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 child. 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 opposing classes. I find the choice to park your car 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?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gR9K2ISCUqg

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 with a Greek 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, yet 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

What Happens to Suspended Labour Politicians?

Hopefully not this…

The campaign against Jeremy Corbyn was in full swing long before a Labour MP shouted “Nazi apologist” in Ken Livingstone’s face on a day of apparently choreographed media attacks, aimed at distorting debate on Israel and undermining Corbyn. No sane person would believe that Corbyn harbours any antisemitic tendencies, so softer targets have been sought in order to defame the Labour leader by association.

One such target lives right here in Notting Hill. Councillor Beinazir Lasharie was libelled labelled an antisemite by media outlets such as The Sun.

Suspended

What has happened to Councillor Lasharie raises questions about Labour’s approach.

In October 2015 the councillor was suspended by Labour and instructed not to talk to the press after The Sun newspaper ran a story that Lasharie had posted a video on Facebook which claimed that ISIS was created by Israel. The story was taken up by the right wing blogger Paul Staines, who goes by the moniker Guido Fawkes. Continue reading

Electric Breakfast

Venue: Electric Diner, Portobello Road

Meal: Breakfast

Rating:

3.53.5/5

It’s 11.45am on a Tuesday in March and I’ve just come back to Portobello after moving some things into a Brentford storage unit.

Heavy work, so you’d think a full English carb fest was on my mind. Not so, here’s why…

…So, we get to the door of the Electric Diner on Portobello Road, only to be greeted by our regular (Antonio Banderas looking) waiter.  I may have appeared a bit rude as I zipped past him fully aware of the clock ticking away on our 50% local discount deal as it fast approached 12.00. I rushed past into the ready and waiting waitress. “Will you still honour the discount as it’s not yet 12 O’ clock”?  I said in a half couldn’t care less way, without revealing the fact that her answer was a remote control to push an invisible button to send me away or make me stay, just like a puppet”. ” If you order before 12.00 it’ll be fine”. She said. You’ve never seen a person sit down so quickly.

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It was about 11:52 when my guest: sweet Juliet ordered her poached eggs on toast with  avocado and a bit a lemon on the side, accompanied by a pot of mint tea to kill the chill. Note below, the avocado’s succulence. Continue reading

Tongue in cheek observations on the usual suspects #1

Vacuous

Been the king of Notting Hill, Lord of Ladbroke Grove

Seen new money flooding in, pretentiousness exposed!

All about the bag you hold, label inside your clothes

Even though it’s daddy’s cash you wanna be boho!

Without a picture painted, book or verse

A modern day hippy – but in reverse!

The queen of hearts has marked your card

Like me seen through the looking glass

Oh! Alice dear you’re lost in space

What’s really happening to this place

But Alice dear -don’t you understand

For most of us it’s not wonderland!

………………….MC.Bolton  2015


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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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Continue reading

“Seriously? Or are you kidding?” Westway Rabbit Hole Deepens

Background and context: Click here, here, here and here

After our recent interview with Westway Trust, this conversation took place:

Tom (slapping table with hand): “I think we’ve written as much as we can about this Portobello redevelopment. Let’s move on…”

Angel Lewis: “Yeah, there are so many topics we can write about, (gazing in to the distance) the whole human experience is open to Urban Dandy…”,

9th November, two days before the Westway23/Westway Trust public meeting at the Tabernacle, text message Tom to Angel Lewis: “WT have now pulled out saying they couldn’t guarantee the safety of their staff”.

Reply: “Seriously? Or are you kidding?”

Reply: “That’s what a guy handing out flyers just told me”.

We were forwarded an email exchange between the parties that confirmed that Westway Trust had decided not to participate, one of the reasons being cited was indeed the “well-being” of the WT staff, and they had instead suggested meeting a small group from Westway23 in order to provide more detailed responses to their concerns. No explanation for the sudden security concerns was given, nor was an apology.

