Nott in Grove

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Neighbours, everybody needs good…

It’s the age of uncertainty, overuse of the word ‘Terrorism’ and common sense gone digital. If what the astronomers tell us is true, we’ve moved light years away from the cosmic location we were at just four years ago and you can kinda tell. Yet Mario’s key cutters, Poundland, and Tesco’s all seem to have remained in the same location as I look through the eyes of a child.

The said amount of time has passed since we shared, right here on Urban Dandy, how the natural falling of a tree on our block inspired the locals to spill out onto the streets and finally make themselves known.

I don’t know if it’s time, frustration or just karma for me, but it seems that the neighbourly thing is at an all time low. The same eleven-year-olds that used to humbly greet me on my way out the door are now fifteen and just about neighbourly enough to replace those kind words with a nod and an ice grill and if I’m really lucky it may also be the waft of urban incense of the green variety. I can’t tell you how many times my doorstep has been littered with rolling papers, Subway sandwich wrappers, rappers and pitiful young girls, a few months into puberty and possibly a couple of years from single motherhood. They would exchange a type of loud poetry of the sailor type among themselves and upon any young ears that are unfortunate enough to be near their fruitless performance.

I remember the gradual build up to this and the times when my suspicions of drug activity were vague and unsubstantiated, but I never expected to be welcomed home with an offer to buy drugs on my own doorstep.

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It’s a challenge not to compare the rubbish on the balcony with the scene on the street

Yep, it’s certainly a different time and place in space and you’d easily be forgiven if you don’t remember the tree that considerately descended on the very same block, even though, at the time, it was the most activity we had seen and the main focus of conversation for months. Now two years on, teams of mopeds turn the streets into Silverstone as they wheelie up the track block dropping off their illegal supplies under the diffident noses of the police, the housing association, the moon and even the mid-day sun, for that matter.  Rumours spread of the neighbours’ children having knife tussles in the street and of warning shots being fired in a place that celebrities could never imagine while they strut with all their pretense, trying to ignore the echoes of their own name.  It’s hard to believe that one area could support such opposing lifestyles. But Notting Hill is such a place.

The local news is sometimes national news, depending. It could be about the actress Eve strolling through her new manor, a sixteen-year-old laying in a pool of blood, Rita Ora doing a photo shoot, or a mob of eleven police restraining a wannabe thug kid. Considering the later;  this not yet man will no doubt only use this encounter as a badge to show the peer group that he has achieved a Netflix version of manhood.  Meanwhile, the Beckhams will do the school drop off oblivious to this. But all of this in one stretch of concrete.

These are not incidents but everyday life. It’s like a kind of trash bag made of diamonds. It’s odd knowing that Princes William and Harry went to the school up the street and just feet away from that ambitious parent attending a school viewing, hoping to give their child the same Prince Harry experience they may experience the polar opposite. It’s also a Big Issue magnet, a haven for the more ambitious of the homeless. I know this because it took me two years and some strong language to be rid of one such aggressive Big Issue seller and to have him accept that I was a regular guy. He eventually dissolved our tacit contract and moved on to more supportive folk to maintain his structure.

Home and Away

Elsewhere in the world there are at least a few miles between these classes. I find the choice to park in the centre of a spot that could hold two vehicles snooty and sub-civilised, but no less churlish than maneuvering a 60 lb leather sofa into a parking space in front of your own home, but who cares…Damn right it’s an environmental crime but not to be declared in Orwellian style with the hope of profit, but just to dispense a call for the raising of one’s personal standards, empathy and maybe a little shame. Yeah, the mice come out knowing that the neighbourhood ugly gives them hope that there will be a serving for at least four when they carelessly drop pizza and other food items on their own doorstep, but who gives a..?

