the Met Office, clearly determined to exorcise the ghosts of 1987, all of London was braced for a big storm in the early hours of Monday.

The night before was very quiet

Weather in West Hampstead currently eerily calm; if only there was a handy saying to describe such circumstances…
— James Coatsworth (@j_coatsworth) October 27, 2013

Like many people I woke up to strong wind and some lashing rain around 5am. I was up before 7 (stupid early morning conference calls), and although it was definitely very windy out there was no sign of the sort of debris on the street that would have followed the 80mph winds of the forecast.

via @freyathefriday

As locals prepared for a commute already hindered thanks to both London Overground and First Capital Connect preemptively cancelling all services, the first reports began to trickle in of trees down and minor damage. Overall, it seems that we escaped relatively lightly – Belsize Park, Primrose Hill, and Swiss Cottage all seemed to be worse off than West Hampstead.

That’s not to say that the storm of St Jude passed without any incident:

via Tetramesh

One thing was clear – this was no weather for an untethered gazebo (‘cos we’re all leaving them lying around).

via Tetramesh

Although the tube lines had started off running a full service, the heaviest winds came after the first trains. One by one, almost every line fell victim to obstructions on the tracks on their outer reaches.

Piccadilly Line via TfL
Tree on First Capital Connect power line, via @FirstCC

Trees were falling closer to home too. On the Lymington estate, Blake Connolly got lucky when this tree fell away from his flat rather than towards it. Amazingly, it didn’t do any major damage to the other building.

via Blake Connolly

It turned out to be a good thing tree surgeons were on standby, as this casualty on Loveridge Road would find out.

via Christine

There were no reports on the contentious trees on the Ballymore building site at West Hampstead Square. Conspiracy theorists would have been all over any sudden “blown over” trees!

Camden must have done a good job on Sunday to try and hoover up all the rubbish that has been strewn over the area in recent weeks. I only saw one photo of litter debris tossed around by the wind – and to be honest, given recent events, the wind could have been an innocent party here.

via Eugene Regis

The only business on West End Lane that took a beating was the Bridge Cafe. Plenty of you spotted and snapped the collapsed sign.

via Adam Phillips
via Meg Hart
via Eugene Regis

Fortune Green was the worst hit area of West Hampstead. Susan Smith almost got hit by a falling branch as she stopped to capture the fallen foliage by Alfred Court.

via Susan Smith
via Craig Blackhurst

Further down Fortune Green Road a tree had fallen into the road.

via Emma-Jane Tritton

Local councillor Keith Moffitt went to investigate and was promptly caught in a hailstorm.

via Keith Moffitt

The cemetery, at the top of Fortune Green Road, has been closed all day after falling trees blocked the entrance.

via James Taylor

At the opposite end of West Hampstead, Abbey Road was partially blocked by another downed tree.

via Anne Moutadjer

via Deborah Blausten

It wasn’t just roads that were affected of coure. The Black Path required some negotiation.

via Penny Liechti

By this stage, later risers were wondering what the fuss was all about with blue skies overhead. Twitter split into the “OMG a tree is down” camp, and the “This storm is rubbish” camp. The latter group perhaps not realising that a more dramatic storm would probably mean more damage not just to trees and walls and cars, but to people and their homes.

Kilburn didn’t escape unscathed of course. This tree came down in Birchington Road.

via Simon Ashman

There was a limbo exercise on Langtry Road

via Kieran

And Aldi on the Kilburn High Road needs to reasssess how it fixes its signage.

via Kilburn Herald

Two of the most impressive felled trees in the area were over in NW3

King Henry’s Road in #swisscottage a bit of a no-go… #whampstorm #ukstorm London pic.twitter.com/p8pTy6vMiJ
— Kate (@LuluLovesLondon) October 28, 2013

Massive tree toppled across Croft Way. Have alerted Camden emergency services. #stjudestorm pic.twitter.com/CHYjXzUw6Q
— Giovanni Spinella (@GioSpinella) October 28, 2013

By the end of the day, most of the damage had been assessed and it didn’t seem too horrendous.

Neighbour’s fence has been blown down. *awaits tweet from neighbour saying my fence has blown down*
— Andy P (@andypeters10) October 28, 2013

There’s still no Overground or Thameslink as of Monday night. But, the good people of West Hampstead will soldier on – whatever tragedies befall them:

Housemate left kitchen window open (idiot!) and the wind has blown my cafetiere onto the floor & smashed it #ukstorm #firstworldproblems
— Davies (@daviesinthecity) October 28, 2013

Some 12 hours after the sun rose over a windswept whamp, we were treated to a much calmer but no less dramatic sunset.

via James Taylor

West Hampstead’s rubbish

Over the past few months, rubbish has been the overriding issue in West Hampstead. First, there were teething problems with Camden’s new recycling and rubbish collection system.

@camdentalking just watched your bin lorry ignore some rubbish! Picked up some bags but not rest. No wonder @WHampstead reports bin problems
— Daniel W (@damawa42) August 27, 2013

Some problems remain with this, but the situation does seem to have improved. Not that everyone likes the new arrangement:

1 photo; 3 houses; 9 recycling bins – 5 in one garden! Unsightly. Glad I stuck with the boxes and bags. #WHampRubbish pic.twitter.com/8fbyZ1h2QP
— Steve (@SteveWHamp) August 2, 2013

The problem now – and what a problem – is fly-tipping. Camden has signs around the area threatening prosecution, but those seem to be idle threats and the problem’s getting worse.

Here’s what Minster Road’s recycling area is supposed to look like (taken 11am October 8th)

Photo via Richard Olszewski

Here’s what it’s looked like recently

Photo via Richard Olszewski

Photo via @mgscott

Photo via Richard Olszewski

This sort of “industrial-scale” waste is completely unacceptable. This looks like house clearance and builders’ waste material that they should be paying to have taken away, or drive to their nearest dump.

One might argue that at least this waste is being left by a recycling centre, and therefore it’s more likely that Camden will come along and collect it. There’s no such provision on Blackburn Road, however:

Photo via Bernadette Dear

Netherwood Street in Kilburn also suffers from business waste problems – this is nothing new, the day Kilburn flooded last summer, I took this photo on Netherwood Street.

Here’s a more recent picture:

Photo via Mr Wolf

Lib Dem council candidate James King has recently blogged about the problems in Kilburn ward. There’s one crucial paragraph:

Yet when a resident asked how many fines or prosecutions have been taken forward by Camden Council under the Environment Protection Act 1990 (as featured in the sorry ‘No Dumping’ sign), in Kilburn ward over the last few years, he was told ZERO.

One of the knock-on effects of the large-scale fly-tipping is that people… locals… start to think it’s acceptable to leave single items outside.

@Richard4FG @EugeneRegis @WHampstead yeah, leave it there, the council(-taxpayer) will dump it for you sir. Frognal pic.twitter.com/HVsppSmyV4
— John Mennis (@JfmJm) September 10, 2013

just dump it there – the council taxpayer @camdentalking will take it away. Saves you the bother #whampflytipping pic.twitter.com/UiUenGhEch
— John Mennis (@JfmJm) September 22, 2013

Very public convenience, Maygrove Road #westhampstead pic.twitter.com/n6TzDucRvQ
— Patrick (@rosanowski) October 10, 2013

The Guardian recently published an article and accompanying map of fly-tipping at the council level. Camden fared fairly badly placing 11th on the list of total incidents per 1,000 people, and 12th on the overall total (Newham and Southwark fare much worse). More interesting than the map is the data on actions taken. Nationwide, only 0.5% of incidents result in prosecutions, despite the fact that the success rate of those prosecutions is 99%.

Flick Rea, Fortune Green councillor, has written about the problem too. She concludes:

There are probably no easy answers – maybe the refuse people don’t care or they’re trying to do too much in too short a time, maybe they aren’t properly supervised either by their own bosses or by officers in Camden who are supposed to monitor the contract. Also it seems lots of people just don’t care where they leave their rubbish – smelly old mattresses, broken chairs etc. Whatever the reasons – our streets are definitely a mess!

There is though, she suggests, a light at the end of the rubbish-strewn tunnel:

Camden’s Street Environment Services have been re-organised, recruited new staff and hope that when they are all in place, things will improve and our streets will get to look a bit cleaner.

Lets hope so. Like all councils, Camden is strapped for cash at the moment, and street cleaning/refuse collections are often in the firing line for cuts. We should be thankful that we haven’t been reduced to fortnightly collections. Nevertheless, when there are so many flagrant fly-tipping abuses, it seems that a concerted effort to prosecute would help clear up the problem (and pay for itself in fines).

Meanwhile, if it’s all getting too much for you – never fear, Boris is here. The golden-haired mayor recently helpfully suggested we should all pitch in.

Problems with litter in your area? Try our free @CapitalCleanup kits http://t.co/rtknB6CARD @TeamLDN @projectdirt @GroundworkLON @McDonalds
— Boris Johnson (@MayorofLondon) September 27, 2013

I’m all for a bit of community involvement in clearing up after ourselves, but I don’t think I can lug 20 bags of building material off to the tip thanks all the same Boris.

Tom_headshot

Tom’s the Duke of Earl

I was pleased to join in the fun for a pre-opening event at The Earl Derby (which I’d foolishly been referring to as The Earl Grey all week – though latterly simply to irritate @WHampstead), on Kilburn High Road, which has launched with a flurry of enthusiasm and general cheeriness.

At the risk of inviting yet more ridicule from my companions, (who glanced at me raised-eyebrow-quizzingly, and knowingly, as I browsed the menu), I have to report that, yes, I ordered gnocchi again. This was light-ish, “cheffy” gnocchi, rather like the kind of thing The Wet Fish Café does well, but there was enough of it to keep me amused for a few minutes, rather like a child with a new Xbox game at Christmas (actually, that’s also me).

Anyway. The dish was served with a fresh and healthy mix of broad beans, peas, gently-cooked asparagus, spinach and mushrooms, with the latter infusing their earthy charms into a velvety sauce. All very nice; sort of upmarket pub-grub I would say, without trying to be too clever. Only improvement I would suggest would be a little more of that excellent sauce, to really coat everything and drive home the intense, mushroomy background.

Just to say at this point, I’m having a memory fail in terms of starters [Ed: he had the calamari with cucumber ribbons and said it was very good], however I do recall the wine: a Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon that I couldn’t resist, despite the food perhaps warranting something white.

Dessert was sublime; a salted caramel and chocolate tart with clotted cream – if I’d known it were going to be that good, I’d have happily ordered two, although by that time I’d really eaten rather too much.

Only a mild hangover in the morning, so rather than pies and sugar cravings on my journey to work, I was all coconut water and health-shop flapjacks. I’ll be back on form soon no doubt…

NWcover

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

Tom_headshot

Tom’s wowed by “potatoey” chips

A jolly good time was had by all in the Black Lion in Kilburn, for a friend’s birthday last week. It’s a pub I find particularly welcoming and relaxing; spacious, combined with many leather sofas to chill out on, and the gorgeous decor and opulent ceiling-work.

Sticking with a sauvignon blanc all evening to avoid a school-night hangover (didn’t work, but the wine was lovely), I launched into a haddock and chips, which whilst not matching the grandness of The (West Hampstead) Black Lion’s version in terms of big, crispy batter, this was still pretty good.

Special mention goes to the most flavoursome mushy peas I’ve had for ages – really nice to see extra attention to such a simple thing. My watercress salad came with shaved parmesan, and we all enjoyed the wonderful olives as well. (I do love good quality olives; was delighted to stumble upon pick & mix options in the grocery at the top of the KHR recently, opposite the now-closed Angeles restaurant – another successful, booze-fuelled, midnight Kilburn shopping jaunt).

A word about the very fine chips, too. I like that one can get different variants of chips these days; who doesn’t enjoy the marvellous textures of triple-cooked ones, for example? But the Black Lion’s have their own character too, being – for want of a better word – highly potatoey, with a more subtle outer texture to the skin rather than all-out crispness, and splendid colour. Really, with some bread and tomato ketchup, a dish on their own.

Other plates happily demolished included asparagus and blue cheese risotto, burgers, chargrilled sirloin with chips, pickled schimichi mushrooms and garlic butter, and a very impressive-looking pan-fried duck breast with sautéed truffle potatoes, wilted baby spinach, spicy mango and chilli tartare, plus summer berry sauce!

The staff looked after us, bringing out the birthday cake as planned, and just in time, too – I’d forgotten and was about to order dessert.

Summer’s out, and the weather’s getting annoying again, we’ll be needing shelter inside warm, inviting, uplifting pubs like The Black Lion. Line me up a nice, comforting Rioja please…

Sabrina Moss murder: One week on

This morning a large crowd gathered on Kilburn High Road to pay their respects to Sabrina Moss. Miss Moss who was celebrating her 24th birthday last Friday night, was shot at around 4.15 on Saturday morning outside Woody Grill and died later in hospital. Friends and family, wearing t-shirts with Sabrina’s photo on them, appealed for witnesses to come forward.

A crowd gathers on Kilburn High Road. Photo via @joepike

Sabrina’s family made a heartwrenching statement yesterday. Her sister Christina, unable to fight back the tears, said,

Sabrina was a wonderful mother, partner, daughter and sister. We miss her everyday and we would love to have her back. Only the week before she was taken away she moved into a new house with her partner and son and sadly they can’t go back. She was very caring and would do anything for those she loved and cared about.

Sabrina was very fun loving and she had great plans for the future. She wanted to have a career in youth work and wanted to help those who didn’t think they had a future.

Police have also released this video of Sabrina, taken during her birthday celebrations.

Only a week earlier, Sabrina and her four-year-old son had moved in with her partner Aaron. Her sister said,

Her son was her world and he has been left without a mummy. She will not be there for his first day at school, his first school play and his first girlfriend! But he will know that mummy loved him very much. I urge anyone to come forward with any information no matter how big or small it is. We can’t get her back but we can tell her son that the right thing has been done.

(Watch the full statement here.)

Police continue to appeal for witnesses. DCI Andy Partridge said,

We know for a fact there were people in the street on Messina Avenue when the incident took place. In particular there were two people loitering in Messina Avenue, and we know people walked past them and paid attention to them, so if they can come forward and give us information that may help up progress this investigation.

(See DCI Partridge’s full statement here.)

Anyone with any information – whether or not they think it’s important – is urged to contact the incident room on 0208 358 0300, or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Sabrina Moss’s friend, Sabrina Gachette, was also shot in the incident and remains in hospital. Two men also suffered gunshot wounds, and turned up at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington. Both were arrested last week, but both have been released without charge. Meanwhile, 22-year-old Martell Warren is due to appear at the Old Bailey on Tuesday, charged with one count of murder, three counts of attempted murder and two firearms offences.

Related stories:
Sabrina Moss: Man arrested at St Pancras, last updated August 29th
Sabrina Moss: Arrested men also shot, last updated August 28th
Kilburn High Road double shootinglast updated August 25th

Sabrina_Moss_flowersj

Sabrina Moss: Arrested men also shot

[updated Aug 28th 8am]

Sabrina Moss, a 24-year-old mother and nursery teacher from Neasden, died after being shot outside Woody’s Grill at 211-213 Kilburn High Road at about 4.15 on Saturday morning. She was with a friend, who was also shot and is believed to be suffering from life-changing but not life-threatening injuries.

Sabrina had been out clubbing with friends to celebrate her 24th birthday. She and a friend were standing outside Woody’s talking to two men.

Two other men appeared across the road from Messina Avenue. It is believed they were armed with a shotgun and pistol. Shots were fired. The gunmen are then believed to have run back down Messina Avenue. Descriptions are limited – one was wearing dark clothing and the other had a lighter top.

Police have also been looking at at least one CCTV camera on West End Lane to establish the direction of travel of a particular vehicle. DCI Andy Partridge said: “There is no suggestion there was an exchange of gun fire as it appears it was two people who fired towards a group. If their target was an individual they would be aware they could hit anyone in that group.”

Sabrina and her friend, who were both shot, were taken to hospital where Sabrina later died.

Some time later, two men turned up at A&E at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington with gunshot wounds from the same incident. Both were subsequently arrested although have since been released without any further action.

At 5.30am Saturday, at least six shots were fired in Dart Street, W10 (near Queens Park). No-one was injured. The police were called but found no weapons and no arrests were made at the time, although one arrest was made later.

Police are very keen to talk to anyone in the area at the time, especially anyone who might have been in or near Woody’s Grill around 4am on Saturday, or anyone who might have seen the men on Messina Avenue. Detectives believe there are 20 people who were in or around Woody Grill at that time who have yet to come forward.

The incident room number is 020 8358 0300, or you can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

This description of events would tally with the police’s initial assertion that the women were in the wrong place at the wrong time and found themselves caught up in an incident they had nothing to do with. The police want to reassure the community that this is thought to be a localised one-off incident.

The Daily Mail has an interview with Mike Hillman who owns Hillman Butchers, next door to Woody Grill. He said,

“When I turned up the road was closed off and the police were in the process of taping off other areas. There were around six police cars, two ambulances and an air ambulance vehicle. The barrier went around my shop and I was told to stay behind it.

In a period of around five minutes I saw three girls comes out of the kebab shop. They were banging on the shutters, they were hysterical. The girl that was murdered was then brought out from by the kebab shop on a stretcher. I couldn’t see what she looked like as she had an oxygen mask on.”

Kilburnmusicposters

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?

OnceACatholic_Tricycle

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.”.

Russell jumps; Mike is pushed

We’re still a year out from the local elections, but the parties are starting to get their line-ups in order and there are a few changes in the offing. Some forced, some voluntary.

Russell Eagling has been one of the three ward councillors for Fortune Green since 2006. But, next year – after eight years as a Camden councillor – he will not stand again. “I have no guaranteed evenings to myself”, he told me. It’s the great challenge of councillor life – these people work hard and the younger ones like Russell, who was 29 when he was first elected, also have jobs.

Russell Eagling with fellow councillor Flick Rea at Gondar Gardens

Russell has been the whip of the Lib Dem group in Camden, which is more of an administrative role than a traditional parliamentary whip. He freely admits that rather than having a pet cause he’s interested in whatever the topic of the day is.