Toby Laurent Belson, Artist/Designer/Organiser at Westway23 told Urban Dandy: “It is a degrading statement for them to make. I am personally insulted by the suggestion that any member of the Westway Trust would be unsafe in the midst of a community meeting I have been a part of organising, taking place at one of this area’s most venerated and well-run venues. I have attended countless meetings in this community in which I have only ever seen a put-upon community respond to issues with consideration and passion”.

He explained that W23 still received no apology. “Neither myself, nor any other member of Westway23 or its supporters, have received any reasonable explanation, let alone an apology for it, despite clearly communicating the distress it has caused”.

The joint meeting that never was
Flyer for the joint meeting that never was

We asked Councillor Pat Mason, who is the Labour Group’s representative on the Westway Trust board, what he made of the no-show decision and whether it was symptomatic of a deeper malaise at the Trust. He told us: “I advised the trust Chair and Chief Executive to attend the Westway23 Tabernacle public meeting, saying they should not operate in a vacuum without the input of local people and without giving people the right to ask questions, scrutinise their actions, and to suggest what strategies the trust should follow for the future.

“Unfortunately, they decided not to attend because they are locked into the belief that local people should be commenting on and suggesting improvements to the trust’s proposals and strategies, rather than accepting that local people do not support what they are doing and have a completely different vision for their area. So any kind of strongly-voiced opposition to what is being proposed is experienced as unpalatable by trust directors”.

“This disconnect with the community is a historical problem born from the hijacking of the trust by Kensington & Chelsea Council from its inception and used as a vehicle to advance Council regeneration policies and to prevent real community representatives and groups, who were always branded as trouble-makers, from managing their own assets and making decisions beneficial to their communities.

For several decades, the trust has been run as if it were a castle bordered by a moat and peopled by the Council’s grandees who have ingrained their philosophy of neo liberal top down decision-making on the organisation which is a hard mould to break. The trust now has less Community representatives and elected Councillors, and more professional appointees on its board than it had a year ago. It was set up to go down the corporate route and that process will continue unless the local community backs up its wish for an alternative vision with real actions”.

Westway Trust send Urban Dandy this statement: “We took the difficult decision to withdraw our attendance from the meeting organised by Westway23 as we believed attending would not lead to constructive outcomes. It is unfair to expect someone to attend a meeting not knowing who is presenting alongside you, what the agenda is, who the audience is, who is facilitating or how it will be managed.

Having a community meeting is very positive and we support the principle, if you know the details and what to expect. We were informed about some of the details of the meeting from the Press ahead of being told by the organisers. There was always an air of mystery to the meeting, which did not encourage staff to feel confident about attending.

Westway Trust regularly liaises with more than 70 local groups and working with a small group of leaders, who have proposals to discuss, has proven to be the most productive way to make progress. We remain keen to have a meeting with a group representing Westway 23 at their earliest convenience.  

We are committed to working collaboratively and positively with all local groups, including Westway23, and want to encourage those that attended the meeting on Wednesday to bring forward their ideas for improving the estate so that we can find a mutually beneficial approach.”

W23’s Toby offers a different route forward: “At some point an organisation set up to consider and listen to the community must do just that. It cannot continue to play politics and bury its head in the sand as people’s lives are threatened ever more seriously by economic and environmental realities. It cannot continue to treat people as idiots on the subject of their own lives.

Wounds, injuries, pain and injustice do not disappear through ignorance or denial. They only bury deeper and spread wider. Without beginning a fundamental process of healing and reparation, the damage simply continues down through generations. In my opinion, that is what we are seeing here and a genuine healing process is what Westway23 have been set up to assist our community in going through. We are trying to be open and honest and shine a light on uncomfortable truths that will hopefully reveal a better, healthier, more nourishing future. I hope the Trust can come around to being a part of that future and put the skills they do have behind those of the local community”.

13th November email, Tom to Angel Lewis: “I’ve written it up, but what would be a good way end to the article?”

Reply: “I dunno…we can say anything, we’re Urban Dandy…”

by Tom Charles @tomhcharles @urbandandyldn