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The bigger picture

Truth is, beneath all of this is a fight between two demogra-folks, both too smart to actually realise they’re in a war over a silly name. I’m not sure who named Ladbroke Grove Notting Hill but the two gangs have both been co-living on the same turf for some time now. As Notting Hill gets written into the history books, Ladbroke Grove makes its own history reminding us of the area’s past like an immortal storyteller. Immortal because, much to the disappointment of some locals, it just won’t go away. This neverending story is what opened the doors to make it Notting Hill, (Ladbroke Grove or whatever you choose to call it) Marvin Gaye, The Sex Pistols, Malcolm X, Muhammed Ali, The Rolling Stones and all.

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Rough Trade Records started out in Ladbroke Grove and without moving an inch has become Notting Hill’s musical pride and, somewhat organic, record shop. Yet who remembers when they sold NY W.B.L.S. radio mix-tapes and when people sprayed the bricks with Sham 69? How about, graffiti artist Futura 2000 knocking around with the Clash or Queen Latifa searching the crates for her little-known single?

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Synonymously the neighbouring food equivalent would be The Grain Shop that still lives opposite Tavistock Square on Portobello Road, Notting Hill, or is it Portobello Road, Ladbroke Grove? Even regular healthy food got caught in this name politics and was changed to organic without its consent. Even though The Grain Shop still services the area for their food needs, the name of the food they offer, although it’s mostly organic, refuses to boast, because unlike most other things their attitudes have not changed. But you would have to remember Ladbroke Grove to know that. To know that the owners care more about the nutrition that they provide for their community than giving it a fancy name.

Keeping Tabs

Then there’s The Tabernacle: it still sits in Powis Square but seems to be wanting to slide up the hill rather than down the grove. Thankfully it is regulated by culture. Every time a hundred pound designer Champagne creeps onto the drinks menu a Jerk Chicken wrestles it down to the ground, sometimes it’s a saltfish fritter fighting a salad or even an unexpected Chicken Saint Lucia being drowned by the soup of the day.

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*The Tabernacle 80’s. Grafitti artist: Brim (left) with The Krew

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Yep, most of us are just casualties of a war of status and as soon as Notting Hill recognises that it’s Ladbroke Grove is the moment that Ladbroke Grove will see that it is Notting Hill. Gentrification will then become an organic process with the participation of locals. The area’s potential will then be clear and we can concentrate on bigger things like what the fuxit our exit from the EU actually means and how we need each other more than ever, NOW.

Whether it’s your micro neighbour or your macro neighbour we need constructive communication and not snobbery. Coming to accept that there is not, and has never been, a middle class may be a little hard to swallow for some but for God’s sake get over it quick because at this time if you’re not excelling to new financial altitudes whereby work is but a choice, then your choice of neighbours is not a choice at all. It’s Russian roulette, only now there are three slugs in the chamber of the proverbial gun to your head. It’s easier, far easier for somebody to complain about their co-inhabitants rather than to seek resolve with each other. Whether you dropped down from Knightsbridge with high expectations or you have never left the area and cannot quite grasp the gentrific change, it’s time to talk; otherwise, the government (or foreign corporate interests to be precise) will be only too happy to play your friendly mediator.

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If you’re like me and have lived in any of the other communities that are globally accepted as parallels, you’ll know that there is not another area on earth like this one. New York, Paris, and Los Angeles all boast of multiculturalism but even as diverse as they are, the local cultures have enough distance between them to never meet. Not so with us, just look at the size of our streets, somebody sneezes, you feel it across the road. We live in a very claustrophobic space of scraping buses and folding wing mirrors but with that comes the unique advantage of having to interact and survive within each other’s world, without each other in this little village. It makes sense for us to finally define it ourselves with the help of those who bring their foreign experiences if they are only willing to introduce themselves and share rather than seize real land, by any other corporate term.

I believe that on this third rock, in this western hemisphere, in this Royal Borough, while the world divides itself in the hope of the government submitting a plan for re-uniting it we have the potential to become a beacon to the world but we have to stop the selfishness and start participating, preserving, embracing and becoming curious about our homies, and each other’s welfare not farewell.