Russell is the partner of Ed Fordham, who stood as the Lib Dem candidate for Hampstead & Kilburn in 2010. However, both Russell and Ed stood for council seats in 2006 – Russell in Fortune Green and Ed in Hampstead Town. Russell won and Ed didn’t, which was always going to be awkward. With Ed failing to secure the seat in Westminster in 2010, Russell’s decision for 2014, also means that any residual awkwardness should come to an end.

I asked Russell what he has been most proud of during his time as a councillor. “The UCL academy [in Swiss Cottage] was the biggest thing,” he says. “It was a 2006 election manifesto commitment but people thought we weren’t serious. We had to fight hard and lots of barriers were thrown up so the admin side became very important.” Richard Osley’s article about the opening of the school sheds more light on the challenges.

What won’t he miss once he steps down? “Intractable casework,” is the prompt answer. “People sometimes come to councillors with terrible problems and you simply can’t pull the levers that would help them.”

Russell’s fellow Fortune Green councillors, Flick Rea and Nancy Jirira, are expected to stand again next year. Russell’s replacement on the Lib Dem list is likely to be decided next week when the party chooses its replacement parliamentary candidate in the wake of the Emily Frith debacle.

Russell jumped but Mike Katz was most definitely pushed.

Mike was elected as a Labour councillor for Kilburn ward in 2010 after previous election defeats in both council and general elections. His motivation, he says, “was a mix of wanting to give something back and helping make the world a better place (albeit in a small and local way).”

This year, he has already suffered the disappointment of being passed over as Labour’s parliamentary candidate when the party decided to enforce an all-women shortlist. Never mind, he must have thought, I’m still a councillor with a good chance of being re-elected next year. But strange things were afoot. Russell and Ed aren’t the only couple in local politics. Once again, Richard Osley has the inside track:

“There had been talk earlier in the year that Thomas Gardiner, often appearing restless to colleagues about the Labour group’s direction and progress, and his wife Maryam Eslamdoust, the councillor who irritated the leadership with comments about racial divisions at Camden Town Hall, might be open to an ambush. “Well, that was all in their f***ing minds”, was the blunt assessment of that idea today from one frustrated member.

The annoyance is because after the internal vote last night, Thomas and Maryam (also pictured) were re-selected and Mike, cast as a New Labour eagle in a nest of lefty voices, lost his place on the slate. Either the plan to bump them off had never existed or it had been warded off in the weeks running up to the vote.”

Mike maintained a dignified silence on the topic the next day on Twitter, but it’s hard to imagine that he wasn’t (and probably still is) seething.

Some of the comments following Richard’s article focus heavily on the politics of the matter and it’s left to Conservative councillor Chris Knight to point out that he’d “always found Mike to a decent bloke to work with”. But surely it’s the constituents who really matter?

Local resident Matt tweeted “Seemingly you get shafted if you put your constituents before party machine”, while Adrian wrote “Political shenanigans .. no sign of a meritocracy”. In my experience, Mike had always been very responsive to constituents’ concerns but it appears that popularity has nothing to do with it.

He responds robustly to the accusation that his parliamentary ambitions implied he wasn’t interested in his ward constituents:

“I’ve never been reticent about saying I want to stand as a councillor, or as an MP, because I think it’s better to be upfront with people and also I don’t think it’s something to be ashamed of! I don’t think it means I’m not committed to Camden – I only got elected to the council at my fourth attempt. If I was a fly-by-night, or didn’t care about my local area, I would have drifted off elsewhere long before 2010!”

Like Russell, Mike’s expresses pride over larger campaigns that he fought in – especially saving the Netherwood Day Centre, which was an early candidate for closure once the public spending cuts were implemented. He says, though, that he gets just as much satisfaction from smaller casework like helping local pensioners group KOVE get a bench on the Kilburn High Road. 

I asked both councillors what their one piece of advice would be for new councillors. Russell says “perservere”, which i think says a lot about the job of councillor. Mike says “never be afraid to ask”, which is good advice generally in life.

Mike’s replacement on the ballot sheet will be Douglas Beattie. Meanwhile, perhaps Mike’s wife Penny – herself a Labour activist – might want to think about running for office instead. Political couples seem to be all the rage around here.

Did Foyles start in Kilburn?

If you have received this automatically and the pictures do not appear, please go to the online Blog.

Celine Castelino, a friend of ours, told us she’d found information on the Internet which said that Foyles Bookshop started in Kilburn. We were intrigued and decided to find out if this was true.

Many of us know Foyles which has been trading in the Charing Cross Road for over a century. You may even remember the system they used for years – of selecting a book, taking it to the counter and being given a ticket to pay a cashier in a small booth, then returning to the department to collect your purchase!

William Henry Foyle was a wholesale grocer, born in Finsbury. In 1876, aged 24, he married Deborah Barnett. He gave his address as
9 Curtain Road, Shoreditch. They had six children and two of their sons, William Alfred Foyle (1885-1963) and Gilbert Samuel Foyle (1886-1971) formed the book company. Deborah died in 1894 and William married Lilian Eleanor Murray the following year. In the 1901 census the family was living at 13 Fairbank Street, Shoreditch.
The business is born
William Alfred Foyle’s first job in 1902 was as a clerk in the office of famous barrister Edward Marshall Hall KC, who collected old silver. He frequently sent Foyle to the salerooms. Books were Foyle’s interest and he started bidding for any interesting lots. 

The Foyles story is that when William and Gilbert failed their civil service exams in 1903, they decided to sell their textbooks from their parents’ kitchen table. Their first wholesale sale was on 14 July 1903. It must have been successful as the brothers decided to open a bookshop in Islington, moving briefly to Peckham before setting up in Cecil Court, off the Charing Cross Road in 1904.

Foyles Bookshop in 1906
By 1906 they were at 135 Charing Cross Road and later they moved to 113-119, their present site. Initially William and Gilbert traded in second hand books and only began selling new books in 1912.
William and Gilbert on a tandem.
Unfortunately Kilburn can’t claim to have witnessed the start of this world famous business. The electoral registers show that their father William was living at 13 Fairbank Street from 1885 to 1906, so when the boys started trading they were living in Hackney, not Kilburn.
The Kilburn connection
But there is a Kilburn connection. In 1907 William snr moved from Hackney to Kilburn, taking over number 145 Kilburn High Road, between Glengall Road and Priory Park Road. Previously occupied by tailor William Edwin Lee, it became W. and G. Foyle, second hand booksellers, the local branch of the business. They were there from 1907 to 1926. Gilbert lived over the shop with the family; his older brother William lived at 35 Estelle Road in Gospel Oak.
William retired in 1945 when he was 60. By then he’d made a great deal of money, enough to buy the 12th century Abbey of Beeleigh in Maldon where he amassed a great library. He died there on 4 June 1963, leaving £118,989 to his daughter Christina who took over the bookshop business.
William Alfred Foyle
His grandson Christopher recalled William in retirement being chauffeur driven to London in his Silver Wraith Rolls-Royce and handing out £5 notes to members of staff! William had shoulder length white hair, wore a cravat with a diamond or pearl pin, a gold fob watch and waistcoat. Every Friday he would take friends and family to lunch at a restaurant in Piccadilly. In a Guardian interview Christopher said:
‘The orchestra would see him walking in and immediately change to his favourite tune, which was the Happy Wanderer. So we would troop in with him and sit down. And I thought it was so wonderful, when one was about eight years old; smoked salmon, wonderful things like that.’
Christina built a formidable reputation. As a teenager she began the tradition of the Foyles literary lunch at the Dorchester Hotel and during the Depression, she was regularly sent to plead with creditors for more time to pay bills. She even wrote to Adolf Hitler and asked that rather than burn books, would he sell them to Foyles! 
But many thought Christina wilful even cruel, refusing to give staff contracts and firing them on a whim. She never married and ran the business for 54 years. Christopher said:
‘She identified with the shop completely, personally. She and the shop were like one and the same, a bit like queen and country, and, in fact, the way she talked about the business in the latter years of her life, it was clear to me and to others that really she saw it ending at her death.’
Christina Foyle, by Hannah Berry (2013)
The shop almost did die with Christina. She’d presided over the business like Miss Havisham, stuck in the past with no electric tills or proper accounting systems. Gradually all the branches and book clubs, the publishing and library supply division that Foyles had run in its heyday, were closed.
In July 1949, twenty-two year old Ian Norrie (later the owner of the High Hill Bookshop in Hampstead), was interviewed by Christina and given a job. The way the shop was run left much to be desired. Sent to work in the philosophy department where the authors and titles were unfamiliar to him: ‘I asked the manager if I might put the books in alphabetical order. The request, although obviously regarded as eccentric, was granted.’ When transferred to the new book department, ‘I promptly antagonised the manager by serving too many customers. I think he was paid commission only on the bills he wrote out, so I was banished to the end of a murky avenue and ordered to dust and tidy a section of depressed fiction.
Next Ian was sent to music and drama, where he’d originally hoped to be placed. ‘Instructions were issued, each accompanied by a prod in the ribs by a long, sharp pencil. I was to sell hard, not look idle, not be idle, not chatter with the girls from the Post Department, and above all, not address the manager by his Christian name.’ Although he had no experience, Ian was allowed to price the huge number of second-hand books that came in daily and were stacked against radiators and bookcases as the shelves were already bulging. He concluded, ‘working at Foyles, although a valuable experience, was not quite what I had expected of the ‘World’s Greatest Bookshop’.
Christopher Foyle worked in the business for much of the 1960s but left when it became clear his aunt was never going to allow him any real responsibility. Instead, he went on to build a successful air freight business. Then six days before her death in 1999, Christina handed over the business to him and his brother Anthony. Turnover had dropped to £9.5M and was declining at the rate of 20% a year. Christopher said they had a difficult choice to make: ‘It was either selling it, closing it or turning it around. It had about £4M in the bank and no debt and well, I thought, we’ll try and turn it around. It was partly, I have to say, sentimental reasons, partly commercial.’
The first thing they did was issue staff with contracts. Then they turned their attention to the Charing Cross Road shop which was very run down. ‘It looked terrible. Physically it was ghastly. There was paint coming off the walls, the whole place was a mess. There was no financial management of any kind. There were three elderly ladies writing up the figures in manual ledgers.’
In 2000 the Foyle brothers discovered a massive fraud that had been going on for years. Legal action was issued against ten employees. Two senior staff were suspended; the company secretary and general manager of the Charing Cross Road shop, and his assistant manager. Both were accused by Foyles of conspiring with others to defraud the bookshop. There was evidence of a complex invoicing and commission scam which stretched back 17 years. They had secretly siphoned off millions of pounds for books which were never delivered to the shop. The money paid for lives of luxury, helping them to buy homes and meals at expensive West End restaurants. After two years the matter was eventually settled out of court.
Christopher and Anthony managed to save Foyles. The company is now profitable and their annual turnover is about £24M. This year Foyles announced the flagship store will move to 107-109 Charing Cross Road, the former home of Central St Martins College of Art and Design, in Spring 2014.

Make a wish at the Kilburn Festival

Next Sunday, the Kilburn Festival takes over Kilburn Grange park.

One of the more unusual events is called “The Wishing Wall”. It will consist of 100 wooden bubbles displayed in the park. Each bubble will have been written or drawn on by members of the local community expressing a wish for the future.

Why 100? Well, it’s Kilburn Grange Park’s 100th anniversary this year. And why the bubbles? It’s to support the national Giving Voice campaign. The event’s organiser, Emma Shaughnessy, is training to be a speech & language therapist, and the Giving Voice campaign aims to raise awareness of the profession and its ability to give a voice to all members of a community through therapy.

“The Wishing Wall will be a great opportunity for members of the local community to contribute to creating a memorable artefact that everyone can reflect upon during their time in the park,” said Emma. “It’s a really fun and positive way for residents to think about what they hope for in the future.”

If you’d like to be part of this project you can e-mail Emma at moc.l1501165990iamto1501165990h@23y1501165990zahc1501165990. You can reserve a bubble for the day itself or, if you can’t make it on the day, Emma may be able to get a bubble to you in advance.

It’s a simple but rather pleasing idea – and with local businesses also getting involved, we may see these bubbles hanging around our West Hampstead shops after the festival.

Two tales of the demon drink

Here are two stories with newspaper illustrations about young men in Kilburn who acted badly while under the influence of drink.

The Amorous Carpenter
In October 1897, ‘amorous young carpenter’ Frank Pelham was in court for assaulting an unnamed, ‘well-dressed, good-looking young woman’on the Kilburn High Road, outside Brondesbury Railway station. It was around midnight and she’d been waiting for the Cricklewood bus when Frank came up to her and said, ‘Good evening, dear.’
She didn’t know him so she walked away saying, ‘please leave me alone, don’t follow me’, but Frank persisted and tried to catch hold of her. The woman hit Frank with a small parcel she was carrying, but before she could get away, he kicked her ‘in the body’. She managed to find a policeman and the magistrate commended her courage in getting Frank into custody and being willing to give evidence against him in court.
Frank entered a plea of ‘guilty’, saying he acted under the ‘fluence’, in other words, he was drunk. 
The magistrate took a hard line, saying,
It was a monstrous thing to stop a respectable young woman in the street and strike her after she showed your addresses were not congenial to her. Such a case must be dealt with severely as a warning to others.’
Frank got two months in prison with hard labour. The son of a carpenter, Frank had followed the same trade and lived in the Kilburn neighbourhood for most of his life. He was born there in 1868; was living in Paddington (1871); 6 Palmerston Road (1881 & 1891). At the time of the incident he lived at 82 Iverson Road and 23 Iverson Road (1901 and 1911). This was his address when he died in 1920. He was buried at Hampstead Cemetery in what was then called a ‘common grave,’ containing multiple, unrelated burials.
Let’s have a snowball fight!
On a cold evening in early March 1898, Mrs Florence Moule was on her way home to Kentish Town from Kilburn, where she’d been on business. It was 11pm as she walked along Belsize Road and met Charles Crossley, a 27 year old student, who lodged in the road. He walked straight up to Florence, who said in court,
‘That he pushed her against a wall and disarranged her clothes. With some difficulty she wrested herself from his grasp, and thereupon he picked up a snowball and threw it at her, hitting her in the back of the neck.’
Florence screamed loudly as she ran away. The noise alerted two policemen and Florence fell exhausted into their arms. They challenged Charles who was in hot pursuit, ready and armed with two more snowballs! Charles was very drunk and used ‘vile language’ to Florence, even attempting to assault her in front of PC Davis.
Charles said he couldn’t remember anything about the incident, but ‘if he did anything improper he was very sorry.’ As Charles was clearly well educated and respectable, the magistrate concluded that his sentence could not be less than a 40 shillings fine (about £175 today), whereupon Florence fainted, and had to be carried out of court.

Moral dilemmas in NW6

A true short story by @UKColin

I’ve fallen for my share of scam artists who approach with a sob story about needing bus or train fare to visit a sick relative, or because they’ve been mugged, or their car has broken down. On Saturday night, a man in a blue baseball cap approached me outside of Kilburn tube station with a familiar story.

His daughter had just fallen ill that day and he was trying to raise money for the tube fare to go visit her. I gave my standard, “Sorry, can’t help you,” and kept walking.

Late Sunday afternoon, I spotted the same bloke further up Maygrove Road, and although I recognised him, he evidently didn’t remember me. When he greeted me with the same story as the day before, I replied, “You tried that on me yesterday,” and kept walking.

He called after me, “Did it work?”

I turned and replied, “No, sorry.”

He then caught up with me and struck up a conversation. He revealed that he had a drug habit, and that’s why he needs the money. “I’d rather do it this way than mug an old lady,” he explained.

I was taken aback by his honesty and attempt at causing the least amount of harm to help himself. I debated whether to try to suggest that he try to get help for his drug problem, but all I could respond with at the time was, “Oh, well, good luck to you.”

After the fact, I wished I could have offered him some advice about treatment centres or ways to earn money without having to trick people for it. But I also wanted to congratulate him for not resorting to violence to feed his habit.

Then it dawned on me that I’d just had a longer conversation with this guy than I’d had with anyone living on Maygrove Road (apart from the neighbours I chat with over the garden fence) in the seven years I’d lived here. What does that say about me? What does it say about my NW6 neighbours?

Colin Bridgewater

The future of the Kilburn High Road

Last week there was a joint Brent/Camden public meeting to discuss how to revitalise the Kilburn High Road. Some might argue that it’s not lacking in vitality now, but there’s also a sense that with so many fast food outlets and shabby looking shops it’s time to rethink the KHR.

Eugene went along to the meeting at the famous State building to see what ideas were being tossed around.

“I remember coming home from school one summer and looking at an article from the Evening Standard that called Kilburn High Road “The Dirtiest Road in London”. To me, the KHR seemed bustling but also a genuine community – no cleaner or dirtier than any other road. It was busy and traffic snarled and, yes, that would annoy me but you’d always move beyond that. To me, the character of the road was where people start their journey in London before moving to the suburbs. Certainly my parents did that at one point. So I took an interest in what was discussed here.

Cllr Katz’s view as the meeting fills up

The panel consisted of Cllr Mary Arnold (Brent), Cllr Mike Katz (Camden), Mike Haines from the Local Government Association with responsibity for economy and transport, covering high streets, and Caroline Lynch, a local resident.

Each panellist set out their views on the future of the road.

Mary Arnold highlighted that the biggest new threat seems to be the opening up payday loan shops and too many betting shops. Brent is working with Camden to campaign against the gambling outlets. She talked about implementing a unified police team with Camden and would like a town team lead by residents, which is what they have in Harlesden. She also called for a planning commission on development in Kilburn Square and wants to set up a new business website that needs volunteers to set up.

Mike Katz said he wanted “prosperous, varied KHR”. Although this was hardly controversial. He emphasised that there was no reason why Brent and Camden councils cannot work together on this. He also brought up the payday loan outlets – there are now 12 on the High Road. It is difficult for councils to stop them mushrooming so encouragement needs to be given in supporting credit unions.

