Soho Radio – Clare Lynch Show 24/1/19

Last week I was invited onto Soho Radio by Clare Lynch and Leslie Hardcastle to talk about my work as an artist, as a historian of St. Giles and Denmark Street and the new talk and performance that myself and Stephen Micalef are doing on the Gin Craze of the 18th century. This was something of a landmark day – a sad day for Soho – as on the way there I’d walked past the newly closed Patisserie Valerie on Old Compton Street. This, alongside the majority of branches in the UK chain, had gone down overnight. However, the original cafe began in Soho in the 1920s and in his opening Soho Society news item, Leslie Hardcastle reflected upon this and also about the uncertain future of Norman’s Coach & Horses. At the moment this is under the management of the wonderful Alistair Choat and daughter Hollie, who have worked hard for the last 12 years to ensure that (previous landlord) Norman Balon’s legacy continues. Norman is a Soho legend and ran the Coach for some 63 years. The pub was the haunt of Private Eye journalists, one Jeffrey Bernard (of unwell status) and an assortment of 60s hellraisers. Any change to it or the loss of the Coach, would be felt keenly by the Soho community, Londoners and tourists alike: the upstairs Secret Tea Room I gather is highlighted and recommended to visitors in a huge number of guide books across the world.  So Alistair was the other featured guest on Clare’s show and he spoke eloquently and clearly about the colourful history of the pub and generally raised awareness that come June 2019, it might be the end of it under his management and of Norman’s Coach & Horses as we know it. I love it there and am a frequent visitor to the Secret Tea Room upstairs – this serves a great afternoon tea and the most fantastic Vegan & Vegetarian food each evening. The pub is very popular and is thriving, why even think of changing its future? Then it was my turn to talk about my work, my love for St. Giles and the rich source of inspiration its given me since 2005. Its wild 18th and 19th century history was the subject of my London’s Underworld Unearthed: The Secret Life of the Rookery whilst the music industry on Denmark Street (an honorary addition to the Soho area, as it’s really here in St. Giles) featured in my 2015 Regeneration City Blues exhibition. This show was about London and the almost daily loss of its rich cultural and creative history, its music venues (which have all but vanished from the centre of town), cinemas – and wonderful local and often old businesses. The capital is in the throes of great change and really is these days at the mercy of international market forces, pushing up rents ever higher as the land is sold from underneath existing businesses. Closure then becomes inevitable and a homogenised, bland ‘vision’ replaces a place or business that has given London its very character. I very much enjoyed myself and I even got to choose some music – a hard choice but I eventually settled on some early Tyrannosaurus Rex and the Pistols. Obvious links to Tin Pan Alley there… So a big thanks to Clare and Leslie for inviting me on the show! You can listen to Alistair Choat and myself here on the latest edition of The Clare Lynch Show

‘Fear & Loathing at the ROXY’ talk: Photos and review

This was a good night! Huge thanks to Senior Archivist Tudor Allen and all staff at the wonderful Camden Archives for kindly hosting and welcoming an interesting array of ROXY goers (of old), Punks and those interested in Camden history. Guests who came down to hear me wax lyrical on the legendary club (and who also told some fascinating stories themselves), included the great Ray Stevenson, Steve Micalef and Helen Elwes, Shanne Bradley (Nipple Erectors), Kevin Shepherd (The Damned Fan Club) and Andy Riff (The Dark). A big thank you to a Mr. Andrew Czezowski and a Ms Susan Carrington for sending down lots of free ROXY books for everyone to take away. Very kind and people loved them. So below are a few photos from the nights proceedings and a lovely review of my talk from Mr. Edwin Munt Esq. Thanks for that Edwin.  ‘If one could pin a Blue Plaque to Jane Palm-Gold, without causing offence and getting a clip around the ear, then one should be attached post-haste. Jane is one of our most eloquent chroniclers of those parts of London that are usually treated with suspicion by the mainstream, thankfully, and generally estranged from sunlight. Not for the first time Jane delivered a brilliantly dissected narrative journey, this time shining torchlight on the shrouded magic of the original punky seed bed that was the Roxy Club. Andrew R P Czezowski and Susan Carrington generously donated copies of their handsomely presented recent tomes about their club; the books record the short but luminous existence of their punk petri dish; a mid 70s avant garde nexus for ambitious outsiders. Lucky audience members paid nowt to enter Holborn Library’s Camden Archive, listen to Jane, drink vino from plastic cups; with a further option available to walk away with these fabulous books. For free. The audience, a mixture of eclectic survivors, historians and the curious enjoyed tales of amphetamine fuelled fear and loathing and, in my opinion, a moment in time for those who can claim to have witnessed a paradigm shift in culture, music and self-expression. People speak of the punk rock wars. This was a dispatch from an advanced trench. One knows when one is on to something good when the canteen-medal-stained school uniform of Gary Crowley is one of a hundred footnotes in an evening rich in old London lore.’ Photo credits: Chris Raeburn & Andy Riff