The Other Notting Hill, Radio 2
A bit of smirking from Hugh Grant and bang goes the neighbourhood
Sunday 13 September 2009
I blame Hugh Grant, Richard Curtis and Julia Roberts. Although the rot of gentrification had been setting in for some time, it was the 1999 film Notting Hill that dealt the fatal blow to the eponymous district's street cred. A cabbie, hounded out by house prices, was definite: "Certain parts of it have become poncified, if you ask me, since that film. They've completely destroyed the character of the area."
Just as the latter-day Glastonbury festival – which at one time channelled the Notting Hill spirit for three days every year – is a sanitised shadow of its former self, so London W11 is like an old rocker who's cleaned up his act and become an interior design consultant. All Saints Road is full of shops selling wedding dresses and bathroom fittings; Portobello Road is stuffed with expensive tat; All Saints Hall, where Pink Floyd unveiled their singular brand of space rock, is an old people's home.
In The Other Notting Hill, former denizen Don Letts was more concerned with celebrating the bohemian past than bemoaning the Chelsea-tractor present: there was Powys Square, where Performance, Mick Jagger and all, was filmed; the Sarm West studios on Basing Street, opened by Island and later the place where "Do They Know It's Christmas?" was recorded (and where your intrepid reporter was once mistaken for Trevor Horn); Vivienne Westwood's flat in Ladbroke Grove where Johnny Rotten, Chrissie Hynde and Neneh Cherry, among others, all lived at various times; Alice's Antique Shop at 61 Portobello Road, where the Beatles got the coats they wore on the Sergeant Pepper cover; the Portobello Hotel, where another Alice, Cooper of that ilk, kept his boa constrictor in the bath ....
It was inevitably an orgy of name-dropping. I could have done with a bit more social history, but then this was Radio 2, not Radio 4; and a couple of people were good value. The old Clash bassist Paul Simonon, who went to school next to Trellick Tower, recalled the day when bits of it started to fall off and everyone thought it might collapse: "We were hoping it was going to fall on the school."
The ghosts of Simonon's old band dominate the place, the colossi of W11. As Chris from Rough Trade records observed, "The Clash seem to engulf the whole area. Someone should put up a statue to them."
Simonon later collaborated with Damon Albarn in The Good, The Bad & The Queen, and the Blur frontman feels deeply indebted to the area, whose giddy cultural mix "completely fuelled and informed my musical output ... I've been here 20 years now and I really wouldn't live anywhere else in London." Then again, unlike the cabbie, he can afford to.
Is the comedy album making a comeback?comedy
Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beachart
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Fifty Shades of Grey trailer: First look at Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey
- 2 Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?
- 3 50 books for students to read this summer: From Ernest Hemingway to Gillian Flynn
- 4 Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
- 5 Israel has discovered that it's no longer so easy to get away with murder in the age of social media
Hercules, review: Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson takes centre stage in preposterous movie
Fifty Shades of Grey trailer: First look at Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey
Best movies on Netflix UK and US: 32 films that will end your endless scrolling
Game of Thrones Sansa Stark actress Sophie Turner stars in Bastille's 'Oblivion' video
50 Shades of Grey movie trailer declared sexy and sexist on Twitter
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Vladimir Putin is given 'one last chance' to end hostilities in Ukraine
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia