Tag Archives: fitzrovia journal

Charlotte Street News

Charlotte Street News

Words & Photography Kirk Truman

“…they need almost everything they can get their hands on from the print world. Magazines are their bibles…”

I wasn’t a publisher when I first set foot in Charlotte Street News as a teenager, just an unpublished writer without a readership – a nobody, really. At that time, almost a decade ago, I didn’t know whether I wanted to start a magazine; but what I did know is that I was already fascinated by the smell of ink, paper and creativity that came off the titles on the rack. I scanned from bottom to top, and if I recall correctly, I noticed an early issue of publisher Tyler Brule’s Monocle sitting there. It wasn’t love at first sight, but it was almost certainly lust. The different kinds of paper stock, the endless pages of content, the elegant layouts; I examined page after page in awe. And a seed was planted.

Print magazines are not a dying breed, as we’re often told; if anything, they’re on the rise. However, the newsstand is in decline. In Central London, there still are a number of speciality newsagents, but throughout much of the UK, newsstands are being priced out by big high street competitors. Here, within a matter of yards of each other between Soho, Bloomsbury and Fitzrovia, you can still find some of the most successful niche newsstands in the whole country, selling the finest publications and print products in the world. You can walk into Soho-based newsagents such as Wardour News and Good News, or Fitzrovia’s Charlotte Street News, and pick something up you’re unlikely to find anywhere else, from leading names such as Cereal and Kinfolk, to lesser known niche independent publications such as Intern Magazine and Drift. These newsstands feel like timeless outposts of creativity and individualism on a competitive high street where independents are always trying to survive in the face of fierce mainstream competition.

Originally from India, newsagent Perry Thaker started out on Charlotte Street in the late 1980s. Having just sold his newsagents in suburban New Malden, Perry was looking out for a fresh opportunity in central London when he stumbled upon the leasehold for what was to become the home of his new business on Charlotte Street. “Back then, Fitzrovia was a very different place from how we know it today. I moved in January 1988, and Fitzrovia was far from the media village some would describe it as now,” he tells me. “It was a mess when I moved in, and I worked hard to get it into shape. We got off to a great start, and within a couple of months I began supplying names such as Channel 4 and Saatchi & Saatchi. Fitzrovia was becoming more and more of a hub, and I was picking up a number of supply chains to businesses in the area. Channel 4 become one of my biggest customers, and because of them ITV became a regular customer too. This is how it is for me – it grows organically.” Deliveries, supply chains and subscriptions have grown to be Perry’s biggest source of custom over the years, with Fitzrovia’s growing range of businesses requiring a large range of publications to be supplied on a regular basis. “These companies, they need almost everything they can get their hands on from the print world. Magazines are their bibles, and it’s our responsibility to get them to them,” he says.

In January 2018, Charlotte Street News will be 30 years old. Perry admits he finds it hard to believe that three decades have gone by, although he says he has seen major changes both in the publishing industry and Fitzrovia over that time. “It’s become one of the greatest neighbourhoods in Central London. I know it’s much more established now, but to me it still feels like a well-kept secret hidden between Soho and Camden. You have to search it out,” he says. “Print has had a tough time, which has meant that editors and entrepreneurs have had to go back to the drawing board to think hard about how they can make their products work, succeed, and ultimately survive. I’ve seen a lot of magazines disappear because of the Internet. Especially amongst the younger generation today, people don’t have to seek out information and stories from the rack anymore – they can find it their pocket or on their screens at home. Although the rise of digital has made it a tough market for print, seen in another light it may have helped to underline its importance. We survive on the back of a tangible and niche product, and digital will never be able to replace that special identity.”

Independent publishers trying to take a paid-for publication to market feel the squeeze. Distributors here in London, such as WhiteCirc and Ra & Olly, supply newsagents like Charlotte Street News with the latest publications on a sale or return basis; translated into non-business speak, this means that Perry will receive the latest publications from new publishers (around 10 or so copies) and will only pay the distributor once the copies are sold. For a new publisher, just like any prospective business owner, this means taking your product to market is highly risky. New publications require a large amount of investment and time to get right, with no guarantee of success. Take my word for it: it’s a lot of legwork! So, when you pick up one of those biannual or quarterly independent titles on the rack – titles that have been in circulation for a number of years – you can be sure that somebody worked themselves into the ground to make it happen. Today, Perry doesn’t stock tabloid newspapers, he specialises in rare, speciality and niche magazines or high-circulation publications such as The Week and Monocle. Charlotte Street News is undoubtedly Fitzrovia’s leading newsagent. You won’t find cigarettes and alcohol here, or the ramblings of the Daily Mail – only well-styled perfection in print form. This is a gallery of publishers’ dreams.

Joshua Kane

Joshua Kane

Words & Portraits Kirk Truman

“I wanted to sell, design and produce clothes with my name on them, with my own particular vision.”

It’s safe to say that Joshua Kane has been on my radar for a while now. Since hearing about him some months back, I’d been intending to find a way for us to work together. Friends from all walks of life, at least those with an eye for clothes, seemed to mention his name to me at every opportunity; and then, a pleasing coincidence occurred. Little did I know, but London’s dandiest tailor was about to leave his first store in Spitalfields Market and land on my doorstop right here in Fitzrovia.

Joshua is a designer trained in bespoke tailoring. He dresses the stars, has just finished producing the wardrobe for a Hollywood film and is now part of the Fitzrovia scene, having opened his new flagship store at 68 Great Portland Street, on the corner with Little Titchfield Street, in December 2016. ‘Blood, sweat and shears’ is his motto, and the underlying philosophy that has guided his journey to establishing his own eponymous label.

Taking a stroll around the new store, I note stylish ready-to-wear suits, leather jackets, coats, shirts and shoes for men & women all artfully arranged for maximum impact. The mannequins by the door and the spotlights that glare down from the ceiling make it feel like a show at London Fashion Week. In an area once home to London’s traditional rag trade, this is a new breed of retail space, and Joshua, ever a perfectionist, has nailed it. This new venture is just the latest destination on a journey he set out on many years ago, another step on the way to achieving his dream. “As a teenager, I was a semi-professional football, I skateboarded every day, and I loved sports. At that age, people start to think about what they want to wear and start going out to buy clothes,” Joshua says. “I remember the first time I went out looking in shops at things that I wanted to wear, and everything I tried on I never liked for a number of reasons. It’d be too long, or I wouldn’t like the colour, the cut or the feel. At this point, I really didn’t know what any of this meant, but I knew I wanted to do it differently. I’d spent my childhood making things such as toys and models, and then I turned to clothes. I’d buy things and try to alter them – making simple adjustments, gluing things and ripping things. I did whatever I could to make it more like something I wanted to be wearing. At school, in my fine art course, I had a fashion module. Like any young football-playing lad, I sneered at it at the time; though as soon as I started doing it, from a product and functionality perspective, I just fell in love with it. This was the beginning of me making things that I could wear every single day.”

Having won something of an affluent following, with wearers including TV presenter and comedian Alex Zane and actors Michelle Keegan and Jason Mamoa, Joshua has made a name for himself as the dandiest tailor in London. “After school, I went on to take an art foundation course, where I focused on textiles and design, at Oxford Brookes University. Following that, I went on to study fashion design at Kingston University. I fell in love with it, and worked myself into the ground for three years. By this point, anything sport-related was out the window. I’d discovered myself in fashion and design,” he says. “I went on to work at Brooks Brothers, and then Jaeger menswear. At this point, I had a little studio in my apartment in Islington where I was designing and making things for myself. I had dreams, and my own idea for a label; it was always the plan for me at the back of my mind, and the whole journey I was on. I wanted to sell, design and produce clothes with my name on them, with my own particular vision.”

Away from his day-job, the clothes Joshua was busy creating for himself caused a stir amongst his friends and peers. “I was obsessed. I was a perfectionist. I was meticulous about every detail that was going into what I was wearing. I was always wearing my own clothes, and work colleagues, friends, and people I knew were asking if I’d make something for them. They couldn’t believe I’d made everything myself,” he says. “People would look at what I was wearing, and they loved it. There was this great feeling of instant respect from friends and peers. It allowed me to climb the ladder, maybe quicker than I should’ve done, and gave me the confidence to move forward with my work. I had skills that people had trained years for, and I had them because I was an obsessive-compulsive, and loved the process of making things.” At this point, Joshua was working at Burberry, designing for the Burberry Prorsum line, where he worked for just under three years. Later he moved onto Paul Smith, working on the London and British collections for another nearly three-year stint. “Sir Paul was a hero of mine. He was the first person I ever sent a CV to when I graduated. He never responded! I told him that when he hired me actually,” he laughs.

Joshua’s plan was to start his label when he turned 30 – though when he was still only 28 a friend, Jimmy Q, approached him about making and designing him a suit. At the time, the idea of taking on extra work outside of his day job wasn’t feasible, so he begun to consider focusing on his own brand idea. “I explained to him that I didn’t make for anybody else at the moment, that I was exploring the idea of making clothes for people. He was a similar size to me, so he ended up borrowing one of my suits to wear on the red carpet, where he did an interview. He appeared in GQ magazine’s top-dressed of the week section wearing my suit. This was the first time I’d ever had any press for my work, which had always been a personal thing. After that, I decided it was time to move on and go solo. It was the weirdest feeling – I shat myself doing that! I didn’t have any investment, I didn’t have any finance, but what I did have was a range of contacts that liked what I produced. I didn’t know what was going to happen next – all I knew was that I was unemployed and had to try to make my label work. I began approaching people I knew had wanted to wear my suits for years, and it started to take off from my studio in Islington.” Joshua was able to make a living doing personal tailoring, carrying out fittings and making everything at home, selling the resulting range of suits to friends and contacts.

Having outgrown his Islington studio space, where he produced his first ready-to-wear collection, Joshua went on to open his store in Spitalfields Market in 2014, where he remained until late last year. “Our clients and wearers of the brand mostly had their lives oriented around the West End. I think being where I was in Spitalfields meant that at times I was pigeonholed as an East End tailor. With the store moving into the Fitzrovia neighbourhood, we’re bringing the clothes to the wearers of the brand, instead of them coming to us. Fitzrovia is where it’s at,” he declares. “What’s made it work is all the personal relationships we’ve built. Since we opened this new space, people have responded phenomenally. There’s been a real buzz, and a huge amount of support. It’s been a team effort from friends, family and our followers, coming together to do something much bigger than we would ever havr thought possible in the beginning.” Going forward, this year will see Joshua concentrate more on his womenswear line, with his latest collection due to be showcased at London Fashion Week in February this year. “I want to further focus on the lifestyle element of the brand. I want people to realise that it can be for him and it can be for her. Fitzrovia is a door to new opportunities for us. Opening this shop really feels like the beginning in some ways. We’re men’s & women’s tailoring with a difference – it’s as simple as that.” Fitzrovia in some ways still feels like new territory for Joshua. As he continues to build relationships from his Great Portland Street base, I’m certain that Fitzrovia’s newest tailor will flourish in the neighbourhood: there’s a perfect match between the growing brand and the evolving character of the area. Welcome to the hood, Mr Kane.



Daniel Bates

Daniel Bates

Words & Portraits Etienne Gilfillan

For years, Fitzrovia has enjoyed a sort of sleepy anonymity. While tourists flocked to popular haunts in Soho, Marylebone and Mayfair, this corner of the West End seemed somewhat neglected, the last refuge of a half-forgotten Bohemian London. But last June Fitzrovia’s streets and squares played host to a series of concerts, workshops and social events designed to highlight the area’s illustrious past. FitzFest was born, boasting a decidedly ambitious programme for a first-time Festival, and its organisers succeeded in producing an event that successfully celebrated the neighbourhood’s singular artistic heritage and remarkable cultural diversity.

“The main inspiration for me was finding the book Characters of Fitzrovia by Mike Pentelow and Marsha Rowe at the Fitzrovia Centre. Until I read the book, I had little idea about the history of the area – all the crazy, wonderful things that happened and all the fantastic characters who walked these streets”, explains Dan Bates, FitzFest’s artistic director. But its more recent past was just as important an inspiration. “Fitzrovia was an area which for many generations had been the home of inner-London, working class immigrants and Bohemian artists. I wanted to help remember the historical identity of Fitzrovia – its community and creativity, its social and ethnic diversity – amidst the changes happening in the area.”

Though the idea of a festival to celebrate the area had been gestating in Dan’s mind for some time, it was one of his neighbours who was instrumental in really opening his eyes to the possibilities. “My neighbour, Joyce Hooper, is in her 80s and has lived in the same Local Authority flat in Fitzrovia for over 60 years. She is the absolute expert on the area, knows everyone and is a fascinating source of oral local history. She explained how when she first arrived, the neighbourhood was considered a Jewish area; then it saw the arrival of Cypriot, Chinese and Bangladeshi communities; and further changes occurred when many Local Authority and Peabody flats were sold to tenants in the 1980s and 90s.” It was Joyce’s memories of the different types of music she had heard throughout her life in Fitzrovia that inspired Dan to start a local festival with an emphasis on music. But FitzFest is also more than a festival. Last year it offered music education workshops at All Soul’s Primary School, provided music for poorly children at UCL Hospital and organised performances for older members of the community at All Soul’s Clubhouse.

Last year’s FitzFest opening event brought past and future together in a tour de force elegy to the voices of Fitzrovia’s history by music pioneer Scanner. The public opening of the Fitzrovia chapel was accompanied by an extraordinary sound collage, running for 24 hours a day, evoking the history of the chapel and incorporating the memories and voices of all those for whom the Middlesex Hospital was an important place. Scanner composed a soundtrack to which was added recorded interviews with people in whose lives the hospital had played a significant role, while musicians working in shifts throughout the day added improvised elements to the proceedings.

But the Festival’s strength lay not only in celebrating Fitzrovia’s past but also in the diversity and eclecticism of its offerings, as Dan explains. “It being the first year I wanted to throw everything I could muster at the festival and try and include as many people as possible.” As a hugely experienced classical musician – he holds the position of principal oboe for the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightenment, the City of London Sinfonia and the Irish Chamber Orchestra, as well as guesting with most of the country’s major orchestras and recording with the likes of Stevie Wonder, Rihanna and Barbra Streisand – Dan is in a perfect position to pull together all sorts of musical strands for FitzFest, calling on his wide range of musical colleagues to ensure a varied calendar of events. So it was that Fitzrovia’s local musical heritage became one of the main elements of the festival. A major highlight was a performance of Carl Maria von Weber’s brilliant Clarinet Quintet by world famous clarinettist Jörg Widmann in the very room in the Portland Place School in which the German composer is said to have died during a visit to London in 1826. Local resident Sue Blundell provided a piece for an actor and musicians about the life of local composer Eric Coates; his famous Dambusters March remains probably his best known work, but he also wrote a number of charming ‘light music’ pieces inspired by London life and locations, including ‘Knightsbridge’, which became the theme of the BBC’s In Town Tonight. Coates still has plenty of fans, it turns out. “The venue was the room above the Ship pub on New Cavendish Street, and it was such a sell-out success that we repeated it in early January this year and are going to repeat it in this year’s FitzFest as well.”

Of special note were performances by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (OAE), with all music played on authentic period wind instruments made in Berners Street. “The OAE play on instruments that would have been in common use in the composer’s day and age,” Dan tells me. “A lot of the instruments that the orchestra play these days are copies of the historical instruments, because though many originals survive, few are in playing condition now. String instruments generally improve with age, while wind instruments don’t last very long!”

In the 18th and 19th centuries, Fitzrovia was a centre of the furniture trade, and the two industries of furniture-making and musical instruments were strongly associated with each other, developing side by side. “If you think about it, a wooden flute is really just a hollow chair leg – with a few refinements of course! Many makers operated on Hanway Street, others on Newman Street, while Berners Street saw several generations of flute makers.”

This year’s Festival, made possible thanks to Derwent London’s support, will build on last year’s successes but add an interesting interactive element. “Last year, audiences seemed to like spoken word stuff particularly, be it dramatic performances or talks about the local area. I am hoping to build on this for the next festival and invite Mike Pentelow and Nick Bailey back to talk about Fitzrovia. I’m also planning a murder mystery treasure hunt around the neighbourhood – that will be fun!” Another of last year’s Festival favourites will return this time around: free yoga sessions at the Fitzrovia Chapel with teacher Andy Sotto. “They were very popular classes – people loved lying on the floor and looking up at the amazing ceiling.”

Daniel also hopes to extend his range of venues this year. “The BT Tower would be the ultimate – it’s the major symbol of Fitzrovia. I’m always on the lookout for interesting spaces that people might not normally have access to – car parks, disused swimming pools and so on.”

FitzFest 2017 runs from 8-11 June 2017.

Clifford Slapper

Clifford Slapper

Words & Portraits Kirk Truman

“I played the piano for what was to be his last ever television appearance in the world…”

The rain is tumbling down outside as Clifford Slapper begins to caress the piano keys atop Quo Vadis in Dean Street. It’s a familiar setting for him, one he played in every night for a number of years. Pianist, producer and now author, Clifford has strong ties with the Fitzrovia neighbourhood, as well as nearby Soho. The author of the first ever biography of David Bowie’s most frequent collaborator, pianist Mike Garson, Clifford is himself a well-respected keyboard talent, having collaborated with a multitude of singers and musicians throughout his career. Now, he has turned his attention to creating and releasing Bowie Songs One,an album in which a variety of vocalists join Clifford at the piano to celebrate the music of the late David Bowie in a collection of 10 of the Starman’s songs.

Born and raised in North London, Clifford has lived in Fitzrovia for the past 17 years, first on Cleveland Street and now on Charlotte Street, where he works from his studio. During his time here he has run a number of live club nights in venues around the area, from Bourne & Hollingsworth to Charlotte Street Blues, on the same site where, back in the 1930s when it was called the Swiss Club, David Bowie’s father ran a speakeasy-style jazz piano club in the basement. Clifford has made a name for himself as a go-to composer and professional musician, having performed at almost every club in this square mile of London, from the Groucho to Ronnie Scott’s, The 100 Club to The Ivy. “I don’t think there’s a single private members club around here that I haven’t actually played in,” he says. “I’ve come to find a balance between music and writing. It was a fortuitous chance that was I with Mike Garson, the long-term piano collaborator of David Bowie. We were talking for quite a while, and we got talking about Bowie, whom we’ve both worked with, and discussed the idea of me writing his biography. He said to me that I’d be the perfect person to do it, so I sort of jumped in at the deep end, and five years later, after a long labour of love, I published it.” The result, Bowie’s Piano Man: The Life of Mike Garson, was published in 2015 by Fantom Books and has been extremely well received.

Clifford discovered his love of the keyboard as a youngster, when his parents bought him a toy piano. Drawn to playing live, by his teens he was regularly performing in pubs all over Islington. “For some reason, Islington has more pianos per square mile than any other borough of London! It became my stomping ground, and I played in a hell of a lot of places over the years,” he says. From Islington’s pub music scene, he continued to expand his musical horizons, going on to collaborate with designers such as Marc Jacobs and Tom Baker and performing at fashion shows. More significantly, in recent years Clifford has been working both as a composer and a recording artist, much in demand as a session pianist. “I started being approached by producers, to play for people like Marc Almond,” he says. “I also began co-writing with Robert Love, who sung the theme song to The Sopranos”.

In addition to these collaborators, he has gone on to work alongside household names such as Boy George, Jarvis Cocker, Angie Brown, Suggs from Madness and Spandau Ballet’s Gary Kemp. He also had the chance to collaborate with one of the major inspirations of his musical life, the late David Bowie. “Towards the end of the 1960s, Bowie was really struggling to get his career going. So, he came up with the ingenious idea for the character of Ziggy Stardust: an imaginary rock star from another planet. The character was everything he was trying to be, but was yet to become,” Clifford says. “With the Aladdin Sane album, he took the character of Ziggy on tour in America, which made his career really explode. Bowie’s entire band at this point was British, and then they recruited my friend Mike Garson, who is American, to join and play with them in the early 1970s. Bowie found America such an alarming and disturbing place to be. He was a true inspiration to me as a youngster – he inspired me in my music, and inspired me to pursue a career as a pianist,” remembers Clifford. “Some people say never work with your idols, as you’ll be disappointed, but David Bowie completely fulfilled my expectations. We spent two days together working on the set of the Ricky Gervais comedy series Extras, just the two of us. He was a complete gentleman: modest, a perfectionist and entirely unassuming. He was incredibly funny, and had the whole crew in hysterics. I played the piano for what was to be his last ever television appearance in the world.”

Clifford’s composing and production work has become the primary focus of his career in recent years. He started work on the Bowie Songs Project in 2014, with the intention of reinterpreting some of the star’s greatest songs in unplugged acoustic settings, arranged for just voice and piano. Now, just over a year since Bowie’s death, Clifford’s first collection of recordings from the project will be released on March 3rd this year. Bowie Songs One has already been attracting a lot of attention. An intensely personal project for Clifford, this alternative take on the musical genius of David Bowie matches a wide range of contemporary vocalists, including Billie Ray Martin, David McAlmont, Katherine Ellis and Ian Shaw, with Clifford’s distinctive work on the keys. The collection moves from early works like ‘Letter to Hermione’, from Space Oddity, to Seventies classics like ‘Time’, from Aladdin Sane and ‘Stay’, from Station to Station, providing a fresh view of classic songs that both complements and brings a new approach to the originals. From his earliest musical inspiration to this contemporary reinterpretation, Clifford Slapper’s keyboard journey has, after all these years, come full circle.

Fitzrovia Dawn

Fitzrovia Dawn

Words & Photography Kirk Truman

To me, London is at its best in the early hours when it is nearly deserted and all but silent. Fitzrovia at dawn can appear a harsh, even bleak place, yet it offers a varied and inspiring tapestry of visuals to explore. From the shadows cast by the day’s first commuters to the eerie shapes cast by the approaching morning light, Fitzovia’s streets take on an entirely different quality at this time of day from their later bustle. Compiled during the last few weeks of 2016, this series explores the sights of Fitzrovia between 5 and 7 o’clock in the morning.

Six Physio

Six Physio

Words Kirk Truman

Photography Pete Drinkell

“Call us old fashioned but we believe that prevention is better than cure…”

There’s a new addition to Fitzrovia’s growing health and wellness scene. Recent Mortimer Street newcomers Psycle introduced us to low-impact, head-to-toe bike workouts, while on Euston’s Drummond Street Ringtone Boxing Gym has continued a tradition of workouts and training methods used by old-school boxers. Now, Six Physio has relocated from its former premises on Harley Street to 19 Foley Street offering both 3:1 and 1:1 Pilates sessions with their experienced therapists.

“Don’t treat, cure”. This is the Six Physio’s watchword, and I admit that I was sceptical at first. Six Physio started out small in a room with a phone in SW6. Back then, the idea was to never, ever compromise on doing the very best for their patients – and the idea hasn’t changed. Six Physio aren’t out to be the biggest in their game; instead, they’re about being the best at what they do. To date, they have established 10 clinics throughout Central London, stretching from Chelsea, to Moorgate and Leadenhall. They have also made their presence felt in other ways, including holding onto Best Company and Sunday Times Top 100 Small Companies to Work For titles for an impressive four years in a row.

The ‘physio’ bit in the name is important; it’s the major part of what they do. Entering the Foley Street clinic, it quickly becomes apparent that this isn’t just a gym, but something much bolder. Although clients do carry out exercise at Six Physio, it’s the ‘physio’ element that sets them aside from other leading gyms and clinics in the area. Having now provided the very best physiotherapy in London for a quarter of a century, they’re experts in their field. Offering sports physiotherapy, help with back pain, and oncology physiotherapy, physiotherapists consult with patients about their specific issues with the intention of tackling the problem within three weeks. Furthermore, if there is no sign of a visible change within that period, the therapists won’t continue to treat, and will instead refer patients on for further investigation within their network of first-rate consultants; or as they put it: three strikes, and you’re out!

During my first ever one-on-one pilates session with Rehabilitation Physiotherapist Ailish Toomey, I was asked about any health problems I had. Following the equipment-based pilates, Ailish examined my recently sprained ankle, locating the cause of the discomfort. Advising me how to eradicate the problem, she clearly and effectively demonstrated how to massage the Extensor Digitorum Longus (what you and I would simply refer to as a muscle on our lower leg). I kept this up for a few days, and within a week or so was definitely on the mend.

As strange as it might sound, Six Physio’s key tool is talking people better. Their treatments are heavily dependent on a process of open and clear communication about health and fitness, which in turn provides the best results. Their physiotherapists provide patients with the relevant knowledge and support required to properly manage their own fitness or health condition – meaning you don’t have to keep coming back. Here, prevention is definitely better than cure. After 14 years at their Harley Street clinic, they have successfully nestled themselves in Fitzrovia, offering the same team and service in a bright, modern space, comprising six treatment rooms and a large, newly-equipped Pilates studio. Six Physio is a welcome new addition to Foley Street, and one for which residents with aches and pains or workers looking to improve their health will undoubtedly be grateful in the future.

Visit Six Physio in store at 19 Foley Street or online to enquire about bookings & treatments.

A Home of  World Culture

A Home of World Culture

Words Kirk Truman

Photography Etienne Gilfillan

“I’ve always had this love of human creativity, what people can create, and what nature can create…”

A few years ago, one Fitzrovian opened my eyes a little wider to the neighbourhood… and the world beyond. She encouraged me to look, to listen and to really see this village in the city through her eyes. Her name is Rebecca Hossack. She’s beautiful, seemingly ageless, and strikingly tall. She’s intellectual and influential, a respected businesswoman, an established art dealer, and a member of the local council. And considering how remarkably down-to-earth she is, it’s easy to forget the success of her eponymously named galleries here in Fitzrovia and across the pond in New York City. She’s remarkably open when discussing her business, and her abiding love of Fitzrovia, but Rebecca values her privacy too, especially when it comes to her home environment and her own personal art collection, so I was delighted when she invited me into this very special place.