Caroline Lynch had some similar perspectives. She also talked about the number of loan shops and chicken outlets. She also mentioned the growing number of mobile phone shops, which, she argued, are encouraging lower budget shops in the KHR. Businesses are complaining about high rent levels and according to a survey she’d carried out, businesses also want Kilburn’s transport links to be exploited so that people get off the buses or trains and spend some money. Caroline also raised the issue of empty shops.

The floor was handed over to the audience who.

There was a question about having a Business Improvement District (apparently citing an example from Toronto). The LGA’s Mike Haines stated that such BIDs need more money and work best if small and large businesses work together with the council.

Someone pointed out that some rents were actually falling due to the recession. There was also a suggestion of “localism classes” to take on the payday lenders [Ed: I have no idea what this means].

There were also complaints that there were not enough live music venues on the High Road”

This last point must be one of the odder gripes given that there actually is quite a bit of live music in Kilburn still. I hope whoever asked that question went to The Luminaire as often as possible before it was forced to close.

Local Lib Dem worthy James King has used the meeting to launch a new website (and what might be seen as a thinly veiled manifesto for a run at the Lib Dem candidacy for Hampstead & Kilburn). At the meeting he suggested an exhibition on the High Road about the Irish immigration to the area.
There is in fact a slightly odd Kilburn business website, although if it wants to be taken seriously it would do well to be up-to-date enough to not cite The Luminaire, which closed more than a year ago, as one of the must-visit venues on the High Road.

Brent Council live tweeted the meeting, and I’ve included a selection of their tweets and a few others below. It was very unclear what the next steps are from this, but at least it shows a willingess for the two boroughs to cooperate. Lets hope willingness translates into action.

KHR: Two councils, one street

One of the challenges that Kilburn has is that is straddles two boroughs: Camden on the east and Brent on the west. Attempts to breathe fresh life into the area, and specifically Kilburn High Road itself are therefore always at risk of falling between the cracks of bureaucracy.

There have been various attempts to have cross-borough groups focus on the High Road, be they police or community-focused. There’s another one kicking off this month with a meeting that combines Camden’s Area Action Group meeting for the ward, and Brent’s “Brent Connects” meeting.

“Brent and Camden Council leaders have committed to reinvigorate the Kilburn Partnership which aims to revitalise the High Rd. Cllr Mo Butt and Cllr Sarah Hayward are supporting plans which will be discussed at the next Brent Connects meeting – a joint forum for local residents from Brent and Camden to be held at the iconic Gaumont Kilburn State, courtesy of Ruach Ministries, on April 17th at 7pm.

Put this date in your diary and come along to discuss the plans and ideas with a panel representing Brent and Camden residents and the Local Government Association (LGA) Economy and Transport.

Plans include improving pedestrian safety and reducing congestion on the High Rd and increasing the footfall by diversifying and introducing new business opportunities through meanwhile or pop-up shops. Ideas for improving access to fair credit and financial support for residents and traders are also topical in Kilburn.” (Kilburn Rose)

If you live in Kilburn, whichever side of the High Road, why not go along and contribute your thoughts and hear what other initiatives are being proposed. The speakers include:

  • Caroline Lynch, Kilburn Resident
  • Cllr James Denselow, Brent Council
  • Cllr Mike Katz, Camden Council
  • Cllr Mary Arnold, Brent Council
  • Mike Haines, Local Government Association (LGA)
Kilburn High Road (date unknown), via Julia Powell

Kilburn Grange Park: What’s the potential?

Kilburn Grange Park is rather overlooked by West Hampstead folk. Yet, for those who live in the southern part of the area, it’s by far the nearest open space – and is substantially larger than Fortune Green.

So what could the park be used for to encourage more people to use it? Camden has asked London Sustainability Exchange to help. LSX is a charity that works with business, government and the voluntary sector to build sustainable communities.

LSX is kicking off this process by holding three “Listening Sessions” on February 13th and 14th. The sessions are for residents who live near the park to come and say what they would like to use the park for, whether their needs are being met, and what activities would draw more people to use the park. Participants will recieve £10 for their time, but places are limited so if you want to go then you have to register. Obviously, you also need to live reasonably near the park, or use the park, or want to use the park.

Wednesday Feb 13th: 9-10.30am @ Kingsgate Primary School
Wednesday Feb 13th: 6.30-8pm @ Belsize Room, Abbey Community Centre
Thursday Feb 14th: 1.30-3pm @ Kingsgate Community Centre
(the first and third sessions offer a childcare service).

To book your place, e-mail Ali Lin or call on 020 7324 9406.

towels

Which gym meets your budget and needs?

The 2017 version of the West Hampstead gym guide is now available.

It might be a January cliché, but many people are looking to start a healthy regime after the excesses of Christmas, and gyms and fitness centres are all too aware of this. But which to join in NW6? I reluctantly left the comforting embrace of the sofa to do a tour of Kilburn and West Hampstead’s fitness facilities and find out who was offering what.

There are three price brackets: luxury, mid-range, and budget. There’s even some free options in there. Take a look and let me know if anything takes your fancy. Also, please let me know if I’ve missed any out! (You can leave feedback in comments section below or tweet me @ZENW6)

Luxury (£££)
Virgin Active, O2 Centre Swiss Cottage
Spacious and well-equipped, with multiple fitness studios and a pool, this is more “health club” than gym, and this is reflected in the membership cost. I can imagine just going for a dip in the pool followed by a spell in the sauna or steam room, and a rest in the café afterwards. Mmm. Not that I’m recommending this as a viable fitness regime, of course.
NB There’s also a Virgin Active in Cricklewood, for those based that side of West Hampstead.

Full Flexi Monthly (rolling monthly contract): £99/mth + £30 joining fee
Minimum 12-month contract: £89/mth
(Special offer: join now and get January free, with joining fee waived)

Gloves Boxing Club, Broadhurst Gardens, West Hampstead
Specialised one-to-one or group training in this friendly, unintimidating boxing gym. Read about my visit to the club. Prices vary depending on class package/ type of training.

Current offers include:
10x personal training sessions: £400 (usually £700)
Bantamweight package (3 classes/wk): £60 (usually £69)
Lightweight package (morning/ Sat classes): £69 (usually £75)
Heavyweight package (all classes) £99 (usually £125)

Movers and Shapers, West End Lane, West Hampstead
Positioned as an alternative to a conventional gym, Movers and Shapers offer 30-minute intensive classes in small groups using Power Plate machines. Free trials are available if you want to find out more (or look out for a review coming soon).

Minimum 3-month contract: Peak £125/mth; off-peak £99/mth. PAYG available.

Mid-range (££)
Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre, Swiss Cottage
A Camden-run sports centre with plenty of equipment – I visited on a Saturday afternoon and thought it was busy but didn’t notice queues for any machines. There are lots of classes too, though the popular ones get very booked up. Membership prices cover access to gym, classes and pool. There’s also a climbing wall, sports hall and squash courts, sessions in which can be paid for separately.

Monthly fee (no minimum contract): £49.80/mth (+ £40.25 joining fee)
Monthly fee with access to other gyms in the network and racquet sports within Camden: £53/mth  (no joining fee)

Bannatyne’s, Marriot Maida Vale, Kilburn High Road
Bizarrely, membership here is structured around whether or not you get a towel each time you work out. There was a huge stack of them behind the reception desk when I walked in, and very white and fluffy they looked too. There’s a gym, fitness studio and 25m pool. If you’re a Kilburn-based towel fetishist, this is the place for you.

Minimum 6-month contract (WITH TOWELS): £58/mth (+ £30 joining fee)
Minimum 3-month contract (NO TOWELS): £49/mth (+ £40 joining fee)

towels

My Fitness Boutique, off Mill Lane, West Hampstead
My Fitness Boutique, up by West End Green, offers around 50 classes a week including Zumba, spinning, yoga and circuits. All are pay-as-you-go, so if you like trying out different classes without having to commit to a contract, this is a good choice.

Example prices (from website):
Single class: £10
Introductory 5-class package (intro offer only): £25
30-day pack (unlimited classes): £55

Budget (£)
The Gym Group, Fortune Green, West Hampstead ()
No-frills budget gym open 24/7 with card entry.

£19.99/mth (+ £20 joining fee). No minimum contract.

It's not usually this quiet

It’s not usually this quiet

Fit4Less, Kilburn High Road
If you can see past the garish bright green walls, and aren’t bothered about classes or a swimming pool, this new no-frills gym might be for you. Friendly staff were on hand to answer questions on my visit, and personal training is available too. Initial feedback on Twitter has been positive.

£19.99/mth (+ £24.99 joining fee). No minimum contract.

Outdoor gyms, Kilburn Grange Park and Swiss Cottage.
I must admit I haven’t tried these, but they look like a great idea. According to Camden’s website, they are “suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels”, so give them a go next time you’re out for a run! Best of all, they’re free!

Tom explains cod at the North London Tavern

Enjoyed a splendid night of food and wine (a very addictive Malbec) in The North London Tavern, Kilburn, over the festive period. It’s been one of my favourite boozers for a few years now, somehow combining a bit of everything into a warm, buzzing-but-mellow atmosphere, without ever appearing contrived at all.

I’d planned on trying the gnocchi, but that wasn’t on the menu on this occasion, so I opted for baked cod on garlic mash, with green beans and salsa verde. With gastropub style food – and prices – it has to deliver, and I’ve had plenty of discussion over this issue; one does encounter inconsistency even within the charms of NW6. Thankfully, this was a delicious plate of hangover-busting food. How would you explain perfectly cooked cod, to an alien, I mused later that night, after a substantial amount of port back home. The texture, the way it flakes off, the subtlety of the flavour – really nicely done.

The mash was as smooth as one of my chat-up lines a night of jazz in La Brocca, and the green beans al-dente. Also important to note the quality of bread, which I’d requested as a side. None of that powdery, lifeless rubbish here – this was proper bread! Chewy, a bit stretchy, wonderful crust.

If looking for any blips, then I’d certainly have eaten double the size of cod fillet, but at least there was plenty of mash. And some butter, by default, for both bread and vegetables, is always nice. That reminds me – a side of curly kale was excellent too (I love the stuff) – generous portion, piping hot and cooked very nicely. OK, it’s just kale, but how often do diners get over/undercooked veg? Often!

I’d have managed dessert, but none on the menu for some reason, so I had another glass of that Malbec instead. Suppose I should have had a festive sherry… I wonder if NLT still sells that Pedro Ximénez?

Overall, good work, trusty Tavern. I’m looking forward to some warming gnocchi very soon. 

I’m going to party like it’s 2013

Nothing screams party like a Monday night in West Hampstead. But this Monday is New Year’s Eve so all of a sudden it’s party central in NW6. Or something.

Personally, I’ll be getting in a bottle of vodka and enough Haribo to sink the Bismarck and watching Jools Holland in my Christmas onesie, but no doubt the rest of you aspire to more sociable activities.

The Gallery: “Anything Goes”. Get your £15 tickets at the bar (but they’re selling out fast apparently). Fancy dress preferred but not mandatory. DJ until late.

The Alice House: “Madhatter’s Tea Party” [see what they’ve done there? No, not the typo]. Tickets also £15 (or £25!! on the night). DJ, special cocktails “and more”. I don’t know what that implies either but for £25 I’d want quite a lot more.

La Brocca: Open until 2am. Party in bar, restaurant also open. Normal menu + some “delicious New Year specials”. Normal price – no cover charge

The Black Lion (West End Lane): ‘Glasses or Moustaches’. Tickets are £10 in advance or £15 on the door, which includes a glass of Black Lion punch. Soul & funk music from 10pm. You can hire their booths as well.

The Alliance: “Lots of music and a party ’til the early hours”. I heard good things about last year’s NYE bash here, so if you’re up that end of town worth checking out I’d say.

The Priory Tavern: DJ from 10pm, glitter shots (I predict coughing), a special cocktail menu (remember, these guys are serious about cocktails), fireworks at midnight(ish). Tweet, call, or drop in to put yourself on the free guest list. Otherwise fork out a fiver after 10pm.

North London Tavern: Two options here – one with a four course dinner and the one without. Both end up in an 80s party. Dinner will cost you £40 (here’s the menu), while entry to the bar is just £5 after 10pm when the DJ starts. Open ’til 2am.

The Good Ship: “Something Serious NYE Extravaganza”. “Party into the small hours recapturing the wonderful summer when everyone came together before waking up with a hangover in 2013 and realising that we’re all absolutely done for.” Nice. That’s the sort of pessimism that made this country great. Something Serious apparently play indie, pop, rock n roll with a dash of electro as the sprinkles on top. They “guarantee to make you dance until your feet smoke.” If that’s not worth the £10 ticket price alone then I don’t know what is.

Betsy Smith: “Saints & sinners”. The evening kicks off at 7.30pm and 2-for-1 cocktails last until 9. There’s a £50 bar tab for the best dressed. So that’s another two cocktails. It also advertises “shot girls” and a “torture chamber”. Just to reiterate that you will be paying for this. But then there are confetti canons, and who doesn’t love a confetti canon. DJ Louisubsole is on the decks. £10 in advance (which is actually pretty decent for around here) or £15 on the door. Call 020 7624 5793.

Still waiting to hear back from: The Railway, The Alliance, Kilburn’s Black Lion, and the Lower Ground Bar. Will add those as I get them so keep checking back.

Web chat with Mike Katz

The We are Camden website seems to have struggled to gain traction since it launched some 18 months ago. The idea was to provide a community forum on a ward basis, but posts are sporadic at best. It’s slightly surprising that the venture has lasted this long, at a time of cuts.

Perhaps one way of drawing people to the site is to make it more interactive. So, on Friday, Councillor Mike Katz (Kilburn ward) will be doing a live webchat for an hour from midday om how Kilburn can be improved. You can ask him questions directly then, or mail ku.vo1501165990g.ned1501165990mac@r1501165990ebmiK1501165990.kciN1501165990 with questions in advance.

Cllr. Mike Katz

If you can’t make the webcast live, it will be up on the site for a while.

1917 Zeppelin raid

When a Zeppelin flew over Kilburn

The Germans began Zeppelin airship attacks in 1915. At first people came out to stare in wonder at these huge flying machines, but became more cautious as the bombs started to fall.
1917 Zeppelin raid

On the 19 October 1917 a group of 13 airships left Germany to attack the Northern industrial cities of Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield. Climbing to 16,000 feet they encountered extremely strong winds which forced them off course and made it very difficult for the commanders to establish their position. Lt. Waldemar Kolle was in L.45 aiming for Sheffield, but he found he was being blown rapidly south. He dropped a number of bombs on Northampton, but around 23.30 the crew became aware of a large number of lights and realised they were over London. Kolle dropped several bombs which damaged the Grahame-White Aviation Company in Hendon. Continuing south-east, he dropped further bombs which landed near Cricklewood Station.

These Zeppelin were a new class of airship which flew so high that British fighters and anti aircraft guns couldn’t reach them. Some of the crew got frostbite and others suffered from altitude sickness. The height and the thin cloud cover also meant that people on the ground couldn’t see or hear the airship and this attack became known as ‘the silent raid’.
Flying over the Kilburn High Road and St Johns Wood towards central London, the Zeppelin crew dropped bombs at random: but the effects were devastating. The first fell close to Piccadilly Circus where a huge 660lb bomb smashed the front of department store Swan and Edgar’s and caused further damage in Regents Street, Jermyn Street and Shaftesbury Avenue. Flying glass and shrapnel cut down 25 people and seven died. L.45 continued over South London bombing Camberwell and Hither Green, killing another 20 people.

Despite the strong winds, Lt. Kolle flew his Zeppelin across the Channel to France and with only two engines working and short of fuel, landed in Southern France. He set the ship on fire before surrendering to a group of French soldiers. This proved to be last Zeppelin attack on London; subsequent raids were carried out by Gotha and Staaken Giant bombers.

The Staaken Giant Bomber which took over from the Zeppelin airships at the end of the War

The Staaken Giant Bomber which took over from the Zeppelin airships at the end of the War

The map and information come from an excellent book by Ian Castle, London 1914-17: The Zeppelin Menace, Osprey Publishing, 2008. ISBN 978-1-84603-245-5

Marianne owns a postcard, which will have been printed in thousands. An inky black sky is pierced by the beams of search lights which light up a small, elongated white oval, meant to be a Zeppelin. The date ‘Wednesday 8 September 1915’ is printed bottom right, when London experienced its most severe Zeppelin raid, almost all the damage inflicted by just one Zeppelin, the L13. Bombs were dropped on Golders Green and Central London as far as Liverpool Street Station. So it was an event to remember. The legend ‘Zeppelin Raid as seen at …’ (blank) appears bottom left. So anyone buying the card as a souvenir could send it to a friend or relative, filling in the blank with their chosen location.

Tom says Ciao to Kilburn

Walking down the Kilburn High Road on a Sunday, in a bit of a Côtes du Rhône Villages daze (L’Arnesque 2009 from Oddbins the previous evening – fantastic bottle of wine), I walked past a specials board enthusiastically highlighting a goat cheese omelette, chips, salad and freshly-squeezed orange juice, for the reasonable price of £6.95. Accordingly, I retraced my steps and took up a seat in Ciao Ciao, where Italian football was showing, and customers relaxed outside and in. Well, most customers relaxed; unfortunately the “gentleman” next to me proceeded to repeatedly snuffle, sniff and snort like some kind of deranged farmyard animal. “Why me?” I self-pitifully whined to myself, as I imagined how I could possibly enjoy food in such circumstances.

Cheese omelettes are weird in the sense that you’re adding protein to protein; nothing wrong with that though, and this being rough ‘n’ tumble KHR I looked forward to a hunger-bashing 3-egger at the very least. Whilst waiting expectantly, a slight hitch was explained by the very sweet waitress; they’d run out of fresh juice but I could have ‘normal’ orange juice instead. Not the end of the world, though I noted that big grocery shop almost next door, and all the other shops selling fruit outside. (I once spotted one of the Tiffin Tin chefs pegging it up the road having sourced a solitary carrot from George’s on Mill Lane – rather odd in a number of ways!)