Angel Lewis

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The subtle language of conflict

   

Dedicated to: *The Krew: Shaban, Drew, Kevin Wez, Nicky and Jeff (RIP).  Song: The Escapades of Futura 2000  – Futura 2000 and The Clash

‘WE ARE’ ….at The Ugly Duck

 

After months of planning, The Kitchen Table Collective, who previously gave us 1x Tab Breakfast, poached egg, no mushroom 1x sides, sausage: New Stories from the Tabernacle, have expressed a touching and thought provoking exhibition through the eyes of immigrants.  The incredibly diverse quintet of Artists including Emma Mudgway, Claire Tipy and Alexia Villard successfully gave us a very personal look at the alien experience in the UK through their art.  ‘We Are’ can be seen today at The Ugly Duck Gallery at 47-49 Tanner Street in Tower Bridge.

We are here until the afternoon collecting great thoughts and insights to see what it feels like to be an immigrant.

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We’re going in.

 

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Claire Tipy and Sarah Tilotta’s collaboration, ‘Where Do You Think I Was Born’, seen in motion. Each actor contributed their own heartfelt monologue and drew us totally in. Continue reading

Vinyl Café Opens on Portobello

the shot

 

Venue: Vinyl Café, Portobello Road 

Interviewers: Tom Charles and Angel Lewis 

Interviewee: Jake Furey, owner

In this era of gentrification, Urban Dandy was cheered by a visit to Vinyl Café on Portobello, which has grown out of the owner’s hugely successful vinyl stall on Portobello market that also imports vinyl from all over the world. We thoroughly recommend a visit. Here’s why…

We arrive at 9:00 and are greeted with The Buena Vista Social Club playing in the background. The chef comes from the kitchen to turn down the music and agrees to replay ‘Candela’ for us. He and Tom agree they know each other from somewhere, somehow. Familiar faces. 

The business owner Jake arrives at 9.15, offers us drinks and, before we begin our questioning, Jake explains the importance of getting the right vibe with food and music.

Jake: ‘The Mouth is the gateway to the soul isn’t it? It’s all sensory, eyes, mouth, nose…

UDL: What was your intention in opening the café?

Jake: To make as much money as possible (laughs). I’m just kidding.

To create somewhere where people can come to eat good food, where they can feel relaxed. It’s a people place, they can turn up in their slippers and hang out, they can bring their kids. I just wanted to create something cool. I want it to be genuine, authentic and to add something to the area. We source 95% of our food from the market. 

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UDL: Where does the music come in? Is it your first love?

Jake: (Instantly) No! Family is, always. I have three girls and a wife. They’re my first love, music next. I was an artist, I was flown out to LA for two months to record. Craig Kallman from Atlantic records heard my voice and said he needed to take a meeting with me. I was supposed to go back to LA but my first child was born so, you know, a child needs a father. You know how the music business goes, one day you’re in demand, the next you’re not. I love my kids, even though they drive me insane (laughing). My middle one is a great actress…

UDL: What did you do in music? Sing? Rap?

Jake: I sang and wrote, like Soulful Pop. If I had time again I’d do it completely differently. Rather than let the business manipulate you, you have to manipulate the business.

How is business at Vinyl Café so far?

Jake: We’re doing okay, it’s not even six months yet and we’re okay. I have a Canadian business partner also; Alison King. There are six people working on the food and one person on the vinyl. You need people to know how to sell it. People know me, actually I heard someone shouting “Jake, Jake” the other day and it was Brian Eno. He was like ‘Jake where you been?’ I was at the café. Brian is a down to earth guy, he’s a positive influence for people in Portobello Road, he’s one of us.

UDL: This spot was a French Bakery right, but not for long. What did they do wrong?

Jake: They knocked everyone and he didn’t run it professionally. Well who’s to say I’m running this professionally? Time will tell. I have the next three months planned out and it’s fine because I need the challenge. I’m running this and the stall too, to give the stall up in the week would be tough because that’s my bread and butter.

UDL: What about the gentrification in the area?