Born in 1955, Rebecca has a Scottish family heritage and was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia. She began studying for the Bar at Lincoln’s Inn in the early 1980s when she first came to England, but soon after opted for a career in art. After borrowing £20,000 to open her first gallery on Windmill Street in 1988, Rebecca has gone on to establish two successful Fitzrovia-based galleries, on Charlotte Street and Conway Street, with another in the heart of Lower Manhattan, New York. Today, her presence and her mission are as uncompromising as ever: she wants to create a sanctuary where people can come to find themselves among the artworks, greenery and peace of her galleries.

The same approach to creating a unique space extends to her domestic environment. Just round the corner from Conway Street, in a classic, flat-fronted Fitzrovia terrace, she and her husband Matthew Sturgis have created a beautiful home that’s as full of the unexpected as her galleries, and filled with Rebecca’s extensive personal collection of non-Western art and artefacts. It begs the question: is her home is an extension of her galleries, or her galleries an extension of her home?

As we stand in the kitchen, Rebecca talks to me while making a pot of tea. “This is a house of world culture. Everything in the house isn’t just a thing – it has meaning and a personal touch. Everything is made or created by somebody I or my husband knows. In the kitchen alone, all of the cups and saucers are made by the octogenarian potter, Anne Stokes, from Hampstead,” she says, handing to me a plate inspired by the Aboriginal artist Jimmy Pike. We step down into the basement of the house, which Rebecca’s refers to as her ‘earth room’. “Everything in here is homemade. Because it’s downstairs, I wanted this to be the earth room. Everything down here is made from the earth. The floor is leather and the curtains are woven leather,” she tells me. From a rare wooden medieval chest, to a woven high-back Orkney Scottish chair and a Haitian voodoo flag, the contents of the earth room rival the displays at the British Museum or the V&A, both of whom have taken objects and artefacts from her home on loan through the years. Rebecca walks me to the end of the room, where she introduces me to a series of paintings, and two aboriginal funeral poles. “These are our hollow log coffins. When Matthew and I die, I’ll go in this one, and he’ll go in that one; your bones gone in there. Traditionally, the aboriginals would hang your dead body on a tree until you’d fully decomposed, then bleach your bones, and stuff them in the log. I’m hoping my log can be planted in Fitzroy Square. I’m not sure how the residents will take to it though!” she laughs.

Her relationship with art and collecting has been a long one, growing throughout her life. It began when she was a child in Melbourne. “Ever since I was tiny, I have been collecting. I’ve always had this love of human creativity, what people can create, and what nature can create. I’ve always had an obsession with flowers,” she says. “I’ve had many, many collections during my life; my first one was of glass animals. I have always loved collecting – what humans have made is a source of infinite delight to me. I am not delighted by many modern things: the public realm constantly disappoints me.”

Rebecca’s lifelong love affair with aboriginal and non-Western art   is an unmistakable product of her Australian origins. “I am from a family of three generations of Scottish weavers. My father was a doctor, and all of my family were tradespeople and factory workers. I was the first member of the family to break from the norm. It’s funny how suddenly that happens, and why,“ she observes. “Through the galleries I represent 40 artists, all non-Western. I kind of made it my mission to work with only non-Western artists. Today, I think we have more pictures and paintings than any other house in Fitzrovia – somewhere in the region of 430 – and an extensive book collection made up of my and my husband’s personal collections. I don’t know what to do now, because I really have run out of room on the walls. Each one is personal and like a jewel, with so much knowledge and meaning. That’s maybe my biggest existential problem in life now!” she laughs. “It’s really hard to have a minimalist house filled with this many books and pictures. Everything on the walls is rare enough to be in the British Museum – some of it has been at one time or another!” Rebecca and I walk through the entrance hall of her house. I am examining a series of solid bronze cactuses when she draws my attention to a painting that covers most of the wall space. “The picture you are looking at here is by the Spinifex people. I went to the most remote place on the earth on Christmas Day to meet them some years ago in the Great Victoria Desert. Little was known about these people – so much so that the British used the site for nuclear weapons testing,” she says. “The painting tells the story of a nuclear weapons test, in which they evacuated their homeland.”

The Rebecca Hossack Art Gallery has been an established presence in Fitzrovia for almost 30 years now, and is renowned for showing exciting, often eye-opening work by international artists. Walking around Rebecca’s galleries, as in her home, you are greeted at every turn by figurative drawings, paintings and sculptures that go against existing trends in the art world and are quite unlike anything you’ll see elsewhere. The galleries frequently show work on paper by Aboriginal artists from Australia, and are undoubtedly among London’s most enviably independent and original gallery spaces. Rebecca Hossack is a Fitzrovia institution. Despite her protestations about lack of space, I suspect her extensive personal art collection will continue to grow, just as her galleries will continue to showcase some of the most exciting and unexpected art to be seen in Fitzrovia. Home and gallery are, in the end, of a piece, and 100 per cent Rebecca.

Shrimoyee Chakraborty

Shrimoyee Chakraborty

Words & Photography Etienne Gilfillan

“…I didn’t like studying, so my mum got me to the kitchen to do my homework while she cooked.”

The first thing you notice upon entering Calcutta Street is the colour: a bright aquamarine exterior, with menus like wooden window shutters in the same brilliant hue. The second thing is the menu: to those unacquainted with regional Indian cooking, the dishes may seem unfamiliar – after all we’re so used to traditional Indian restaurants serving the usual curries – but Calcutta Street aims to bring a culinary rarity to London diners: authentic Bengali cuisine. There are mains such as Panchmishali Torkari, seasonal vegetables cooked with panch phoran, a classic Bengali five-spice mixture, and billed as ‘Grandmother’s classic’; Kosha Mangsho, a rich and fragrant Bengali-style lamb Curry; and a delicious sea bass cooked in banana leaf – and all come with a personal touch. This is Shrimoyee Chakraborty’s sanctuary, and all her dishes originate “from her family kitchen on Gariahat Road”.

“When I moved to England, I hated the curry houses here. I didn’t like the décor. The style, it was far too… I mean, I wouldn’t go on a date there, and that’s not the India I grew up with. I was sick and tired of slum India, poor India… we’re all about reds and oranges, we’re all about wearing a sari and Bollywood.” Her response was to start a blog called Calcutta Street, which described itself as “a celebration of my city and a montage of happy memories growing up in a household obsessed with food and entertaining.” “I was like, right, this is real Indian food, not what you eat in those restaurants, and I think that’s why the blog got attention.”

Looking back, Shrimoyee credits her mother, who at the time was doing a PhD in philosophy, with awakening her culinary imagination.  “When I was very young, like every other kid, I didn’t like studying, so my mum got me to the kitchen to do my homework while she cooked. She used to sit there and say “Finish your homework!” but instead, everything else was more interesting and more exciting than my school books. My mother is a fantastic cook. She loves experimenting and used to incentivise me to learn to cook and try new things. She would say ‘Right, if you finish this paragraph you can make a dough or whatever’. That’s how I started enjoying it.” As she grew more confident, Shrimoyee became more adventurous. “When my mum wasn’t home, I used to go to the kitchen and make things by myself. Even now, if I’m confused about a recipe I call her up for advice.”

But Shrimoyee’s journey from childhood experimentation in the kitchen to full-blown restaurateur has as many unusual twists as her recipes. “I grew up in Calcutta and left at 16. When I was in my teens I had all sorts of ideas! I always wanted to do something a bit different from the norm. First, I wanted to be a female pilot. After that, I wanted to market independent films, because I was really into foreign language films – Bertolucci, Almodovar and especially Satyajit Ray.” But coming from a very academic family, her parents balked at the idea of her studying media. “It was a complete taboo! So instead, I did economics but with a media major for my undergrad degree.”

Though she had a taste of the media world in India, doing some presenting for the Disney channel, Shrim decided to move to Manchester, where she did a Masters in global business analysis. “I thought ‘I’m going to go the corporate route – I want to make a lot of money!’ But really, I was never a money-driven person.” She worked at Royal Bank of Scotland, then in advertising at WPP, before finally being poached by Yelp. “They said ‘Right, here’s the Yelp brand from America – launch it! It’s your baby!’ That was the best thing ever!” But after a year and a half, London beckoned. A stint at the Sunday Times was followed by a job at the economic think tank Asia House. “I was the head of programming, researching foreign markets and finally using my economics degree, dealing with big companies to do economic analysis.” But in the midst all this, Shrimoyee had also launched her food blog, yearning to get back to her passion for food. “At first, it was just a hobby. When I started it, I was looking at other blogs that were just generic recipes written down; there was nothing that was specifically regional, like the cuisine I make here.” Shrim started doing video blogs. From this came TV opportunities. “Channel 4, Travel, and Living, got in touch. I was doing shows here and there. And then the Independent came to interview me and asked me what’s the next step, and I said I want to do pop-ups!”

A soul-searching trip to the East and West coasts of America convinced her she needed to act on her instincts. “I saw these investment bankers who’d left their jobs to make their own cheese and stuff like that, and I thought Wow! This is very inspiring!” From this point, there was no stopping Shrim. Her first pop-up in Camden featured Bengali cuisine with a street food theme. “I was really just testing the market. I blagged my way in, telling the owner I have this blog with 1,700 followers and I can get you 50 people through the door on a Sunday afternoon when you’re not busy.” Instead, we got 100 people and ran out of food – it was complete chaos!” More pop-ups followed, from Bonnie Gull in Exmouth market to the South Bank Festival and live jazz events with sitar players.

“I barely had any time, but I realised I needed to stop the pop-ups; so I wrote a business plan overnight, thinking about how I could try and raise some funding. After all, what’s the worst that can happen?” Investors quickly saw Shrim’s potential and lined up to help her start her own business. “I saw this property on Tottenham Street and I thought It looked super cute! I always wanted to be near Charlotte Street. So we got the builders in and Fitzrovia’s Calcutta Street was born!”

For Shrimoyee, introducing the culture of Calcutta, as well as its cuisine, was one of the most important aspects of opening her restaurant. “That’s why our menu holders are Bengali books by great authors, because art and literature are a huge part of Calcutta’s culture. And all the artwork in the restaurant is by local artists from the region. Calcutta also has a huge amount of cinema history – the first ever Oscar for an Indian film was won by Satyajit Ray, a Bengali director, so I want to screen some of his films and showcase that side of our culture.” Ambitious, fiery, and most of all passionate about bringing the authenticity of her Bengali roots to her restaurant, Shrim is hoping her journey and her food will offer a different perception of India to London diners.

Romain Bruneau

Romain Bruneau

Words & Photography Etienne Gilfillan

“I was working in the comics section and developed taste for the more indie type of graphic novels…”

There was something almost sacrilegious about asking Romain into a church to shoot some portraits of him, as he comes across as a kind of Barista Lord of the Dark. His drawings of Cthulhu-esque tentacled creatures and detailed observations of insects are pinned around Kin, the Fitzrovia café where he works, and provide some clues to this enigmatic character.

“I started drawing in December last year. I’m influenced by loads of things, like Black Metal imagery, occult stuff, the Italian Renaissance, and “outsider artists” like Fred Deux and Cecile Reims, as well as my friend Al Doyle.” Romain’s interest in comics was first aroused when he worked in a bookshop in Paris, where he grew up. “ I was working in the comics section and developed taste for the more indie type of graphic novels. Winshluss, whose Pinocchio won the 2009 Angouleme prize, is a particular favourite but I love American artists like Charles Burns and Daniel Clowes.”

Romain only developed an interest in drawing as a way to pass the time while taking some time out from another of his passions: music. He started playing guitar at 14 and formed his first band at 16. “It was a perfect way to get out of the suburbs, do stuff in Paris and it also allowed us travel a lot. As we were involved in the punk scene I spent loads of time hanging out in squats: the perfect place to meet weirdos who shared the same ideas and a will to live their lives in a different way. It was also a great place for creativity and the cradle of many musical projects.” A few years studying sound engineering were a bit of a disappointment. “ I thought I would find that as good as playing music … that wasn’t the case.”

It was in Ireland that his focus really crystallised. “I’d always wanted to live abroad. My friend Arnaud moved to Dublin, so I was visiting him quite a lot. When our Irish friends and fellow punks wanted to spend some time in Paris, they’d stay at mine. So I had strong connections before I moved. I started three bands over there – Rats Blood, Ghost Trap and Cat Piss Brain Rot – all of them through the punk scene.” As a guitarist and occasional vocalist, he still regularly plays with Rats Blood but has started two new bands: High Vis, a post-punk outfit, and Love Song, a more melodic project. “Most of my projects have a political stance, they are all based on a D.I.Y libertarian/anarchistic ethic I would say.” Though his influences include punk and death metal, he’s nothing if not than eclectic in his tastes, with jazz, hip-hop and classical all feeding into the mix. “I love watching the LSO at the Barbican Centre,” he tells me.

The extensive gigging with his numerous bands has taken him to an equally varied range of unusual venues. “From the middle of a forest in the north of Germany to a small local football stadium in Italy. We also ended up squatting in Barcelona, in tunnels built underneath a mansion. They told us they were built as an escape route during the Civil War. I remember sleeping in a room the squatters had discovered after knocking the walls down. There was a massive pentagram in the tiles on the floor. I slept within it – and all the people who slept outside it got bitten by bed bugs! Ahah!!!”

Now living full time in London, Romain divides his time between his day job as head barista at Kin, playing music and discovering London on his bike. “I kinda cycle everywhere in London – the best way to commute! I love skyscrapers, the mix of old and new architecture, the brutalist Barbican Centre is cool… the Tate Modern… also the old Battersea Power Station.”

Romain’s obvious interest in the unusual side of London becomes apparent as we do some more portraits, this time in one of Fitzrovia’s hidden gems, the Grant Museum of Zoology. “In Paris I used to love visiting the Musée d’Histoire Naturelle, where you could find lots of strange creatures and skeletons,” he tells me. He looks strangely at home in in this Lovecraftian environment, surrounded by jars of formaldehyde and animal skulls. As we make our way out, a monstrous python skeleton winding its way across a display case catches his eye. “We should ask them if I could wear that as a scarf,” he jokes…

Brian Robinson

Brian Robinson

Words & Photography Etienne Gilfillan

“I started as a press office assistant and have done a huge range of things from press cuttings and press releases…”

The Independent has called him a minor British institution in his own right and a walking encyclopaedia of film, and friends and colleagues have delighted for years in his anecdotes, delivered in an unmistakable sardonic style; but soon, with retirement only months away, Brian Robinson’s 29-year residency at the British Film Institute press office will come to an end. In his role as press officer, Brian has met countless stars of the silver screen and interviewed such luminaries as Gene Wilder and Julie Andrews (“my favourite moment”) live onstage at the South Bank’s National Film Theatre. And as programmer for the BFI Flare (London’s LGBT film Festival) he has championed many a budding talent and programmed countless gems, including Derek Jarman’s Will You Dance With Me? and Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau’s Theo And Hugo.

Brian grew up in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, keeping his head down, working hard at school and always having etched in his mind a line from Shakespeare’s Coriolanus: “I know there is a world elsewhere.” For him, this was the world of film and entertainment, and from an early age it offered him a temporary escape from the violence around him. “Going up to Belfast to the cinema with a programme and a box of chocolates was a big event for our family. It seemed like the height of sophistication. I fell in love with Julie Andrews when I saw Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music and won second prize in a fancy dress competition as Thoroughly Modern Millie.” Belfast in the Seventies wasn’t the easiest place to be a gay teenager, and despite meeting the legendary Quentin Crisp – Brian helped get him over to Northern Ireland to perform his one-man show – Brian set out for the mainland. After a law degree at Sussex (“I spent most of my time shopping for vintage clothes”), his first years in London brought with them early, if fleeting, brushes with fame. “When working in Fortnum & Mason’s fruit and flowers department in the summer of the Silver Jubilee there were lots of famous people who popped in. I missed Alec Guinness, who wanted a pound of grapes, but saw Kenneth Moore and Clementine Churchill – and I got to say Sorry to George Harrison when I bumped his arm on the stairs with a tray of peaches.”

He would soon get to meet many of the stars he adored in a professional capacity when, in 1978, he joined the BFI press office, then in Charing Cross Road, though it moved to its current Stephen Street address later that year. “I started as a press office assistant and have done a huge range of things from press cuttings and press releases to event organisation.” In time, he graduated to “speech-writing and celebrity hand-holding” and conducting on-stage interviews with some of the world’s most celebrated actors, technicians and directors.

We asked Brian to share some of his favourite stories with Fitzrovia Journal.

Brian on Bette Davis,

Bette Davis was a surprise recipient of a BFI Fellowship shortly after I arrived at the BFI. I was tasked with looking after her, somewhat in awe that such a legendary Hollywood star could be in my life. She was about 80 at the time. We had agreed with Channel 4 news that she would do this quick piece and when we arrived at the venue, she looked at the floor and said, “This is linoleum! I need carpet!” I said I’m afraid there isn’t any carpet Miss D, and she said: “Get some!” So I went to the house manager and I said, I’m really sorry but Miss Davis doesn’t want to do the interview on a linoleum floor. Do you have any carpet? He said: “Actually we do have a roll of emergency replacement carpet.” From that I learned that however unlikely a thing might seem, that sometimes asking you can get it!

Her appearance at the Fellowship Awards was a complete surprise to the audience. Dirk Bogarde, who came on before her thought he was the star billing, but then Richard Attenborough said, “Ladies and gentlemen, please stay in your seats; we have another very special guest.” We showed a clip from Now Voyager and just before she was due to go on stage, she asked for another ashtray as she had been smoking continuously during the four and a half hours she’d been in make-up and hair. I rushed to the dressing room, knowing that we only had one ashtray and that it was full. I ran to the toilet and tipped her lipstick stained cigarette butts down the pan with a slight sense of misgiving. Years later I discovered that John Lennon’s cigarette butts had sold for something like £300 and the Smithsonian owned one half-smoked cigarette of Bette Davis. But I quickly flushed away those priceless relics and brought her a wiped clean ashtray.

Finally Miss Davis went on stage and received the most instantaneous sanding ovation I’ve ever seen. In fact, Vanessa Redgrave jumped up with such violence that she broke her own award!

Brian on Woody Allen

When Woody Allen came to the BFI to give a talk, the phone rang every day. It seemed as if people from every film magazine and newspaper around the world – people from Chile, Japan, France – wanted to come, but we only had about a dozen press tickets. A researcher from a show called My Favourite Hymns rang and said, “Oh, I hear Woody Allen is coming to see you. We’d love to have Woody Allen come on the show and talk about his favourite hymn. I said, “Are you sure?” And she said, “Oh yes.” I said, “You do know that he’s Jewish?” She said, “Oh we don’t mind. We’ll take anyone who has a favourite hymn.” So I told his agent and she said it was the funniest thing that he’d ever been asked to do, but he didn’t have a favourite hymn.

Brian on Quentin Tarantino

There was an incredible frenzy around Quentin Tarantino. He’d got famous very quickly. I remember just seeing him walking along the Croisette in Cannes before Reservoir Dogs took off. By the time of Pulp Fiction, he was voted one of the top 10 directors of all time in the Sunday Times readers’ poll. There was an insatiable appetite for him – he surfed the zeitgeist, and everyone wanted him. There was one particular time where I remember literally jogging around the National Film Theatre with a crowd of nearly 50 people all holding books and posters shouting  “Quentin, Quentin can you sign?” They were just rabid autograph-hunters. We were even offered a year’s supply of shampoo for the whole press office if we could get someone in to see Quentin Tarantino’s on-stage interview!

Though Brian will continue programming the BFI Flare festival, leaving the BFI’s Fitzrovia HQ means he’ll be spending far less time in an area he has many fond memories of.

“One of my favourite locations is Newman Passage, which features in Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom. In fact, a lot of the film takes place around Newman Street and Rathbone Street. The door that leads into the Newman Arms from Newman passage is where an actress paying a prostitute says to a blond man ‘Alright dearie!’ I once took the filmmaker Vicente Aranda around Fitzrovia and he was amazed that every street looks like a film location. When I took him to Newman passage he recognised it immediately from Peeping Tom. I always used to laugh with the Observer’s late film critic Philip French because of a scene in the film where the murderer’s hanging around taking out the body, and someone says ‘Who are you?’

He replies, ‘I’m a journalist?’

‘What paper?’

‘The Observer!’”



Words & Photography Kirk Truman

“My brain ticked, and I began to think about trying to do something with this…”

The first time I met Kieran Mithani, he presented me with a range of his latest products. As I admired these creations, he explained that the majority of them were made in the studio of his Fitzrovia home on Cleveland Street. Kieran is the creator of Lanyap, a new niche accessories brand specialising in high quality leather goods and knitwear.

Kieran is half English, half Indian, and was born and raised in Camberley. While studying engineering at university he came to realise it wasn’t something he wanted to pursue as a career. “After university, I came to London and managed to get a scholarship at the advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi on Charlotte Street. This was the spark which led to me doing something much more creative,” he says. “After moving to Fitzrovia, I began to teach myself motion graphics. It gave me an edge, and post-production became something that captivated me. Despite this, it got to a point where I didn’t really feel like I was really making anything, just playing around on my computer. I had this desire to make a change.”

Strangely, what initiated the idea for Lanyap was a family Christmas a few years back when, one evening, Kieran began knitting with his mother. “She taught me how to do a few stitches, and there was something about it which captivated me. I’ve always been fascinated by the process of making things, for me it sparked this desire to create something raw and fresh. My brain ticked, and I begun to think about trying to do something with this,” he says. “I suddenly really got into it. I started to learn how to create numerous different patterns, which led me to research other brands and fabrics and to think of ideas for garments and accessories. I began to think a lot about the quality and manufacturing process, firstly of knitwear and then, later, leather goods. I quickly became aware that there were a lot of brands on the high street which were making mass-produced stuff that were wasn’t necessarily well-made or built to last.” Kieran’s brand concept was focused on quality and creating something niche, with products that would be made in limited numbers and to the highest level of quality possible from the best fabrics he could possibly source.

“I started looking into how big contending brands make their own products, from the hand-finished edges of leather goods to the stitching, gluing and the finished product,” he says. “I realised just how many levels there are to making a product as good as it can be, this led me to take a course in Norfolk which introduced me to industry techniques. What I was learning was cool, but it wasn’t at the level where I wanted to be. I wanted to create products that matched the quality of brands such as Hermes, or other French leather goods brands using beautiful leathers and incredible manufacturing techniques.” This led Kieran to take his growing expertise to the next level. Training in Switzerland, he learned how to maximise quality in the trade he was already beginning to master. “The attention to detail that you can apply to handmade leather goods can make it of infinitely higher quality than something that is made on a production line in a factory. That sort of potential, of something being better than a mass-produced item, was perhaps the most interesting thing about the whole process to me,” he says.

Since the brand’s inception, Kieran’s products for his small start-up have been entirely produced in his studio here in Fitzrovia. He has launched a range of leather bracelets and wallets, as well as purses and handbags for women. In addition to this, Lanyap’s knitwear line has seen Kieran create his Bear Paw gloves, inspired by the hand wraps used in boxing training. While at the moment Kieran mostly accepts only bespoke commissions for products, the coming year will see him begin the process of wholesaling Lanyap to major London retailers who share his vision of beautifully crafted, limited edition goods.

Paul Kitsaros

Paul Kitsaros

Words Kirk Truman

Portraits Dan Court

I’ve got that thing… when I see something I pick it up quickly. I was very fast, I learnt the job fast…”

When walking out of my front door on Grafton Way, it doesn’t take my mind all that long to begin wondering just what each corner once was, and shall become in Fitzrovia. Warren Street and Fitzroy Square were once slums, with many of its buildings nearing disrepair and home to the used car trade in London; quite a different story today of course. Residents and transients alike; anybody who has come to know Fitzrovia well, will know that from here garments head to shops around the UK and even further afield. Spread from New Cavendish Street, to Berners Street, Great Titchfield Street and Cleveland Street, Fitzrovia’s Garment District still lives on to this day.

Buyers from brands all over London once bought garments and cloth here for stores throughout the UK. What was once considered London’s home of wholesale and fabrics has slowed in recent years, and spread further afield, though many stores still continue to this day, notably on Great Titchfield Street. In addition to this, behind closed doors, carefully hidden basements and 1st floors, a select number of alterations and tailoring studios continue to operate in an area, which in select corners has outgrown its traditions. Based at 66 Cleveland Street, Paul Kitsaros is one of the last tailors of his kind in Fitzrovia. Once the norm, tailors and alterations workshops in the neighbourhood were altering suits for the big names on Savile Row, from Henry Poole to Gieves & Hawkes on a daily basis.

He is a committed master of his trade; there is a barely a time in living memory that I haven’t walked past Paul’s studio a saw him at work. Stood on a wooden floor covered with thread and cuttings of fabric, Paul stands stitching buttons on to a newly commissioned jacket as he tells me of his life in tailoring. As I sit on a stool, Paul stands level with me at just over 5 feet tall with his cuffs rolled up to his elbows, his glasses balancing on the tip of nose whilst he stares with a piercing concentration at the garment laying on the desk in front of him. Originally from the north side of Cyprus, Paul first came to London during the 1960’s with his father where he first worked in Camden Town making trousers. “I became quite good, you know? I’ve got that thing… when I see something I pick it up quickly. I was very fast, I learnt the job fast” he says. “A lot of people said it to me in the early days, I was very quick to learn the trade. So I started out with trousers, and then began to learn more and more about the trade.” From alterations, to cutting and fitting, Paul eventually came to learn to ins and outs of the tailoring trade.