Anyway, food arrived, and right away I could see that these guys knew how to make a decent omelette. None of that stupid Saturday Kitchen ‘challenge’ nonsense here. Very neat, well cooked at the edges, and a touch baveuse in the middle (please tell me that’s the right word and spelling, I’m not Googling it a third time) – with the familiar, melting tang of goat cheese working very well indeed. However (adopts serious face and raised eyebrows) – this was clearly only a 2-egger (damn!), and being lightly cooked and straight onto a cold plate, was a little lukewarm. Chips and salad were fine, and always reassuring to find a bottle of tomato ketchup readily available.

I was just a little disappointed to be charged the full price given the orange juice thing, especially with the omelette being a little lightweight, and then seeing Brondes Age next door offering up a full brekko for £5. But perhaps I’ll pop back sometime, (maybe on one of their jazz nights?), as Ciao’s a cheery little place with some simple, reliable menu options for a Sunday hangover – pizza, pasta, baked potatoes, salads etc..

Perhaps I’ll pop next door first though, and bring along an extra egg and a handful of oranges!

KilburnGrandTour

Kilburn Grand Tour in October

October is “Kilburn month” at the Kingsgate Workshops.

As part of a collaboration between the front-of-house volunteers at Camden Arts Centre and the Kingsgate Workshops Trust, Kingsgate Gallery’s exhibition project is focused on the artistic exploration of the Kilburn area and its history, and especially the engagement with the local community.

What’s on? Let me hand over to the organisers to whet your appetite. You can also check out the latest news regarding the exhibition.

As well as the specific events listed below, Asako Taki’s blog project, which started in May 2012, reflects her encounters with the people of Kilburn. Throughout October, Deborah Farr installs a glow-in-the-dark mural in the Iverson Road arches, while the collective Kilburn-Mapping-Project of Cornelia Marland continues to grow within the gallery, through the help of our visitors. Also inside Kingsgate, Suits Meso’s flag-and-sound installation is displayed alongside a performance-wall drawing by Evy Jokhova. Jokhova is also making a short film that follows one day in Kilburn for 50 years using archival documents and footage filmed by herself.

So drop into the gallery Thursday–Sunday from midday to 6pm (it’s free), or come to one of the events.

October 4: Kilburn Grand Tour Opening Night 6pm-9pm

Join us for the opening night of our one month-long creative and artistic exploration of Kilburn. As with any Grand Tour we know our destination, but the journey is not set… From hidden rivers, imagined maps, and constantly-evolving art we need your help to inspire our voyage.

As the project evolves, the gallery space will change, so don’t miss your chance to see what might not be visible a week later. Help us give our project the best possible start and join us for the official kick-off of The Kilburn Grand Tour at the Kingsgate Trust Gallery.

October 6: Blue Flower River Project – Gardening Event 2pm-4pm [Ed: I think this sounds like a brilliant idea]

Join in this celebration and remembrance of the River Westbourne with a gardening twist! Guided by Helene Latey, walk the river path and see the Blue-Flower-River project along the way.

Come back to Kingsgate gallery for refreshments and a short presentation on Green living given by the Camden council Sustainability Team. Also at the gallery, pick up a river map and wildflower seeds and get involved in some guerrilla gardening of your own as you continue the river walk through the Kilburn streets.

October 13: Suit Meso’s Flag Making Workshop 1pm-4pm

Come along and get creative at this flag making workshop. Learn about flags from around the world, draw on your cultural influences and merge symbols and signs to design and make your own personal flag.

Led by artist Suits Meso and tying in to his artistic practice, this workshop will result in the creation of a large scale “Kilburn Flag” constructed from the individual flags produced on the day and to be displayed as part of the Kilburn Grand Tour exhibition.

October 14: River Talk: “The River Westbourne – Kilburn’s Hidden River” 6pm-8pm

Could there be a river running beneath your feet, or even beneath your house? Now’s the time to find out as river historian Stephan Myers, author of Walking on Water, London’s Hidden Rivers Revealed, will reveal Kilburn’s own hidden river in his presentation on the River Westbourne.

Learn the fascinating history of this now underground river, map its location beneath the Kilburn streets and follow its influence and role within the Kilburn landscape all within the art filled atmosphere of the Kingsgate Gallery.

October 19: Evy Jokhova: Kilburn Grand Tour 5pm-6.30pm

Jokhova’s Kilburn Grand Tour opens to the public with a screening of a film compiled from newspaper clippings, personal and borrowed film footage that follows Kilburn on one day in October for the past 50 years. The screening of Kilburn Grand Tour will be accompanied by a public panel discussion between artist Nicola Lane, Kilburn historian Dick Weindling and local residents on what makes Kilburn a ‘home’.

Following on from this Jokhova will create a week-long performance drawing in the gallery space inspired by the contents of the discussion.

October 19: Artist Talk and Walk 7pm-9pm

Live in Kilburn? Long to live in Kilburn? Or just want to get to know Kilburn a bit better? What better way than to come along for our special Artist Talk, and let our artists illuminate (literally) this wonderful area of North-West London for you!

Following the overground trail of the hidden River Westbourne, artists Helene Latey, Deborah Farr and Lara Smithson will take you on an hour-long walk through Kilburn, presenting their artworks along the way; an experience which will make you see your surroundings and community in a whole new light. The walk will end up at Kingsgate Trust Gallery where there will be refreshments, more art and the chance for everyone to contribute to our very own Kilburn-map.

October 26: Closing Party 6pm-9pm

The Kilburn Grand Tour’s closing party will take place on the final Friday of October. Come along for the final chance to see our artists’ completed work, catch-up with our process and celebrate the creative and artistic life and spirit of Kilburn.

If you’re not familiar with the Kingsgate Workshops Trust, it supports a wide range of arts and crafts in studio spaces of variable sizes. The workshops are a converted 19th century warehouse which provides studio space for more than 50 artists and crafts people as well hosting up to 12 public exhibitions a year.

The Road to West End Lane

Sadly, I couldn’t make the grand unveiling of the plaque to George Orwell last week, but mercifully (and appropriately), Danny from West End Lane Books could – and kindly penned a few words about it.

“I’ve got something in common with George Orwell it seems! I gleaned this priceless piece of dinner-party ammo the day that Kilburn Historic Plaque supremo Ed Fordham triumphantly brought Richard Blair to town to unveil a tribute to his father, the mighty George Orwell, on the Kilburn estate they briefly inhabited before being bombed out in WW2.

Nowadays, the building is called Kington House in Mortimer Crescent and Blair, not the slight, pale figure I imagined, but a broad avuncular man of old-school bank manager appearance, admitted he didn’t really recall it — unsurprisingly since he was an infant the last time he laid eyes on the place.

A good crowd had gathered to meet the man whose father has so enriched us all and confirmed that Orwell did indeed work on Animal Farm while living in our postcode.

After the unveiling of the plaque Blair and Fordham braved rush hour traffic to hotfoot it over to West End Lane Books where another eager crowd had gathered and was treated to a reading from Orwell’s Bookshop Memories essay — and that’s where I learned of mine and George’s shared experiences!

Bookshops, Orwell remarked of his time working in one, were places ‘you can spend a long time without spending money’. Yep, that bit still rings sadly true. And although our customers aren’t of the ‘motheaten’ variety that Orwell depicts and nor do we regard children’s books as ‘horrible things’ (they obviously didn’t have Puffin, Walker, Usborne et al in those days), his description of the ‘brutal cynicism’ of the marketing of Christmas, in particular the order form for advent calendars displaying ‘two dozen Infant Jesuses with rabbits’ brought a blush of shame.

Orwell went on to describe life with George as his (adopted) father, noting that while he was always Eric Blair to at home, he was only ever George Orwell to his friends and professional contacts (‘the name change was to protect us,’ said Blair.) and often the two camps were not aware of the other; some family members remaining ignorant of George’s alter ego even as his books were published and word began to spread of his work.

Blair recalled his father as an affectionate man who often read to his son—classics such as AA Milne (also honoured by a Kilburn plaque) and Beatrix Potter, but also his own little stories and poetry, none of which survives to our loss. While retaining the then-customary stoicism about his struggles with TB (‘he was slightly vague about it’), Blair told us that his father was nonetheless constrained by his illness and felt that physical contact with his son needed to be minimal for his own safety.

Orwell also read aloud chapters of Animal Farm at home to his wife and Blair reminded us that even this literary colossus had initial trouble finding a publisher. Blair himself was not allowed to read 1984 until some time after his father’s death when he was 11 and when asked when he first became aware of Orwell’s status, he remembered it as a form of osmosis around the same age.

Listening to Blair’s recollections of Orwell doing bits of woodwork, rolling fags with newspapers when he ran out of cigarette papers and all of the everyday trivia family life is filled with, I for one had a few frissons: this man lived with Orwell…this man knew Orwell!

What an honour to have Richard Blair in our shop. What an honour for NW6 to have such a connection! Major thanks to Ed Fordham for making this happen.”

Video_icon1

Kilburn: All within 100 yards

As the literary world turns its gaze on Kilburn in the light of Zadie Smith’s new book, Kilburn is also the focus of a short film by Mark James.

Give it 10 minutes of your time.

For a different cultural take on Kilburn, watch this music video from Jonny Granville, supported by Camden Calling (a social enterprise run collectively with homeless and ex-homeless people with the broad aim of improving the access homeless and vulnerable groups of people have to mainstream music / arts and popular culture).

Zadie Smith shines light on Kilburn

“I do not claim to know what happens in villages”

Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith is everywhere at the moment, and yet this media ubiquity also has a very firm geographic focal point: North-west London.

No great surprise there, after all, Smith has become some sort of literary symbol for the cultural melting pot of this part of the capital. And when she titles her latest book “NW”, you can’t blame journalists for making something of it.

Since 2010, Zadie Smith has been a professor of creative writing at New York University. She’s not popping into Poundland on the Kilburn High Road of a Saturday morning. Yet the sense of north-weezy (as the kids say) identity and affection clearly runs deep. Back in June, she wrote an impassioned article in the New York Review of Books about the plans for Willesden library and bookshop (read the article if you haven’t already).

In what one hopes was a great editorial idea, rather than clever publisher PR, TimeOut this week took Smith up the Kilburn High Road to meet a few locals. Although defining what “local” is in Kilburn is a tricky matter as one tweeter commented.

@jamesrobking @timeoutlondon how many “locals” did she Speak to? Er none by the looks of it. But welcome to all the visitors of Kilburn.
— ANNE MOUTADJER (@kilburnbelle) September 6, 2012

Kilburn High Road has always been a street on the move though. It’s arterial, with all the blood-pumping energy that implies. Not so many “born and bred” locals, but a galaxy of people who’ve called it home at one time or another. That’s what has made it Kilburn.

Outdoor film bonanza in NW6

An extra post for you from @NxNW6 (aka Mark, the Tommy Lee Jones of NW6)

There are an unprecedented five outdoor screenings scheduled locally in September. I thought it would be worth quickly looking at all of them, and where and when you can catch them.

The Kilburn Grange Pop-Up Cinema Weekender Sep 7-9

Located 2 minutes walk from Kilburn tube (entrance next to The Black Lion). There will be a bar on site and hot food will be available as well as popcorn.
Doors open at 7pm and the films start at 8:30pm.
Friday: Dazed & Confused (Richard Linklater, 1993, 102 mins)
Ensemble slacker comedy that kick-started the careers of Matthew McConaughey, Milla Jovovich, Renee Zellweger and Ben Affleck among others. Set on the last day of school in mid-70s America.
Saturday: Grosse Point Blank (George Armitage, 1997, 107 mins)
High school reunion film with a twist – John Cusack plays a freelance hitman (a growth industry). Notable for the killer soundtrack and the last time Dan Ackroyd was funny.
Sunday: Top Gun (Tony Scott, 1986, 110 mins)
We lost the great man the other week. This is a small but fitting tribute.
Single film £8, weekend ticket £20.

The Nomad Cinema comes to Queens Park

Located physically in Queens Park itself. Access from Harvist Road
Saturday Sep 8: The Graduate (Mike Nichols, 1967, 106 mins)
“I’ve got one word for you Benjamin – plastics”. Incredibly, now 45 years old, The Graduate more than stands the test of time. Worth it for the Simon & Garfunkel soundtrack alone.
Saturday Sep 22: The Big Lebowski (The Coen Brothers, 1998, 117 mins)
Was not considered a massive success when it first came out, but has grown in stature over the 15 years since its release. ‘The Dude’ is surely one of the best onscreen characters of recent times and with a supporting cast including Julianne Moore and Philip Seymour Hoffman, you’re on to a winner. Great subtle Kraftwerk joke as well.
Tickets are £12.50 (£8.50 concessions). Doors at 6:30pm, films start at 8pm (The Graduate) and 7:30pm (Lebowski).
The films will be enhanced by musical and theatrical surprises themed around the eras that they were made (60s, 90s). There will be food and drink available in the form of tapas, popcorn and ice cream.

Now we just need to hope for some sunshine…

Kilburn goes Caribbean

If you’ve been reading the local film listings of late, you’ll have spotted that the Tricycle in Kilburn has been taken over for the Trinidad & Tobago cultural village. Fiona went along to see whether it had brought some Caribbean sunshine to the mean streets of Kilburn:

“After an incredible weekend for Team GB, my flatmates and I had thoroughly caught Olympic fever. So on Monday night we decided to try one of the cultural villages that have popped up across London, and as Trinidad and Tobago have made the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn their home, it seemed like the obvious choice.

The evening’s main event was a dance class was led by Attillah Springer who is heavily involved in the local Trinidad community in Kilburn (she has a blog). She began by explaining the history of wining and its importance as an expression of freedom and female sensuality. For her wining is about owning your own body and displaying it proudly during Carnival. We were repeatedly told ‘Your bottom is not your enemy!’

We started with simple ‘chipping’ (effectively walking with rhythm) and then moved on slowly to creating the signature grinding movement. I won’t pretend I was any good at it but I did manage to learn something and had a great laugh doing so – and who knows, by the time the Notting Hill Carnival comes around I might be wining with ease!

After the class we went downstairs to eat. There are five or six stalls serving up traditional Caribbean food from tiny hotplates and microwaves. We chose one, which turned out to be from Jouvert, a Trinidad and Tobagan restaurant rather annoyingly based in SE6. The roti was really excellent: tender chunks of mutton with spicy potatoes, proper chapatti, and grilled plantain on the side, all for £8 (or £6 without the plantain). No cards are taken, so take cash! We washed it all down with Carib beer, and sat back to watch some athletics and cheer on the Jamaicans on the big screen as sadly no one from T&T was competing that evening.

There is still plenty more to come as the village runs until the 25th August. The workshop floor where we had our dance class was covered in glitter from an earlier children’s workshop, and if you can tear yourself away from the Olympics (we couldn’t) there are also film screenings and music concerts (the later sadly seems to have sold out) in the evenings. We had a great evening, and on a wet squib of a summer evening, it was nice to find a slice of Caribbean sunshine on our doorstep!

You can find out more here: http://trinbagovillage.com/.”

Highbrow day out

It was flattering to be asked by The Guardian to write an article for its travel website about my “perfect day out” in north-west London. This forms part of a series of similar pieces written by other London writers and bloggers.

It was an interesting exercise thinking about the highlights of our part of London. I tried to avoid some of the most obvious attractions and was pleased to be able to plug my personal Hampstead highlight:

Completing my Hampstead tour is one of my favourite north-west London museums: 2 Willow Road was the home of architect (and arch-villain, in the eyes of local resident Ian Fleming) Erno Goldfinger. Like any architect worth his salt, Goldfinger designed his own home, which meant knocking down some cottages that Fleming apparently liked. Goldfinger (you can’t say it without bursting into a bit of Shirley Bassey, right?) also designed pretty much everything inside the house too. It’s a modernist’s wet dream and worth doing the guided tour to appreciate all the details.

I was amused to see that the paper has billed the article as a “highbrow day out”, which is largely because they asked me not to list a load of restaurants and cafés, which apparently some other contributors had done. Ironic then, that one of the few eating places I plugged – Ammis Curry – closed between my submission and publication. Shame.

Have a read of the article, and see whether there’s anything you’d have added (bearing in mind that it’s quite a packed day already!).

On a separate issue, it would have been nice to have been paid for this – especially given the length, and the fact that I do write for a living – but I was willing to forgo the cash this time in the cause of NW London boosterism.

Kilburn floods while Twitter explodes

I woke up on Wednesday and lazily checked Twitter only to find my timeline swamped by a deluge of tweets about Kilburn.

A burst water main initially believed to be in Maygrove Road, but later believed to be in Christchurch Avenue, caused a quite spectacular flood that was up to a metre deep in places according to London Fire Brigade.

Photo via @Kilburn_Dave

As it was the morning rush hour, the flood caused considerable disruption but the sight of the road under water seemed to be so amazing that grumbling was largely replaced by astonishment.

Photo via @mossbat

This is exactly the sort of news story that works well on Twitter. It doesn’t require in-depth analysis, public bodies can get important information to the public very quickly, and – as my hastily aggregated Pinterest board shows – it’s very photogenic.

No surprise then that Twitter formed the backbone of news reports.

The Evening Standard’s quoted heavily from Twitter and (in later versions) from eye witnesses who’d tweeted.

LBC actually sent a reporter to the scene and she tweeted good photos of the large hole in Christchurch Avenue and of the cleaning up operation in local shops.

Photo via @stanchers

You’d expect the local media to be on site and indeed, after the CNJ’s Richard Osley fired up a Storify page about it, he dispatched reporter Ruth Stivey to the scene. Ruth tweeted a good photo of the damage done to the cellar of the Sir Colin Campbell pub.

Photo via @LollyGee
Photo via @RuthStivey

The Brent & Kilburn Times also actually went to speak to the flooded business including the pub.

Not everyone manages to nail the use of new media. Brent Council, clearly preoccupied by the arrival of the Olympic torch through the northern reaches of the borough popped up on Twitter with a link to a page (since thoroughly updated) announcing that the High Road would be closed for five days.

