So I was delighted to read in the Festival Programme that The Idler would have a tent and presence throughout the weekend at Port Eliot. Most of the Idler events that I'd have liked to attend coincided with our guests' appearances in the Doevgreyreader Tent. The Bacon Butties and Bloody Marys each day from 9am sounded good but I'd already filled up with breakfast at my B&B each morning. I did however manage to attend one 'conversation' on Friday (25 July) at 10am: Julian Mash on Portobello Road: Lives of a Neighbourhood.
Julian Mash who is actually the manager of the Idler Bookshop. Julian was once a member of a struggling Indie Band and to make ends meet got himself a part-time job at the now famous Travel Bookshop in Notting Hill. He then told us more about the very small part that the shop played in the film "Notting Hill" (just the frontage was used the rest of the shop was filmed in the studio) but which made it known throughout the world. Eventually and sadly, as many independent bookshops have in recent years, the shop closed.Julian was then inspired to investigate the area and search out the origins and past history of the Notting Hill neighbourhood mainly through interviews with residents and traders.
The original large houses were built in the 1840s for single families with servants but this was not a success and soon they were split into flats. Interestingly, over the last 15-20 years many houses have reverted back to being single family homes.
In the 1950s and 1960s it had been a rough area with many West Indian families living several families to a room. Tom reminisced about the years when he worked, in the pre-iTunes, days at the record shop "Rough Trade" which, amazingly, is still going strong today. The area evolved into a 'cradle of Bohemianism' with many independent shops. With huge hikes in rents many have closed and Portobello's 'edgy' atmosphere has now gone.
Read more about Julian's book here.
It's sad to think that the area has lost much of its identity but this happened to so many places in the last decade or so with the advance of the corporate and the upmarket moves by property owners. Hooray for The Idler, Daunt's Books and The London Review of Books Shop and all independent bookshops!