What started out in Camden Town, began to lead Paul on a journey through central London’s tailoring and alterations trade. Originally starting his own business in 1968 on D’Arblay Street, he later came to relocate to numerous locations throughout Soho from Berwick Street, to Rupert Street, Greek Street and eventually Fitzrovia in a career that has stretched over fifty years. “I landed here in Fitzrovia in 1998. In those days it was booming… it was full of tailors everywhere. I came here because I’d always wanted to have my own ground floor shop, it was the dream for me” he says. “I saw that the shop space was available after coming for dinner at the nearby restaurant, Vasis. I viewed the space, and I knew I wanted it. Its like a village here, and still is.”

Paul says his speciality has come to be bespoke suits, which he produces for an array of clients throughout Europe, and as far afield as the US. Though today as a workshop, Paul and his small team alter clothes for clients from Soho based tailor, Mark Powell, to the tailoring houses of Savile Row. Paul doesn’t allow his age to hold him back from his work, which he is so accustomed to and emotionally involved with. As I sit and watch him work, there is magic in his hands has he weaves a needle back and forth through the fabric. His work is common practice yes, though evermore uncommon in our neighbourhood, where Paul’s work once thrived amongst Fitzrovia’s rag trade. Bursting with energy, he is completely loveable in one light and perhaps an eccentric in another. Nonetheless, he is a master of his trade, and one of the last of a breed of tailors.

Son of the Soil

Son of the Soil

Words Kirk Truman

Portraits Etienne Gilfillan

It wasn’t about money, it wasn’t about fame, it wasn’t about greed. I did it because I did what I did…”

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Roy Lichtenstein, Edward Hopper, Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons; New York City lays claim to many of the greatest artists in recent history. Catching my eye from across the pond, a certain artist first came to my attention as the renown Banksy of New York City. Amongst the names of these iconic NY artists that I refer to, street artist Bradley Therodore is a name to watch, with the potential to join a list of the greats. Famed for his murals throughout his home city, Bradley’s latest has come to find itself closer to my own home, making his debut here in London on Fitzrovia’s Little Portland Street.

Bradley was born in Turks & Caicos, an island group east of Cuba. Today he resides in Brooklyn, New York City, where he has integrated himself in the art scene, with a dedicated to making his art accessible for all to see. With his work having rapidly taken off, remarkably Theodore only started to paint in his distinct style about 3 years ago with his background in digital art, consultancy and experimentation with graffiti in the 90’s. “When I started painting, I felt that the world at the time was an ugly place. It was so full of processed art. Everybody at the time was trying to be Banksy, the amount of Banksy ripoffs was sickening. So, I wanted to do something that would clash with that. What makes your creativity special when everyone is doing the same and everything is so manufactured?” he says. “I felt no control. I was like, fuck this! I wanted to create something that I could control; I felt that art was something that I could control. I could control the look of it, I could control the when, where and how of it, you know? If you look at New York 3 years ago, everything was black and white. The city responded. Today, its covered in colours, experimentation and new ideas. If any any top artist puts something up, it gets covered. Its called tagging. In New York, I’m the only artist whose work doesn’t get covered up. In New York, I’m hot. I’m literally the Banksy of New York… but I don’t shove it in peoples faces.”

Painting in his signature bright colours, Theodore creates work that fuses fashion, music, technology, popular culture and street art, predominantly painting in the streets of New York and Los Angeles. In his paintings and murals, he has come to depict the likes of Anna Wintour and Karl Lagerfeld, David Bowie, Kate Moss and Cara Delevinge, having also produced art in the music industry for Def Jam, Universal Records and Sony, and many other media. With his work heavily US based, he came to forge a friendship with the founder of PR and Communications agency Exposure, Raoul Shah, via their New York office (The Supermarket), whom introduced Theodore to London’s art scene. “It was actually really random… we met at a party about 10 years ago. The Exposure office was amazing, the brands they represent are fucking amazing and so advanced” he says. “I had developed a relationship with the Exposure team for years, and in the past year Raoul and I ran into each other at an event. We were trying to plant to do something together. I came to London, where he introduced me to the curator of Maddox Gallery, James Nicholls, which was still under construction. I liked their vibe. The thing about galleries is museums and galleries are totally different; museums they welcome you, galleries try to treat you like you can’t afford the art. Thats a really bad thing, even if you can’t afford the art. You don’t want somebody to treat you in a certain way just because they think you have money. Maddox Gallery don’t do that. They’re really positive, they give everybody the time that they deserve.”

Having been introduced to James Nicholls at Maddox Gallery, Bradley came to be represented by the gallery, with his work first being on display at the gallery late last year in December. Early this year, Bradley and the gallery were beginning to prepare for his first ever solo show ‘Son of the Soil’ which ran April to June. “I would not sell my work to anyone, and I mean anyone. I’d had people offer me whatever I’d ask for, and I still wouldn’t sell my work. A lot of the pieces in that show, I wouldn’t ordinarily have parted with, but I had to because it was my first show. I chose to take work off my walls from my home back in Brooklyn for the first time. It was definitely hard for me” he says. “It wasn’t about money, it wasn’t about fame, it wasn’t about greed. I did it because I did what I did… art takes time and emotion, in art every stroke is special. I didn’t give a fuck about money, I’d chosen to start a career that’d probably make me poor. I quit everything to do my work and felt that I didn’t want to fit into a system of greed, the money system. I didn’t paint to get rich, I didn’t paint to get money, I painted because I wanted to prove a point.”

Shortly after the opening of ‘Son of the Soil’ at Maddox Gallery, Raoul and Bradley discussed the possibility of his first mural here in London. Bradley and Raoul cited the wall outside of the Exposure London office on Little Portland Street as a great location, which became his first mural in London, painting it late April earlier this year. “I love Raoul and the Exposure office in Fitzrovia. The idea of the mural outside the Exposure office came about from me wanting to make drinks for the Exposure team which turned into me painting my first London mural. It was a great location, a great wall and a great thing to do” he says. “New Yorker’s don’t like to waste time, you either say you do or you don’t want to do something, and I wanted to do it. There were a couple of gigs that people were trying to give to me in London, though Exposure does everything very straight, so it became my first. Painting at a location for me is worth more than money. Exposure has a culture of creativity, you know? Its a place where they’re nice to their employees, people like working there. Corporate assholes are running the world, and Exposure follows the true street culture of London. Street culture crosses from New York, to Tokyo and London. Exposure symbolises all of that to me, and suddenly I had an opportunity to paint on its doorstep. Thats kinda cool, don’t you think?”

Embodying Karl Lagerfeld and Anna Wintour surrounded by butterflies, Theordore’s Fitzrovia mural marks his passion for the area, Exposure and his friendship with Raoul Shah, painted in his bright signature colours. Bradley is now across the pond back in Brooklyn, though his heart is never far from London. He is now experimenting with new possibilities with his work, and even mentioned the possibility of creating 3-D printed frames for his work for future exhibitions. Theodore is humble, well-styled and known for his signature dreadlocks. He lives and breathes his work, with much of his clothing showing some remnants of the signature colours used in his work, dripped onto the garments. He’s an artist to watch, compared to the likes of Jean-Michel Basquiat, for his unmistakable style with many high profile collectors acquiring his work.

Bonnie Gull Seafood Shack

Bonnie Gull Seafood Shack

Words Chloe Moss

Photography Etienne Gilfillan

“If we can transport someone to a seaside memory for a couple of hours in the middle of a busy day in W1, then I know we’re doing things right”

When I had my first taste of an oyster in summer 2015, I was instantly hooked. Standing just outside a tiny seafood shack on Foley Street, I ordered two fresh oysters sourced in Britain, and washed them down with a glass of white wine. This tiny seafood shack, the location of my seafood revelation, was Bonnie Gull – their “Outdoor Kitchen”, to be precise. The Fitzrovia-based seafood restaurant created an outdoor space for patrons and passers-by to grab fish and chips for lunch, or oysters and canapés in the evening. On a stall decorated with old wooden barrels, the inviting pit stop was impossible for me to avoid whilst en route to my local supermarket, and I soon forgot my shopping list after a few hours spent sat on a bench in the sunshine outside the cosy restaurant.

Spurred on by the lack of great seafood in London, founders Alex Hunter and Danny Clancy launched Bonnie Gull in its initial pop-up incarnation. The duo wanted to remind everyone about the multitude of amazing produce that we have on our doorstep by serving up exciting dishes with the best seafood our shores can offer in a fun atmosphere. As Alex told me, “I find it odd that we live on this island surrounded by seas that produce some of the best fish in the world yet we send most of our catch abroad”. What started as a relaxed pop-up in an old pie ‘n’ mash shop in Hackney, where punters brought their own booze and sampled delicious seafood that didn’t break the bank, has grown to become a Fitzrovia mainstay. The concept was focused from the start: “serve quality, fresh, sustainable, British only fish but in a fun environment”. The idea was a hit, as it seemed diners were starved of a more relaxed seafood experience. A second, longer residency with another Fitzrovia favourite of mine, Mac & Wild, and wine merchants The Sampler, consolidated their brand identity even more with the focus on showcasing home-grown talent in a party-like setting. This in turn led to further success for the team, and the decision to create a permanent space seemed a natural progression.

Mounted on one wall of the restaurant is a blackboard map of the British Isles, updated daily to show where the day’s catch has come from. This map embodies the unique appeal of Bonnie Gull and the reason it continues to stand out amongst competition. As Alex says, “it’s all about championing British seafood”. During a recent visit, I toured British shores via oysters from Dorset, crab from Salcombe Bay and haddock fresh from the North Sea, as well as tucking into my dining partner’s Scottish langoustine ravioli. With the emphasis placed proudly on their great British seafood, the team undergo a challenging process of sourcing produce via a range of boat suppliers who bring the best of their catch straight to the restaurant. They only use a product when it is at its best and is sustainable, meaning that the menu changes almost daily, requiring a level of creativity and quick thinking from head chef Christian Edwardson. Alex knows that this complicated process is part of Bonnie Gull’s appeal, as he puts it, “most chefs wouldn’t dream of doing it but our guys know it’s what sets us apart from other seafood restaurants”.

“A seaside restaurant in the city” nestled on the corner of Foley Street, the blue and white striped awning of Bonnie Gull cuts a sunny and inviting figure for residents and passers by looking for refuge from the bustle of Oxford Street nearby. The restaurant itself is a refined, subtle love letter to seaside dining, and by avoiding gimmicks they able to create a timeless dining experience. Details like the appliqué rope-covered wall, fisherman’s bell, a bar lined with old merchants’ crates and even antique suitcase filled with oysters ready to be shucked make the small space seem familiar without being twee. By avoiding gimmicks, Alex says that they have been able to create a timeless dining experience with broad appeal.

Fitzrovia seems a perfect location for the intimate, familiar atmosphere that the team is aiming for, because of the village-like qualities of the area. Alex calls it the “the forgotten corner of the West End” because it has managed to retain its charm and the quirks of its history whilst becoming a hub for exciting local businesses. It’s easy to see why the “cute little corner site with a terrace on a quiet uneventful street” was a natural choice as the permanent home for their seaside oasis.

I might be a little biased because it was the spot of my own seafood awakening, but for me, Bonnie Gull is the pearl in Fitzrovia’s oyster. Despite growing from a pop-up to the restaurant on the corner the concept and attitude to quality seafood has remained the same – their passion for sharing great seafood is evident in ideas like the “Outdoor Kitchen” and their “Shore to Door” dining experiences, for which they again team up with The Sampler for wine pairing and tasting sessions. With a second Seafood Shack on the horizon in Central London, Bonnie Gull will be branching out from their sunny corner in Fitzrovia to transport even more diners to a seaside memory.

Dupsy Abiola

Dupsy Abiola

Words Kirk Truman

Portraits Dan Court

Whereas I was once solving problems in law, today I’m solving problems in tech…”

Plenty of passers-by don’t even notice Newman Passage, tucked away between Newman Street and Rathbone Street; but if they were to turn down this obscure alley, they might discover something else that’s equally well hidden: the award-winning creation of one of London’s leading female entrepreneurs. Dupsy Abiola’s Fitzrovia-based company Intern Avenue is a leading online recruitment platform that has revolutionised how employers find the qualified students and graduates they seek.

Modupeola “Dupsy” Abiola was born in 1982, the daughter of Moshood and Dele Abiola, and raised in North London. On graduating from Oxford University she begun working as a barrister for a leading law firm, working on a number of high profile disputes. Dupsy comes from an entrepreneurial family background. Her late father Moshood was a successful Nigerian business tycoon and philanthropist, and had a notable influence on her interest in business. “I started out my career as a barrister, which is a wonderful thing to be. It’s a very traditional career in which you learn a really great skill set, she tells me. “You’re presented with wonderful challenges, and really what you are is a problem solver, which I think at heart is who I am. Really though, I think I always knew I was a technophile. Whereas I was once solving problems in law, today I’m solving problems in tech.”

In her time as a barrister, Dupsy was involved in finding the best entry-level employees for her law firm. It was here that she began to recognise the importance of putting the right people into the workplace, and the difficulties of sourcing the appropriate talent. “In many careers, and in almost every company, who your people are effects your productivity and your everything. If you don’t have the right people, you’re screwed,” she points out. “Every single business owner, the world over, is thinking: how can I get better people and how can I make the people in my organisation happier, better and more productive. Getting in the best and brightest people really early is the best way to do that. So, if you can find and attract the best people fast and early, many of your problems kind of resolve themselves. Doing that however, is really hard. Hard in a way that later on, when you’re finding more established talent, doesn’t occur; people have history and a company reputation behind them – you already know what they’re capable of. The diamonds in the rough are the ones at the very entry-level stages and typically only very large companies have the pick of the bunch.”

Dupsy saw how huge companies spend thousands attending university events in order to cherry-pick the best talent, long before individuals even graduate. “I felt that every business could use that. I was very much struck with the fact that if you’re not the kind of company that wants to hang out at universities and poach people two years before they leave, then where are you going to find this talent?” At this point, her own sister was leaving university and intending to get into finance, but wondered how she should go about it. How might she be discovered by the right employer without having to do endless applications? It was a question that inspired Dupsy. “I wanted to create a meeting place where people could more easily find one other without going through a lot of the more problematic elements of the hiring process. So I had this epiphany moment about what would eventually become Intern Avenue,” she says. “I was at the stage where I could’ve easily continued as a lawyer, which I did enjoy greatly, but I think when you’ve got something in your mind and the set of talents to achieve it, it doesn’t easily go away. I’m the kind of person who always likes to bite off more than I can chew. So I thought, why don’t I just quit my job and do this instead?” She laughs, but insists: “It made complete sense to me. All of my friends thought I was nuts, but nuts in a good way. You only live once, and you’ve got to look back and be able to say you did something or went off and took a couple of shots. So, I quit my job and started from scratch.”

So began Dupsy’s new venture. Positioned to fill the large gap between Facebook and LinkedIn, Intern Avenue is designed to connect the most talented students and graduates with employers. At first, indeed biting off more than she could chew, she downloaded Python and tried to build and create the website herself. “I called it my crazy Python week,” she says. “Not a reasonable use of my time, as it turned out! I built the first site myself, but it was nowhere near as technical as the site we use today. It’s interesting – when you quit your job, you suddenly become very interested in what other people do. It turned out that a lot of my friends actually made websites for some of the biggest companies in the world.” Seeking help from these friends and other contacts, she begun to learn much from other entrepreneurs about how to get a project like hers off the ground. At first, her tech advisor was the head of technology for Yahoo in Europe, instrumental in helping Dupsy build her online platform. “I was really fortunate that I had people around me who could point me in the right direction and give me a glimpse into what best practice looks like, and point me at really good people to help me start building things,” she says. In 2012, her platform received a well-earned push after she successfully pitched her business on the BBC’s Dragons’ Den, becoming the first recruitment business to successfully pitch on the show. Dupsy was described as a “real entrepreneur in the making”, and received £100,000 in investment from telecom giant Peter Jones.

When setting up office, Dupsy found herself looking at various locations in the West End, rather than the tech scene that seemed to cluster around East London. “Fitzrovia is great!” she says. “There are a couple of different creative central working places that are in the area, that have this wonderful combination of technical talent and creativity, which is why I think I love it so much here. I was looking at a couple of places when I found this space on Newman Passage. I walked in, and straight away there was something characterful about it.” Today, Intern Avenue’s client list includes the UK Government, Lloyds Banking Group and AOL. The platform has also been featured by the Financial Times, CNN and in Investec Private Banking’s ‘Restless Spirits’ campaign, in which Dupsy appeared. She is passionate about promoting diversity, open access, and reducing youth unemployment and is an active advisor on these policies. In the coming years, she is determined to expand her multiple award-winning platform throughout Europe and globally.

Black Eyewear

Black Eyewear

Words & Photography Kirk Truman

“The ‘Bird’ was dedicated to Charlie Parker, the ‘Chet’ was dedicated to Chet Baker, and off I went… I had decided that black wasn’t enough.”

It’s said that the eyes are the windows of the soul. If that’s so, then when they’re covered, it should be delicately, and with style. I wear the ‘Bird’ in two-tone brown: the frames are dedicated to the great jazz musician Charlie Parker, the saxophonist and composer who was a leading figure in the development of bebop, admired for his limitless powers of improvisation and beauty of tone. Such was his cultural impact that he helped personify the jazz musician as an intellectual, rather than just an entertainer. It’s all reflected in the Bird frames. But I know what you’re thinking: how does jazz relate to eyewear?

Optician turned eyewear designer Robert Roope is as knowledgeable about glasses as he is about jazz. Roope was born in Hull in 1943 and was raised in a house next to a railway line with the tracks on one side and the river Humber on the other. He lived there with his mother, father and six siblings (three brothers and three sisters) in the midst of the flat East Yorkshire landscape. “Growing up in Hull was very bleak. It wasn’t a very enjoyable place to be,” says Roope. “I was born into a bombed building – it was really tough going, I must say. I was pretty pleased to get out of the place.” From here, he embarked on a career in the navy, attending Trinity House Navigation School for two years, and later becoming a Happy Snap photographer in Bridlington, where he encountered two people who had a major influence on him. “I met two successful jazz musicians, Chris & Mick Pine. I chatted to them and they told me about London,” he says. Leaving behind his roots in Hull, Roope made his way to the capital with a friend to begin a new life in the city. Wowed by London life, which offered quite a contrast to his northern upbringing, he began to develop a relationship with jazz. “I was stunned when I got down here. My friend’s sister had just one record, Johnny Mandel’s ‘I Want to Live’, with the music by Gerry Mulligan. She played it over and over again,” says Roope. “From that moment I was hooked. I got interested in the music, which was all down in London. I was carried away… I’d even call people over at the Birdland Club in New York just to listen to the music over the phone.”

In 1962, Roope began to study optics at what was then Northampton College (now the City University), during which time he had a Saturday job with Dollond & Aitchison on Seven Sisters Road. At this point, he began collecting the vintage eyewear that would, much later, influence his own designs. He began to purchase a few frames at cost price for his mother, who suffered from poor eyesight. After 50 years working as an optician, Roope pursued his passion making the transition into eyewear design. In 2006, he began launched his first collection, partly in frustration at the 25-year dominance of poorly made and poorly designed oblong frames. His brand, Black Eyewear, initially did what it said on the tin: it made black frames. It was never his ambition to become a designer; it happened purely by chance when his six original black eyewear designs immediately drew positive reactions. “God knows where I got the idea from. I was fed up with the bigger brands not making designs that were available in black. So I called up an Italian company and made six black frames. When I looked for design inspiration, I looked at 1950s optics,” he says. “One day, a motorbike stopped outside my St. Albans shop. A guy got off and said to me ‘I’ve come to see those six black frames.’ I said to him: ‘Where’ve you come from?’ He said he’d come all the way from Belgium. At this point, I felt like I’d got a brand going!”

Perhaps it was inevitable that Roope’s lifelong passion for jazz and wealth of knowledge about the music would find a reflection in the design of his frames, which reference the classic eyewear worn by many of the jazz musicians of the 1940s, 50s and 60s. As a token of Roope’s admiration for their music, each of his designs is dedicated to a different figures from jazz history. To date, Black Eyewear offers more than 100 models of glasses and sunglasses. With its notably extra large frame, ‘Miles’ is dedicated to the trumpeter, bandleader and composer Miles Davis, who played a trailblazing role at the forefront of several developments in jazz music, from bebop to fusion.

“I decided one afternoon that I would dedicate each model to a jazz great. Obviously they’d never worn them, but I wanted to find some sort of friendly connection to each,” he says. “The ‘Bird’ was dedicated to Charlie Parker, the ‘Chet’ was dedicated to Chet Baker, and off I went… I had decided that black wasn’t enough.” Roope’s array of designs also includes frames dedicated to Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Ella Fitzgerald and many more. I recently discovered a new favourite of my own, which also happens to be one of Roope’s most popular designs – ‘Buddy’, dedicated to virtuoso drummer Buddy Rich and currently available in 28 different colour variations. In 2013, Roope’s son made him aware of a vacant shop space at 38 Goodge Street. “We started here on Goodge Street as a pop-up and quite soon people were visiting us on a regular basis; quickly we became a permanent fixture,” he says. Since then, Roope has continued to showcase his designs in his Fitzrovia-based store as well as in his shop in St. Albans.

You have to admire Robert Roope. Now in his 70s, at an age when many feel that their best work is behind them, he has created a successful new brand: Black Eyewear is a testament to his enthusiasm and energy as well as his passion for the music he loves. He’s showing no signs of slowing the tempo either: right now, he’s developing new designs inspired by the sounds of Tubby Hayes and Ronnie Scott.

Lily Simpson

Lily Simpson

Words Jane Singer

Photography Etienne Gilfillan

With two branches of The Detox Kitchen in Soho and Fitzrovia (and 10 more planned), countless stockists, including Selfridges, carrying her ‘grab + go’ range, and a cookbook, Lily Simpson is no stranger to success. I’m curious and excited about interviewing her. Having sold my soul to finance, 13-hour+ days are the norm and the thought of coming home and cooking is usually low on my priority list. I want to hear how to create quick and healthy meals for those, like me, who are time-poor. Lily makes it sound so simple; all you need is five ingredients and a bit of seasoning. She recommends a vegetable stir-fry with chicken, seasoned with some lemon juice, salt, pepper and coriander – “simple, delicious and healthy.” Lily genuinely wants to pass on her love of eating healthily and to show us that it can be done with ease once you’ve mastered a few basics. Having tried a few recipes – like the Cajun Chicken – from her wheat, dairy and refined sugar-free book The Detox Kitchen Bible, I can honestly say that preparing quick and healthy meals already seems like less of a challenge than it used to.

But affordability is another concern for me. I point out that time isn’t the only thing many of us are short of: with living costs on the rise in London, it’s tempting to reaching for a ready meal or sugary snacks as a cheaper option. Lily reassures me that The Detox Kitchen tries “to keep recipes affordable” and doesn’t use loads of “obscure, expensive ingredients.” She recommends using “red lentils in every stew or soup, as they are inexpensive and a good thickener, as well as adding texture and flavour.” She also suggests buying cheaper cuts of meat, in particular chicken thighs instead of more expensive breasts. Lack of education about food is a factor that prevents so many people from eating healthily, and Lily’s simple tips could easily make a big difference to those on a budget.

She gives me some useful insights into the staple fridge and cupboard ingredients that make for a simple and healthy lifestyle. With a kitchen stocked with red lentils, quinoa, buckwheat, brown rice, noodles, smoked paprika, ground ginger, ground cumin, ground cinnamon, bay and curry leaves, it’s easy to create a base from which to start cooking. She recommends using “as much fresh food as possible. I always keep tomatoes, avocado and cucumber to hand so I can make a quick salad; and I always have a good variety of vegetables – cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, carrots, celery – so I can make a soup or stew.”

It might be tempting to dismiss Lily as just one of the many chefs, food bloggers and cookery writers who fill our inboxes, Instagram pages and kitchen counters with the latest superfoods and trends, encouraging us to be super-healthy, super-positive, super-everything. However, since starting The Detox Kitchen, Lily has maintained a strong client base by sticking with the same basic principles and steering away from fads. She believes, and rightly so, that it is the quality of the produce that keeps customers returning to her food delivery service and London delis. If you haven’t already, try one of their beetroot brownies – delicious!

She cites her parents as role models, and it’s clear that family plays a large role in Lily’s life. Her passion for food and cooking began at an early age. Learning to cook at home she “would help mum and dad cook, and later insisted on cooking on most of the family dinners.” She tells me that her father taught her to cook with love, and this is evident in her approach and the whole ethos of The Detox Kitchen. When she first began her catering company, she took a couple of courses to improve her knife skills and understand how professional kitchens work. Putting theory into practice, she also gained experience by spending some time at Michel Roux’s restaurant Roux, on Parliament Square, and continues to learn from the “talented” chefs at her Kitchens.

As a mother of one, Lily says she wishes that she had always known how amazing a woman’s body is, and adds that we should be proud of our own shape, whatever it may be. Refreshingly, she admits that she has finally started to feel comfortable in her own skin and hopes that she can teach her children to feel similarly happy in themselves. Her honesty makes me wish that every young person could meet her and listen to her advice – she would be a great role model. I ask her about George Osborne’s recent proposal to introduce a sugar tax. She thinks “it’s a really great step forward,” but adds that “there is still so much more that needs to be done… and now that the government have acknowledged this, hopefully the message will filter down.”