This rather melodramatic scenario was clearly nonsense as the Fire Brigade did an amazing job of pumping out the water in a matter of hours and traffic was already flowing freely by mid-morning, even if the pavements were still a little muddy.

Once the water was gone, so was the news interest. The Brondesbury Medical Centre was closed all day, and Thames Water’s loss adjusters have been on the scene no doubt trying to work out quite how much damage this flood has done. Having seen the photos it’s actually amazing that the damage wasn’t more serious. Hopefully all the businesses that suffered don’t also incur any financial loss.

WigginsTT

Wiggins puts Kilburn (roughly) on the map

Kilburn has amorphous borders. Estate agents will do anything to avoid labelling a street as being in Kilburn, so it’s rather refreshing that someone at the very top of their game, someone kids should look up to, someone who calls it like he sees it; that someone like that should identify himself with Kilburn.

I’m a bit older than Bradley Wiggins, the first British winner of the Tour de France [and now 4 times Olympic champion], but, like him, my schoolboy bedroom walls were covered with photos ripped out of Cycling Weekly. My heroes were Greg LeMond and Robert Millar; Richard Virenque and Laurent Jalabert; Charly Mottet and Tony Rominger. For more than 25 years I’ve cheered on these riders on television, or from the side of the road. In short, I really love pro cycling despite all the depressing news that often surrounds it.

Wiggins on the penultimate stage of the 2012 Tour (Wikipedia Creative Commons)

This also means that like all cycling fans I’ve known about Bradley Wiggins for many years. After all, he won his first Olympic medal in the 2000 Sydney Olympics and is tied with Steve Redgrave as Britain’s most medalled Olympian [now of course he’s overtaken Steve but is behind Chris Hoy]! He’s always been a bit of an oddball mind you – especially when compared with the clean cut superhero figure of Chris Hoy. Wiggins is a bit irascible, a rider with incredible lungs and an incredible heart. He’s not a smooth media operator like Lance Armstrong. He doesn’t read off the script. He is, as has been cited ad nauesum in the press, the self-styled “kid from Kilburn“.

Wiggins on the Champs-Elysées (Wikipedia Creative Commons)

When it looked as if Wiggins was going to fulfil his promise as pre-race favourite, journalists delved more seriously into his Kilburn background. He wrote in his autobiography that he grew up in Paddington, while acknowledging that everyone called it Kilburn. The press are interested, I guess, because people tend to have a very definite impression of Kilburn – and it’s not one that you’d associate with incredible sporting prowess although there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t.

But Wiggins has quite literally put Kilburn on the map. Revered French sports paper L’Equipe had to show its readers where Wiggins grew up. He himself was quoted in the French press over the past few days saying that people from Kilburn end up as postmen, milkmen, or worked in Ladbrokes. Not winners of the toughest cycle race there is.

L’Equipe’s map of London via @mascart

Not that Kilburn – wherever its borders may be – can claim to have played a large part in his success. At St Augustine’s school he was good at sport but played football. It was his mother who fostered his cycling. Wiggins wrote that no-one at school had any idea he was into bikes, even when he became British schoolboy champion in the points race in 1995.

In 2002, Wiggins moved to France spending six years with various French teams, even though he was far more famous for his exploits in a Team GB vest careering round the track. He speaks fairly fluent French – not bad for the boy who wasn’t noted for his academic abilities while at St Augustine’s.

Since news broke of Wiggins’ Kilburn ties, there has been a lot of good natured chat with people who live across the border in W9 a.k.a. Maida Vale. They point out, quite correctly, that he actually lived and went to school in Westminster (although St Augustine’s is linked to a parish that straddles Westminster, Camden and Brent). His mother still lives in Dibdin House, where Bradley grew up, and she and Wiggins’ half-brother both work at St Augustine’s today. No-one seems to have found out how he ended up competing for Camden in the London Youth Games.

Politicians are never known to miss a passing bandwagon and there is a call from one councillor for Wiggins to be given the freedom of Westminster. Hard to believe he’d be interested. There are calls for streets in the area to be named after him. Nice idea I suppose. There is quite a groundswell of support for him to ride down the Kilburn High Road in some sort of parade. I confess I rather like this idea – not least because for someone who grew up at the intersection of three boroughs, this would give a nod to them all. But also because he’s definitely captured the imagination of locals, and maybe he might just inspire the next kid from Kilburn.

But lets remember this is a man who has settled in Eccleston, Lancashire and who trained at Herne Hill velodrome. Young Bradley wasn’t time trialling up and down the A5 behind the 98 bus; and if the school wasn’t helping him further his cycling ambitions, then I’m not sure local politicians from today or from the 1990s can bask in Wiggins’ reflected glory.

Of course I’ve engaged in some of this back and forth over Wiggins’ Kilburn connections – and was amused to read that his parents briefly lived on West End Lane before Bradley was born. Such things are entertaining. But I really don’t care. I’m just delighted that after 25 years of watching the Tour de France, someone who is quintessentially English – forget the Australian father and the Belgian birthplace, he’s a mod for christ’s sake! – has lived up to his potential and conquered the quintessentially non-English Tour de France.

Allez Wiggo

Live long and prosper – move out of NW6

Maps have always been a powerful way of highlighting London’s social inequalities (Charles Booth‘s and John Snow‘s are the most iconic examples of this) and they continue to show how the richest and poorest Londoners often live side by side.

(SpatialAnalysis.co.uk)

The latest map from UCL’s Spatial Analysis team overlays two sets of data – life expectancy and child poverty. The team wanted to see whether the adage held true that a year in life expectancy is lost for every station eastbound on the Jubilee Line between Westminster and Canning Town.

You can read the full article for the methodology, or click the map for the full view of London, but lets look briefly at the findings locally.

People living within 200 metres of both TfL’s West Hampstead stations have a life expectancy of 81. This is pretty much bang on the national average (which is 78 for men and 82 for women) but lower than our neighbours to the south on the Jubilee Line, to the west on the overground and Bakerloo, and on a par with that in Kilburn.

It’s not especially surprising that wealthy St John’s Wood (83) or Maida Vale (86) have higher life expectancies. In fact the borough of Westminster has the second highest life expectancy in the country, but perhaps marginally surprising that West Hampstead fares as well (or as badly) as Kilburn Park or Kilburn High Road. If we look at the Guardian’s deprivation map from April this year, we can see that the West Hampstead stations are marginally better off than Kilburn’s stations, and the child poverty data above tallies with that. So, why the discrepancy?

Frankly, that’s not the right question to be asking. This sort of mapped analysis is not intended to be a perfect reflection of the reality on the ground. Mapping is all about scale, and this London life expectancy map is best seen as a way to see general changes along tube lines, where the trends are very clear. There is, for example, an astonishing 21-year difference between the shortest (75.3) and longest (96.4) life expectancies. However, when you see that the longest life expectancy is for Oxford Circus and think how many people live within 200 metres of that tube station, you begin to see the challenge of trying to derive meaningful insights from individual data points. This doesn’t detract from the fact that there are large discrepancies, most notably from west to east – this is even more visible when you look at the child poverty data.

You may think this is old news, but as a way to bring to life the concept not just of deprivation but of disparity, maps are surprisingly powerful. Take a look at the routes you regularly use to get around London, and next time you whoosh through the city (or, more pertinently, go to the Olympic Park) on a tube train, have a think about the areas you’re passing through out of sight. Maybe also have a think about whether a child born in east London deserves a lower life expectancy just because of where their parents live.

Tom does the maths at Spiga and Small & Beautiful

E=MC2. No – I’ve never really understood it either. And anyway, eating and drinking is much more fun than algebra. With that in mind, it’s time for a couple of shout-outs to two NW6 eateries which seem to consistently get their calculations right. First off, Spiga. We’re lucky with Italian food here; we have La Smorfia, Hidden Treasure and Sarracino, all offering a different vibe and style, whether pizza, pasta, or something else. There’s “J” and Pizza Express too, come to think of it, and La Brocca also does a mean pizza.

At my recent outing to Spiga I dived straight in with the bresaola to start with. I had a feeling this would be a winner and indeed it was. A vibrant and appetising crimson colour, generous portion size, and the blend of wild mushrooms, Parmesan shavings and rocket it was served on really made for an enticing starter. Continuing the theme, I rather greedily had a main of gnocchi with more wild mushrooms, and a Gorgonzola sauce. Here we go, my kind of food! Big, satisfying, bold….so much going on! The warmest of service (as ever), and plenty of good wine, added to my now jovial frame of mind. It’s not difficult to see why Spiga has quickly become such a success, especially when you find it’s not as expensive as you might have expected.

Fast forward a couple of weeks, and the good value experienced at Spiga left me with some loose change with which to pop into Small & Beautiful in Kilburn, for a nice, relaxing late dinner. My favourite seat by the window was free, and I browsed the menu whilst chortling at the usual comedy that is the Kilburn High Road. Or maybe that was my reflection in the window. From the “3 courses for £6” option (I’m not joking), I tried broccoli soup (decent), and added a salad which included pleasing feta and great olives. The main was the standout: Vietnamese fish (can’t remember which – I did ask – perhaps that Cobbler thing but under its more scientific name) with a pesto coating, a potato side and spinach. Really, surprisingly delicious! With enthusiasm I tackled (as if it were a challenge – ha!) the Tiramisu, which was sponge-based rather than matching the menu’s “biscuit and cream” description. Guzzling a Shiraz, I had the rare experience of looking at a bill and being genuinely amazed at how little it had all come to.

E=MC2. Whatever! Pour me another glass someone…all this maths is making my head spin! Enjoyable food, wine and ambience – all at friendly prices – that’s more the sort of equation I want to puzzle over.

OpenStudios

Kingsgate Open Studios weekend

If you’ve ever cut through the back streets to get to Kilburn, you may well have walked past the Kingsgate artist studios and wondered what exactly they were. They are actually a converted 19th century warehouse that now provides workshop facilities for more than 60 artists and craftspeople. And now’s your chance to look inside. This weekend is the studio’s open days, from 12-6pm on Saturday and Sunday, and there’s a preview on Friday night from 6-9pm.

The Open Studios event will include the Kingsgate Mini Olympics housed in our education building, where children and families will be ableto participate in a variety of arts/sport workshops, such as ‘Athlete Splatlete’. Do have a look at all the details of the weekend.Creative workshops and activities will run throughout the weekend. Refreshments are also available, and entry is free.

South Pacific tribal pieces in Kilburn

In 1895 a Kilburn man gave his collection of New Hebrides (now called Vanuatu) artefacts to Sir A.W. Franks, the keeper of Antiquities at the British Museum, and asked him to put them on display. This struck us as rather strange, what were the pieces doing in Kilburn and who was this man?
The British Museum describes this as a 5 feet tall god figure from Vanuatu.
It is an effigy of a deceased individual, made of a human skull, cane, clay, fibre, and a boar’s tusk armlet. © Trustees of the British Museum
  
It turned out they were donated by Fred Skeffington of 72 Victoria Road, Kilburn on 16 March 1895. Born in 1860 in Blaston, Leicestershire, his father Reuben Skeffington was a grazier with 255 acres, employing four men. Reuben prospered and twenty years later was working 1,050 acres and employing 18 men, 2 women and 4 boys.
Fred Skeffington became a ship broker’s clerk in London and in 1888 he married Anne Caroline Harriet Rivolta in Woolwich. She was the middle class daughter of John Septimo Rivolta, a City wine merchant who lived at 25 Priory Road. He was also involved in various Buenos Ayres companies.
In 1891 Fred and Anne were living in south London at 12 Bromley Road, Lee. They had a daughter, Amy Anita, who was born on 2 November 1891 but she was not baptised until 1906. By 1895 when Fred sent the collection to the British Museum, they had moved to 72 Victoria Road, Kilburn and in 1898 they were renting 21 Plympton Road, near Dyne Road. For some reason they kept moving house – and after a typically short stay they were at 15 Victoria Mansions, Grange Road, Willesden Green, (1902 to 1903). In 1905 they were at 140 Wymering Mansions, Wymering Road near Kilburn Park Road and Paddington Recreation Ground. A year later when they baptised their 15 year old daughter Amy, they were living at 66 Bloomfield Road, Maida Vale.

A ceremonial spear or paddle.

© Trustees of the British Museum
Ceremonial dance mask or chief’s head dress.
Fred Skeffington allowed the British Museum to photograph the mask and the ceremonial spear and then asked for them to be returned to him. As far as we know the human effegy is still in the BM collection. © Trustees of the British Museum
 In the 1911 census, 19 year old Amy Skeffington was a stenographer for a mercantile company and was living with her uncle, Arthur Skeffington and his family in Blackheath. Her mother Ann had died earlier that year, and sadly Fred was an inmate at the Royal Hospital for Incurables, West Hill, Putney. He was one of the 45 male and 183 female patients. Now the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disabilty, this large hospital for the mentally ill was set up by philanthropist Andrew Reed in 1854. Fred Skeffington died there in 1912.
His daughter Amy married twice; firstly to Robert Macmaster in 1915 and then to Gordon Tabernacle in 1948. She died in St Marylebone in 1969.
Although it has proved possible to work out who Fred was, we don’t know how he got these rare tribal pieces. After all, he wasn’t an intrepid Victorian explorer who travelled to the South Pacific. Perhaps he obtained them from his work as a shipbroker’s clerk?

Remember when it was all fields?

Dick Weindling and Marianne Colloms quite literally wrote the book(s) when it comes to local history. And now they’re taking their work online with a new Kilburn History website.

The first story to appear concerns a wartime murder at Kilburn station, but it’s not all blood and guts. Dick tells me that subsequent stories will include a Professor of Swimming and the now extinct Kilburn Baths, a painting of a Kilburn farm by an artist who was also an astronomer, and South Pacific tribal objects.

Dick Weindling talks about A.A.Milne back in October 2010

If you haven’t come across Dick and Marianne’s books then you are missing out. Their Kilburn and West Hampstead Past book is essential reading for anyone even remotely interested in learning more about this part of London. I wholeheartedly recommend it. Also worth a read, although published by the Camden History Society, is The Streets of West Hampstead, which is a bit more of a gazeteer, but is a handy reference.

Having heard Dick speak at the unveiling of the green plaque to A.A. Milne in October 2010, I can attest to his engaging manner – this is no dusty historian.

The two of them have a book due out in July called Camden Town and Kentish Town: Then and Now, and one next year called Bloody British History: Camden, with lots of blood and gore, which will cover the whole of the modern borough of Camden. It’s fairly gory around Camden Town most Saturday nights today if you ask me. They clearly have a slight fascination with the macabre; one of their other books is called The Good Grave Guide to Hampstead Cemetery.

Stories from all these books and more will pop up on the new blog I’m told. It’s a very welcome addition to the local blogosphere.

Lib Dems take a battering in West Hampstead

London Elects released the results of the mayoral and assembly elections by ward yesterday. A bit of number crunching later and here are the percentage of votes and change from 2008 for the four local Camden wards (West Hampstead, Fortune Green, Kilburn and Swiss Cottage).

What can we deduce from the data? Well, nothing that we didn’t know already in the sense that the Lib Dems (who have six local councillors – three each in Fortune Green and West Hampstead) took a hammering as they did across the city and across the country.

It is reasonable to take the London-wide assembly member vote as the fairest reflection of party support as it is relatively devoid of the personality politics that beset both the mayoral race and the Barnet & Camden constituency race.

The Lib Dems polled better locally than they did across the city as a whole, taking 10.8% of the vote compared to 6.8% across London. However, if we look at the drop from 2008, the picture is very different. Across London in 2008 the party polled 11.4%, while locally it managed 17.8%. So the percentage point drop locally from 2008 to 2012 was 7 percentage points (or 60.6%), while the percentage point drop London-wide from 2008 to 2012 was 4.6 percentage points (or 59.6%). So even where the Lib Dems are relatively strong, their support was actually worse in this election. This is not surprising, after all it is Lib Dem voters who will feel most aggrieved at their party’s record in coalition.

In most other regards, the local voting patterns were not so different from those across the city: Boris was more popular than his party, while Ken was less popular despite being from this part of London.

The next council elections are still two years away, and the longer-standing Lib Dem councillors in Fortune Green and West Hampstead may feel that their personal stock will still be high enough to secure their seats even if the party continues to struggle nationally at the ballot box. Whether all three seats in both wards will stay yellow, however, must surely be in some doubt.

A Tale of Two Lions

The Old Black Lion on West End Lane was established in 1751. It was a beerhouse not a tavern, meaning it could sell only beer.

The Black Lion on Kilburn High Road is older. It dates back to 1666. (The Red Lion on Kilburn High Road dates back to 1444! Thankfully now it’s called The Westbury).

Both pubs were rebuilt around the start of the 20th century. The Black Lion in 1898 and The Old Black Lion in 1912.

Click for full-size, taken from The Streets of West Hampstead, Camden History Society

When I first moved to Kilburn, the Old Black Lion was a Rat and Carrot. Yes, carrot. The Railway was a Rat & Parrot. The Rat & Carrot chain was fairly short-lived if I recall. It reverted to being the Old Black Lion.

Only a few years ago, the Old Black Lion underwent a transformation from fairly straightforward pub showing sport to The Lion – which always reminded me a bit too much of an All Bar One.

The Black Lion meanwhile became very popular, and I believe its ceiling is actually listed – if you can list a ceiling.

A few months ago, rumours were flying around West Hampstead that The Lion was closing and being sold. I contacted Greene King, the owners, who assured me this was not the case. It was being refurbed and would be all new and shiny and exciting. It took a while for that to actually get started but the refurb is taking place at the moment.

Then today I was followed on Twitter by @TheBlackLionNW6. Its bio clearly says it is in West Hampstead. The Black Lion in Kilburn (also in NW6) tweets – albeit rarely – under @BlackLionLondon (which might have pissed off some of the other Black Lions within the M25).

