Menu
POP

SUBSCRIBE NOW

There is more to come

Sign up to get the latest information for People of Portobello

The Westway

Tom

Music Journalist, Exhibition Curator & Colville Community History Project Coordinator (www.colvillecom.com)


"I came to London in the early 80s with the intention of moving into a squat in Ladbroke Grove"

How did you first end up on Portobello Road?

I’m not a born and bred local, though I’ve got some west London ancestry. I ended up here through my interest in the punk scene. I first came here in the late 70s with my provincial punk fanzine that I started up at college. I was a fan of this area, through the Clash and the reggae scene, but my main connection was with Rough Trade, the old shop on Kensington Park Road. They’re having their 40th anniversary this year. I’d come up to Rough Trade and Better Badges on Portobello Road with my really basic photocopied provincial fanzine and they encouraged me to keep doing it. I wasn’t really a proper music journalist on the weekly papers but I was kind of semi-professional on Zigzag magazine, which dates back to the 60s and the time of Hawkwind and the Pink Fairies. It wasn’t always based in Notting Hill but in the punk and reggae days it was on Talbot Road for a while.

So when did you move to the area?

I came to London in the early 80s, originally with the intention of moving into a squat in Ladbroke Grove. That was the ambition of a lot of people from around the country, maybe round the world. But the Ladbroke Grove squat didn’t happen in the end and I went on a bit of tour of London; Brixton, Elephant & Castle, Islington and Stoke Newington, where I was in the anarcho-punk squatting scene. Then in the later 80s, I moved over here when I got into Portobello Housing Co-op, which included members of the post-punk group prag VEC, and lived in a short-life house in the formerly squatted Republic of Frestonia. There were a lot of housing co-ops in the area that came out of the 60s community action movement. I was a music journalist and still doing my fanzine. I still continue it now but from the late 80s I started doing more stuff about cult films, conspiracy theories, the Situationists, 1968 and all that, rather than music. The Situationists’ main thing was psychogeography. It’s a Utopian way of trying to live in a city. I’m still trying to do something like that in Notting Hill but I still mostly write about film and pop culture.

So what are the main projects that you work on and what’s the motivation?

At school the only subjects I was interested in were history and geography. I wasn’t even interested in music, but then I became a teenage pop music fan. So I think I’m combining my interest in history and geography with my pop music obsession. I used to work for Kensington & Chelsea Community History Group, also known as Historytalk, in the early 2000s. That’s kind of split into various groups due to lack of funding and I’ve ended up doing the Colville ward history project. The last project I did was called The Sound of the Westway, commemorating 50 years since construction of the flyover began. I’ve just done an exhibition about that at Book & Kitchen on All Saints Road, and have done a few about the 1958 riots, Rachman and the Carnival at various local venues. There’s also a 60s community action one up the stairs at the Tabernacle.

My next project, which I’m continuing from the Westway one, will be commemorating the various anniversaries this year, the 50th of Muhammad Ali’s visit to the London Free School children’s group of Rhaune Laslett, who founded the Carnival later in 1966, and Pink Floyd’s gigs at All Saints church hall, then there’s the 40th of the Clash and Bob Marley and the Wailers recording ‘Exodus’ on Basing Street coming up – as the studios are converted into luxury flats. The London Free School group, led by John ‘Hoppy’ Hopkins, virtually founded British hippy counter-culture. The underground paper International Times, which I wrote for in the 80s and has recently been revived again, came out of the 1966 Free School newsletter, called The Gate and The Grove, which I’m trying to continue in some way.

So what does Portobello Road mean to you?

Well, I suppose, I was attracted by the Utopian hippy counter-culture and the punk and reggae scene – and I think it’s still an interesting area for psychogeography studies of what’s happening now. I don’t think the area has completely changed from what it was like in the 60s. Sometimes it does seem like it really is just a tourist destination now, but then you go around Powis Square and you see there’s still a multicultural community here. I guess, there’s no denying the property boom situation, and what’s happening with housing trust rents, but there are still some ordinary people living here. It’s not like it’s portrayed in the media, an area only inhabited by bankers and oligarchs. Well, maybe bits of it are but there is still a lot of social housing in the Notting Hill area. Where I live on Tavistock Road there’s still some poverty and comfort mixed like there was a hundred years ago.

Visit www.colvillecom.com or contact tomvague@gmail.com for more information on his local projects.