Lily touches on how hard we all work and how hectic life can be. Just as in her approach to food, the theme of love seeps through again as she talks about loving the simple things we have in life. She cites the area’s calmness as one of the reasons why she likes Fitzrovia. Constantly on the go herself, she tells me about a little gold tortoise pendant given to her by husband. The gift was accompanied by a note: “I hope he reminds you to slow down”. Lily assures me that it does!

Another of her other role models is Nigella Lawson, who – together with Jack Black, Audrey Hepburn, Leonardo DiCaprio and Nelson Mandela – would be one of her ideal dinner guests. What would she serve this eclectic group? The menu would include vegetable tempura with a miso dip to start, followed by a big sharing vegetable curry with cauliflower rice, homemade lime pickle and cucumber raita. Pudding would be a classic apple and rhubarb crumble. I left feeling inspired to eat better and cook more often, although it was reassuring to hear that even Lily has her little food vices – a Kit Kat and a cup of tea!

Anna Laurini

Anna Laurini

Words Kirk Truman

Photography Etienne Gilfillan

To me, it’s just like a blank canvas. It’s an opportunity for me to do something…”

Over six months ago, my curiosity was aroused by a series of faces. They weren’t the faces of my fellow Londoners, passing by on the city’s crowded streets, although they did appear in the most ordinary of public places across the West-End. Their painted eyes looked out from hoardings wrapped around buildings in Bloomsbury, Fitzrovia, and Soho; it seemed that the city’s many unappealing building sites and demolition zones had become an unlikely home for one artist’s work.

As I continued to come across these curious visages, I wondered what their story might be. Were they the graffiti of a spraycan-wielding madman, or yet another Banksy wannabe? Were they part of some widespread demonstration against rapacious London property development? These were some of the ideas that crossed my mind. When I discovered the faces were the work of the kind-spirited and energetic artist Anna Laurini, I had to abandon my previous theories and meet the woman who had created them. Anna arrives to meet me for coffee on a brisk Sunday morning, mid-January. I reach out my hand to greet her, and she extends her own, covered in blue, black and white paint. “I just did one now. I saw a space and wanted to do it,” she explains.

Having grown up in Milan, Anna’s adult years have been spent living in London and New York. The idea for her faces came two years ago. At first, she began to experiment with a face only occasionally, drawing one over in East London from time to time. By summer 2015, her faces project had become very much a full-time one, and Laurini was well on the way to becoming an unconventional street artist. It soon becomes clear to me just how full-time her work is: she rummages through her bag, revealing her brushes and pots of paint, ready to be utilised whenever she spies a new painting spot somewhere in the city. “To me, it’s just like a blank canvas. It’s an opportunity for me to do something,” she says. And it’s London’s cultural and architectural diversity is that often inspires her choice of location for a new work.

Much of Laurini’s artistic output emerges from a small studio in East London. Her faces, which she insists are entirely impromptu creations, are often accompanied by intriguing phrases which reveal a relationship with modern day consumerism and capitalism, prompting observers of her works to look at the world through her unconventional vision. A slogan beside one particular face read: “Soul instead of gold”. For Laurini, her life and work is a testament to the notion that “all good things are wild and free”, a motto that sat happily beside another of her many faces. She finds comfort both in canvas and in London’s winding streets when creating her faces. Despite their similarly bold approach, they don’t really resemble the Surrealism of Cocteau or the Cubist portraits of Picasso; Laurini paints with a distinct elegance, strong strokes and sleek lines. Although they are visibly feminine, she insists that not all of them are women, even though drawing a female face feels instinctive to her. From her travels on both sides of the Atlantic, she has come to draw inspiration from the sights and sounds of the modern metropolises of New York and London.

The first time I noticed her work was after it graced the hoarding of a building on Fitzrovia’s Cleveland Street. It captivated me – but it was only the first of many similar encounters. A hoarding in Fitzroy Square and Charlotte Street; another on Soho’s Peter Street and Berwick Street; a whole fleet of hoardings on Oxford Street, others hidden away in the side streets of Bloomsbury, Shoreditch, London Bridge, Portabello Road. Laurini’s faces have become to be a regular fixture of my London, just as they are of hers. “They go where I go. They’re part of my day-to-day life,” she says. And where Laurini’s faces go, the developers follow, keen to repaint their hoardings. “One of the first places I did them was on the hoarding of the Sorting Office on New Oxford Street. I did them all around the building, I covered it. Within a few days they’d painted the whole thing black – that really bothered me,” she says. “I’ve never actually gotten into any trouble for doing it. People understand that it’s art – it isn’t vandalism. They understand its message. I’ve had people ask me why I’m doing it… they’re surprised to realise its just one person doing it. They think it’s a group. But no, its just me!”

Laurini’s pieces have been sold via online platforms like Saatchi Art, as well as exhibited internationally in galleries, warehouse spaces, restaurants and bars. She has produced a number of commissioned works, and also graced private houses with her creations. I’m no expert, but she doesn’t strike me as a typical street artist. She pursues her vision by utilising the urban space itself to frame her work, presenting a creative and alternative perspective to Londoners, with each face being unique and specific to its location. Through them all, though, runs her message of soul instead of gold.



Words Kirk Truman

Photography Etienne Gilfillan

I simply did what I did – making connections, bringing people together and seeing how that resulted in brand fame, media visibility and positive brand perceptions.”

Exposure is the agency responsible for marrying Diet Coke with fashion, Converse with the music industry and Levi’s® with music, art and design. Creating mutually beneficial collaborations on this scale is no walk in the park, but a self made challenge that this Fitzrovia-based communications agency has taken on with moxie. Bringing cultural relevance to brands since 1993 and with a portfolio that reads like a guidebook for the world’s leading superbrands, the title above the door at 22-23 Little Portland Street really does mean what it says. Like any endeavour, networking and collaborating has a history of starting out small and this is something Exposure’s founder, Raoul Shah, is all too familiar with.

Raoul was born and raised in North London, his parents born in Nairobi from Gujarati origins. “They moved to London in the 1950s and were lucky enough to meet each other on a visit to the Reeves paint factory organised by the British Council,” he says. It was serendipitous that Raoul himself became a trustee of the British Council between 2008 and 2014. As a youngster, Raoul developed a passion for music – a love that remains today. He lived out his youth in venues like The Lyceum, Camden Palace and Subterania, and in his late teens he was immersed in the sounds of The Clash, The Jam, and The Specials. “I think I had a brief phase trying out every youth culture style of the moment – Mods, Rude Boys, Punks and New Romantics,” says Raoul. “In the late 80s, Buffalo became the really enduring style reference for me thanks to magazines like The Face, i-D and Arena.” Raoul now lives in Belsize Park and is proud to call London his home, citing it as the greatest capital city in the world – a distinction due in no small part to its rebellious spirit and creative originality that led to sub cultures that went global.

Raoul started out his career at Pepe Jeans where he began to build his network, connecting with a variety of brands and individuals. In October 1993 he went solo and founded Exposure from a desk in Sedley Place, just off Bond Street.His initial idea: to create a business that specialised in networking. “I wanted to bring people and brands together to see the impact one can make via word of mouth and mutually beneficial collaborations. I guess you could call it ‘social media’ in the original sense of the words,” he says. “I was connecting brands like Converse with bands and music festivals, Coca-Cola with fashion designers and Levi’s with design and creativity.” Networking produced content that delivered earned media. Raoul started out small and the progression of Exposure was organic. In his early days he was unaware of the industry terminology and labels associated with agencies. “I simply did what I did – making connections, bringing people together and seeing how that resulted in creating brand fame, media visibility and positive brand perceptions.” As the business began to develop, Raoul soon recognised that Exposure was in the PR and product placement business and opted to create specialist units within Exposure. Today, he explains, “These departments have grown considerably and they now sit alongside other specialist teams handling events, brand experience, digital marketing and social media. We have dedicated communications teams that work in specific sectors such as fashion, beauty, drinks and entertainment.”

As Exposure began to expand, higher profile brands approached the agency. Raoul sought out somebody with experience handling global brands in the marketing sector. With his proven track record, Tim Bourne became an equal partner in the company in 1997. “Tim set us on an incredible trajectory that has, today, created a group with 200 employees and a global revenue of £25,000,000,” Raoul explains. Exposure’s expansion was far from set in stone, or confined to London; in 2003, the company handled a campaign for British car manufacturer Jaguar in California. This campaign led to the beginning of Exposure’s US expansion and the opening of its New York office in 2005. “Dr. Martens and Casio were our founding clients in New York. I was always inspired by the cultural relevance and connectivity between London and New York, so the next step was to open the Tokyo office in 2008. In 2014, we opened The Supermarket in New York, a space dedicated to art,installations and events. Todate we have converted it intoa skate bowl, a radio stationand an auction house. We referto it as a ‘gallery of ideas.’”

Prior to the overseasexpansion of Exposure,towards the end of the ragtrade era in May 2000, Raoul relocated the UK company to Little Portland Street, Fitzrovia.At the time, the area was unpopulated by businesses in the creative industry. With characteristic foresight Raoulsaw Fitzrovia as an area with potential. Here was a chance for the company to stamp its personality on the building, and the area. “North of Oxford Street was still a little vacant and certainly not hip but we were keen to move here and establish our roots in an area that had so much potential,” says Raoul. “Langham Estates has always been very supportive and often showcases our space as an example of what can be achieved with a few ideas, a little creativity and some talented people. Fitzrovia has a great independent vibe to it – there’s still the alteration tailors in various basements and the remnants of the rag trade. When we moved here, Sergios, Efes and Franks were the go-to places to eat or have a cuppa. The truth is that they still are for me, although now we have plenty of other choices. Back then, Oliver Peyton had still had Mash on Great Portland Street which was a really hip place to eat and drink for those in the know. Like Mash, we wanted Exposure to become a destination.” And so it has: Exposure’s presence in Fitzrovia and its strong relationship with The Langham Estate has resulted in Little Portland Street often being referred to as ‘Exposure Street’.

Raoul has noted the influx of media and marketing agencies that are now dotted around Fitzrovia. Their arrival heralded a new, creative and more dynamic perspective that attracted many businesses to follow suit and take up residency in the area – Workshop, Portland and Bonnie Gull amongst them. True to form, Exposure recently collaborated with independent coffee shop Mother’s Milk (founded by James Wise and Will Hilliard) by giving it a new home in the Exposure bar. The move welcomes Fitzrovia residents into the world of Exposure and has given rise to a shop front for this hybrid creative and communications agency.

“Gallery, library, bar, coffee shop – our reception has always been designed to be a little ambiguous. We did actually convert it into a charity shop in 2013 so the idea of revisiting a retail format is definitely a real possibility.” Raoul tells of a range of Exposure products that are currently in development so there’s every chance that the addition of an Exposure shop front may one day become a reality. It’s a case of “watch this space,” he says.

2015 was a year of transformation for Exposure having simplified its business model in order to focus on the agency’s core earned media skills: consumer PR, brand experience, events, digital communications, social media, fashion, beauty, consumer insights and brand strategy. 2016 is set to be a strong year for the whole group with a forecasted 15% total growth. Select projects for the next year include campaigns for Coca-Cola and Nike leading up to the Olympics, plus the Heineken Champions League final in Milan.

Levi’s and Anthony Burrill. Uniqlo and Benji B. Dr. Martens and Buffalo. Diet Coke and Marc Jacobs. Star Wars and Christopher Raeburn. Microsoft and D*Face. Nike and Clothsurgeon. The Tudor Watch Company and Mark Ronson. Exposure isn’t just a communications agency, it is about producing great ideas with cultural impact that resonate with consumers. On the subject of further oversees expansion Raoul says “never say never.” He has looked at opportunities in Amsterdam and Berlin, but confirms that there are no immediate new European offices on the horizon. “I think the next step for Exposure will be to expand its presence in the US with a west coast base in either Los Angeles or San Francisco.” For Raoul, Exposure is defined as a creative communications agency and he maintains the company’s guiding principle: to continue to make brands culturally relevant by producing ideas that engage the modern consumer.

Sofia Strazzanti

Sofia Strazzanti

Words Victoria Drysdale

Portraits Sandra Vijandi

“This is the perfect area… Fitzrovia has a beautiful way about it.”

Tucked away between Cleveland Street’s bustling cafes and exotic restaurants is the Innocenza studio, an independent multi-brand sales and retail agency founded by Sofia Strazzanti. I meet Strazzanti on a crisp, clear morning in Fitzrovia. She is beautiful; wild-haired and eloquently spoken. As we enter the world of Innocenza, it becomes clear why Strazzanti would never want to leave.

Bayode Oduwole

Bayode Oduwole

Words Kirk Truman

Portaits Erin Barry

“…creative, secretive. I describe it as far from the madding crowd, which says it all really.”

Upon entering the Pokit studio, a wall to wall display of mannequins hung on wires, dressed in an array of utilitarian outfits for the modern man, greets you. “In a word it is the ‘unsharp’ suit, deep and modern”says Bayode Oduwole, co-founder of Fitzrovia’s contemporary menswear label Pokit. “We designed them to look threadbare but not worn out. Understated, but progressive too, traditional yet unorthodox. You have to see it. We call it the Pokit paradox. We’re done trying to pigeon hole it.”


The Georgian Group

The Georgian Group

Words Vaneesha Ritchie

Illustrations London County Council Survey of London Vol. XXI

“There is something about Georgian architecture that appears to be ingrained in the British psyche; perhaps because it was a fundamentally pragmatic, yet modestly graceful, way of building.”

The Georgian group exist to preserve Georgian architecture and landscapes. There are other dedicated architectural preservation societies – one for ancient buildings in general, one specifically for Victorian buildings. So what is it about the Georgian era in particular? Allow me to present a criminally expurgated version of that period in history to set the scene for the far reaching passions of this active and determined group, based in our very own Fitzrovia.

Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens

Words Darren Hawes

Illustrations Luke Stuart

“…a retired spot, not of the choicest kind, leading into the fields.”

An unassuming birth, to an unassuming family, at an unassuming address; it’s hard to believe that Charles John Huffam Dickens would become the most recognisable name in English Literature from such humble beginnings. From Nicholas Nickleby to Great Expectations, some of Dickens’ most famous works were influenced by the immediate areas within and surrounding Fitzrovia. It’s understandable how this corner of London captured Dickens’ imagination. In 1815 when he was just a toddler, the Dickens family found lodgings at 10 Norfolk Street – now 22 Cleveland Street. John Dickens was a naval clerk and his duties found him relocated to the capital. Although they only stayed here for a few years, Charles later returned in 1829 as seen on an old reader’s ticket for the British Museum where he gives the same address of 10 Norfolk Street as his own. There is, however, an oddly different piece of evidence that suggests his address was in fact Number 15 Fitzroy Street (now 25) between 1830 and 1833.

Woods Bagot

Woods Bagot

Words Kirk Truman

Photography Etienne Gilfillan

“Our aim was to create a proper design studio rather than adapt to a typical office space.”

Design and creativity are two of my oldest passions; and more specifically architecture, though it’s often somewhat of a mystery to me. But it provides the perfect context for a romance between the two. Here in London as in cities across the globe, architects are the very backbone of our skylines, creating and crafting the wildest and most beautifully captivating structures that define the destinations we so often admire.

In Fitzrovia, I have come to discover that we are home to a global design and consulting firm with a wide-ranging and eclectic portfolio under its wing. Woods Bagot has a global team of over 850 professionals working across studios in Australia, Asia, the Middle East, Europe and North America. More than 60 of these are based in the practice’s London studio situated in Riding House Street. Fitzrovia is home to a diverse range of businesses, not only architects and engineers but also TV companies, fashion wholesalers and a vast range of other creative and digital businesses with Woods Bagot as an obvious fit for the neighbourhood.

In 2014 and 2015, Building Design’s ‘World Architecture 100’ ranked Woods Bagot as the 7th largest architecture firm in the world. The practice’s project output spans almost 150 years – a legacy of design excellence. In London, its clients include: The Edwardian Group, Warner Music, Firmdale, Apple, Ballymore, Pegasus Life, Four Seasons and Marriott. Their current projects include the Leicester Square Hotel, a landmark building integrated into the fabric of the West End cinema experience, with 360 guest rooms across 7 floors. A model of this project, which is currently on display at the studio (see above image) shows the main body of the building formed in natural Portland stone, complemented by an inner layer of royal blue faience, creating moments of colour and texture.

Woods Bagot’s expertise covers a number of key sectors including Transportation, Education, Science & Health, Lifestyle and Workplace. The ‘Next Generation Global Studio’ model which underpins all Woods Bagot’s activities means that all its studios worldwide are interlinked and work collaboratively across borders, using the latest technology to share its design intelligence and strengthen its knowledge base around the globe.

Working across the disciplines of architecture, consulting, interior design, masterplanning and urban design, Woods Bagot understands its clients’ operational and cultural needs, and is able to draw on its own research and expertise to create realistic and functional solutions to meet those needs. Currently the practice invests 2% of its turnover annually into its research arm, ensuring the upkeep of its competitive advantage through constant innovation.

Woods Bagot moved its London studio earlier this year to its current purpose-designed space at 75 Riding House Street across the lower ground and ground floors of the building, following a number of years based in Oxford Street. Jonathan French, the company’s director  says “The process of approving a design with colleagues, many of whom are professional designers themselves, was extremely complicated in order to reach a common consensus. The problem was deciding which great ideas we had to drop.”

The structure of the building itself posed particular challenges. The column grid and base building layout are irregular, making it difficult to optimise seating arrangements. The team created a layout that helps to maximise the opportunity offered by the street frontage, integrating clients into the studio environment and creating a flexible working setting. In addition to the existing staircase and lifts on the Foley Street side, a new second staircase now connects the ground and lower ground floors on the Riding House Street side. A kitchen and informal meeting area have been incorporated into spaces at the bottom of the staircase, helping to encourage movement between levels as well as greater interaction between clients and colleagues.

The reception area has been designed as a gallery space and is currently hosting work from artists who have worked with Woods Bagot in recent years. This space is also used every Friday evening for ‘London Salon’ presentations; a regular activity that helps to broaden design discourse in the London studio by engaging with contributors from a range of disciplines, including design. In June this year, the studio participated in the RIBA London Open Studios programme as part of the London Festival of Architecture by exhibiting the work of three contemporary artists. Attended by an array of architecture and design enthusiasts, the event also offered the Fitzrovia neighbourhood an introduction to the new Woods Bagot studio space.

“Our aim was to create a proper design studio rather than adapt to a typical office space. This is also a studio which is broadly aligned with — and complementary to — the design of other Woods Bagot studios across the world,” Jonathan French continues. “To help achieve this, we collaborated with designers across our Global Studio to ensure that the Woods Bagot ethos is embedded in the new space as strongly as possible.”



Words Kirk Truman

Photography John Carey

“We were welcomed by locals and other businesses with open arms and have felt part of a real community ever since. There is a charm to the area unlike most others in London.”

Now, I’m not one to pick favourites, but I must confess that my arm is somewhat bent when it comes to a certain modern European restaurant at 110 Great Portland Street. From an unforgettable à la carte menu to one of my favourite bars to sip carefully away at whiskey; some would regard this place as an emporium of upmarket British-European fare in a utilitarian-chic space with plastered walls. Though its founders prefer   the title Picture.

Picture opened its doors in 2013, founded by trio Tom Slegg, Alan Christie & Colin Kelly; restaurateurs with a diverse portfolio from front-of-house to fine dining. Front-of-house Tom who originated in Suffolk worked in restaurants in his home county from the age of 15. He moved to London in 2009 to work as a restaurant manager for the Michelin star rated Arbutus Restaurant Group. Chef Alan, originated from Aberdeen where he trained and worked. Moving to London in 2000, he worked at Putney Bridge Restaurant later working at Arbutus when it opened in 2006 where he became head chef in 2007. Chef Colin, originated from Tullamore, Ireland. He trained and worked in Dublin before moving to London in 2002. Colin worked at The Orrery restaurant before moving to Putney Bridge Restaurant then on to Arbutus Restaurant Group.

With the trio working within the same restaurant group (Arbutus) for a number of years, they shared a desire to begin their own venture. “We all got on well and had our own ambitions. It seemed the logical step to give it a go together and see what we could create. It has been a real bonus to have input from both front-of-house and the kitchen within the team” says Tom.

Location was first on the agenda for the trio, whose eyes were  initially drawn to the Soho neighbourhood. “Soho has such an amazing energy and has become a hub of fantastic restaurants. Unfortunately with that comes a price-tag that was above the budget of first time restaurateurs like ourselves!” says Tom. However they were swiftly drawn away from the Soho allure to the more exclusive postcode of Fitzrovia. “We loved the area. Fitzrovia and Great Portland Street has a lovely neighbourhood feel despite being so close to Oxford Street and all the hustle and bustle associated with it.” A site on Great Portland Street was soon suggested by an agent. It ticked all the boxes particularly  when it came to the size and feel. With the BBC and many other local businesses being so close by, they saw an opportunity which they knew would bring something new to the street.

Seeking to be in keeping with the area, the trio wanted to create a restaurant with a real neighbourhood feel. “Opening a restaurant in London today is tough – there is a concern that you need to be ‘on-trend’, that you need to ‘keep up or get forgotten’. We are all strong believers, however, that if you focus on serving the best food you can with genuinely warm hospitality you can’t go too far wrong. Our aim was to create an un-intimidating environment where people can have fun” says Tom. For some time, the owners were tossing and turning between names for the restaurant. Conclusively they decided on Picture a name evocative of the neighbourhood’s relationship with design and media.

Exquisite food and value for money embody the ethos behind the menu at Picture. From Pork cheek with kohlrabi, mustard seed and a Granny Smith apple to Hake brandade, brown shrimps, sea greens and sourdough croutons, the à la carte menu caters to a wide variety of tastes. The six course seasonal tasting menu (available at £39 per head) has proved particularly popular amongst regular diners and is a great way to sample all of their current dishes. “The food itself I suppose would be categorised as modern European. It is light and fresh and a lot of care is taken with the quality of the product coming in to the kitchen. The majority of our suppliers are London based but we also like to look a little further afield for produce that is really worth it. For example, the highest quality lamb from Elwy Valley in Wales has become a staple on our menu.” To add to the incredible menu and relaxed dining environment, Picture boasts a beautiful parquet-topped bar in a modern setting with a team of experienced bar tenders creating truly innovative cocktails.

Upon acquiring the site in 2013 the initial renovation took its toll on the overall budget. But welcomed entirely by locals and other businesses, Picture and its founding trio have felt part of a real community from the outset. “The area around us immediately seemed to be booming. When we opened we knew that we were taking a risk. Thankfully, we have seen other restaurants and bars arrive, adding a vibrancy to the area that can only mutually benefit our neighbours. We attract a lot of regular guests and are aware that this repeat business and word-of-mouth is what will keep us running successfully!” says Tom.

Picture, now an established part of Fitzrovia’s restaurant scene, always has an eye to improving their offerings and keeping their ideas fresh. The restaurant looks forward to many years ahead in the area and a potential expansion. “We are looking to open more restaurants in the future, and will probably stay as central as possible. There is no doubt however that we will always look at Fitzrovia as home.”

Nina Hamnett

Nina Hamnett

Words Darren Hawes

Illustrations Luke Stuart

“One had to do something to celebrate one’s freedom and escape from home.”

Serendipity occurs when we least expect it and for Nina it was in France, 1914. She had already earned a reputation in London and decided on a visit to Paris. Who should she run into but famed artist and central figure of the art world at the time, Amedeo Modigliani. Well, it wouldn’t be too long before fame came-a-knocking.

Primarily an artist, part-time writer, Nina existed in a space of her own. She not only crafted art, she lived art and played muse to some of the most important figures of the twentieth century. Born in the sleepy Pembrokeshire town of Tenby, Wales in 1890, Hamnett worked hard to escape a life in the doldrums and was never shy of standing out: “In the daytime, I wore a clergyman’s hat, a check coat and a skirt with red facings…I was stared at in the Tottenham Court Road! One had to do something to celebrate one’s freedom and escape from home.” Of course, it was her talent at painting that afforded Nina her freedom. At 16, Nina won a place at Pelham Art School. So, as any sane person wanting to embark in the world, she accepted and moved to London. She graduated in 1907 and went straight into studies at the London School of Art –finishing courses in 1910.

Nina had only one place to go from here: Paris. 1914 and Nina Hamnett found herself in the café La Rotonde. After a fortuitous meeting, Modigliani introduced the bright young thing to giants of the art world: Picasso, Diaghilev and Cocteau. It was within this group of bohemians that Nina was finally able to find a home and further develop her individuality. In this setting, Nina also met the man who would become her future husband, Norwegian artist Roald Kristian. This match was seen as somewhat unusual and Nina once remarked, of a painting done of the two by Walter Sickert, “We looked a picture of gloom.” This was also a period where Nina gained first-hand experience of the French avant-garde movement – one she would later, as a self-appointed ambassador, bring to the artistic communities of London.

Nina lived the next few decades of her life flitting between Paris and London, cementing a reputation for the avant-garde within both her art and lifestyle. She soon became known for her promiscuity: it is said that she would get drunk and tell everyone how Modigliani thought her to have the ‘best tits in Europe,’ proceeding to prove it. Most scandalous, of course, was her open admittance to being bisexual (an orientation unheard of in polite society). There is even an alleged fling with Vanessa Bell of the Bloomsbury group –although all signs point towards this rumour being propagated by Ms Hamnett herself.

In her book, Laughing Torso, Nina writes “One day somebody said, “You might get a job to paint furniture and do decorative work at the Omega Workshops in Fitzroy Square.” And so she spent some time working at the premises at 33 Fitzroy Square. Founded by artist and critic, Roger Fry, Omega Workshop was primarily intended to provide visual expression in textiles of the post-impressionist and modernist styles that were in vogue. For Nina Hamnett it was a way to make a living (yes, the workshop paid).