“Black Lion” search in Google Maps. “B” is Kilburn’s. West Hampstead’s isn’t there yet

This afternoon, The Black Lion (West Hampstead), tweeted a couple of photos of its dinner and lunch menus. They look quite expensive – it’s competition for The Alice House, not The Railway. At the bottom of the menus (very sensibly) is a website address: www.theblacklionnw6.co.uk. Don’t confuse this with The Black Lion’s (Kilburn) website: www.blacklionguesthouse.com.

I visited the website (of the Black Lion West Hampstead). It’s obviously not quite fully fledged yet, but it does have a contact page, giving its address (295 West End Lane) and a handy Google map. Which shows the location of The Black Lion in Kilburn.

West End Lane is suddenly the Kilburn High Road

With a degree of irritation, I pointed this out to the good people at the new (Old) Black Lion who said that that was indeed a mistake and they’d correct it asap. Hurrah.

In the meantime, the pub opens on April 26th. I am prepared to spend a lot of time explaining to people that there are two Black Lions (like there used to be) on two different roads but in the same postcode area. Before the internet this clearly wasn’t a problem as both coexisted for about 250 years. Now, everyone needs a unique identifier and perhaps “NW6” wasn’t the best one to pick. For a start why not go back to The Old Black Lion, or even call it “The New Black Lion”.

I shall leave the last word to Shannon, whose common sense could have saved the day.

Plans for Feis festival scaled back

There wasn’t a whole heap of support for music promoter Vince Power’s original plan for an 18-day festival to be held in Kilburn Grange during the Olympics.

As it seemed that the proposal had a snowflake’s proverbial of being approved, Power has scaled back the proposal considerably. Local Lib Dem campaigner James King sent me the details:

“He is now proposing that the event should be four days long, on the final weekend of the Olympics. The operational hours now proposed are as follows:

Thursday 9th August – Doors open 5pm – Live music finished by 11pm – site and bars closed midnight;
Friday 10th August – Doors open 2pm – Live music finished by 11pm – site and bars closed midnight;
Saturday 11th August – Doors open 2pm – Live music finished by 11pm – site and bars closed midnight;
Sunday 12th August – Doors open 12 midday – Live music finished by 11pm – site and bars closed midnight.

The proposed build time for this event would be Monday 6th – Wednesday 8th (3 days) and the ‘de-rig’ would be Monday 13th – Tuesday 14th. The capacity would now be 2,500 public visitors maximum at any one time.

This is obviously a significant change to the original application, and would involve the middle of the park been taken up for a week rather than more than three weeks. However, local residents may still have concerns about the risk of anti-social behaviour and late night noise, and the entry/exit arrangements via Netherwood Street. Furthermore, if there any problems, we may not be able to rely on Camden police as normal because they will be stretched by Olympic-related responsibilities.

I am trying to confirm whether a decision will still be made by the Licensing Panel on 5th April.”

Sunday Lunch in West Hampstead and Kilburn: The Ultimate Challenge

One of the most frequently asked questions on Twitter is “where’s good for Sunday lunch” and, frankly, the answer is often “go to Hampstead”. But surely NW6 can rival NW3 for a simple piece of roast meat and a few trimmings. It was time for some scientific research. Five Kilburn pubs one Sunday, five West Hampstead pubs the next. (jump to West Hampstead results). [update: the review of the five “periphery” pubs is also now online]

Two Sundays, twenty plates of food, and an awful lot of red wine

Two Sundays, twenty plates of food, and an awful lot of red wine

Sunday lunch in Kilburn
Today we would tackle Kilburn. We were a merry band of five and five pubs were in our sights: The Westbury, The Priory Tavern, The Betsy Smith, The Black Lion and the North London Tavern. Yes, yes, before you all start ranting, there are other Sunday lunches available, but we couldn’t do all of them in one day and we opted for the pubs that people generally talk about. And frankly we didn’t want to think too hard about what went into the £4.99 offer at The Bell. All the pubs had been told we were coming and all but The Black Lion had replied and reserved us tables.

Is the Westbury's hubris justified?

Is the Westbury’s hubris justified?

Midday: The Westbury
Bloody Marys in hand we took stock. Our methods were simple – one roast beef in every pub and one other meal from the Sunday lunch menu. Between us. Not each. We’re not made of lycra. Here at the Westbury, which rather boldly claimed outside that it did the best roasts, we opted for the veggie dish – mushrooms. This was a transparent and futile attempt to make us feel good about the amount of meat we were going to consume.

Westbury sign

Westbury's Sunday menu

Westbury’s Sunday menu

Not everyone knows the Westbury, I realise. During the daytime it’s a pretty nice spacious pub with lots of comfortable seating. It opens at 12 on Sunday, so we’d been sat outside on benches on the High Road like alcoholics desperate for the pub to open. We did have to wait a little while for our food, but we’d ordered just after a table of four, so we can forgive the kitchen for being a little sluggish so early in the day.

What of the food. So this doesn’t get incredibly dull I’m just going to pick up on the main points! Beef (Lancashire rib eye) was good – one of the better beefs in fact. The Yorkshires were average. The carrots were delicious (best carrots). The potatoes were… well, Tom will get annoyed if I call them inedible, and strictly speaking they were edible but they were the worst of what was frankly a bad bunch of potatoes across all five pubs. So, high marks on beef, low marks on potatoes. Good gravy (and we were offered extra when served).

The Westbury's roast beef

The Westbury’s roast beef

The mushroom dish tasted fine, but looked pretty underwhelming for £9.95 – we’d been imagining three really large mushrooms roasted with herbs and looking like they were any match for some roast beef. What we got was a four or five rather black looking mushroom discs that would have been quite nice as a mushroom side dish, but didn’t cut the mustard (also on the table) for a good veggie Sunday lunch.

Mushrooms underwhelmed

Mushrooms underwhelmed

Roast beef: £12.95
Yorkshire pudding score: 4
Roast potato score: 4
Tom’s favourite roast beef in Kilburn

1.30pm: The Priory Tavern
The welcome was warm as usual and the place was busy, so landlord Merlin warned us there might be a bit of a wait, although in reality it wasn’t noticeable.

Priory's Sunday menu

Priory’s Sunday menu

We ordered beef and lamb here. The Priory is the only place that said on the menu which butchers its meat comes from (Josh Pettit & Hillman’s). While we discussed the challenges of food waste – to doggy bag or not to doggy bag – we opened the house red (the first of the day’s many Tempranillos). Our food arrived – the potatoes were better, but still too soft. However, overall, the Priory offered the best vegetables of anywhere we went in both Kilburn and West Hampstead.

Priory's topside of beef

Priory’s topside of beef

The beef was definitely chewier than at the Westbury though perfectly pleasant. The lamb however was really good (I may be a bit biased here as I love lamb), tender, sweet, and the right amount of rosemary. The pub was “between mint sauces”, but did its best with a sort of makeshift mint sauce. The yorkshire puddings divided opinion.

Delicious lamb at The Priory Tavern

Delicious lamb at The Priory Tavern

We also decided it was time for a pudding and promptly gorged ourselves silly on a perfect (not a word I use lightly) chocolate brownie with ice cream. We have commented before on the Priory’s misguided fondness for chopping boards instead of plates. So I won’t mention it again. Just imagine what happened as the ice cream melted.

Perfect Priory Brownie (via Gail's Bakery)

Perfect Priory Brownie (via Gail’s Bakery)

Roast beef £12.50
Yorkshire pudding score: 4
Roast potato score: 6
The roast lamb was Jonathan and Claire’s favourite overall dish in Kilburn

3pm: The Betsy Smith
The strange Narnia meets Alice in Wonderland design of the Betsy Smith meant that this was the only Sunday lunch we were gong to have sitting in a wardrobe. It was lunch number three and by now we were a well-drilled team. The house red was ordered even before we’d sat down.

Betsy Smith

Betsy Smith

Long descriptions at The Betsy Smith

Long descriptions at The Betsy Smith

Then it was beef and our first roast chicken. Huge bonus points for hot plates – apart from Anna who for reasons only she can explain prefers cold plates. Also the staff were on the ball enough to offer us each a plate rather than having us all attacking the two roasts like starved hyenas.

Roast chicken at The Betsy Smith

Roast chicken at The Betsy Smith

Betsy scored high for presentation

Betsy scored high for presentation

Betsy’s chicken wasn’t a triumph – it was nicely presented, but was a little dry and bland. The potatoes were once again a step in the right direction with a crispy outside, but a little heavy inside. Both plates came with mange tout, which seemed incongruous, and a side dish of cauliflower cheese.

The beef was better than the chicken – nothing to write home about, but here’s the kicker: Betsy Smith’s roast is under a tenner. It’s cheaper than everywhere else, and perfectly decent. The wine (another Tempranillo) was also pretty decent. So much so that we had a second bottle with a top-drawer sticky toffee pudding.

Betsy's desserts all under a fiver

Betsy’s desserts all under a fiver

Delicious sticky toffee pudding

Delicious sticky toffee pudding

Roast beef: £9.95
Yorkshire pudding score: 6
Roast potato score: 5.5
Best value roast beef in Kilburn

4.30pm: The Black Lion
There was no room in the bar at the Black Lion so we had to go through to the fairly recently remodelled restaurant. It’s nice, but not as nice as the bar. Beef and pork was the order of the day here. We were starting to flag slightly at our fourth pub, but another bottle of Tempranillo soon revived us (once it had reached room temperature).

A "no frills" menu from The Black Lion

A “no frills” menu from The Black Lion

Overall, this was a good Sunday lunch, or would have been without the red cabbage (at least for me – it had soaked into the gravy making everything a bit too sweet and acidic).

Roast beef at the Black Lion

Roast beef at the Black Lion

We ordered roast pork, which was nicely cooked but a little bland. It was also pretty much gone before I had the chance to take a photo. The Black Lion was the first place that asked how we’d like the beef – and more or less got it right – in fact the beef itself was quite good. The veg was not great: most of our carrots were burnt. However, the Black Lion had better potatoes than most places and a good yorkshire.

Roast beef £13.50
Yorkshire pudding score: 7
Roast potato score: 7
Dom and Anna’s favourite roast beef in Kilburn.

5.30pm North London Tavern
There was a distinct sense of acheivement as we arrived at the NLT. Like great explorers we had experienced adversity (those Westbury roasties), elation (delicious lamb), and had bonded over more bottles of red wine than was clearly advisable based on current government guidelines. We planted a flag in the table and settled in for the rest of the evening.

NLT Sunday lunch menu

NLT Sunday lunch menu

Expectations among some were high. Others (me) had been underwhelmed by the NLT’s food before. It was the most expensive of Kilburn’s roast dinners – would it be the best? Along with the beef, we had salmon for a change. I confess that by this stage my notes are slightly harder to read and not quite as extensive. The beef split the room – Tom liked it, I felt it had good texture but lacked flavour. It was one large thick slice of beef rather than a few thinner slices.

The priciest roast beef on the High Road

The priciest roast beef on the High Road

Roast salmon at the NLT

Roast salmon at the NLT

Portions were generally notably smaller than elsewhere. The salmon was nice, if perhaps slightly overcooked. The NLT did deliver the best yorkshire pudding of the day though.

We treated ourselves to more (quite a lot more if my hazy memory recalls) red wine (another Tempranillo blend) and puddings that we got to eat all on our own without clashing cutlery with each other.

Very good chocolate tart at the NLT

Very good chocolate tart at the NLT

Roast beef £14.50
Yorkshire pudding score: 8
Roast potato score: 6.5
The salmon was Anna’s favourite overall dish.

Kilburn summary: Nothing outstanding, but everywhere had something going for it. The lack of agreement on what was the best roast dinner here shows that it’s hard to recommend anywhere as outstanding. It also suggests that given that the cost of a roast beef lunch varies by £4.50 between the Betsy Smith and The North London Tavern, value for money and general atmosphere probably carries as much weight as quality of food.

We rolled home… but seven days later…

Sunday lunch in West Hampstead
There were just four of us for this installment of our Sunday lunch taste test. This would mean more food each, more wine each and less ranting by absentee Dom about the state of roast potatoes.

Under the microscope today were The Gallery, The Railway, La Brocca, The Alice House and The Alliance. We were back on home turf and we were hoping for a higher average standard. We bypassed The Lion, which was about to close for a major overhaul, but we’ve since been to its new incarnation as The Black Lion – what did we think?

Midday. The Gallery
I’m an unashamed supporter of the food at The Gallery since they revamped the menu some months back.

Sunday menu at The Gallery

Sunday menu at The Gallery

Therefore, I wanted our opening dinner to be good. The Bloody Marys once again got us limbered up for the task ahead. Along with the beef we opted for the poussin.

A damn fine plate of food

A damn fine plate of food

Good yorkshire pudding and roast potatoes at The Gallery

Good yorkshire pudding and roast potatoes at The Gallery

Right off the bat we were happy whampers. The potatoes were very good and the yorkshire was better than anything we’d had in Kilburn. The beef was good but not great, but the poussin was perfect – juicy and tender with a good flavour on the skin. The veg were a little bit bland – they needed the kick of herbs or just more butter. Cauliflower cheese was a nice addition, although Claire was a bit sceptical that the cheese sauce was quite right.

It was, very simply, a good start to the day.

Roast beef £13.95
Yorkshire pudding score: 9
Roast potato score: 8
The poussin was Jonathan’s favourite meal of the day

We crossed the road

1.15pm The Railway
We weren’t expecting great things from The Railway to be honest, but we wanted to see what it could offer at the value-end of the market.

The Railway keeps things simple

The Railway keeps things simple

The Sunday roast options were beef or “chicken breasts”, but we decided to eschew the chicken – partly ‘cos we’d just had poussin and partly because none of us were entirely sure whether we fancied chicken from the cheaper end of the industry. So, we had scampi & chips instead.

Lets get the scampi out of the way first – it was scampi. There. That’s it. It wasn’t bad at all – i’ve had much worse scampi. And there are some pubs in the area that would be better off with the Railway’s chips than the ones they make themselves. But that’s scampi and chips.

Scampi & chips at The Railway

Scampi & chips at The Railway

In case you didn't know what a Sunday roast looked like

In case you didn’t know what a Sunday roast looked like

The menu had a picture of what our roast beef dinner would look like but actually it looked better in real life.

Mash AND roast potatoes. And peas.

Mash AND roast potatoes. And peas.

We were a bit divided on this. Anna in fact just declined to eat it but that was hardly entering into the spirit. It was cold, which wasn’t a good start. Not deliberately cold, but definitely not hot. It was borderline complaining-level cold, but we couldn’t be bothered and the gravy and other bits and pieces were hot enough.

I felt that although it didn’t look hugely appetising, it actually tasted perfectly ok and I would happily have eaten it all. Tom and Claire were less convinced. The accompaniments – well, I’d be lying if I said the Yorkshire pudding was good. The mixed veg would have been absolutely fine if they’d not been overcooked. There’s nothing nutrionally wrong with frozen veg, but they shouldn’t be soggy. However, the potatoes were actually pretty good (and came in both mashed and roast form) and there were peas and who doesn’t love peas?

One thing that I will say about The Railway is that the service is always noticeably good – friendly, helpful and eager to please. They’d even given us an extra Yorkshire pudding as Tom had asked nicely. Had we complained about the cold beef I’m sure they’d have been nice about it and sorted it out. Obviously this was a lot cheaper than anywhere else, but it’s only £4 less than the Betsy Smith, which had delivered a better plate of food.

Roast beef £5.99
Yorkshire pudding score: 3
Roast potato score: 6
It fills a gap in the market in West Hampstead

3pm La Brocca
Tom practically lives at La Brocca but had never had Sunday lunch there, so we were all intrigued to see what the Italian-inspired kitchen could deliver. The Sunday roast options were chicken or beef, so we had both and branched out from the ubiquitous Tempranillo to Tom’s favourite Pinot Noir.

La Brocca's Sunday lunch menu is tucked away in a corner

La Brocca’s Sunday lunch menu is tucked away in a corner

Empty

Empty

The beef had good flavour, but needed the gravy without which it was a little tough. The chicken – again, just chicken breasts which is no good for those of us who prefer legs – was also nice, but it didn’t excite us.

Roast chicken from La Brocca

Roast chicken from La Brocca

The best roast potatoes

The best roast potatoes

The vegetables were average – perhaps slightly disappointing for a kitchen of this standard – and unsurprisingly the Yorkshire was so-so. But the roast potatoes… oh dear me the potatoes were almost as good as Dom’s mother allegedly cooks.

As we had a bit of time before the Alice House would be ready for us, we indulged in a good sticky toffee pudding and an apple crumble that was a lot more apple than crumble, but tasted good nonetheless.

The vibe is always good at La Brocca too, and although it was a mixed success, I could see myself coming back here for more of the beef (with extra gravy).

Roast beef £13.00
Yorkshire pudding score: 3
Roast potato score: 9
The best roast potatoes in Kilburn or West Hampstead.

4.45pm The Alice House
Now, before we get into the food, I need to sort one thing out. When I’d e-mailed to book the Alice House I’d been told that the kitchen was closed from 4-5pm on Sundays, and they couldn’t guarantee there’d be any roast dinners left when it reopened. The website does in fact say that Sunday lunch is served from 12-4pm, which I hadn’t noticed. Nevertheless, it seems strange in an area rife with late Sunday lunchers, and it’s not hugely conducive to doing a review! Anyway, after a very amicable correspondence, we agreed that I’d pre-order the food so they’d keep two plates back for us, and then when the kitchen reopened at 5pm they could serve us. This meant weweren’t entirely sure what sort of state the food would be in.

We had to use Google Maps to find Aldington

We had to use Google Maps to find Aldington

I’m delighted to say it was in an excellent state. We had the beef and the lamb and for the first time we had a REAL Yorkshire pudding – that is a proper size one with all the beef and gravy and vegetables served inside.

Now THAT is a Yorkshire pudding

Now THAT is a Yorkshire pudding

If we’re being very pedantic (and as someone who’s half Yorkshire that’s not just a right, but a duty), the yorkshire wouldn’t be served like this, it would be a separate dish, but this was a good approximation of the idea and it was good, although not quite as good as The Gallery’s.