Jake: Some of it’s good, some of it’s bad. There seems to be a disparity in the area…no there doesn’t seem to be a disparity, there is a disparity. You either have an ASBO or you’re middle class. If you look at what’s classed as working class now, it’s actually a social underclass. Unless you’re a millionaire, you can’t afford to buy in this area any more.

UDL: How does this affect your business plan?

Jake: I don’t really have a business plan. Word of mouth is the way because I can talk but I can’t see this space from your eyes and I try to listen as much as I can. Even if they say something negative I try to take the positive. Right now I’m playing around with changing a few things. I’m thinking about the next round of funding.

Some ten workers walk into the shop and fill the bigger table next to us. Jake starts talking to them, he tells them to make themselves comfortable. One of the men says  ‘as long as you have red wine’. Jake responds ‘We have red and white and a lovely Cava’ and they continue in this fast witted style in a few more exchanges in which Jake is totally at ease.

Jake: You see, interaction. You have to interact, this is what I do. When you have a brain and a mouth you can talk to anyone.

UDL: Tell us about your staff

Jake: I’ve hired a small team who love what they’re doing. The kitchen is vital. I’ve gone through six chefs in 16 weeks in order to put together the right team.

UDL: Six!!?

Jake: I’m not an ego maniac. I’m not Chairman Mao, but there’s an output expected. The team I’ve got now, they’re foodies, they’re happy to be in the kitchen, they’re not just doing ‘a job’. With food and with music, you can do it for love or for money, there’s a difference. Now, if you can combine love and money…

UDL: Tell us more about how you see this place

Jake: Life experience has brought us to where we are now, and that’s reflected. We don’t want to be Google, or some other massive company. But if we can last the first 12 to 18 months, and have a good product, then familiarity will breed comfort. It can also breed contempt (laughing) so I have to ask myself what I can do to create something even more comfortable and more profitable?

One of the group of men asks Jake about a rare Beech Boys box set for sale. The item is one of a run of only 5000 made. Another of the party declares his love for acid jazz, of which Jake is knowledgeable. As the conversation fades, a Miles Davis Jazz tune fills the Vinyl Café. Classy music for a charismatic café. Great food, too, and competitive prices. Well worth a regular visit.

 

http://brtrecords.tumblr.com/ 

@IAM_angellewis

@tomhcharles

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Stand 52

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Urban Dandy would like to bring to your attention the loss of a beloved community member. Stand 52 is not really what you would have in mind when asking for a half a pound a grapes but if you are from the area you would have used stand 52 many times.

Tommy from stand 52 Portobello Market, for some is Portobello Market, having supplied us with fresh fruit and veg for years. I can say from experience that he was one of the faces that you got used to seeing every morning on the corner of Portobello Road and Blenheim Crescent, arranging that lovely coloured nutrition in delicious order offering to quench your thirst and satisfy your body’s need for vitamins and minerals.

It’s interesting that with all the supermarkets popping up here there and everywhere, the question of local loyalty is underlined. I must admit within my own experience there is some guilt as I have a very specialized diet for health reasons, but that said I do what I can where I can and would only hope that most like myself will be also sad to see the end of a Portobello market legend.

Here is a man that took only two weeks off work each year. This is a very rare form of dedication. As noble as this may be, sadly it took the dreaded cancer to force a year’s break from the market.

In a brief conversation with Maureen, Tommy’s wife, I learned that his dedication and commitment to us as customers went way beyond Portobello Market and into his own domestic environment as when the question of marriage occurred Tommy was reluctant to take time off on a Saturday, so we should all feel privileged standing in the way of their wedding vows.

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Portobello Market is made up of some tremendous locals just like Tommy who really tend to smile through everything they face including the decrease in turnover based on their goliath super-chain competitors, yet they continue.

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Even those who didn’t know you knew your presence, work and commitment. On behalf of the family, extended family and every other market trader we say Rest In Peace Tommy Kane.