Nina’s roles were varied: one day she would be painting a mural or a lampshade, the next she could be found stitching together a cubist duvet. But, on top of this more creative role, she also sat as a model for the artists in the group. One piece in particular is the embodiment of the artistic community of the 1910s: a painting by Roger Fry, currently hanging in the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery, at the University of Leeds, shows Hamnett modelling an Omega Workshop dress designed by Vanessa Bell. Its use of colours and slightly off angles also makes for a prime example of post-impressionist portraits.

With her lavish lifestyle and numerous modelling jobs, it is sometimes hard to remember that Nina Hamnett was quite rightly a celebrated artist herself. In fact, she superseded some of her contemporaries, becoming celebrated in both Paris and London, with her paintings hanging in many galleries, from Salon d’Automne to The Royal Academy.

In Nina Hamnett, Queen of Bohemia, Denise Hooker explains “By the mid-thirties, Nina was producing very little work beyond quick portrait sketches in pencil or chalk… Always willing to tell another anecdote in return for the next drink. Gradually… the celebrated Reine de Bohème took over from the serious artist.”

Her adventures with fellow creative, all regulars at the Fitzroy Taven, gave the area its flair and bohemian style. Here, revelling in the lively atmosphere, she mixed with luminaries such as Augustus John, Jacob Epstein and even Aleister Crowley. Hamnett and Crowley’s encounters ranged from the purportedly intimate – he claims she shared a bed with her but was incredibly rude about the experience – to litigious, when in 1934 he sued her for claiming he practiced “black magic.” He lost the case but maybe some form of magic was involved because not long after, Nina’s life commenced a precipitous decline.

Unlike many of her contemporaries and friends – Fry, Picasso, Woolf – the Queen of Bohemia’s artistic reputation is sometimes overshadowed by the stories of her reckless behaviour in later years, from vomiting into a handbag to urinating in public. December 1956: Nina Hamnett was found impaled on spikes at the feet of her apartment building. Was she pushed? Did she drunkenly fall? Or was it suicide? Her last words, possibly hinting at how tired she was of living as a shadow of herself, furiously chasing her earlier fame and recognition… “Why won’t you let me die?”

The Omega Workshops

The Omega Workshops

Words Jane Singer

Illustrations Lucy Bayliss

“In so far as taste can be changed by one man, it was changed by Roger Fry” (Sir Kenneth Clark)

In 1913, the Omega Workshop was founded by Roger Fry and was based at 33 Fitzroy Square. In stripping away the divide between decorative and fine arts, Fry wanted firstly to introduce into the applied arts a Post-Impressionistic approach to design and colour and secondly, to provide a source of part-time work for impoverished artists. By the end of the 19th century the word “omega” was commonly used as meaning the last word on a subject, and many of Fry’s friends believed he chose this name to imply that the workshops were the last word in decorative art.

Roger Fry, artist and critic, was the most influential individual in the introduction of modern art to England at the start of the 20th century. It was his observation of Poiret’s École Martine in Paris, which he had visited in 1911, that contributed to his philanthropic notion to create the Omega Workshop. Poiret’s Atelier was established to encourage free activity in the decoration of objects, fabrics and furniture. Fry admired the simplicity and vivacity in the work produced there and a number of the early Omega works share these qualities.

Unlike the political and philosophical aims of William Morris’aesthetic in the 1880s and the more intellectually rigorous Bauhaus in Germany in 1919, Fry was more concerned with providing a situation where artists could enjoy absolute freedom from convention and infuse their work, and the making of it, with a sense of joy, which ultimately would be conveyed to the owner. On a commercial level, he was also aware of the need for a viable project, which enabled artists to earn money. In contrast to the Bauhaus, Fry did not attempt to forge closer ties between design and industry. He did, however, share Morris’ belief that machine-made objects suffered from a deadness and lack of humanity and admired the simplicity of design of the Bauhaus movement, believing that objects became impractical when they were very ornate.

Founding members of the Omega Workshop included Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. It was established as a limited company, with shareholders, employees and a number of subcontracted craftsmen producing wares, offsite original Omega prices. At the height of their production artists included Wyndham Lewis, Frederick Etchells, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska and Winifred Gill, who ran the workshops from the start of the war until 1916. During 1913, Vanessa Bell, often described as the ‘matriarch of Bloomsbury’ because of her ability to organise the practical concerns of life, was a regular visitor to 33 Fitzroy Square. Her training and experience as a painter and her knowledge of Post-Impressionist theories of art (through Bloomsbury discussions with Roger Fry and her husband, Clive Bell) gave a sureness of touch to her work. Bell believed that the English were unable to appreciate simplicity or boldness in design. As a result the pieces she produced there were fresh, bold and unselfconscious. If the public lived with objects decorated by these artists, Fry believed, they could understand and appreciate post-impressionist paintings.

The Omega Workshop produce ranged from painted furniture to bead necklaces. One could find a Fauve shawl, a Post-Impressionist chair or a Cubist gown, all under one roof. 33 Fitzroy Square was where artists and wealthy buyers mingled and where artists’ designs were sold directly to the consumer. One of the defining features of the works was that they were sold anonymously, signed only with the symbol Ω, the Greek letter for Omega, creating a fair and level playing ground. Omega could also offer interior design and to that end, three rooms at 33 Fitzroy Square were decorated in the Omega style. In addition, artists worked a maximum of three-and-a-half days a week for thirty shillings. The Omega Workshop extended beyond the artistic and the organisation really was enjoyable and social; friendship was a key factor in the set-up.

When the Omega Workshop opened, it was viewed as scandalous, mainly by the press, who were still grappling with ideas of modern art. The boldness of the work offended numerous members of British society who preferred and valued the technical expertise and elaborate qualities of Morris designs or the elegance and subtlety of Edwardian décor. In the catalogue for the official opening in July 1913 Fry stressed the joviality and the enjoyment – experienced by the makers. The roughness in the final product assured against the emphasis on finish that Fry believed deadened the imaginative life; he did not value craftsmanship as such and did not share Morris’desire to revive the crafts. Any product that required skilled labour was sent out to craftsmen.

The limited concern for craft and finish, which was intended to preserve ‘the spontaneous freshness of peasant or primitive work while satisfying the needs and expressing the feelings of modern cultivated man’, resulted in a number of problems. Legs of tables or chairs sometimes fell off, and on one occasion, the paint on a set of outdoor furniture peeled off after the first shower of rain. The steep learning curve, which the artists experienced, was financially difficult to accommodate. In addition, the often bizarre and exuberant character of the Omega products, which only appealed to a small, wealthy avant-garde, meant that customers bought on a single occasion but usually did not go back. By 1915, Omega had branched out beyond household goods and started to introduce clothing into the repertoire, inspired by both the costumes of the Ballets Russes and Duncan Grant’s theatre designs. Avid supporters included the flamboyant dresser and socialite Ottoline Morrell and the famous bohemian artist Nina Hamnet who helped by modelling the clothes.

Artistic talent often breeds arrogance and resentment and none more so than from the British artist and writer Wyndham Lewis. Despite being an early member of The Omega Workshop, he quickly split away from the group in a dispute over Omega’s contribution to the Ideal Homes Exhibition. Lewis circulated a letter to all shareholders, making accusations against the company and Roger Fry in particular, and pouring scorn on the Omega’s products and ideology. He left the group, along with Frederick Etchells, Cuthbert Hamilton and Edward Wadsworth, to set up the Rebel Art Centre in opposition and competition. This subsequently led to his establishing the rival Vorticist movement and the publication in 1916 of its two-issue house magazine, Blast.

As early as 1914 there were financial problems and the war hastened Omega’s decline. By 1916, many of the artists were involved in the fighting or working out of London on various agricultural projects as conscientious objectors. Whilst Roger Fry continued to support Omega in London, Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant moved to Charleston in Sussex, where they put their efforts into decorating the entire house in Omega style – an effort which is now maintained by the National Trust.

Despite its connections with high society patrons, the Workshops’ reputation suffered due to the fact that many of its products were poorly constructed. Although the Workshops managed to survive the war, increasing financial problems eventually forced their closure in June 1919. Ironically, Omega’s biggest commercial success was its final closing down sale, when everything went for half price.

The Omega Workshop had neither timing nor good management on its side. However, it opened opportunities for English artists and illustrators, who would have struggled to enter the commercial design business and established interior design as a legitimate artistic activity; its influence continued from the 1920s onwards.  And even more recently, many of its designs have served as inspiration for contemporary brands like Sanderson, Mulberry and Laura Ashley, bringing about a timely revival of the Omega Workshops’ creative output.

Rose Blake

Rose Blake

Words Kirk Truman

Portraits Catherine Hyland

“When I go to an exhibition I’m almost as interested in the people looking around as in the work itself. I keep a little sketchbook on me so I can remember day to day narratives that I see around me.”

Though I may not quite count myself as an artist, I would count myself an admirer of anybody courageous enough to pursue their creative endeavours deep into the trees. Rose Blake is such a person. Using her experience in editorial illustration, she leaps a giant step further into self-expression, freedom and fine art, bringing together a remarkable collection of new works in her first solo exhibition at the Rebecca Hossack Gallery.

As a youngster, Rose was born into and raised within a creative environment which progressively shaped her own desire for the arts and personal expression, namely illustration. “My mum and dad are both artists so I was really surrounded by it as a kid. Then I was lucky enough to have a few really inspiring art teachers at school (especially at sixth form), so it just went from there really” she says. The daughter of the renowned English pop artist Sir Peter Blake (creator of the infamous album sleeve art for the Beatles’Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band), Rose was soon to progress her interest in art and continue her family trend, studying Illustrator and Animation at Kingston University. During her time at Kingston Rose was awarded the D&AD Best New Blood Award. She followed this with an MA at the Royal College of Art. Soon after her studies, Rose began to complete commissions for papers such as The New York Times, The Telegraph & The BBC. “It was just the natural progression after I graduated. The more and more editorial stuff you do, the better your clients get!” she says, “When I first graduated I was mainly working on in-house business magazines illustrating boring articles about stocks and shares!”

In this debut, Rose has chosen to focus on the subject of vast museum-scapes. “I had made a few of these drawings previously, and when I showed them to Rebecca she was really into them, and we decided together that they would make a cool show” she says. In the series, Blake captures the busy hum of a gallery concourse and narrative of day-to-day lives. A couple exchanging flowers, children tottering along hand-in-hand with their parents, a droopy teddy is almost lost in the movement, and a yoga-loving bystander is entertained by a giddy cluster of school children with matching rucksacks; Blake’s series captivates the characteristics of the happenings in life that often go by unnoticed. “I’m really interested in observing people around me” she says, “when I go to an exhibition I’m almost as interested in the people looking around as in the work itself. I keep a little sketchbook on me so I can remember day-to-day narratives that I see around me.”

In her work, each digitally-designed character contributes to the rich narrative which the scene portrays, all with their own lives and personalities. And the art on the wall, which Blake hand-paints onto the image, breathes its own history. In a meta-artistic fashion her imagined museums become playful forums in which to redefine what is regarded as ‘exhibition-worthy’. “I decided to create these gallery scenes and make smaller scale work within them”she says, “its basically lots of shows within a show.” Illustration as art is affirmed, and truly celebrated.

A few years ago, Rose first came to meet gallerist Rebecca Hossack at an opening. Soon after the two first met, they arranged a meeting to discuss Rose’s work, following which Rebecca & Rose began to make preparations for an exhibition. “I’m not really used to exhibiting my work in galleries” explains Rose, “my work is normally for print/editorial so now it feels really exposed to me.” The exhibition, aptly entitled ‘Now I Am An Artist’, takes its title from the nature of Blake’s tentative debut show, being somewhat nervous in having her first solo exhibition.

In putting together the exhibition, Rose’s illustration commissions were on hold for a month, though now she is back to work. “I’ve got a few things lined up. I’m doing a little collaboration with Heals, and I’m working on two book proposals, a children’s book and a cook book!”says Rose. There is also talk of exhibiting her work at the Mott Street Rebecca Hossack Gallery in New York in the coming year, an exhibition that Rose expresses having many more ideas for. “I’d love to be able to keep a balance of doing illustration work and making work for shows. It’s nice to have the contrast of really quick paced editorials, while being able to work a lot more freely on my exhibition work. I’ve had so much fun making the work for this one!”

Hard Working House

Hard Working House

Words Kirk Truman

Designs Urban Projects Bureau

“Living in Fitzrovia is more like a community than living in the usual semi-detached commuter belt so many young families opt for”

From 1714 to 1830, the first four British monarchs of the House of Hanover (George I, George II, George III, and George IV), reigned in continuous succession in the United Kingdom. With its centred panel front doors, large rectangular windows and distinctive chimney tops, Georgian architecture bares the name of the monarchs that reigned during this period. A notable example of such architecture locally in Fitzrovia is Robert Adam’s elegant Fitzroy Square, while nearby, a remarkable reinvention of the style can be found at 33 Grafton way.

London’s most hard working architectural typology, the Georgian townhouse itself is more-or-less public, or more-or-less private. In the project produced, designed an reimagined by the architectural practice, Urban Projects Bureau, an ordinary Georgian house has been pushed to the limits adapting the typology to provide a mixed-use socially sustainable development that provides commercial spaces and a three-storey family home.

The project itself was the vision of husband and wife duo, Eva & Paschalis Loucaides. Including a full-scale renovation, reorganisation and reinterpretation of the existing building and a light-weight roof-top pavilion and garden – the building was an opportunity and challenge for Urban Projects Bureau to use architecture to support a mixed-use urban environment and to experiment with central London’s essential urban tissue. Alex, founder of Urban Projects Bureau, had previously met Eva whilst studying in Cambridge and the two have remained friends ever since.

The conversion and extension of 33 Grafton Way was given the name Hard Working House by Urban Projects Bureau as the project was a chance to experiment with and bring new innovations to the Georgian town-house typology so as to make it ‘work harder’. Using the design principles of typological adaptation and addition, the derelict property which was in a severe state of disrepair was reconfigured to provide a compact high-density dwelling, with a range of residential and commercial spaces including a newsagent, 2 studio apartments and a three-storey private maisonette with a new roof-top pavilion and terrace.

With Fitzrovia closely monitored by both Camden and Westminster Council conservation teams, the project was subject to many stringent planning and conservation area regulations. Working closely with the local authority and planning consultants Nathaniel Lichfield and Partners, the property was re-imagined as a positive contributor to the historic fabric of the neighbourhood. Undertaking a detailed visual analysis of their proposals through complex 3D modelling of the property and its urban context, the design itself was influenced significantly by views from the streets and neighbourhood buildings in order to design the rooftop pavilion to be invisible from the street, while appearing to be a contemporary adaptation of the neighbourhood roof-scape. Through three rounds of pre-planning consultation, the planning officers and local conservation area groups were very supportive of the project and its potential to innovate the historic fabric, meet housing and workspace policy ambitions, and to set a precedent for future development.

Key to the project was the ambition, care and trust of the Loucaides family, who Alex and the Urban Projects Bureau team worked closely with throughout the project at all stages. Having been the family grocery store at the ground floor at one stage, the property has been in Paschalis Loucaides’ family for the last 40 years. Paschalis was determined to rectify 30 years of neglect inflicted on the house and to set a precedent for high-density inner city living and to create a compact dwelling for he & his family. On the project, Paschalis says “the hardest part was the pressure and cost of renovating a derelict building. As it was so far gone, banks would not mortgage against it as it needed such extensive work to be habitable.”

As well as the sensitive conservation and reconfiguration of the house, the key architectural addition to the property is the roof-top pavilion and garden. Conceived as an ‘urban room’, carefully positioned openings and site lines frame key views of surrounding urban landmarks, orchestrating a series of dynamic relationships between the domestic dwelling space of the house and its urban context. The property itself was gutted entirely from within, leaving only the existing masonry walls, which were repointed and cleaned. While the interior timber structure (which was rotting, leaning and bowing) was replaced, as much of the existing fabric was recycled as possible. This included re-using timber joints and trusses as structural elements where possible, or as internal features such as built in furniture and a new dining table. The thermal and environmental efficiency of the building was upgraded through lining all the walls and window reveals with Thermalcheck insulation, replacing all the windows with new high-performance double glazing, and replacing the flat roof with a new high-performance thermally insulated warm roof with roof garden above. The drainage, services and heating systems in the original building were not fit for purpose and were replaced with integrated energy-efficient systems.

For Paschalis and his family, the property has been renovated in such a fashion to adjust to his family’s needs, though there are still ready-plans to extend the rear of the house. At the base of the house, where his relatives once ran a grocer’s, he has sighted the possibility of reviving community spirit set by his relatives in the form of a café. He adds, “I know most of the people in our street and we can live on top of the shop without any trouble at all. Living in Fitzrovia is more like a community than living in the usual semi-detached commuter belt so many young families opt for.”



Words Vaneesha Ritchie

Photography Etienne Gilfillan

“I love phalaenopsis because it has a long flower period, I like vanda because it has a special pattern on the petal like a wild animal.”

Between the screaming neons of Soho, the lively bustle of Tottenham Court Road and the studious calm of Bloomsbury lies Orchidya. Perfectly situated and perfectly hidden on the leafy oasis that is Store street. Behind the door of Number 42, a kingdom of mystery awaits you, and more to the point, mysteriously beautiful Orchids. The shop is arranged in two halves ‘to reflect the history and modernity of orchids’.  One half, the front room of an eccentric, Victorian, orchid grower indulging in a grand excess of ornament. The walls hung with rows of framed botanical prints, dark wood cabinets artfully cluttered with trifles, curios, gewgaws and orchids, orchids and more orchids! The other half a quiet, white, modern space perfect for the composition of beautiful bouquets, Orchidya’s other specialty.

It was a 20 million year old prehistoric bee preserved in amber, along with the orchid pollen on its wing tip, which revealed that orchids were at least as old as the dinosaurs. Given the fact that orchids have survived all this time, their incredible diversity should come as no surprise with over 30,000 recognised species so far, distributed around the globe, surviving in obscure habitats –  vertiginous slopes of dense rainforests, craggy outcrops of all but impassable Himalayan cliff edges, but also in plain sight –  water lilies, magnolias, avocado, black pepper and vanilla plants all belong to the orchid family.

Human desire to possess beauty plays out too in the field of orchids and like many a Greek tragedy it lead, in Victorian times, to a kind of madness dubbed Orchidelerium. Explorers and orchid hunters were sent to all corners of the earth on long and sometimes perilous expeditions to bring back the rarest, most exquisite, most unique orchids. Unfortunately, back then, despite the exorbitant expense showered on bringing back these rarities, many orchids withered and died upon arrival, making them, of course, even more desirable – madness indeed! Standing in Orchidya, one can almost feel the intrigue and exotic adventures these intrepid globetrotters lived seeking out these flowers. But here at Orchidya, the plants prosper in the hands of such dedicated specialists.

Orchidya opened four years ago “inspired by a love of flowers in general and a passion for orchids in particular. We stand out from other orchid suppliers because of our attention to detail: when we pick the plants we look at the roots as well as the shape, colour and direction of the flowers to make sure our customers get the finest orchids.” Orchidya, who’s nursery won three Gold Medals and two Silver ones from the Chelsea flower show, also specialise in orchid arrangements, bringing together incredible bespoke combinations to suit even the most demanding clients.

A slightly disquieting thing about orchids, which becomes obvious once you know about it, is that the flowers are totally and completely symmetrical. Theories abound about the significance of facial symmetry in humans – the more symmetrical a face, the more attractive it will be to others. The mesmerising symmetry of orchids appears to illicit the  same response – no wonky petals, no little bumps just perfect, impenetrable, spellbinding symmetry – the Grace Kelly of the flower world!

As a plant that symbolises luxury there is no shortage of clientele in London. Orchidya boasts clients from Russia, the Middle East, America and of course right here in the UK. “As London diversifies so do the clients. Their requirements vary; more established clients and collectors pre-order particular varieties, sourced and grown bespoke to add to their own cherished collections”. Sophie adds “Older clients like to specialise and collect, unusual, interesting orchids.  Young professionals like to buy large arrangements of orchids as luxury gifts.”

So how on earth do you care for such exotic plants? I had visions of elaborate nurturing techniques… crushed pearls hand picked in the Tuamotu Archipelago, to be gently dusted on the uppermost leaves at first light… or maybe mixtures of artisanal nutrients exclusive to Amazon rainforests fed to the orchid root system every 3 hours through an eye dropper… But no, apparently not, and that sort of nonsense would probably kill them. As my mental image of vintage laboratory glassware shatters, Sophie the store manager assures me that “the best way to look after orchids is not to look after them”, as several million years of perfectly competent evolution attests, orchids “prefer to be left alone, only needing to be watered sparingly at the root by spraying filtered or rain water. (Though I’m sure using vintage glass eye dropper, if you are that way inclined, would be just as effective!).

As a supplier of luxury plants, Orchidya offer a lot more than an orchid in a pot. Sophie explains that more recently, the shop has seen a huge expansion in its cut flower and bespoke bouquet arrangements with a variety of clients from the Sanderson and St. Martin’s Hotels to Sotheby’s and Senate House to mention only a few. Using only the freshest and finest flowers, Orchidya create imaginative and memorable arrangements. And much like the rest of the beautiful shops on Store Street – from restaurants and art galleries to independent coffee shops – they go that extra mile by way of craft and a depth of knowledge of their respective subjects to satisfy their customers.

Flower arranging is an art in itself, an ancient Japanese art to be precise, called Ikebana. Established in the 15th century and originally taught by Buddhist priests, it became a disciplined art form for creative expression which, by employing a series of rules the intention of the artist could be conveyed via the particular colour combinations, shapes and natural lines used in the final exhibit, bringing nature and humanity together. Sophie herself has extensively studied flower arranging in Paris learning how to manipulate organic materials and develop concepts and designs by utilising a variety of their properties. She then spent a further 6 months at the Orchidya greenhouse in Lincolnshire learning to care for and nurture the growing plants. Her enjoyment and depth of knowledge of Orchidya’s wares is evident not only from the lush, almost tropical feel of the shop but from her answer to my question: what is your favourite orchid? Sophie just about manages to stop herself at 5. And that’s five orchid families, not five orchids!

“I love phalenopsis because it has a long flower period, I like vanda because it has a special pattern on the petal like a wild animal. Slipper orchids look so unique and wild. Dendrobidium orchids are so elegant. Cambria orchids have a special fragrance, some of them smell like orange blossoms, some smell like delicate jasmine, and some smell like chocolate.” I suspect she could go list many more and luckily for those that visit Orchidya, funds notwithstanding, you too can choose as many as you like.

Brandy Row

Brandy Row

Words & Portraits Etienne Gilfillan

“I’m like the Artful Dodger meets Al Capone.”

I met Brandy Row about 4 years ago, but really our paths should have crossed much earlier. I’d been looking for a guitarist to help me record some songs with a talented blues singer, and the manager of Soho’s So High Soho recommended one of her employees. I wanted someone local just to make things easy. “Brandy Row. He’s a multi-instrumentalist” she suggested “and best of all, he lives nearby.” But never could I have imagined how nearby – Brandy’s flat and mine shared a wall! He was my next door neighbour, only I was two floors above him.

I discovered an animated, passionate character for whom, it soon became evident, life was both toxic and intoxicating. He looked a lot like a modern day Robert Mitchum from Night of the Hunter, carrying the same gravitas and intensity but with a caustic sense of humour. This guy was totally absorbed by the desire to write and perform his own music. And his sartorial style was a living embodiment of his dark, sometimes apocalyptic lyrics. Suited like he might be attending a funeral in a Flannery O’Connor Southern Gothic novel, his hands and face covered in a constellation of peculiar tattoos, Brandy Row was definitely not your average Fitzrovian.

And to think our paths had never crossed… How could I have missed him? So I started photographing Brandy to make up for lost time and delved into his music. I discovered his folky psychedelic solo material but also, a harder, 70s english punk side which he showed off with another  project, The Gaggers. But even his bluesier material had a punk edge to it so I was curious to know where that came from. “People like  Bob Dylan, Nick Cave, Tom Waits, Robert Johnson, Stiv Bators, The Stones, Etta James, Alan Watts, Karen Dalton, Iggy Pop, Lux Interior, Bill Hicks, Joe Strummer, Bruce Lee… they all influenced my songwriting and even life choices! I also love all that Delta Blues stuff and the 50’s 60’s Chicago movement, the list goes on and on!!”

One of the highlights of his life happened last summer, when he got an opening slot for some of the artists he had long admired. “I played a couple of shows in the UK opening for a supergroup formed of Glen Matlock (Sex Pistols), Earl Slick (who worked with Bowie) and Slim Jim Phantom from the Stray Cats. More recently, I opened up for Adam Ant! What a great show! He’s someone I use to dress up like as a kid so him calling me asking me to support was a trip!”

Speaking of trips, Brandy toured America again earlier this year. “I’ve toured a lot in America: the Midwest, the East Coast, West Coast. I met some great people that have changed my life. The last time I was in the States was a few months ago now, I did a tour that started on new years eve in Brooklyn, New York City, at a place called The Beast of Bourbon, run by an english castaway that has been anchored in NYC for 20 years.” It was there that Brandy hosted and promoted a night and got a bunch of musicians that he’d known and shared a stage with many times before in the Big Apple. “It was a great night! My band flew out to do the show. We played into the New Year, then I flew back to LA with my good friends and family Tina de la Celle and Julian de la Celle.”