The beef was also top-notch, very tender and well cooked. The lamb was good too, though not as good as the Priory’s for my money. There was a very good range of vegetables, but the potatoes divided opinion. Tom liked them, while the rest of us thought they were ok, and more like mini-jacket potatoes with a very thick skin albeit soft inside.

Roast lamb at The Alice House

Roast lamb at The Alice House

So, the end result was that we left the Alice House pretty happy. But had we been lucky? I saw a tweet that evening from someone who – for the second week running – had been told at 2pm that they’d sold out of Sunday lunches and there would be a lengthy wait for the next batch to be made. Surely, the AH must know that it’s going to be a popular place for Sunday lunch and can prepare accordingly? And if the food is always this good then they really are missing out on a goldmine.

Roast beef £14.50
Yorkshire pudding score: 8
Roast potato score: 6 (amid a lot of argument)
Best roast beef in West Hampstead

We needed the walk along Mill Lane to The Alliance by now. Although the conversation had remained sparkly, we were feeling the weight of responsibility – largely in our stomachs – as the mission drew to a conclusion.

6pm The Alliance

By the time we reached The Alliance most people had sensibly stopped eating lunch and were perhaps having a cosy pint in front of the football. Not us. No siree.

The Alliance menu

The Alliance menu

The menu sounded appetising and good value, but we decided to finish as we’d started a week earlier with the beef and the vegetarian option. We’d heard good things about the roast dinners here, and although the beef wasn’t exceptional it was perfectly fine. The veggie roast was more than fine, it was damn good and long-time vegetarian (obviously not any more) Claire said it was much better than many she’d had.

Top-notch veggie roast

Top-notch veggie roast

Ironic then that the potatoes weren’t the best, ranking down with the Westbury’s. The Yorkshire wasn’t bad either but by this stage we were all well and truly roast dinnered out.

Our tenth and last plate of roast beef

Our tenth and last plate of roast beef

Obviously we had room for pudding. Duh. Plum fools, more crumbles (really really good), a cheesecake and generous cheese plate all found their way down.

You can’t argue with the friendly service at The Alliance, and if you’re up that end of town it’s well worth the money – we were also right at the end of their service, so it’s possible that the potatoes might have been better earlier in the day. And although we only tried a couple of non-meat options across both weekends, if there were many veggie dishes better than this then I’d be surprised.

Roast beef £11.50
Yorkshire pudding score: 6
Roast potato score: 3
Good value – would try again a bit nearer traditional lunchtime!

We were done. We were very full. Kids, don’t try this at home. I have literally no idea how Anna ran to work the next day – I could barely move.

West Hampstead summary: Definitely a higher standard overall, although again struggled to say that one place got everything right. The Alice House food was very good, but I wouldn’t want to get there and find the kitchen was shut. La Brocca’s atmosphere was lively and it delivered top roast potatoes. The Alliance was good value, but I’ll be heading back to The Gallery for that poussin.

Across both Sundays, the lamb at the Priory and the poussin at The Gallery were my two personal favourite dishes and the beef at The Alice House was my favourite roast beef.

Before you ask… yes, we know there are more places in Kilburn that do Sunday lunch; no, we’re not going to do Hampstead, you can explore the pubs there for yourselves; but yes, we will do one final Sunday lunch field trip when we tackle “The periphery” [update: This is now online]. In the meantime, thank you to Tom, Anna, Claire, and Dom for their company and firm opinions.

Photos are courtesy of Anna, Claire and me.

New deli on Kilburn High Road

A couple of people had alerted me to the opening of Belvedere Traditional, so roving reporter Kate popped in to see what the fuss was about:

“The gentrification of Kilburn High Road has officially begun with the opening of an artisan delicatessen opposite Sainsbury’s Local [north end of Kilburn]. Belvedere Traditional sells organic and homemade food, including a comprehensive selection of cured meats, dairy products, preserved fruit and vegetables, pickles and jam, and fresh bread. Polish delicacies are the other order of the day along with fresh pasta, a small selection of fruit and veg, and the usual high-end dried goods. The owner is looking to expand the range on offer and suggestions are welcome: a request for humous was met with ‘maybe in the future’.

There is also a small café area on a mezzanine floor where customers can enjoy a quick brew and sandwich or one of the freshly baked pastries on offer. Prices are higher than the average KHR deli but lower than they’d be on West End Lane – and it’s open 7 days a week.”

Opening right opposite Sainsbury’s could be foolish or inspired – I look forward to checking out some Polish pickles next time I’m down that end of Kilburn.

Get on your knees: Local vicar won’t be victim

Everyone loves a crime-fighting member of the cloth right? Who doesn’t look back fondly at Tom Bosley as Father Dowling? No, ok, I never watched it either but I’m sure it was amazing.

Move over Bosley (to the extent you can given you died in 2010), there’s a new bad-ass vicar in town. While Father Dowling merely investigated, Father Andrew Cain of West Hampstead gets burglars down on their knees before calling the cops. Less Bosley; more Eastwood.

West Hampstead’s vicar

It all began with a rather blasé tweet Fr. Cain sent to me and @WHLocalPlod on Feb 21st: “we caught a burglar for you today. Red handed in our safe he didn’t stand a chance against assembled clergy.” Cain went on to say that the burglar was “foolish enough to steal from God’s House whilst I was in the Church”. Oh yeah.

In a week when a horse has dominated the news agenda, the press was all over this story like a swarm of, er, biblical swarming things. The Camden New Journal ran it yesterday calling the St Mary’s and St Andrew’s vicar a “brave cleric” and printing a sort of Dempsey & Makepeace photo (google ’em) before describing him as a “fitness fanatic”.

Photo with permission of Camden New Journal

Cain & Cargill in their 80s TV series

The Ham & High hasn’t got its print edition version online yet, but it went with “Brave vicar foils collection thief”, with the excellent subhead of “Cleric orders intruder to kneel on floor after hearing curate’s screams” and mentioning that Fr. Cain works out at the gym several times a week”.

As is often the way with these sort of stories, the bigger papers caught wind of this surefire crowd pleaser. The Telegraph eschewed “brave” and just opted for the factual headline “Vicar made thief kneel until police arrived“, with no mention of his fitness regime at all.

The Evening Standard, meanwhile, gave Fr. Cain an added note of authority in its “Vicar stops thief by ordering him to his knees” but also squeezed in that our hero “works out at the gym several times a week.”

Quite why there’s the obsession with a vicar’s desire to keep fit isn’t entirely clear. Surely it would have been more impressive if it had been some weedy timid vicar standing up to the intruder rather than the gym bunny hunk we all know and love.

What of the unlucky criminal? Will he face the wrath of God? It turns out that 54-year old Eric McDougall is quite the villain of the vestry. He was only out on bail as it was, and after appearing at Highbury magistrates court the next day, he’s gone straight back to prison.

The last word of course should belong to Father Cain, quoted in the CNJ: “he realised there was nothing he could do, so he got on the floor – it was clear that he shouldn’t mess with me.”

feismap

Kilburn Grange Olympic Irish festival causing concern

Early last week a licence application was brought to my attention. Vince Power – music promoter and owner of Power’s bar in Kilburn – has applied to hold a Feis Village in Kilburn Grange Park. A Feis is an Irish cultural and music festival (Power held one in Finsbury Park last year that attracted big name performers including Van Morrison and Bob Dylan). So far so good.

Here’s the catch: he wants to run it for the entire duration of the Olympics: from July 26th to August 12th, i.e., for just over two weeks, and is also requesting a 2am licence at the weekends (of which there are three in that period). Local residents (those within 250m of the site) were invited to a meeting in The Black Lion on February 14th to discuss it, although ward councillor Mike Katz only found out about it that day and was unable to attend. Vince Power has since extended an invitation to meet Cllr Katz to discuss it further.

Click for full-size

The reaction to the idea on Twitter has not been overwhelmingly positive.


The licence application has a lot of documentation, much of which relates to security (Vince isn’t asking or expecting the local police to be required – all the security will be provided). The application is for up to 5,000 people at any given time, and places a lot of emphasis on the organisers wanting flexibility as the precise schedule for the festival has not been agreed, so they would not necessarily use the late licence. There is also a request for Camden to dispense with the traditional maximum noise level limits although the venues used for comparison are much larger parks such as Hyde Park.

Here’s the event overview and audience profile, taken verbatim from the application (bold sections, my highlights):

Event Overview
2.1 The Feis Village 2012 is based on an already established contemporary Irish music Event, the Fleadh Festival which was launched 22 years ago. The Event was re-launched last year as the London Feis Festival.

2.2 Spanning 18 days during the London 2012 Olympic Games period from the 26th July-12th August in Grange Park Kilburn, with the aim of offering a centre for Irish culture and entertainment during this exciting time. The operational hours of 11:00-02:00 has been applied for in order to give us flexibility and offer a variation in programming and entertainment each evening. We would not look to stay open until the maximum licensed hour each night just to have the flexibility to choose which days the event is open later.

2.3 Musical Entertainment will be provided on some of the days, other days will have comedy and other forms of low-level entertainment. This entertainment will take place on a temporary stage within a Big Top structure. We would be requesting permission to have a live stream of the Olympic Games at the Feis Village, showing key Irish games and events of interest.

2.4 The Big Top will have an audience viewing capacity of 5,000. The venue will be managed by our team and capacity will be monitored by the security team and crowds monitored continuously. A copy of the site plan is available as a separate document which shows the lay-out of the stage and venue. Live music will always finish at 23:00.

2.5 The event site will open to the public at 11.00 on most days – but this will be TBC in line with the entertainment schedule. There will be low-level entertainment, food and drinks on offer during the day. With live music entertainment starting late afternoon / early evening. This will not be on every night of the event and all live music will be finishing at 23.00. We would request the flexibility within the license to be able to stay open late on some nights, in line with key Irish Olympic events and provide low-level entertainment and serve food and drink until 02:00 on some nights. We will be looking at the public transport schedule and will ensure that the entertainment schedule is in-line with this. We would look for the flexibility to have the bars open until 02:00 on some nights, with the site cleared by 0230 and the site secured. We would look to close everything an hour earlier on Sundays.

2.6 Entry will be strictly by ticket only, and a secure perimeter will be established around the Park site. A system will be implemented for clearly identifying legitimate ticket holders by means of secure wristband. We would work to a maximum capacity on site at any one time of 5,000, but this would most likely be spread over the day due to the varied programming of the entertainment.

2.7 Tickets will be sold as separate day tickets and in combinations. We would look into the option of having a separate day ticket and an evening ticket to enable us to clear the site. Ticket combinations are currently TBC as is ticket pricing.

2.8 Disabled tickets will be available that will give free access for the career. Under 12 tickets will be free when accompanied by a full paying adult. We will be offering a reduced price ticket for locals who live within a certain distance to the park.

2.9 There will also be a hospitality area for around 250 seated guests. This area will be controlled via a distinctive wristband and will remain open after the main event closes. This is where we would look to have bars and low-level entertainment until 02:00 for this limited number of guests.

Audience Profile
3.1 Information indicating the performers is included in Appendix 1. This Appendix will be updated regularly as contracts are signed and acts are confirmed for the bill. Currently these acts are TBC.

3.2 The audience profiles for both event days is expected to be is predominantly mid 20’s to mid 50 year olds, with an even gender split and often in couples, small peer groups and large percentage of families, partially during the day. Whilst the music will be of a broad appeal it will be mainly Irish Folk style music. The audience profile will be broadly similar and of little variation across all event days.

3.3 A large proportion of the audience is expected to be people who live locally to the area.

3.4 Under 16’s will not be permitted on site, unless accompanied by a person of 18 years or over. No more than two Under 16’s will be allowed to enter with any one designated adult. Under 12’s will be permitted to the event free of charge but will have to be allocated a FOC ticket that can be obtained when booking a full adult ticket. Only 2 FOC children’s tickets can be allocated to each adult ticket.

3.5 None of the acts booked are liable to lead to crowd conflict or “tribalism”, or of concerns regarding excessively boisterous behavior, “moshing” or “crowd surfing”.

Here’s how the park would look during the festival (the writing is just about legible if you click for full-size version), followed by a photo of last year’s Kilburn Festival (which is currently due to take place this year on July 8th).

The Big Top is the large stadium-shaped bit in the middle
2011 Kilburn Festival (stage behind camera)

The objections are fairly obvious: too late, too noisy, and goes on for too long. The local Conservatives have already churned out a response, in which none other than London Assembly member Brian Coleman says that “Music festivals are good but an 18 day event in a park in a residential area in the summer goes too far.” It may well be that a majority of people agree with that perspective. The deadline for making representations to Camden is March 12th, and you can post them online.

Click for full-size version

The full documentation can be found here, and below are selected pages from the draft noise evaluation appendix, with sections highlighted by me.
Draft Noise Appraisal for Kilburn Feis 2012 Licence

Abbey Area Development will go to City Hall

Those of you living at the southern end of the neighbourhood are probably already up to speed with the extensive plans to redevelop the Abbey area estate at the Belsize Road/Abbey Road junction. There has already been a public consultation on this.

If you’re not sure what this is, The Abbey Area Redevelopment Project is a part of Camden’s estate regeneration programme approved in December 2007. The proposals involve the demolition and replacement of 70 homes at Emminster and Hinstock, a community centre health centre and some shops along with the existing Belsize Road multi-storey car park. Casterbridge and Snowman House tower blocks (the two big ones the east side of Abbey Road) would be retained with alterations proposed at the base of the buildings.

The new scheme will provide up to 299 homes including provision for larger family accommodation for affordable rent, some new homes for shared ownership and private sale.

Click for full-size version

The proposals also allow for the delivery of new community and health facilities at the base of the retained Casterbridge and Snowman House tower blocks along with new retail and business space to support the existing and new community. Here’s what the plans look like.

As you can see, it’s a large-scale development. Just for a bit of historical context, here’s what the site looked like in 1940.

I can’t immediately find evidence that this site was bombed, but it seems highly likely given that railways were targeted. The area was redeveloped in the 1960s and 1970s, including the Grade II listed Alexandra & Ainsworth estate (aka Rowley Way), which is outside the scope of this plan. The site also is adjacent to the proposed HS2 line out of Euston, however, HS2 shouldn’t affect these current plans, which would be underway well before HS2 construction starts in earnest. (There is an issue down the other end of Rowley Way with an access shaft for HS2, but that’s for another post.)

As would be expected for a development of this size, City Hall has already responded to the plans. There are a few areas where they are non-compliant with the London plan, and the final application will have to go before City Hall and cannot just be passed by Camden. The devil here is largely in the detail. Here’s the relevant extract from the report:

“London Plan policies on land use, housing, estate renewal, affordable housing, housing choice, density, child playspace, tall buildings, design, inclusive access, noise, climate change and transport are relevant to this application. The application complies with some of these policies but not with others, for the following reasons:

  • Land use: The principle of this residential led estate renewal scheme is supported
  • Housing, estate renewal, affordable housing and housing choice: Further discussion is needed on viability, tenure mix and minimum levels of affordable family housing
  • Density: the density should be calculated using the indicative scheme and in line with London plan guidance.
  • Child playspace: a playspace strategy should be submitted and off-site improvements committed to
  • Tall buildings and design: the design principles are generally supported however further discussions is needed on materials and the appearance of the tall building in particular
  • Inclusive access: Further information and commitments are needed.
  • Noise: Further information and commitments are needed.
  • Climate change: Further information and commitments are needed.
  • Transport: Further information and commitments are needed.”

Some of these issues sound a bit like dotting the i’s, but others – the child playspace and the tenure mix of units – present more of a challenge to the developers. You can read the full report here.

Camden’s planning site has all the documents related to the plan, including the reports on the retail situation – will Oscar’s Den be given first option on a new retail space? We can but hope.

Meanwhile, here’s an annotated copy of the full proposals (look out for the pages with the big green ticks, and the red outlines). Click on the title for access to the full-size version.

Abbey Area Redevelopment Project

Tom refuels at Woody’s Grill

Whilst stumbling home with a friend at 1am recently, in ludicrously cold conditions I might add, we popped into Woody Grill on the Kilburn High Road, to politely enquire as to whether they might still be serving grub?

“As long as you’re not staying until after 4am, this is fine” came the somewhat proud reply. Excellent!

I wanted something light, and although the manager modestly advised me that “this is not the best place for vegetarian food”, my falafel in pitta with salad was absolutely fine; lots of it; really good value.

Rounding off the fun was a very decent (and piping hot) latte – again costing little – and provision of a Turkish tea of some kind for fuss-pot friend, even though it wasn’t listed on the menu.

Sometimes it’s all about refuelling, and a late-night diversion somewhere unpretentious and friendly. Plenty of such options on the High Road of course – and Woody Grill is certainly one of them. Now, if they could only introduce a bring-your-own-wine policy or get fully licensed, we’d try out their 4am lock-in.

Tom’s Tavern Tart

I was lazily leaning against the Priory Tavern bar (or the other way round) drinking Malbec at the recent #whampgather event, when a mysterious rumour emerged that a freshly baked tart had just become available. Having only eaten a few slices of toast before heading out, this suddenly seemed like a very good idea indeed (especially as @jennifercairn was kindly buying – I think she and hubby @anthonymarsh had already ‘warmed up’ with a burger).

It sounded divine – apple and pear tart with an elderflower whipped cream (hope this is right – I’d had a few by then, and this is going to look rather silly if someone pipes up that it was blueberry crumble or something) – and I was not disappointed! A delicate lattice of pastry with a perfect texture was very nicely countered by what I think was boozed-soaked fruit, juicy, sweet and delicious. The elderflower whipped cream was marvellous, and the portion size generous (though I’d happily eat two of them of course). All thoroughly enjoyable and expertly made.
As for the rest of the evening; well, I can’t really remember all that much. What I do recall though, is just how very fine that apple & pear tart was. Next time, perhaps I’ll see how well it matches up with a nip of Port…

Tom ventures into Kilburn

With cold, gloomy weather drawing in, a moment of inspiration led to a decision to eat at Small and Beautiful on the Kilburn High Road. I had fond memories of my previous visit; getting totally mashed in complete anguish after missing the 1st half of a Pink Martini gig, donating a packet of Silk Cut to that tramp who used to sit under the bridge (oh – he seems to have disappeared since), and ending up eating as good a salmon dish as I’d had all week. Errm, all year I mean.

