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FlipsideLondon Tours

"If you weren’t from the area there was a good chance you’d get in a fight - that Acklam Hall was a bit naughty!"

How did you get into doing the tours of the area?

Lots of tour guides are nice middle class people who do Shakespeare, Kings and Queens and the sort. I like history but that stuff doesn’t interest me as much as like the 1958 race riots, that’s the sort of history that I am much more interested in. I don’t want to do the Hugh Grant, Notting Hill imagery and that’s also why I do the tours to get rid of that bullshit a bit. There’s so much more to it than that. I started doing tours a couple of years ago now, I was just walking round with my mates telling them about the area and my memories and they just said I should start doing them.

When did you first start coming to Portobello Road?

I started coming here in the 70s, I went to school in Holland Park and Portobello Road market was always famous and you’d come over here. When I first started to come here regularly though was for record shops in Golborne Road; you had Honest Jon’s, which is here now, and you had the ‘Rock On’ stall with Ted Carroll, who does Ace Records now. They did all the cool stuff, all the imported stuff, and in the punk days they did all the punk stuff and that’s when I started coming here. Acklam Hall was just up here also and I went to gigs there, which was always a laugh. Anyone who weren’t from the area had to watch themselves you know as everyone used to join up…. you had the Ladbroke Grove Skins and you had all the local rudeboys, the local rastas, and they all joined up for anyone that weren’t from around here. You had to watch yourself man, if you weren’t from the area there was a good chance you’d get in a fight - that Acklam Hall was a bit naughty! Then around 1981 I started running a betting shop. I worked down here in Lancaster Road. It was a drug supermarket that street then, and All Saint’s Road was crazy too. I remember once in the betting shop, the shop was really long with the counters at the back. Well these two geezers walk in one day and as they were walking through the shop everyone was firing out the door, so you didn’t have to be a genius to work out they were the old bill. By the time they got to the counter the place was empty except for one geezer looking at the racing and the place stinking of weed. The bill said “can we come behind the counter, we wouldn’t want to disturb your customers”, and just started laughing. Then as soon as they’d gone everyone one would be back asking “bookie man, what Babylon want?” and I’d say they were looking for some bloke or another and then I’d just see some geezer sneak off in the corner, so I’m thinking well he knows him!

How were things with the police back then?

1958 was the big race riot, but it carried on and in 1976 was the Carnival Riot. In the early 70s they kept raiding the clubs, the Mangrove Cafe was targeted and raided and that Frank Crichlow also had a club called the El Rio, and they raided that all the time. The El Rio was where Christine Keeler went buying weed and how the whole Profumo scandal kicked off. All the bohemians used to come down here to score weed and that’s how Christine Keeler met Lucky Gordon and Johnny Edgecombe. People never talk about that! Mostly though the old bill just left us alone in the shop. I think we had a deal or something with a couple of the local villains that meant we didn’t get touched. I think they raided it eventually, about a year after I left. But there were a lot of raids at that time. Basically, pubs around here wouldn’t serve black geezers and so they started opening their own clubs, cafes or shebeens and then the police just started raiding them all the time, arresting people for bullshit, and at the 1976 carnival it just kicked off.

How has the carnival changed in the times you’ve been going?

I started coming regularly to the carnival in the mid-80s. It wasn’t as huge as it is now; it was really a local thing. Recently it’s got bigger and bigger, but at the same time smaller and smaller as they hem it in. You know you used to be able to go anywhere and everywhere had something going on. It used to go on all night and you’d have soundsystems running till two in the morning. Now they shut it down at six and you have to fight your way out of the crowds – it’s shit man, how can they shut it down at six? They really want to ban it but they can’t. They are inching towards it though. Once they get it into Hyde Park that’ll be it though. I hope it will still be here in the future but whether there be anyone left around here to enjoy it I don’t know … Once this generation goes then there kids aren’t going to be living round here ‘cause they just can’t afford to live around here. It’s always the same, people want to move to an area because it is vibrant or whatever and move next to a famous music venue but then want to shut it down! It’s the same thing with the carnival. It’s bollocks, this area ain’t like that. It’s always been musical.

What will the area be like around here in 10 years time?

It’s hard to tell. Hopefully the same. Everyone moans about the change but it’s alright right now. Pubs are a bit pricey but otherwise if it stays like this it will be fine. You can’t moan about everything that’s new, some new things are good… but all the rich people moving in need to shut up with trying to clean up everything. Really though, it all depends on this house pricing thing that rules everything around here right now. If leases are coming up then the landlords are doubling rents and the only people that can afford them are coffee chains then we'll all end up all looking the same. Hopefully there are some people round here with the freeholds! You got to have a bit of diversity and that seems to be getting less and less.