Thank you

R.I.P. Tommy

‘Brush’

Angel Lewis

Buy it here

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‘There was a time when earthlings were pure creators and not really concerned with external opinions to express. There was a feeling of attachment to the source and a comfort in expression. Unimpressed by visitors like me because we were closer in thought until that thing happened. Earthlings lost their minds, their confidence and self-control, it was given over to external things.

It still baffles me how this can be your norm today.

The soul reason for all of this loss was fear. Humans are still creators but all creation is born out of fear and no longer from love. How many regions are in wars from fear of being invaded or relationships for fear of being alone? The truth is invasion is very unlikely if you are communicating but you will always be alone and all you can do is embrace it for the great thing that it is. When humans can learn to think again, outside of the metaphorical box it becomes clear that being alone means being al-one….’

An alien viewpoint on the art of creating form from ‘BRUSH’ by Angel Lewis.

Urban Dandy London’s Style Secrets Revealed…

It is a well-known fact locally that Urban Dandy London are the most urban and dandy of Londoners, impressing all they meet with their fashion sense; from the country squire to the high street looter, UDL has it all covered and refined to a tee.

It is commonly believed that such stylish swagger could only come naturally, bestowed on UDL through good fortune, positive energy and all-round worthiness.

But that ain’t the whole truth. It also helps that slap bang in the middle of UDL’s three London HQs is the Fara clothing shop, where designer threads male and female, and much more besides are available at recession-friendly prices,

Notting Hill’s very own spot where everybody knows your name gives plenty of space for creativity with its legendary window displays and the staff encouraging customers to graffiti the walls,

The jovial folk of Notting Hill have so far come up with this selection:

Can’t argue

  

We love you too
A tortoise
hear hear

 

Can you do better? (you can) Go and visit, decorate the walls, dandify yourself this summer at Fara

 

10 Elgin Crescent, Notting Hill, just off Portobello Road

QR’s hit the UK

Well QR codes have arrived, fresh from the Japanese economy, diverted across to the US and finally to the UK. You may ask: what is a QR? This question doesn’t mean you’re out of the loop, just not in the forefront of the technology industry or perhaps you have a department who deals with that, but one thing is for sure you will know pretty soon.

QR codes are Quick response codes that no doubt you’ve seen on posters and publications distributed around London. The little black and white mosaics contain little square blocks of information.  A basic code can contain a few letters and the more complex code can hold up to 1,264 characters of information.

Question: Why hold this information whether small or large, and who cares? Well a QR code feeds into a smart phone with a QR scanner installed, once it has been scanned, it immediately sends the smart phone user to the website for more information on what they have just viewed.

This breakthrough is of the most value to businesses today seeking awareness of their online presence. With this, QR codes are generating more and more diverse possibilities for businesses to reach their core markets. This has opened a new stream of business opportunities and thus revenue around coding.  As QR codes grow in the UK, it is becoming clear that basic black and white codes, to the eye, all appear identical and devoid of identity . This is no doubt why major companies such as MTV, Nike and Ralph Lauren have personalised their QR codes to reflect their brands. These are called Maze QRs or Mazes and are created by a QR coder, similar to a graphic designer but also skilled in code manipulation.

Although there are few customized QR coders in the UK, one of the best UDL has seen, competing with the US in a major way is a company called MazeQR who’s slogan mysteriously states “Be found”. By intention,  MazeQR are nearly impossible to find. They exist in the Matrix and are found strictly by Qr code. MazeQR have been in existence for less than a year yet have supplied tailored QR codes for major establishments such as Comic relief and Jade Jagger. Their tangeable presence in Notting Hill made it possible for us to find a spokeswoman. Joy Daly, whom we managed to catch up with. A concept scout for MazeQR, says “Personalised coding can cost from just hundreds to thousands of pounds depending on the uniqueness and the intricacy of the work”.

QR code readers are available free for download directly to your smart phone here or for blackberry here  and for iphone users here. As for MazeQR, I guess they find you.

Angel Lewis.