I never order risotto as not dead keen on it, so – I ordered seafood risotto (this is the kind of logic my life is based on). A nice dish; not a huge depth of flavour, but hearty enough, and with a decent texture to the rice. A side of Macedonian salad arrived, with tangy feta and soft, flavoursome olives.

Opposite me, a spaghetti bolognese was being enthusiastically tackled. More “mum’s” than “mama’s” –  a very generous portion of the sauce whacked unpretentiously on top of the pasta. I was assured this was appropriate and delicious.

House wine (something Italian) was tangy and fulsome, and a banoffee pie for dessert was eaten quickly even by my own disgraceful standards. As ever, the atmosphere was warm and cheery, balanced with one or two possibly shady characters present (aside from myself I mean).

So in summary, as with all my previous visits, I came out of Small and Beautiful a happy and satisfied diner, and with enough money left over to buy  a bottle of wine. Now that alone is surely good reason to eat there more often.

If your whampstead house needs haunting…

Halloween time again. An excuse to dig out the facepaints and get your goth on, or to hide indoors munching a large slice of pumpkin pie. The choice is yours (Mmm… pie).

What are your options this year for spooky revels? Surprise surprise, The Gallery and The Alice House once again lead the way with their Halloween parties. The Alice House’s kicks off at 7pm on Saturday and runs through to 1am with a DJ. There are prizes for the best costumes (1st prize – dinner for two, 2nd prize – bottle of bubbly [does that mean not champagne?], and the best dressed group wins a round of shots).

Over at The Gallery, well, it’s much the same. No DJ, but the bar’s open until 2am, which is confusing because the clocks go back at 2am on Sunday morning, so does that mean an extra hour of drinking? Fancy dress is still encouraged (although when I walked past last year, most people seemed to just be wearing black).

The Priory Tavern has a pumpkin carving competition on Saturday from 3-6pm (max 15 entrants/teams). The regulars will vote on the winners (which is a scary prospect in itself), who’ll be announced on Bonfire Night and will win a decent bottle of red wine. The popular 12 Bars blues band are playing Saturday night and on Halloween itself it’s the usual 2-for-1 on house cocktails on “Happy Mondays” (seem to have missed the point of Halloween there!)

Over in Kilburn, the North London Tavern has a Halloween Horror night finishing at 1am. Prizes for the best dressed, ghostly drinks specials all night, and apparently tricks and treats!

The Railway is your Halloween antidote – it’s decided not to do anything special this year, so if you want to escape the slime-coloured shots and zombie-clad wannabes, this is the place for you on Saturday night.

The Good Ship prides itself on not overly pandering to or exploiting Hallmark holidays, but it likes to give a nod to Halloween, so on Saturday night, there’s an evening of Halloween fun with a spooky short film and then four live acts from 8-11.30pm and of course DJs until 4am.

It won’t have escaped your notice that all this is happening on Saturday, which is NOT the 31st. Halloween itself is on Monday night and where better to spend it than laughing your little vampire socks off at The Good Ship comedy club, where host Ghouliet Stephens (don’t blame her for that, I came up with it all by myself) will be introducing a top night of comedy headlined by the outstanding Pappy’s (if you’ve not seen them, now’s your chance), and she’s claiming there might be pumpkin pie. 

Have a fun weekend everyone – look out for our three local spooky tweeters @ghostontoast, @Ghoul_of_London and the deliciously strange @MarmiteGhost. And if you think it will make any difference whatsoever, here’s a poster the West Hampstead Safer Neighbourhood Team have circulated for those who aren’t in the Trick or Treat mood.

Click and Treat for full-size

Boundary review: securing H&K for Labour?

[this article has been updated several times]

The Boundary Commission’s inital proposals to change electoral constituencies were published a day in advance it seemed by political blogger Guido Fawkes. Today they are online on the Commission’s own website.

There are a lot of changes across London, including to our own Hampstead & Kilburn constituency. If you recall, the seat was won by Labour’s Glenda Jackson in 2010 by a whisker from Conservative Chris Philp, and Lib Deb Ed Fordham wasn’t much further behind. H&K was the closest three-way seat in the country.

Inevitably, therefore, any changes to the constituency are likely to affect the next election. There was talk earlier in the year that the seat would lose its Brent ward, and pick up two of the Westminster North wards, which would swing it clearly in favour of the Tories.

However, the commission’s review suggests something entirely different.

We would keep Kilburn and Queens Park in Brent, but add Gospel Oak, Kentish Town and Highgate that were part of Frank Dobson’s Holborn & St Pancras constituency. This means losing some wards. Oddest of all, Fortune Green would become the only Camden ward in the otherwise Barnet-dominated seat of Finchley & Golders Green. Belsize meanwhile becomes part of a new Camden & Regents Park constituency with four north-eastern Westminster wards and the rest of Camden.

Context
Lets remember first of all that these are just proposals. Why are they happening? The government asked the commission to reduce the number of constituencies in England by 29 to 502, and every constituency had to have a population between 72,810 and 80,473. This is a major change to preview boundary reviews. These sought to try and balance the number of voters in each seat, but it was not a legal imperative. At the moment in England, electorate numbers per seat range from 55,000 to 111,000.

The proposals are up for discussion as the Commission’s report explains at great lengths. If you want to attend a public meeting about it, then there are two for our whole region (North-West London) will be held at Brent Town Hall in Wembley on Thursday October 20th and Friday October 21st

Implications
What does this mean for the constituency of Hampstead & Kilburn? It’s almost impossible to tell, but it’s definitely not great news for Chris Philp, who is surely looking for a safer seat than one that keeps two Brent wards and loses Belsize.

Gospel Oak – home of Alastair Campbell – seems to be fairly strong Labour; Highgate elected two Labour and one Green councillor last time around – so not immediately obvious that it would be an easy task for a Tory candidate to win over voters there; Kentish Town meanwhile appears resolutely Labour.

In other words, the changes would seem to suit Labour more than any other party at least in H&K. Glenda has announced she won’t run again, so if the proposals are adopted will this be seen as a moderately safe seat for someone to snap up? Fiona Millar – Campbell’s wife and free school advocate Toby Young’s worst nightmare – has said she won’t stand. But we’re almost certainly still two to three years out from the next election.

Indeed, changes elsewhere in the country could leave high profile Labour MPs without a seat and H&K might be one to move to. Most notably Ed Balls and Hilary Benn may have to decide who stays and who goes as their West Yorkshire constituencies are redrawn around them. Closer to home, London MP Tessa Jowell’s seat of Dulwich & West Norwood could be split into three constituencies if the proposals are implemented,

For other parts of Camden, the picture is very different. Frank Dobson’s safe Holborn & St Pancras looks much more marginal as Camden & Regents Park as it picks up Belsize and some Westminster wards and loses Highgate (which returns to the fold of the old Hampstead & Highgate constitutency that Glenda represented for so long before H&K). This might explain this tweet from Labour councillor and former Mayor of Camden, Jonathan Simpson: “The review is a bit bonkers, can’t let this happen”.

And what about Fortune Green? Well, the seat it’s joining changed hands from Labour to Conservative at the last election, and could be fairly close again. In the council votes, the Tory candidates were just ahead of their Labour rivals, but both were well behind the Lib Dems. Oddly, therefore, Fortune Green’s 7,000 voters could still have some impact in the vote, but to be the only ward from Camden in a seat dominated by Barnet does feel strange (if you look at how far south-west Fortune Green ward covers – right down to Maygrove Rd – this feels strange. Don’t expect too many canvassers down there)

I’ve left in the info on how to have your say in the abridged version of the document below, which has details for most West Hampstead Life readers I think.
Abridged Boundary Commission Proposals Sep132011

A trip down Kilburn’s memory lane

I got sent a fantastic link via Twitter this morning. It was to a photograph taken in 1965 of the State building on Kilburn High Road. The photograph is interesting, but the history site that it’s part of turned out to be a treasure trove.

Click on any of the seven photos of Kilburn taken around the same time, and you’ll find a few dozen comments from people who grew up in the area. It takes a bit of diving into the site to find all of them – some are comments to the initial memories, and so on. They paint a picture of post-war Kilburn that in many ways we could recognise today: a lively, bustling, rough-around-the-edges neighbourhood that people generally have an affection for, with characters such as Biff Lewis (who of course gets into a fight) and Susan the Swedish employee at Woolworths.

Naturally there are also some big changes – not least in the number of cinemas. One person recounts four different ones: the Ionic, the Grange, the Essoldo and of course the State.

I shall leave you to browse the site, but here’s one of my favourite excerpts as Fred Parker’s recalls trips to the cinema:

“Every Saturday evening I would go to the ‘pictures’.. with a group of friends. Often we would have to queue to get in and maybe stand for some time once we got in. We sat in the 1/6d seats. Films ran continuously in those days and we often saw the end of the film before we saw the beginning. We would walk home after the cinema and probably buy a bag of chips plus a pickled onion if we were flush.”

Thanks to Jon Kelly for the original link. Look out for an architecture competition on the blog in the next day or so. And if you want to read about some West Hampstead history, check out this post about how our part of London fared during the Second World War.

Update 4.30pm, 20th Century London sent me a link to some more great old photos of Kilburn including one of the Rolling Stones backstage at the Gaumont State.

Largely unscathed

West Hampstead and surrouding areas escaped Monday night’s widespread rioting and looting relatively unscathed. Despite the rumour mill working overtime when it came to Kilburn the actual damage there was limited to the Vodafone shop on the High Road. This was broken into and stock was stolen but apparently the police were on the scene very quickly.

Photo via Mike Katz

The Guardian reported that 20 people had been arrested in Kilburn and it seems that generally whenever there was a crowd gathering, the police dispersed them fairly rapidly. This approach appeared to work well.

As I was tweeting into the early hours of Tuesday, I did feel nervous for the first time as there were reports of groups of young men heading down Adelaide Road towards Swiss Cottage and down Belsize Park in the same direction. I had visions of them coming through West Hampstead to get to Kilburn, or just stopping off in West Hampstead itself.

In the end the impact locally was very limited. The bottom pane of glass at Flower Gallery, the florists by the tube station, had been smashed – which could have happened any night really. By Finchley Road tube, Parkheath estate agents was broken into and their posh iMacs were stolen. I heard today that this wasn’t really a rampage, but was done quite carefully, and I also heard that they chose to install Windows rather than Apple’s operating system, which will surprise the eventual owners.

Photo via @RentalflatsNW6

Anyway, back to the verified facts… the only other casualty in the area was Carphone Warehouse on the corner of Burrard Rd and Finchley Rd, up in the north of West Hampstead. This took a bit of a battering, but that was pretty much it for our part of the world. Real Radio Scotland interviewed a witness.

Photo via @msjlucas

I took a walk through Kilburn on Tuesday morning to check the damage for myself. The Vodafone shop certainly had been hit and there was a police car parked outside and police tape round the entrance. Reports of damage to one of Halfords’ windows were also correct – just a bit late: this had happened a few weeks earlier. Finally, there was some concern when staff were spotted sweeping water and minor debris out of one of the entrances to Poundland, but a quick enquiry revealed that a pipe in the ceiling had burst. Shit happens.

I took another turn through Kilburn mid-afternoon amid rumours that the police presence was increasing and after the Guardian reported that the police were telling shops on the High Road to close. It was a sunny day, and although not as busy as usual, the main drag was still bustly. Some shops were closed, notably TKMaxx, Primark, Phones4U and HSBC. Others, such as Sainsbury’s main store, had strong security on the door. There were no police to be seen. Eventually, I came across four constables heading north on foot patrol and asked one about the instruction to shops. He looked blank and shook his head. He said they weren’t advising shops what to do, although some of course were closing and it was an individual choice.

This was contradicted sometime later by a pub landlord and a member of the public who said he had stood there while a café owner had been advised to close although the timings of these events weren’t clear. Anyway, as the afternoon wore on it became clear that most larger shops were certainly closing earlier than usual. Sainsbury’s obviously had an edict to close its “Local” stores at 6pm, as the shops in Kilburn, West Hampstead and Willesden all shut at the same time.

Despite this, and a distinct tension in the air, West End Lane was busy with people determined to enjoy the good weather, sitting outside the bars and cafés in the evening sun. This wasn’t “normal” though. A police car came hurtling up Lymington Road and swung left on West End Lane. Nothing especially unusual about this, but everyone stopped in their tracks and watched it.

Hopefully, as the atmosphere cools in the capital we won’t have a repeat of Monday night over the next few days.

Live tweeting a quiet night in Kilburn

It’s been a busy evening on Twitter. Naturally, I have a search set up for “Kilburn” in my timeline and from late afternoon it seemed that every other message came from someone suggesting that riots were going to kick off in Kilburn.

It became increasingly hard to determine fact from speculation from deliberate fanning of the flames – whether for fun or for more sinister motives.

Finally, I began to get more convincing sounding reports, many from people I know and trust, that said there wasn’t much happening. It became clear that there was a substantial police presence, and that shops were closing… although it was approaching 6pm, so some were closing anyway. Around 6.30pm someone tweeted that all the banks were closed. No kidding.

There began to be more reports of small groups of young men mooching up and down the road, some with masks. Initially skeptical I refrained from retweeting this, but eventually I was convinced. Several people were doing trawls of the entire High Road to see what was happening – after all Kilburn High Road is a mile long – and reporting that there was no actual trouble. Then there were solid reports that police were stopping some peole and shortly after the Guardian’s Simon Rodgers tweeted that 20 people had been arrested in Kilburn.

I’m willing to trust the Guardian, so lets assume this is true. The Guardian’s rolling riot coverage read:

Kilburn, in north west London, has also seen trouble reports Simon Rodgers. He says there have been 20 arrests near Kilburn High Road. Youths are roaming around the area, Simon says.”

This seemed a fair reflection of the situation, and was clearly chicken feed compared to the serious situation in Hackney, Peckham and Lewisham.

Unfortunately, the Guardian then tweeted this:

Follow LIVE #LondonRiots updates as trouble spreads to #Croydon #Kilburn and #Birmingham http://gu.com/p/3x4he/tw.

Of course this got RTd to death and suddenly perfectly sane people were understandably concerned. Of course the news moved on, nothing at all happened in Kilburn, and the Guardian carried on talking about the serious problems in Croydon and Clapham. Is it too much to expect a follow-up to say that Kilburn was calm? I know the journalists are stretched, so maybe it is too much. This isn’t meant to be a Guardian-bashing post anyway. But it’s indicative of the challenge journalists and responsible tweeters/bloggers have in trying to be up-to-date with events while not falling for seductive sounding “breaking news” tweets. People like to give their false reports authenticity… “my aunt says…” “a colleague rang me to say…”, etc. But it’s fairly easy to weed those out.

Harder to unravel were those messages from people I know who hear something from someone they know and – in a commendable effort to be helpful – ping me to keep me up to speed. With so many people tweeting though, one isolated report without a picture is to be taken with a large pinch of salt. In every single case, further investigation revealed that the reported fact simply wasn’t true. Many were either misunderstandings, or nuance was lost in the brevity of Twitter, or it was the product of over-active imaginations. But each one gets retweeted, especially when it’s written by someone with a lot of followers, before there’s a chance to contradict it and the whole thing starts again.

Part of me wonders whether it’s worth doing this – I’m under no illusion that fighting (with some very able allies – thanks to Julius_Geezer in particular) all the misinformation has any impact on what might happen, but it does seem worthwhile to allay people’s genuine fears.

More importantly, I would much rather be spending an evening trying to counter some misinformation than writing about looting, arson and general thuggery in the neighbourhood. In the parlance of the day, stay classy Kilburn.

Burritos Juan or Burritos When

Last night a group of whampers decided to combine a night of comedy at The Good Ship with a test of the new burrito joint that’s opened directly opposite, Burritos Juan.

It’s only been open a couple of weeks and was empty when we arrived. From the front it looks a bit unprepossessing, but inside is perfectly pleasant with a few tables and chairs leading to the counter at the back. There’s camouflage netting on the ceiling and fake brickwork wallpaper, but the overall effect is perfectly decent.

It would be fair to say that they weren’t geared up to the sudden arrival of eight people, but we were warmly welcomed by an Argentinian girl replete with enormous comedy sombrero. She took our orders, which were all pretty simple. The menu is basic: they have tortillas, they have fillings. We ordered. We sat. We waited.

I sent a couple of tweets.

We waited some more.

There were three of them behind the counter working away, perhaps not at the breakneck speed one might expect from a fast food establishment. Then something happened. I don’t know what. But it was clearly very funny as they were suddenly in hysterics. We assumed they’d dropped something, but they didn’t tell us what was quite so funny. It was hard not to laugh along anyway, although our growling stomachs and the impending kick-off of the comedy were tempering our good humour.

The guy working there dashed out the front door, returning a minute later with a large pack of Doritos, which we were given as a peace offering. We’d now been waiting more than 20 minutes.

Then he dashed off again. What had they run out of? Tortillas. Fairly key ingredient.

Finally, our burritos were ready. They had somehow taken almost 45 minutes despite all the ingredients sitting in containers right under the counter. We were all starving and wolfed them down. They weren’t very big, but they did taste ok. I’ve had better but I’ve also definitely had worse, and to be fair, we probably hadn’t seen the place at its best. We went to pay (£3.50 for a burrito, 50p for a soft drink – cheaper than most shops) and they commented that we’d eaten them very quickly. I expect we were supposed to savour every mouthful but hunger and time were against us and 45 minutes of work disappeared in about 4.5 minutes of eating.

I would definitely give Burritos Juan a second chance, but not with a large group of people unless I called ahead. This might be tricky though as the business cards have an address but no phone number. There’s a lot of competition on the High Road for fast food, and these guys will need to be slicker if they want to become a fixture – they have a big advantage in being the only Mexican place around, I really hope they make the most of it.