Touring. Working. Recording. Working. Every penny Brandy earns he throws back into his music, funding 7” single releases, photo shoots and even elaborate videos. And his most recent video might well be one of his most ambitious not to say craziest… “Julian de la Celle and I went to the Nevada desert to shoot a new music video. By the time we were done shooting, I was covered in blood, as part of the story had me being filmed with an array of replica weapons. Anyhow, we drove to Vegas after that, but I had to stop in a busy parking lot to use the toilet! We were all sleep deprived and a bit frazzled. I opened the trunk and all the guns and knifes from the shoot spilled out! To make matters worse, for some reason I had 100 dollars in one dollar bills in my pocket. They all flew out, blowing across the windy desert carpark. That day, the good people of Nevada saw the Artful Dodger dressed as Al Capone, wearing a black mac, splattered with blood, chasing dollar bills in a desert rest stop, waving a gun and cursing in British gibberish at the money flying above his head… the sort of thing that makes a good video in its own right! Needless to say, we got out of there pretty quick.”

The last few months of Brandy’s life have seen him return to studio, off the radar with social media, concentrating on new material, evolving musically yet again. “I’ve been recording a new EP since January with my very talented amigo Rex Whitehall and a great producer and sound engineer called Alastair Jamieson, who owns and operates from Park Studios in Birmingham. It’s full of great 60’s equipment, old reverbs, everything. A great vibe!” Based in a beautiful Victorian building in Birmingham’s jewellery quarter, the studio has become Brandy’s second home. “Alastair brings out the best in me and the sessions we have are organic, we capture magic from the madness!”

But Brandy’s ideas for all this new material more often than not originate from his real home, back in Fitzrovia. “My whole writing routine consists of long walks around Fitzrovia and Soho at night. I get a vibe from an idea at home, record it, chop down a mix then put it my ears and take it out to streets. Out there, history seeps from every wall… you see what reality is really like, and that’s what I take from the area: triumph, failure, the truth, fraud, outcasts, junkies, artists, chancers, movers and shakers, its all out there in the dead of night!”

Greta Bellamacina

Greta Bellamacina

Words Kirk Truman

Portraits Sandra Vijandi

“I think all art forms are connected to statements – and educate in some way. I like to think that through fashion, music, art you can change the way people think.”

On the seam which separates Fitzrovia from east and west sits Maple Street. Cornered in by Banksy’s contribution to the neighbourhood and the post office tower, Maple Street is the bridge from Camden to Westminster. As my former home, I know Maple Street all too well. Though, recently I have come to discover a neighbour whose creative habits are not too dissimilar to my own. Poet, writer, artist and model, Greta Bellamacina tells of her relationship with the Fitzrovia neighbourhood and her works.

Greta grew up in Camden, which explains why the area always felt nostalgic to her. Having previously attended RADA, she studied at King’s College London where she graduated in 2012 with a BA in English. Her true passion, writing, came about as no coincidence for Greta… in fact it was almost intended. Her father, a musician, would endlessly play melodies on the piano to her in order to encourage her to write lyrics: “…they were always more like poems. I don’t think I really became interested in it properly until I was at school – I remember being really drawn to Lord Byron’s epic poem Don Juan,” she recalls.

Her first credited contribution came in 2007 when working for US Vogue as part of her artists/writers journey on the publication of ‘The World in Vogue: people, parties, places’. In 2011, Greta released a limited edition collection of poetry titled ‘Kaleidoscope’, which later aided her in being short-listed as the Young Poet Laureate of London in 2013. Though currently poetry editor of Champ Magazine, her writings and works have also graced the pages of a variety of publications, from The Telegraph to Wonderland, Vogue (UK, US & Italia), and Harper’s Bazaar UK.

Growing up Greta read a lot of poetry by writers such as Anne Sexton, Ted Hughes and Philip Larkin; all of whom Greta felt devoted to understand. She explains, “I felt close to their unleashed silences and noiseless despairs. But now I think I am more influenced by poets who have a way of looking at landscape as a continuous home; poets like Octavio Paz and Alice Oswald, looking at land as part of a greater system, something more cohesive with our dreams, part of the weather and the trees. I like to explore these themes a lot in my writing.”

Last year, Greta edited a collection of poetry, ‘Nature’s Jewels’, in collaboration with MACK publishers, where she was later assigned the role of poetry editor. Earlier this year, she was commissioned to write a series of poetic texts for the summer exhibition at the Royal Academy, while in February she launched a collection of British contemporary love poems with Faber & Faber. Greta is currently collaborating on a collection of verse with the poet, Robert Montgomery. “We started writing together a while ago and decided our styles seemed to complement each other. The poems all come back round to the idea of being British, the night buses going round the circus squares of London, the left-over mornings of the week, and the BT privatisation,” she explains.

But Greta has more than one string to her bow. She recently directed a documentary about the importance of saving our slowly vanishing public libraries (released last month) and is currently working on several short films which will premiere at the end of this year. In addition to filmmaking, Greta has also modelled for a number of years, and has starred in fashion campaigns for various brands including Burberry and All Saints. “I was spotted in a lift by a photographer in the Conde Nast building in New York, whilst I was working for Vogue in my gap year before I went to university. He sent some images to Models1 in London and I got signed,” she says. She sees these two creative pursuits – modelling and writing – as having developed alongside one another. “I think all art forms are connected to statements – and educate in some way. I like to think that through fashion, music, art you can change the way people think,” says Greta. Currently, she is represented by VIVA Model Management on their talent board which is based in London and Paris.

Greta first visited the Fitzrovia neighbourhood when visiting French’s Theatre Bookstore on Warren Street to look for plays and scripts during her studies at RADA. She felt strongly that Fitzrovia was in some ways a lost neighbourhood; in being so central, though equally quite forgotten from the rest of the West-End, despite its literary history and charm. “I like the rhythm of the place; everyone arrives into town and leaves so quickly that it feels like there is a lot of stillness and space,” she says, now a resident of Fitzrovia for two years.

With her literary agent based around the corner, Greta is well adjusted to Fitzrovia, a neighbourhood which has come to inspire her in recent years. With the signs of poetry and old magical history everywhere in her path – from Banksy’s art at the end of her street reading ‘if graffiti changed anything – it would be illegal’, to the rooftop graffiti on Maple Street reading; ‘the writer, the villain & the stone’ – to Greta Fitzrovia is a realm of independence and creativity.

Percy & Founders

Percy & Founders

Words Kirk Truman

Photography Laurie Fletcher & James Brown

“We want to be the natural social hub that people want to go to not once a week, but two or three times a week.”

Peer and landowner, Hugh Percy, 1st Duke of Northumberland, is a name which is quietly synonymous with Fitzrovia. About the streets, subtle references to a man who developed and built on the name of our region from Percy Street to The Northumberland Arms are evenly spread. In 1755, Hugh Percy and a group of philanthropists came together and founded the Middlesex Hospital. Forward to today; for many, Percy and his founders would appear as but names in history. Now, on the site of the former Middlesex Hospital, a new reference to their legacy and the heritage of Fitzrovia has come to light. Sure to become as synonymous with the neighbourhood as Hugh Percy himself, Fitzrovia’s newest social destination Percy & Founders is a restaurant and bar which takes its name from Hugh Percy and the men who founded the Middlesex Hospital.

Having opened this spring, Percy & Founders is situated within the new Fitzroy Place development at a prominent corner where Berners Street and Mortimer Street meet, backing onto the soon to be unveiled Pearson Square. The restaurant is the first creation of Open House, the recently formed sister company to Cubitt House, renowned for its award-winning beautifully designed public houses in Belgravia, Knightsbridge, Pimlico and Marylebone – The Orange, Pimlico, being a particular favourite of mine. The formation of Open House marks the group’s evolutionary jump from a traditional pub to a contemporary, all-day dining venue.

Percy & Founders’ modern all-day dining is complemented by the different areas of the restaurant being tailored to a variety of needs at different times of the day – with a notable focus on ease and accessibility. Welcoming both reservations and casual walk-ins, the restaurant itself offers residents and visitors alike everything from morning coffee and breakfast through to lunch, dinner and evening cocktails. Alfresco dining is offered for the warmer months. Each section of Percy & Founders is purposefully designed to flow effortlessly into the next, thus making for a reassuringly comfortable venue. “We want to be the natural social hub that people want to go to not once a week, but two or three times a week,” says Open House Director Stefan Turnbull.

Great emphasis has been put on the design and finish of Percy & Founders, with the interior of the restaurant sympathetic to the heritage of Fitzrovia and its surrounding architecture. The logo of the restaurant is inspired by elements of the Percy family coat of arms. The Middlesex Hospital, and adjoining Grade II listed Fitzrovia Chapel at the rear, are echoed throughout the restaurant and bar with subtle nods to their respective styles: from bold colours, to patterns, textures and unique marble detail. The design philosophy of the restaurant appropriately centres on traditional craftsmanship with bespoke, handcrafted joinery throughout. The perfect combination of glass, brass and wood panelling paired with oak and terrazzo flooring make for a custom designed feel with surfaces hand-finished by oiling, brushing and oxidising – bespoke furniture honours both the style and substance of high modernism without being mistaken for nostalgic or retrograde.

Walking about the restaurant from the centre bar to the view directly into the restored Fitzrovia Chapel, the array of art collections by notable artists and illustrators is striking. Hanging from the ceiling above the central circular bench is a tailored piece by Alex Randall titled ‘The Butterfly Domes’, acting as a crossroads where a tree rests. When entering through the main entrance, directly on the left is the well-lit and traditionally styled cocktail bar for which there is a capacity of 65, with a mix of high and low level seating with four large Chesterfield sofas at the centre, and a marble topped bar. For the summer months, the large concertina windows can be folded open with comfortable window seats below each. On the far wall of the bar is another nod to the heritage of The Middlesex Hospital; ‘Acts of Mercy’ (Frederick Cayley Robinson 1916-1920), a collection originally commissioned and hung in the hospital itself. In part, Robinson’s collection represents the traumatic effects of conflict on patients sent back from the First World War.

To the right of the main entrance, adjacent to the cocktail bar, capable of seating 25 is The Reading Room. The casual feeling here is complemented by low furniture and window seats from which to work and relax: sumptuous fabrics, eye-catching glass light wall fittings and bookshelves (even some neatly tucked away copies of Fitzrovia Journal). On into the restaurant where there sits a series of dining spaces, again each tailored to different needs – all tables are centred around the central division bar. Here the Fitzrovia Chapel’s arresting interior can be viewed through a glass door – rest assured, a table here by the chapel is a real view to a kill. These areas are designed to host a variety of flexible private functions; from canapé receptions to sit down dinners.

Laid out along the left wall of the restaurant toward the stairwell, hangs the original 16 piece ‘A Rake’s Progress’ by British painter David Hockney (a 1960 adaptation of William Hogarth’s 1733 ‘A Rake’s Progress’), drawing attention to the challenges of social mobility and of maintaining one’s personal identity. At the far end of the restaurant it is difficult to distract yourself from the endearing pose of ‘Sick Dog’ by German painter, Michael Sowa, hung above the staircase. Where dogs were once as in abundance as guests in public houses, it seems appropriate for this be placed within the restaurant; Percy & Founders is a dog-friendly establishment.

Toward the far end of the restaurant, quickly stealing your attention is the superb open kitchen. Standing within this arena of creativity and buzz is a 1.5 tonne Maestro Venetti oven, custom designed for/by wonderful Executive Chef, Diego Cardoso. Standing before the kitchen are two high level sharing tables which allow for guests to experience the atmosphere and excitement of the kitchen through the Pyrolave pass, which is a glazed volcanic lava stone; past the kitchen, to the left and down the bespoke terrazzo and brass staircase leading to the lower ground floor, is the private dining room. Capable of seating 20 guests, and complete with its own bar, the dining room launched just last month. The versatile design of the space will be able to tailor to a number of different private functions such as drinks receptions, presentations, board meetings and family celebrations.

Percy & Founders Executive Chef, Diego Cardoso, has brought his wealth of experience to Fitzrovia, having previously worked in an array of some of the world’s most creative and exciting kitchens; most recently having worked as Head Chef at Angela Hartnett’s Murano. The all-day menu he has created features a fusion of simple British and modern European delights. There is a concise list of six starters, six mains, salads, sides and a dry-aged beef section. Mains such as the Sea Trout and Middle White Pork are delicious. There is also an all-day bar menu, including bar snacks – note the courgette wafers, cream cheese and Iberico ham, which are mesmerising. The restaurant is also open for breakfast at 7:30 throughout the week and has a weekend brunch menu – not forgetting a traditional Sunday Roast. Hand-in-hand with the menu itself, staff in the restaurant and bar are polite and informal, adding to the overall relaxed and casual setting at the heart of the neighbourhood.

Starters straight from Cardoso’s menu, such as the Lobster & Prawn Scotch Egg or Crispy Short Rib, make for a refreshing start to dinner, however, I was won over by a daily special; asparagus with quail eggs. Main dishes include Rib of Dry-aged Beef with baked bone marrow to share, Hand-made Linguine and Lamb Burger (harissa spiced mayo and sweet potato fries).

The restaurant’s salads include Grilled Chicken with crispy skin and Hot Smoked Salmon, with the options of sides in the form of Truffle Fries, Charred Greens and Mac & Cheese. Puddings are all presented with paired wines if desired and include Percy’s Mistresses (maple syrup butter), Yorkshire Treacle Tart and Lemon & Yoghurt. In switching between the traditional Old Fashioned fare and Percy & Founders’ own New-Old Fashioned, the drink offerings are respectably affordable, pairing wines from small grower labels alongside established producers, all of which are served by the glass, carafe and bottle.

From its attachment to the heritage of the Fitzrovia neighbourhood, and its respectful nods both in design and interior toward the site of the former Middlesex Hospital, Percy & Founders becomes as synonymous with the area as Hugh Percy himself. With summer now well on the rise, Fitzrovia’s newest all-day social destination is set only to flourish.

Grant Museum of Zoology

Grant Museum of Zoology

Words & Photography Kirk Truman

“He was one of the earliest evolutionary biologists. He was a biologist 30 years before Charles Darwin ever published. He taught Darwin evolution, Grant was his mentor…”

I admit it! I’m guilty of unveiling my favourite secret hideaways in the journal. And as ever, it’s a pleasure to do. Have you ever heard of Fitzrovia’s Grant Museum of Zoology? Don’t worry neither had I! And I’ll confess, I find it somewhat worrying that, up until about a year ago, this wonderful cavern of intrigue and wonder had not registered on my radar.

Jack Ashby of the University College London’s Public & Cultural Engagement Department explains that the name Grant derives from Professor Robert Edmond Grant (1793-1874), who established The Museum of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy to serve as a teaching collection at the then newly founded University of London (now known as University College London). Born in Edinburgh, where he studied medicine, Professor Grant remains a relative unknown to the public, though he is recognised within his field for his work on marine invertebrates, in particular sponges, sea pens and molluscs. “Nobody has ever heard of him. He’s not in any way famous, though he should be. He was one of the earliest evolutionary biologists. He was a biologist 30 years before Charles Darwin ever published. He taught Darwin evolution, Grant was his mentor,” says Jack. Grant was the first Professor of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy in England and upon arrival at the University found there to be no teaching materials with which to conduct his courses. Thus, he immediately began to amass specimens, material for dissection, diagrams and lecture notes. On his death bed, Grant was persuaded by a colleague, William Sharpey (1802-1880), to leave his considerable collection of books, academic papers and natural history specimens to the college. This ensured that successive generations of students would have access to his knowledge. Though his personal papers have never been found, his collection forms the basis of the museum today.

This collection has grown organically through time, until the early 1980s through to the early 2000s, when its size increased dramatically. It was during this period that other colleges and Universities throughout London had begun to donate their collections to the Grant museum. As Jack remembers, “They had decided they no longer required any sort of collection of zoology. Animal biology had begun to go out of fashion, with people just teaching molecular biology and genetics. Today many universities in London have realised that you can’t teach a student what a tiger looks like by looking at its genes – you actually need some whole animal bits too! We teach every day during term time.”

In absorbing a whole variety of collections, the museum has effectively become a museum of museums. Today it includes collections from the Gordon Museum, which consists of an assortment of animal brains from the comparative anatomy collections at King’s College London: The Imperial College London’s entire fossil, skeletal and spirit specimen collection was transferred to the UCL in the 1980s and soon after, in the ‘90s, primatology and fossil hominid materials were donated from the Napier Collection along with subsequent donations from a variety of collections throughout the city. A large majority of the specimens originate from the Victorian-era, with many having been on display for over 180 years. Among the specimens lies one of the rarest skeletons in the world: that of the extinct quagga – an unusual half-striped zebra from South Africa. As if that weren’t unique enough, it is also the only mounted quagga skeleton in the UK; no more than seven quagga skeletons survive globally. The museum also boasts a number of wax models which are used in teaching and around 20,000 microscope slides from scientific research material through to sets that students would borrow for a year – many of which are displayed on a giant vertical light box. And look out for my favourite, the jar of (many, many) moles!

Traditionally, the museum was only available for students to visit but in 1997, it was opened to the public for two afternoons a week. Today, however, it is open 6 days a week. In over 170 years, much has befallen the museum: in 1884, a ceiling collapse destroyed a number of specimens, with further collapses in the 1890s and, after flooding in the 1970s, the roof was completely destroyed. During the dark days of the Second World War, the entire collection was evacuated to Bangor while the museum on many occasions was threatened with closure. In recent years, however, the museum has gone from strength to strength, relocating several times to expand the space for its collections. When it was made open to the public in 1997, the collection moved to the UCL Darwin Building. In March 2011, the museum was relocated again, this time to the wonderful Rockefeller Building on University Street, formally the medical school library.

The museum continues to be used for teaching, as it was in Professor Grant’s day, as well as serving as a fully accessible resource to more people than ever before through outreach programmes and its different exhibitions. Jack Ashby and staff at the museum fully encourage visitors and remain keen to create awareness of this beguiling collection.

Celeste Wong

Celeste Wong

Words Kirk Truman

Photography Tom Brown

“I’ve said this before of my relationship with coffee, that it is bitter sweet. It’s hard work, but the highs definitely outweigh the lows.”

There are oh so many elements of my life that I have come to admire and conversely so many I find distasteful. However, there is one addiction I am proud of. My long-term love-affair with coffee has turned serious: these days I can drink nothing less than 5 cups per day. New Zealand born Celeste Wong has helped me sustain my addiction, and her relationship with coffee is equally bittersweet. The girl in the café speaks to us about Fitzrovia, coffee, and developing her own coffee web series.

Born in Dunedin of Chinese origin, Celeste began her accidental relationship with coffee while studying in New Zealand. She sought out a job in an edgy and progressive café, with seemingly huge odds stacked against its success. “It was a little shack of a building on a back street that you’d expect no one to know about, but it was roasting coffee on a little 10kg (Turkish) Toper and we had lines out the door. Once we were out of food and coffee, we were out. We always sold out.” Being the youngest of the team, she was proud to be part of such a successful café. She admired the quality of the coffee and the experience of working with passionate, knowledgeable people in the industry.

On a holiday to London, from her newfound home of Melbourne, Australia, Celeste quickly made the decision to live here, falling in love with the vibe and energy of the city. “I was wide-eyed with hope and ready for a new adventure and opportunity!” Having worked at Soho’s Flat White (one of London’s original artisan café’s) she then helped run its sister café, Milkbar. About 3 years ago, she started working at Australian owned Lantana, where she became head of coffee and manager, with the objective of continuing to raise the company’s focus and reputation for quality coffee. Fitzrovia felt like a slightly more upmarket version of Soho, though in balance a hub for business, creativity and hustle. “I guess working here, there’s a growing sense of community. But maybe that organically or naturally happens when you get to know people and the surrounding businesses better,” she says of the neighbourhood.

This relationship and passion for coffee that Celeste had forged back home in New Zealand was now becoming a career for her as she began delving ever-deeper into the coffee industry. She developed a particular fascination: is coffee a science or an art? “When I first started making coffee, I was obsessed with espresso and certain technicalities of milk texture and speed but as my instincts have become deeper rooted, I now trust and rely a lot more on my senses and experience over just technicalities and theory. I’ve said this before of my relationship with coffee, that it is bitter sweet. It’s hard work but the highs definitely outweigh the lows. Coffee is so complex yet delicate – it’s that and the process of making it and drinking it. That’s what I fell in love with. I love the taste of coffee and how it makes me feel!” she says.

With Celeste experiencing both the Melbourne and London ‘Third wave’ of coffee, she has been fortunate enough to have only worked with some of the top individuals in the industry such as Tania Vorrath, Jason Chan and Cameron McClure and other pioneers. “What I respect most about the people that have influenced my work and career is their attitude and support. They love what they do, and as a result, they are good at it. There is a defiance within them to do it ‘their way’ not giving in to outside opinion which is incredibly inspiring in this world were comparison and imitation is rife” says Celeste.

However, Celeste is by no means just the girl in the café. Her passion for coffee has led her to go one step further by launching her own brand, eponymously titled The Girl in the Café; an exploration of coffee, people, its culture, the science and its place in the world. “In short, I had an idea and I went with it. It is an interview series with inspiring, creative people who are living their dreams with authenticity. I go within and beyond the coffee industry, so it encompasses a range of topics, depending on who my guest is, with a couple of surprises thrown in too. I wanted to create a medium where people who aren’t exposed to this sort of conversation can have access to such ideas and inspiration. I have been fortunate to have met many inspiring and determined people within and outside the industry. It is through my personal experience and insight with these people that I share stories, lessons and thoughts with others through my web series, blogs and vlogs in a casual but entertaining and insightful way,” she says.

The primary focus of her brand at present is the online series itself, blogs and vlogs. In addition to this, Celeste will be setting up a two-day pop up café in Dalston in August with friends who are involved with the project and the coffee industry. “It’s like a hang out with friends and a good opportunity to try some new concepts and have some fun. I’ve also designed a range of #ThatsHowILikeMyCoffee t-shirts which have been really well received,” she says on the brand. The 1st season of Celeste’s online series will launch later this year with an eye to growing the series on an international level and working with larger companies in the industry, and getting on board with a digital distributor. “I have so many ideas as to how to expand from the series. The sky’s the limit! I have new ideas all the time about how to expand, but television is the obvious option, along with my podcasts and other related products”.

For Celeste, her personal relationship with coffee is undying. An accidental vocation has now become her career, passion and fascination. “I want to be consistent, do more of what I enjoy and somehow contribute to the world in a positive way. Being in the coffee industry challenges me in ways that keep me interested. So in that way, my relationship with coffee is like any other long-term relationship; it takes passion, patience, perseverance, and ultimately trust and love.” With her brand still in its infancy, The Girl in the Café seems ready to embrace the limitless prospects of this long term love affair.

John Constable

John Constable

Words Darren Hawes

Illustrations Luke Stuart

“No two days are alike, nor even two hours; neither was there ever two leaves of a tree alike since the creation of the world.”

There’s a saying at my alma mater, the University of Essex, which states that you will leave the university behind. Well, there’s certainly no escaping this character whose work bleeds out of the Essex-Sussex border to the grey-blue skies of Fitzrovia, artist John Constable. I decided to look into this interesting figure from history and take a peek at just a few of his most famous works as well as get a snippet his life and times.

Born in 1768, John Constable had many homes in London and he certainly moved around a lot. Starting from East Bergholt, Sussex where he was raised, he moved to London in 1795, apparently his father consented to this “for the purpose of ascertaining what might be his chance of success as a painter.” Well, we can guess how that turned out. He first moved to Cecil Street, off the Strand, a move that soon after came marked with an inauguration into the Royal Academy in 1799. From here, he moved on to 52 Upper Norton Street, just off Portland Road –today labelled by The Guardian as “Britain’s most gentrified street”.

Of course, it was in Sussex where Constable found his inspiration to sketch and paint some of his most iconic works. Perhaps the most famous of these is Dedham Vale (1802), currently on display at the Tate Gallery; this artwork was produced one summer and sees a perspective of the landscape seen from Gun Hill, near Langham. Although it depicts a midsummer’s day, Joseph Farington, noted landscape painter and mentor to Constable, declared that he saw the picture “rather too cold and stormy to suit the idea.” It may, therefore be unsurprising to note that Constable’s use of cold blues and stormy skies would later become a signature to many of the works produced whilst in London.

However, life wasn’t all rosy for Constable whilst in London. It was in the early hours of the 10th of November that a slight tragedy occurred within his home at 63 Charlotte Street. He had been living above Richard Weights’ upholstery workshop when a fire broke out. Writing to Maria Bicknell, whom he was courting at the time, only to be married in 1816 – when Constable was 40 – he exclaimed that “I have been fortunate in losing none of my works; I am troubled only by the alarm and inconvenience this bustle has caused on my art.” For Constable, it was only the mutual love shared with Maria along with his talents that mattered. During the fire at Weights’, he braved the fumes to save his “most valuable letters.” He was reportedly showered with glass whilst rescuing a painting owned by Lady Heathcote along with the servant woman’s savings.

Sometime afterwards came the arrival of a baby girl on the 19th July 1819, and a “change of air” was called for. So they moved again from East Bergholt and returned to the outskirts of London: Hampstead. From here, Constable had a completely different view of the city than living central; whilst he could see the hills of Hampstead Heath from his home in Fitzrovia, he could now see Fitzrovia and beyond from Hampstead Heath. Thus he started paint the many views he could get from the heath. After his death, a resulting work, simply known as A View of London from Hampstead Heath was purchased by one of his seven children in an auction that lasted thirteen days through May 1838 (such was the scope of works produced) and took place at an auction house on Charlotte Street, this particular piece went for the princely sum of £35.

Before we skip too far to the end, let us go back to the beginning and the reason Constable is an inescapable figure for all and sundry. A seemingly innocuous landscape painting from 1816 has kept Constable in my mind for many years; a simple painting of cows in the field, fishing on the lake, a grand country house in the background. This painting is of Wivenhoe Park, now the site of the University of Essex. Currently being hung with pride at the National Gallery, this piece is described: “A pleasant sense of ease and harmony pervades this landscape of almost photographic clarity. The large areas of brilliant sunshine and cool shade, the rambling line of the fence, and the beautiful balance of trees, meadow, and river are evidence of the artist’s creative synthesis of the actual site.”

The bright intensity of the piece stands apart from the mainstream depictions of the day, take J.M.W Turner for instance – who’s namesake gallery, might I add, contains a number of Constable’s works – his landscapes tend towards the dramatic; storms; seas; wreckages; a hint of hope in the burst of light often emanating off-centre from the horizon: whilst Turner shows us the future, Constable looks at the pastoral beauty still existing within the present and provides an idleness we can still hope to experience in daily living.

So, when in the busy, fast-paced London life most have become accustomed to, we can always think of the man who offers peace. It is to John Constable of Charlotte Street that we can look and take a breath, for all beauty is not lost if we take the time to look for it.

The Rag Trade

The Rag Trade

Words Gordon Ritchie

Illustrations Lucy Bayliss

In Fitzrovia, behind Oxford Street, boxed in by Regent Street, New Cavendish Street and Berners Street lays London’s very own Garment District. Anyone who has spent time on these streets, just one block behind one of the busiest shopping streets in the world, would have seen signs reading “Sample Sale,” “not open to the public,” “trade only.” This is where the stores go shopping. Straight out of Fitzrovia, the garments head to shops around the UK and even further afield.

The world of wholesale: where the buyers buy, secret undercover operations where mainstream trends, fashions and styles spring forward. Around Eastcastle Street, Great Titchfield Street and Margaret Street, behind closed doors, up on First floors, commercial creativity is in future thinking mode. Deciding what you’re going to want to wear before you’ve even thought of it. Before you even know you want it. It’s from these streets that brands, businesses and people have built reputations, and in some cases riches, in the Rag Trade. For how much longer though?

The Rag Trade is referenced in every article about property prices in the area, and the local industry used to extend much further towards Tottenham Court Road. In the Charlotte Street Hotel they have tailors’ dummies in every room. The area has fashion written in the stone walls, but is becoming increasingly fashionable. Galleries and coffee shops are moving in and opening at a rapid rate. Berners Street has big brand showrooms in number, but with The London Edition and Berners Tavern joining The Sanderson on the street, the new fashion set might well be edging out the old!

Kevin Stone worked for Fred Perry and Ben Sherman, who were both once based in the area, and has spent the last few years running his successful wholesale agency from a showroom based in Eastcastle Street. He has now taken the decision to move on. “It is becoming so expensive. I would stay if I could. The area is really accessible and business has been incredible.” The trade used to be a lot more visible, says Stone, “with the Cash and Carry places and Morplan, you used to bump into people in the street.”

Once upon a time the rattle of metal running rails on concrete and tarmac would ring through the area as hundreds of cellophane-wrapped clothes on hangers would go from lorry to showroom to van, in and out as the constant hubbub and bustle of commerce took place on the pavements. Out of Fitzrovia, flew clothes destined for boutiques, not just in London or the South East, but to be shipped up and down the country and even to ports and docks to be loaded into containers, destined to be stowed or stacked on ships bound for Spain, sometimes Japan, even the Caribbean.

Morplan is the best known supplier of shop fitting equipment and fixtures. Bill Edwards is their CEO: “Our Business has grown up over the years, serving the rag trade which is why being situated in Great Titchfield Street has been key to us. Although the business started elsewhere, it changed direction and specialised in supplying the rag trade in 1894, when we moved to our current premises at 56 Great Titchfield Street. Most people in the rag trade know Morplan. In recent years we received the Royal Warrant from H.M the Queen. We supply her Dresser with specialised supplies.”

Giant Spanish Department Store chain, El Cortes Ingles, used to have a buying office stationed high up on the corner of Eastcastle Street and Great Titchfield Street, with an eagle eyed view over Market Place, and of course, in the South West corner of the area, the loading bays of Philip Greens monolithic temple to consumerism. Top Shop and Top Man consume the prime product through the back doors. In the past, they used to spit back. The cabbage, the dead ducks, the bits that didn’t sell pushed back out again, barrow boys waiting to snap anything they could get their hands on at rock bottom prices. Dyed and sold up the market, it still turned a pound, no matter what it sold for.

In the area, cash was king and some of those market traders would go on and open shops. Hand to mouth in the beginning, the Rag Trade in Fitzrovia eventually allowed them in and gave them a break. In the late eighties, author and film-maker, Mark Baxter was one of them. “I started walking down Eastcastle Street and Great Portland Street, and the stuff was just fantastic. It got us going. Some would deal with you and some wouldn’t. Jewish families, London families, Asian people, it was really mixed, every second shop. Some were quite hard-nosed business men and others were more open to negotiation, doing a deal. It was quite entertaining. There was one that had really good stuff, loads of samples, odds and sods, bits and pieces. One day, the guy just said to me, ‘we’ve got a room at the back here. Go and have a look at that.’ I was going through it and there was a button missing, or it was a bit grubby or needed a bit of sewing. I’ll have all that, I told them. You’d buy it for a pound or two quid each and knock it out for fifteen or twenty. The cabbage was stuffed in a black bag. There wasn’t a lot of glamour to it. People don’t really think about where this stuff comes from, they just buy it.”

For those involved in other industries and businesses, there have always been perks to working among the merchants of Fitzrovia. In the pubs, coffee shops and snack bars around the area, office girls and receptionists would keep their ear to the ground for the next sample sale, when the showrooms sold off at even cheaper prices, the pieces they had been tempting the boutique buyers, that had now ran out of steam, with were replaced by the next trend. Nowadays, they are more likely to be savvy software and new media darlings who get tipped off digitally when the locally based PR firms that represent cool and classic brands are selling off sample ranges in basements full of bargains.

So why are there not more stores in the area? “When everyone works in the trade, used to healthy discounts, no one wants to pay retail, but that is going to change soon,” says Kevin Stone. “I think the future is retail.” The area is in such close vicinity to the world’s prime retail properties that it is surprising it hasn’t happened before now. Reiss now dominates Market Place and there is no doubt more High Street chains will be breaking out into the back streets in the South West corner of Fitzrovia before long. Let’s hope that an area that has a real heritage and stories, that has remained out of sight but contributed to commerce and the look of the nation of shopkeepers, can keep small pockets of resistance alive and keep some of the character and characters that make it a unique hub of an industry that everyone is closer to than they realise.

All Saints Church

All Saints Church

Words & Photography Mary-Rose Storey

You’ll need to look upwards to take in the glorious Victorian Gothic architecture of All Saints Church, as it’s tucked away between buildings in a rather narrow part of Margaret Street and you could easily walk right past it. The renowned Victorian architect, William Butterfield, designed this magnificent church in 1850 and it was the building that initiated the High Victorian Gothic era. He chose pink brick, which was more expensive than stone, inspired by the churches of Italy and North Germany. The use of intricate, patterned brickwork called polychrome was considered a pivotal project, as was his use of elaborate colour, both inside and out. In 1849, just before Butterfield designed the church, John Ruskin, the leading art critic at that time, had published his Seven Lamps of Architecture, in which he urged the study of Italian Gothic and the use of polychromy.

The poet and writer, Sir John Betjeman, who founded the Victorian Society and was a passionate defender of Victorian architecture, wrote of All Saints, “It was here, in the 1850s that the revolution in architecture began… It led the way, All Saints Margaret Street, in church building.” In January 2014, the church was chosen by Simon Thurley, head of English Heritage, as one of the ten buildings that changed the face of Britain. If you go through the pretty courtyard and enter the church there’ll be even more of a feast for your eyes and soul, for the exotic interior is breath taking. Betjeman described it as “a riot of colour, there’d never been anything like it.”

The colour and patterns of the brickwork, the ornate details and tiles covering the walls and floor are fabulous. The tiles were designed by Butterfield and painted by Alexander Gibbs, who also designed the beautiful stained glass windows. The panels depict a variety of scenes from the Bible and the Early Church. Alexander Gibbs also designed the beautiful stained glass windows. Father Alan Moses, who has been the vicar for the past twenty years, officially holds the title of Prebendary, although, as he says, “Nobody has any idea what a Prebendary is and I spend my life explaining it. It is actually an honorary Canon. In the Middle Ages, cathedrals, which weren’t run by monks, had chapters of clergy. Their incomes were provided by a manor or farm, which was called a prebend. The Bishop hands these titles out as a kind of good conduct medal I suppose. It means I have a stall in St Paul’s Cathedral choir.”

Recently, the church has been impeccably and sympathetically restored. Father Moses was responsible for the fundraising and leadership of the restoration programme, which has been a great work but still not yet finished. It’s been 20 years in different phases. The roof was done first, as it was an urgent problem, then the organ was rebuilt, which cost another half a million pounds. Some exploratory work of what was underneath, paintwork was done and then the main interior in three successive years. Things had got very dirty because for the first 50 years the church had coal gas lighting and there were no real restoration techniques as we have them now, so the only thing then to freshen things up was to slap paint over everything. The stonework, which you now see restored to its natural state, had dull flat paint on it, which drained the life out of it and lost all the texture. The tiles were all very dirty and some of the painted designs you can see now had been painted over and the design lost. The restorers went back to the last restoration by Butterfield, which was in the 1880s and settled that that would be the scheme. In 1910, the east wall fresco deteriorated so badly that it had to be completely replaced. The same design was used but with the paintings on Elmwood panels rather than straight onto the wall.

“One of the things about the building is that it’s so elaborate that you keep discovering things you hadn’t noticed before, or you see things in a different light. I suppose because I sit in it saying my prayers every day that it’s the ethos of the whole place that appeals.  It’s home to me. It took me about six months to settle in because I’d worked in a church in the centre of Edinburgh before I came here, which was the place I was used to. It takes a while to settle into a new home,” says Father Moses.

Butterfield talked about the ‘floating jewels’ yet not much evidence of these was seen until the windows were cleaned and the stonework restored. If you come in on a sunny morning, you can see reds and blues and greens where the light has streamed through the upper windows onto the stonework. The church itself has always had a very strong choral tradition. When it started there was a choir school and the choir sang services every day; the choir school closed in 1968. It only had about 20 boys so it was no longer really educationally viable and unfortunately there wasn’t a local boys’ school it could be attached to. There is now, however, an excellent adult professional choir. They sing on Sunday mornings and Sunday evenings with a very wide repertoire, from Plain Song to Mozart, from extravagantly operatic to austerely plain. The organ is a cathedral standard organ and new music is constantly added, often composed by some of the musicians.

The church is open daily from 7am to 7pm, and supports a number of projects for the homeless as well as helping people who come to the door. The congregation is very mixed, attracting people from all over the world. One regular parishioner, Dr Yvonne Craig, who is in her nineties, says of All Saints, “It’s a treasure, founded with Christian concern for the poor and now has a lighted candle for the persecuted. I love its integration of celebration and compassion.” So, even if you’re not of a religious disposition, you can go and sit at peace inside, have a moment of quiet reflection and absorb the beauty and magnificence of your surroundings.



Words Kirk Truman

Photography Etienne Gilfillan

“The contemporary dance world has a very niche, elitist audience, that being contemporary dancers and their friends and families. It would be our pleasure to educate people about what exactly contemporary dance is.”

Dance is somewhat a riddle to me, most likely because I don’t know how to. However, I must admit my own admiration and fascination with the practice of performing arts and the sheer commitment and passion for dance that this group of young artists share. Valerie Ebuwa and a team of urban contemporary dance artists unveil their passion and the origins of their Eclectics dance/performance group, alongside their relationship with the Fitzrovia area.

Valerie says Eclectics was something that she and friends had always foreseen. The group is comprised of a cluster of close friends who met during dance training over in Bloomsbury. Sharing similar interests in dance, music and fashion they frequently received offers as individuals from different events and agencies offering work, thus deciding that they needed to take their passion to the next level. “Having a variety of multidisciplinary skills, we formed a collective that performs, choreographs and teaches in order to reach our fullest potential and keep our craft fresh. Having many different backgrounds within the group we often teach each other to so it’s a constant, ever growing collective,” Valerie explains.

The three main members of this group (Valerie Ebuwa, Ryan Munroe and Anna-Kay Gayle) handle bookings, events, rehearsals and choreography. Other members include Claire Shaw and Franklin Dawson who regularly dance at events. Valerie tells me, “We have other members who have yet to perform but we are hoping in 2015 to expand and include more of the wonderful performers we know.”

Taken individually, all members of Eclectics have their own personal ambitions. As a collective, they want to provide contemporary dance to newer audiences, an audience perhaps lesser understanding of contemporary dance, as a way to inspire and inform others. “The contemporary dance world has a very niche, elitist audience, that being contemporary dancers and their friends and families. It would be our pleasure to educate people about what exactly contemporary dance is: also changing the faces of contemporary dance. Not too long ago dance degrees could only be obtained but those whose families had enough to provide them with a vocational training. As a result, contemporary dance companies often have been made up of people from similar backgrounds, ethnic origins and these people often provide similar work because they have all been trained in the same way,” Valerie explains. Eclectics want to have mixed ensembles of talented individuals from all backgrounds in order to change the perception of contemporary dancers for good.

The group spent the last three years training in London Contemporary Dance School, the UK’s number one school for contemporary dance, located just over the border on Duke’s Road, with much of their time spent in and around Fitzrovia. “Having spent three years here in the area, we as a collective realised that Fitzrovia residents are still unaware of how the area plays such a huge role in the future of contemporary dance,” says Valerie. Upon graduating, the group decided to make their work resident within the area by choreographing site-specific works in order to not only educate people about contemporary dance but to also pay homage to an area that has been prevalent during the birth of their careers and that of many other dance artists in the UK.

I prompted Valerie as to how customary the work of Eclectics is in the dance world, and she explained by unveiling how multidisciplinary the collective is, that the group are individual in the dance industry. “We not only choreograph and train in contemporary dance, but we also regularly perform hip hop, dancehall, samba, commercial, African and jazz choreographies. We integrate all of our different styles together, rather than just contemporary dance. We often travel to different countries to enhance our understanding of different dance styles and genres and also use other movement art forms such as yoga, capoeira, kung fu and other martial arts to inform our work,” Valerie explains to me. Eclectics also design all of their own sets, which include costume and lighting – “so all the work comes from us.”

For Eclectics, the future is looking bright. This year the group are heading off to Brazil where they will train and perform. “After our trip to Brazil we will come back and perform more frequently in the Fitzrovia area. We will be looking to expand our connections with local residents and this year’s graduates of London Contemporary Dance School in order to keep the promotion of contemporary dance within the area alive and fresh. We hope to achieve bringing contemporary dance to the foreground of Fitzrovia, not keeping it in its current somewhat backyard existence,” says Valerie. The group are also in talks for many more events, shows and residencies, as well as music video performances.  It goes without saying, the group is looking to embark on a rather busy 2015! However, their focal ambition this year is to further expand and generate awareness about dance as a career. Though really, this is already truly being put into practice.

Reg Gadney

Reg Gadney

Words Kirk Truman

Photography Astrid Schulz

“The last two decades have seen gradual changes. The atmosphere of Fitzrovia has perhaps become more residential.”

It is oh so difficult to decipher this gentleman – genuine ingenious or the perfect balance of pure wit, charm and creativity? About the tall bookshelves lined with an archive of penguin classics and signed photographs from a widespread career sits an array of paintings and novels. Though there is something striking that connects the two; they are solely the work of one man. Painter and author, Reg Gadney tells me of his life in Fitzrovia and intriguing fascination with creativity.

Born in 1941 at Malsis Hall, Cross Hills, Yorkshire, some 6 miles from Haworth, Reg is the son of B.C. Gadney, a preparatory school headmaster, former Captain of the England Rugby Football XV, remembered most fondly for a time in 1936 when England beat the All Blacks at Twickenham for the first time in history.

Reg was educated at the Dragon School, Oxford and Stowe. Commissioned into the Coldstream Guards, he later served in Libya and France. In Norway he qualified as a NATO instructor in Winter Warfare and Arctic Survival. Subsequently, he was employed in the British Embassy in Oslo as Assistant to the Naval, Military and Air Attaché.

He then went on to read English, Fine Art and Architecture at St. Catharine’s College, Cambridge. In 1966 Gadney was awarded a Josephine de Karman Trust Scholarship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he was a Research Fellow. He was appointed Deputy Controller of the National Film Theatre in 1969, the next year becoming a part-time Tutor at the Royal College of Art. He went on to become a Senior Tutor, Fellow and the youngest Pro-Rector in the history of the College. He has lectured at Oxford and Cambridge in the UK, Harvard, Yale and MIT in the USA, the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and at the Academy of Arts and Sciences in Moscow.

Both in the Army and at Cambridge, Reg pursued his life-long passion for Boxing and beat the Cambridge University Boxing Blue. “Alas, we were both admitted to Addenbrooke’s Hospital. I decided to retire.” The link to the boxing world isn’t gone though as he will shortly be painting a portrait of Lennox Lewis.

Over the past 45 years, Reg has written a total of 13 novels, non-fiction and works of history. He also devised and wrote a 10-hour TV drama, Kennedy (1983) starring Martin Sheen that was broadcast on NBC TV. The show was sold to 50 countries; 27 of them broadcasting the series simultaneously. Kennedy went on to be nominated for 3 Golden Globes and 4 BAFTA awards, later winning the BAFTA for Best Drama Series. Reg has also adapted Iris Murdoch’s The Bell (1982) for BBC TV and Minette Walters’ The Sculptress (1996) for BBC TV, which won him a BAFTA and Writers’ Guild and Mystery Writers of America nominations.

More recently, Reg completed his fourteenth novel, Love & Splendour in the Sun-Fire Kingdom, a love story set in Arabia. At present he is rekindling his old passion for Boxing “…which may or may not provide the idea for a fifteenth story either for a novel or a screenplay.” He explains, “I have no immediate plans to come out of retirement, though a year ago my wife did very sweetly give me Undisputed Truth, the autobiography of Mike Tyson.”

In the 1960s, his first portraits were of Alexander Zafiropoulo, the writer and art historian and Lieutenant General, The Honourable Sir William Rous. “I am presently working on portraits of the poet, Greta Bellamacina; the comedian, Joy Carter; the Italian sisters, Alessia and Gaia Pasin; and Ian Fairservice, founder of Motivate Publishing in partnership with His Excellency Obaid Humaid Al Tayer, currently the UAE Minister of State for Finance.”

Reg continues by telling me of one of his influences. “John Constable, who once lived on Charlotte Street, is a particular hero of mine,” he says. “Constable’s The Haywain of 1821 is my favourite. Kenneth Clark reckoned it’s survived ‘the destructive popularity of a hundred thousand calendars… and remains an eternally moving expression of serenity and optimism…’ I agree.”

In May 2014, his most recent one-man exhibition, ‘Portraits’ opened in London. The exhibition included portraits of Sir David Hare, Helena Bonham Carter, Nicole Farhi and Bill Nighy, the painter Motoko Ishibashi and Sir Mark Allen, CMG, former head of MI6’s counter-terrorism unit.

Reg Gadney has lived with his wife, Fay Maschler, Restaurant Critic of the London Evening Standard, for some twenty years in Fitzroy Square. “The last two decades have seen gradual changes. The atmosphere of Fitzrovia has perhaps become more residential. When Fay and I arrived, Fitzroy Square was chiefly known for St Luke’s Hospital, for the Clergy whose Christmas Carol Services are much missed. It also housed The London Foot Hospital & School of Podiatric Medicine which specialised in chiropractic treatments. The excellent and much-loved Fitzrovia Medical Centre carries on the tradition of first-rate medical treatment. The original site of St Luke’s is now the new home of the clinic Make Yourself Amazing (MYA) which offers breast enhancement, liposuction and rhinoplasty.”

“Whether or not one remains in Fitzrovia, well as Doris Day (still going strong at 90) has it in the Alfred Hitchcock movie The Man Who Knew Too Much: ‘Que sera, sera.’”

Reg is unsure how the future of the Fitzrovia neighbourhood is looking. However, the fate of one particular structure does interest him. “Perhaps an exciting new use will be found for the GPO Tower. Kate Hoey, veteran MP for Vauxhall, chirped up about it in Parliament some years ago: ‘Hon. Members have given examples of seemingly trivial information that remains officially secret. An example that has not been mentioned, but which is so trivial that it is worth mentioning, is the absence of the British Telecom tower from Ordnance Survey maps. I hope that I am covered by parliamentary privilege when I reveal that the British Telecom tower does exist and that its address is 60 Cleveland Street, London.’”

Ben’s House

Ben’s House

Words & Photography Kirk Truman

“I’ve worked in Marylebone and Bloomsbury; Fitzrovia is the perfect space in-between the two. Once I found the space here on Grafton Way, I knew I’d found the perfect spot – I felt completely at home!”

There’s something about Grafton Way. It seems like a wave of fresh air that goes on to the square, not the punch on the nose of the West-End that flows and flows. Though for a long time I have wondered just who would have the courage to come along and snap up a spot on the Way, my answer arose in the fashion of a gentleman I have come to respect and admire. Tasteful, meticulously curated and admirable, Ben Leask tells me of his London-centric grocery store & cafe, Ben’s House; a 21st century grocery store entirely “Cured, Created and Crafted by London.”

Having grown up in South London and now living in The Angel, Ben describes himself as a hideously passionate Londoner. Growing up, he observed his father in the day-to-day running of his jewellery business in Blackheath, South London. “I don’t think as a youngster I ever really wanted to get into shop-keeping, even though I always adored going to my father’s shop, I adored watching my father through the gaps in the banister… chatting, cajoling, confiding, selling. But most of all I loved the sense of community,” Ben explains. “My father was at the heart of everything in that community. He was a friend and ear to everybody: working class, upper class, gangster, judge or artisan; never a gossip, but always a storyteller,” he smiles.

Having spent his entire career within the fine food industry, Ben knows his onions; managing a variety of world class stores & ventures for La Fromagerie, Ginger Pig and Rabot Estate to name but three. Ben also wrote a ‘1 Year Diploma in Chocolate’ for Hotel Chocolat which isn’t something you hear every day. However last year Ben made the decision to go it alone by starting his own grocery store & cafe. As a proud Londoner, he is passionate about produce that lives and breathes the same London air as him. His eponymously titled store is influenced by his father’s own community centred background, and his passion for London itself. “My father was a shop-keeper so I’ve always had his passion running through my veins… 20 years later and now I’ve got my own shop, seemingly it’s in the blood!” laughs Ben.

The search for the perfect location for Ben’s House was carried out just about all over London; from Brockley to Brixton, Kentish Town to Marylebone and finally Fitzrovia. “I did it by walking, walking and more walking, it’s the only way. I found that estate agents didn’t help me find what I needed. I once spent a summer or two in Fitzrovia, living above L’Etoile on Charlotte Street. I’ve worked in Marylebone and Bloomsbury, Fitzrovia is the perfect space in-between the two. Once I found the space here on Grafton Way I knew I’d found the perfect spot – I felt completely at home!” Ben remembers.

Though his relationship and passion for London is eternal, the concept for the store itself began about 8 years ago, following dinner at legendary restaurant Konstam, overseen by the iconic chef Oliver Rowe. “His restaurant was incredible. Everything in the restaurant was grown in London; carrots grown in flower pots on Brick Lane, salt made from the Thames water, although it didn’t last for long. Konstam was a showcase for what London could produce. I, there and then started keeping illicit little lists of everyone I met in London making great flavours. So many of my suppliers have never been on a shelf in a shop before, it’s important the wonders they produce get displayed and get eaten. It’s important to support these small producers while they grow.”

Ben also cites the importance of creating an informal environment at the heart of the grocery store. “Fine food retail in London is often so boring: the same products on the same shelves with the same labels. I wanted to create a store people wanted to hang out in. Somewhere people came for a coffee and a doughnut then left with a case of fine wine. Somewhere people could try the gins and tonics or nibble a sample of cheese if that’s what they wanted to do.” Ben also wanted to make his favourite customer (his wife) happy. “We often talked about why we couldn’t both go and enjoy a treat together, when one of us was in the mood for a glass of wine, the other wishing for a coffee.” Very few places offer both in such a charmed way.

A store graced with bounty from every corner of London; a visit to Ben’s House itself will see you educated & enthralled by the sheer volume of products formed right here in London. From Dalston Chillies Chipotle Ketchup to Gay Farmer olive oil, W1 marmalade from Warren Street and Half Hitch Gin from Camden, right down to Postcode Honey where fascinatingly each particular honey is harvested from the flowers of that particular postcode. The list is endless and growing by the day. Keeping to his ethos of “Cured, created, crafted in London,” the physical space takes up the mantra. The centre-piece table top is crafted from reclaimed London wood, the tree-stump which supports it being taken from a ‘London Plane’ tree felled outside the store whilst Ben was preparing to open.

The environment of Ben’s House is informal and relaxed with the ever diverse community of Fitzrovia flowing through day-by-day. Ben is forever on hand and ever willing to discuss the origins and stories of each and every product. “That’s why my name is above the door. In too many shops and businesses you rarely see the same person twice. You never get to meet the maker or even get to learn the names of the staff. I know every single one of my suppliers and I want to be a conduit for their passions.”

Ben’s House is still really quite new to the area, having only opened its doors in November last year. Remarkably in this short fraction of time Ben and his team on Grafton Way have made strong lasting impressions in the Fitzrovia area. I personally believe that Ben’s concept for this ‘cured, created and crafted’ in London store is a sure match for our Fitzrovian neighbourhood. I am certain in saying that his concept shall prosper with time and therefore long remain. Throw me a line, if I reach it in time I’ll meet you there.

Indre Serpytyte

Indre Serpytyte

Words Jane Singer

Portraits Etienne Gilfillan

Sitting opposite Indre Serpytye in her Fitzrovia studio, I confessed that I had not come across her work. She smiled and knowingly agreed that you cannot know of every contemporary artist. We shared an appreciation for the ounce of frustration of being asked if you know a particular current artist and having to shake your head. Her studio is large and on freestanding shelves sit dozens of beautifully carved wooden houses. They are exquisite and so delicate. Against the wall I can see, singular black and white photos of the houses. There is a story to be told here and with my hands clasped round my mug of chamomile tea, I wait for Indre to tell me.

Moving to England at the age 14, Indrė took up photography by chance when her parents suggested she studied more creative subjects for her A-Levels. ‘It gave me a voice. I felt I could express myself,’ she explained. This interest led to the University of Brighton where she undertook a BA in Editorial Photography, followed by an MA and an MPhil in Photography at the Royal College of Art, London. Indrė’s current project focusses on buildings in Lithuania that were places of interrogation and torture during the period of Soviet occupation. Records show that there were over 300 interrogation houses in Lithuania; many of them are now either residences or places of work. Indrė tells me that she ‘came upon the archive set up by the Lithuanian government run by one woman for 20 years.’ Neither she nor her family had heard about these houses, despite there being one in every village. Delving further into why it has remained unknown, Indrė offered ‘that history hasn’t been passed on as it doesn’t want to be remembered.’ By changing the use of the buildings from interrogation houses to residences, these places have in effect ‘cleansed themselves.’

Capturing this piece of Lithuanian history was always going to be an enormous task. It took a few years before deciding on the most appropriate method. Indrė began by making trips to Lithuania to take photographs of the buildings. It wasn’t enough though; there wasn’t enough poignancy. She tried architectural modelling, followed by 3D printing which was available as one of the facilities at the Royal College of Art. However, none of these methods truly encompassed what Šerpetytė wanted to achieve. It was a four-month residency in Paris focussing on architecture that gave her, in her own words, ‘a lightbulb moment.’ Upon distancing herself from this project, she thought about using woodcarvings which have a long tradition in Lithuania.

Working with the Woodcarving Association, Indrė set three craftsmen the task of creating a model woodcarving from her photographs. Whilst two of them looked architecturally perfect, she chose the model that looked ‘raw’ and photographed it. This is the finished product. These have become her works. ‘It speaks to the human touch.’

Two threads run through this project: first is the idea of memory.  Acknowledging that her home country was not trying to cover up the interrogation houses, Indrė emphasises the importance of remembering these events. ‘Whilst the goal in Lithuania was to become more Western, the shift was so fast,’ Indrė tells me, ‘that ‘there wasn’t enough capacity to remember everything.’ This project aims to look back and unlock these memories. Indrė spoke about wanting Lithuanians to be proud of what these women and children went through in going against the KGB. These calm, beautiful photographs of houses challenge the idea of a home which traditionally should be safe and secure.

Secondly, there is the interpretation. Indrė interprets the houses in her photographs. The woodcarver then interprets the photographs resulting in the model carving. Indrė then reinterprets carvings through her photographs. Interestingly, Indrė explained that she has not yet met this woodcarver. They have formed a virtual relationship. Like her, he didn’t know about the Lithuanian interrogation houses and Indrė has noted that as the project went on, he learnt more about the subject and took more care in the carvings. Indrė sends him four photographs, the four sides of the buildings. Does she want to meet him? ‘Yes, when I have finished. I don’t want to influence him.’

Exploring the reaction to these powerful works, Indrė has already exhibited them in Lithuania which, whilst not provoking a negative reaction, did not have ‘as much of a reaction as [she] would have liked, but that will come in time.’ Behind Indrė on the noticeboard two images stand out.  One is a photograph of an ISIS beheading and the other of Manet’s The Execution of Maximillian. Indrė explains that she is currently exploring the backdrops to death. In both these images, the viewer is confronted by horror in the foreground and desperately looks elsewhere to escape. Her own photographs of the carved houses sit blankly on a grey background. There is no colour. There is nowhere else to look. We stare openly at these houses which have stood as ‘silent witnesses’ in the interrogations.

As our conversation draws to an end, I ask Indrė about the future of the model houses. ‘They are not for sale,’ she laughs. This isn’t the first time she has been asked it seems. Originally she was going to destroy the carvings and not even display them. However, they have become a big part of this ongoing research project. They are here to stay. Despite being only half way through the project, Indrė is looking ahead and hopes to move from photography to paintings; this is a new phase in her career.  Throwing back her head, she laughs, ‘From mistakes you learn.’ This is a simple philosophy from the creator of such poignant, thought-provoking works.

Tomoyuki & Co

Tomoyuki & Co

Words & Photography Kirk Truman

“I work together with my clients to make sure they leave with beautiful hair, cut into a style that suits their lifestyle and needs…”

It is a paradox that the very best of things find themselves becoming the very best kept secrets. As is the case on the 1st floor of no. 37 Eastcastle Street, just feet from the hustling and bustling wails of Oxford Street; where sits the studio of a talented gentleman who has come to settle here in our neighbourhood; hair stylist Tomoyuki Otsuka. He told me of his Tokyo routes and the story behind his salon, Tomoyuki & Co.

Tomoyuki is no stranger to hair styling having quickly made a name for himself back home in Tokyo. Noted for his talent, around 8 years ago he was approached by a hair salon with chains all across Japan to launch their very first branch right here in the UK.  Having spent 6 years working for the salon chain in the heart of Fitzrovia, Tomoyuki observed the neighbourhood feel of the area; its residents and transients, consequently falling in love with Fitzrovia and the clientele. This  became his new home.

Otsuka’s approach to hair styling is unique in itself and somewhat personal. He believes in creating bespoke cuts and styles tailored to each individual client. He also believes in the importance of a hairdresser to take note of the vision and preference of the client. “I work together with my clients to make sure they leave with beautiful hair, cut into a style that suits their lifestyle and needs,” he explains. It’s almost no wonder at all that Tomoyuki being the perfectionist he is, has styled the hair of many icons and celebrities such as Olivia Palermo and Cara Delevingne.

His clients had often asked him about the possibility of opening his own salon, triggering something in his mind and setting the idea alight. He had already envisioned how he wanted his salon to be: a classic and minimalistic boutique feel in the heart of the city. A speciality of Otsuka’s is his individual and tailor-made hair treatments. He believes the success behind a beautiful cut and style begins with a healthy scalp. He explains the health of his clients’ scalps, giving them tips on how to treat their hair from root to tip.

Amid the array of galleries and boutiques that make for the character of Eastcastle Street, Tomoyuki & Co opened its doors in November 2013, on the 1st floor of door no. 37. Closely located to Market Place and Oxford Circus station, the salon is a neatly tucked away escape from the wicked west-end, revealed purely via word of mouth. Abiding Tomoyuki’s vision of a purely minimalistic salon space, the salon boasts neutral decor through and through, an enjoyable non-pressure salon environment where clients can enjoy the experience of the hair treatment Tomoyuki knows they deserve.

Whilst Tomoyuki fronts Tomoyuki & Co, other integral members of the team specialise in their own fields such as Iris, a highly experienced hairdresser from Germany specialising in cut and colour. In addition to hairstyling, the salon also offers services from wonderful nail technicians, who create the most exceptional looking nails using the latest colour trends, shapes and specialist nail art. In opening the salon, the team wanted to create a comfortable and relaxing environment where the clientele could escape the lively and busy streets of Fitzrovia, to which all team members contribute.

Bringing his far-eastern home to the Fitzrovia area, Tomoyuki always keeps a selection of impressive Japanese green teas at the salon for those who want to try a cup. The overall treatment of clients here is relaxed and calming. Be prepared for a wonderful head massage (in order to stimulate the scalp), followed by a bespoke hair treatment (cut and style). For those clients who live a busy city life, where time is precious, Tomoyuki & Co offers a manicure service at the same time as the haircut.

I discussed with Tomoyuki his decision to base his salon right here in the Fitzrovia neighbourhood. He felt that, due to the character of the area, this would be the perfect setting in which to open the salon. It was an area that he had begun to understand, getting to know the people and developing strong connections. In the heart of the capital and convenient for all clients to get to, Fitzrovia itself is his favourite area in London. Future aspirations look to opening a second salon and the creation of a personalised product line. A self-confessed hair geek, Tomoyuki will no doubt make sure to use only the very best ingredients in his merchandise.

In this neatly kept secret on Eastcastle Street Tomoyuki and his team have come to create a salon that is true to his ethos of hair styling whilst remaining true to the neighbourhood with its calming and diverse backdrop. With high ambition and drive, this small independent business is set to flourish in the years to come.

Contemporary Cave Painting

Contemporary Cave Painting

Words Jonathan Velardi

Photography Kirk Truman

Fitzrovia is no stranger to underground activity. A boring machine, 40 metres shy of the height of the BT Tower tunnels, with precision below the streets of its southern edge with neighbouring Soho, in the name of Crossrail railway. In parallel with the underground works carving its way through the capital, a different kind of excavation all together surfaced at the beginning of the year when artist, Thomas Allen unearthed a cave – less subterranean, more subconscious – for his latest artwork. Thomas took up residence at contemporary aboriginal art specialist, Rebecca Hossack Art Gallery on Charlotte Street over the course of a month in January to embark on a decidedly analogue investigation of the area and its community for source material towards the production of an immersive installation titled, ‘Contemporary Cave Painting’.

“My aim was to design a calm, meditative space,” Thomas tells me of his conceptual cave. A prescription for the local community consumed with construction and disruption, or a refuge for the West Sussex-based artist transplanted into metropolitan madness, I wondered. “In the same way prehistoric man would have retreated into deep, dark chambers underground in order to turn inward – performing rites and rituals – I turned inwards to create a record of the internal world,” he explains. This record, or ‘mindscape’ as Thomas refers to it, was central to the cave’s conception, which orbited around emergent and collective phenomena: the interaction of a multiplicity of individual units. The artist’s background as a graduate in sociology informs his approach to art-making. “I’ve been interested in emergent phenomena for a while now, whether it’s the way thousands of termites conspire to create what is an incredibly complex structure: a termite cathedral; or the way a number of essentially abstract marks come together on a piece of paper to form a recognisable representation of something.” During an application for an artist residency a few years ago, Thomas had the idea of representing his interest in collective phenomena into the collective unconscious of a locality. He looked at the Surrealist method of automatic drawing from the early twentieth century, whereby the hand is allowed to draw freely on paper as a means of tapping into the unconscious of individuals, in order to reach some idea of the collective unconscious.

Having approached Rebecca Hossack Art Gallery, a platform that has championed non-Western artistic traditions from artisans around the world, with his intentions of creating a twenty-first century primal mural, Thomas soon began work on the installation at the gallery’s Charlotte Street address. He spent time walking around and observing daily life, drawing inspiration from the sights and sounds of Fitzrovia. With only the use of pen and paper he solicited scribbles from members of the public to engage with their individual unconscious. “The public were surprisingly receptive to the idea, so long as they didn’t assume I was carrying out a survey or asking for money when I approached them with my clipboard,” he laughs. Hundreds of automated drawings were collected on the street as well as from visitors to the gallery who watched Thomas install his painting with the sole use of a handheld lamp; an ironic caveman’s torch. With a comical wave of his hands, he illustrates how he then turned ‘art medium’, deciphering the random scribbles that created an introspective landscape of strokes and textures, which in turn were translated onto the gallery walls in charcoal, sanguine and graphite. I asked Thomas how the public reacted to his elementary request in an age of universal image-making – whether it be society’s ‘curated’ eye with various photographic apps or drawing tools on their tablets:  “the diversity of these archetypes were fantastic. I could often recognise different artistic styles in embryonic form embodied on the page, such as Picasso, Kandinsky, Matisse or Mondrian. However, I hadn’t expected the considerable number of people who struggled with the idea of scribbling without thinking about it, without drawing anything in particular. It seems like such a simple idea and yet, quite often they froze up.”

Visitors to the space were confronted with a hessian curtain hung at the entrance of the cave that acted as a veil between the internal and external worlds; ‘a receptacle for the collective unconscious of Fitzrovia’ reveals the artist. Once inside, a single lamp illuminated the blacked out space and its warm ochre-wash interior that had been created from approximately 300 tea bags, which stained twelve square metres of paper to line the walls. The unique portrait undulated from corner to corner, floor to ceiling and commanded greater intrigue by the fact it was born organically from the artist’s direct relationship with the local environment and the hundreds of contributions from the public. Thomas explains, “the only thing I couldn’t plan for in advance was the drawing itself; that had to emerge spontaneously.”

The ‘Contemporary Cave Painting’ embodied multi-contextual collaborative and performative qualities, not least a possibility for this topographic artwork to perform a visual commentary at various travelling sites and locations. While there are no immediate plans for him to take his conceptual cave elsewhere, Thomas is considering new angles to source these topographic portraits. “Today’s use of technology is really interesting to me. I’ve flirted with the idea of obtaining contributions from the public via an online app and I wonder how the medium might affect the scribbles.” He tells me he’s also very interested in comparing the communities where he carries out his projects by identifying not only the differences but also the similarities between social areas. Thomas continues, “I’ve always found that my enquiries – artistic and philosophical – tend towards an investigation of universalities,” before posing the eternal question that bridges the worlds of art, archaeology and sociology together: “what do we all have in common?”

The 100 Club

The 100 Club

Words Peter West

Illustrations Luke Stuart

1942 was a prodigious year in terms of musical talent. It saw the birth of Paul McCartney, Brian Jones, Ian Dury, Brian Wilson, Jimi Hendrix and Carole King to name but a few. It was also the year that a new musical venue was born, one that went on to achieve legendary status around the world: the 100 Club.

Situated at 100 Oxford Street, it started life under another name: The Feldman Swing Club. In fact, let’s back track, it was originally a downstairs eatery called Mac’s Restaurant. One September evening in 1942, Robert Feldman, a jazz performer and enthusiast, happened to call into the restaurant and as he looked around he began to see the potential of the space. “I thought to myself, this would make a nice little club.”

The enterprising Feldman negotiated with the owner of Mac’s, recruited top jazz musicians and opened for business on October 24, 1942. The Feldman Swing Club soon became known as the place for the best jazz music and dancing, in particular, jitterbugging. This new type of jive, loved by American servicemen, wasn’t welcomed in some of the more upmarket, smarter clubs because of its energetic and physical style.

The Feldman Swing Club quickly became a success, largely by making itself accessible to the average working man price-wise and through attracting exciting performers. These included Ronnie Scott, Johnny Dankworth, Benny Goodman, Stephane Grappelli, Kathy Stobart, Ray Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Mel Powell, Art Pepper, Humphrey Lyttleton, George Melly and others.

Jazz continued to be at the very heart of the club through the ‘40s, ‘50s and early ‘60s (it’s still going strong today), but to reflect broadening musical tastes, the Feldman Swing Club changed its name to the 100 Club in 1964, drawing inspiration from its address, 100 Oxford Street: the Who, the Kinks, the Animals, David Bowie and the Spencer Davis Group were just some of the names who appeared in the newly-named club.

Then came the ‘70s and Punk arrived with its hard-edged style and anarchic attitude. The 100 Club hosted the first ever Punk festival in September 1976. Unbelievably, the Sex Pistols, the Clash, the Damned, the Buzzcocks, the Vibrators, Subway Sect and Siouxsie & the Banshees all performed for the first time in the capital at the 100 Club. The festival proved to be a defining event as other venues were wary of Punk. The 100 Club seized the initiative and championed the movement which some would argue changed the face of music. The Sex Pistols went on to record a live album at the club. At about this time, Reggae sessions and the likes of Eddie Grant, Steel Pulse and the Mighty Diamonds also began to feature at 100 Oxford Street. Into the ‘80s and the beginning of the 6Ts Northern Soul All-Nighter gigs at the 100 Club. South African township music also thrived at the venue at this time, with many musicians appearing who couldn’t perform in their own country because of apartheid.

The following decade saw the 100 Club start to showcase indie bands and performers like Suede, Oasis, Travis, Catatonia and Kula Shaker throughout the ‘90s. Indie music is still welded to the 100 Club today.

The 100 Club has always been a great testing ground for bands and musicians. Many secret concerts and warm-up shows have taken place to try out new material by the likes of Paul Weller, the Rolling Stones, Blur, Paul McCartney, Mark Ronson, Alice Cooper and Metallica. The 100 Club likes a laugh, too. Comedy stars like Al Murray, Harry Hill, Arthur Smith, Bill Bailey and Mark Lamarr have appeared on special comedy nights.

Given its enthusiasm for musical diversity and many other forms of entertainment, it seems unthinkable to ever consider the 100 Club would cease to exist. But in late 2010, owner Jeff Horton admitted the venue faced closure because of increasing overheads. A Facebook campaign, Save the 100 Club, helped raise awareness of the club’s plight and, in February 2011, Converse announced a sponsorship partnership and the 100 Club was saved!

Thousands of performers have strutted their stuff at the 100 Club, and it would have been impossible to have listed more than just a fraction of them here. So apologies if a particular favourite has been omitted. But perhaps the most important thing is that the legendary venue will continue to nurture new talent and be a home for established stars. A unique, intimate, sticky (despite the air conditioning) space, where enthusiastic audiences can enjoy and celebrate so many fantastic musical genres: here’s hoping the 100 Club will still be going strong in 2042 when it will be 100 years old. Now that will be some party!

Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf

Words Darren Hawes

Illustrations Lucy Bayliss

“Somehow in the streets of London, on the ebb and flow of things, here, there, she survived.”

We’ve all seen them, dotted around the buildings of Fitzrovia, London, the whole of the UK even. Small blue circles that present our connection to the past, our past; our collective unconscious. 29 Fitzroy Square houses such a plaque, as do several of the properties in the picturesque Georgian square. However, this one betrays an address bubbling with creative activity, for not only did it play host to one, but two seminal authors of the twentieth century. First, George Bernard Shaw lived here between 1887 and 1898. The second name is one I’m sure you’ve heard of, Virginia Woolf née Stephen, who lived here from 1907 to 1911.

Not everyone was overjoyed about Virginia’s choice of property, shared with her half-brother, Adrian. As Woolf wrote of a friend, “Beatrice comes round, inarticulate with meaning, & begs me not to take the house because of the neighbourhood.” A view I’m sure we’ve all had at some point about this under-appreciated creative backwater so close to central.

Like the flâneurs whose words make up the articles in this journal, Woolf travels the streets of London, from Victoria St to Regents St, via Oxford St and Brooke St, exploring the shifting nature of place in time and the minds formed around it. But what is it about the area that so fascinated Mrs Woolf? What is so captivating to the most bohemian centre of the Capital in the early twentieth century?

Of course, Virginia was no stranger to London: she was born Adeline Virginia Stephen in Kensington, on the 25th of January, 1882. Her father a notable historian, and mother a model for the Pre-Raphaelites, Virginia was exposed the creative industry from a very young age.

The places of her youth had a strong influence on her work. Frequent holidays in St. Ives were adapted for the setting of To The Lighthouse (1927), transposing the Cornish town for the Scottish Isle of Skye.  It is therefore unsurprising that the areas of London Virginia called home would become a lasting motif for many of her works – most notably the deliciously described streets that link Oxford Circus to Regent’s Park.

During the time Virginia was living at Fitzroy Square, she became part of a famed group of writers, artists and critics that lived just on the boundaries on what is now Fitzrovia. Virginia’s sister Vanessa, writer E.M Forster, the post-impressionist Roger Fry and Virginia’s husband-as-of-1912, Leonard Woolf are just a few of the names linked to a creative collective known as the Bloomsbury Group.

This group would have a profound impact on young Virginia. For one thing, it was scandalous for the male-oriented world of academia to allow women to get involved in their creative endeavours, yet it was that members of an exclusive ‘Cambridge society’ did just that in their adventure of literary proportions.

It was within this group that Virginia would find inspiration for her famous work, Mrs Dalloway (1925). Her strongest emotion is towards the city itself, and the freedom given by being a part of the group allowed the author to explore what makes it tick: “In people’s eyes, in the swing, tramp and trudge; in the bellow and the uproar; the carriages, motor cars, omnibuses, vans, sandwich men shuffling and swinging; brass bands; barrel organs; in the triumph and the jingle and the strange high singing of some aeroplane overhead was what she loved; life; London.” A century later and these scenes are still fresh in our minds; the rumble of the city goes on, unabated and unplugged.

Allowing our minds to move across the pond we can see how Woolf’s words influence today: In Michael Cunningham’s The Hours (1998), New York continues on from London’s template, we are introduced to an area that “was once the centre of something new and wild; something disreputable; a part of the city where the sound of guitars drifted all night out of bars and coffeehouses; where the stores that sold books and clothing smelled the way [Clarissa] imagined Arab bazaars must smell.” This snippet of the city so good they named it twice began in London; in Fitzrovia; right on our doorstep.

Alas, it was not to last for poor Virginia Woolf. The busy city environment she loved so much was quickly becoming detrimental to her physical and mental wellbeing, in 1912 she began to take long breaks at Asheham House in Sussex. If Fitzrovia and the surrounding districts formed the basis for Virginia’s fiction, it was Asheham House where she put pen to paper, and it was here that she finished her first novel, The Voyage Out (1915) – which also introduces the character of Clarissa Dalloway, eponymous protagonist of her later work.

On the 29th of May, 1912 she agreed to marry Leonard Woolf – four months after the initial proposal. Biographer, Quentin Bell calls this “the wisest decision of her life.” They married in August that year. In 1917, after several more bouts of depression that have led to the speculation that Mrs. Woolf suffered a form of Bipolar Disorder, the two decided to move into the country, buying up a property in Richmond, Surrey and setting it up as a base for their newly founded Hogarth Press.

Over the years, Virginia would flit back and forth from Surrey to London – her health making this journey less viable as time went by. Who can forget the scene in Stephen Daldry’s adaptation of The Hours (2002) where Nicole Kidman’s Virginia leaves the house and wonders to the station in order to get a train to take her back to the city?

Like so many of these tales, Virginia’s must come to an end. It’s the 28th of March 1941. Virginia has been left alone in the house. She pens a thoughtful letter and leaves it for her loving husband to find.  Putting on her coat and walking out of the door, Virginia proceeds to line her pockets with stones and pebbles.  She walks with purpose towards the section of the River Ouse close to her home. She walks calmly into the water until it comes over her head. Disappearing under its waves and ripples. It is here that she was able to find peace. And it is with a sombre tone that I leave you with her final words, written with the love and affection for her caring husband. Farewell Mrs. Woolf, sleep tight as the city never left.

“Dearest, I feel certain that I am going mad again. I feel we can’t go through another of those terrible times. And I shan’t recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can’t concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don’t think two people could have been happier till this terrible disease came. I can’t fight any longer. I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work. And you will I know. You see I can’t even write this properly. I can’t read. What I want to say is I owe all the happiness of my life to you. You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. I want to say that—everybody knows it. If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can’t go on spoiling your life any longer. I don’t think two people could have been happier than we have been. V.”

Iggy Hammick

Iggy Hammick

Words Gordon Ritchie

Portraits Kirk Truman

“Every twist and turn uncovered something new – an old local business, a beautiful Fitzrovia residential mews…”

The sky dark, the moon full, illuminating rain clouds, glinting on black tiled roofs, metal and glass constructions. The BT tower watches over empty streets.

“I’d heard about Fitzrovia without ever really knowing what it was. I began to explore the area. I realised how charming it was. Every twist and turn uncovered something new; an old local business, a beautiful Fitzrovia residential mews, calm, with the craziness of the West End a stone’s throw away, I landed a job as the brand designer for LOVEFiLM. I grew up in Hampshire and it always felt London was on my doorstep. The job gave me the chance to fully commit to the city.”

An indistinct figure appears, collar up, partly concealed, keeps moving along; Not in any hurry, no clear destination; Keeping close to doorways and shop fronts; Stopping sometimes, something catching their attention, then quickly moving on again.

“I had a meandering route into web design. I had no education in design or development. I had little idea what I wanted to do. I started out on a sports degree but quickly changed to Creative Writing and Journalism. The element I loved the most was designing a newspaper layout, so the tutor invited me to take his web design evening course. I was instantly sold. The classes taught me enough to scrape a part-time job at a really good e-commerce agency. When I graduated the following year they gave me a job as a designer. I worked and learnt every day and after work I’d go home and learn and practice some more. Those late nights self-teaching are where the name Dark Blue comes from.”

It was shortly after midnight. I had filed the last of my copy, was about to turn in when ‘ding’, the iPad pings, out of the night a communication. Iggy Hammick had made contact. I opened it.

As I read through the document, his story unfolded in front of my eyes. Training in journalism had made him a talented wordsmith and it revealed his addiction for aesthetics, his pursuit of print perfection and dignified looking digital domains.

“My style is really clean and minimal. I love interacting typography with big photography. I’m fascinated with replicating and advancing editorial/print style design for the web and digital space. That maybe comes from a natural love of the printed press – type, photography and layout. I can’t walk past a magazine shop without losing 45 minutes browsing. Not even reading, just looking at how the type and photography work together!”

I’d been on his trail, tipped off about his talents, told he frequented or resided in Fitzrovia. Determined to track him down, I pounded pavements. Euston Road in the North, behind Oxford Street in the south, spent rainy days around Goodge Street and wound up being blown up Charlotte Street. I spent days in Fitzrovia doorways reading the names on silver intercom systems. Nothing.

Then word came from the other side of the dark tarmac thoroughfare that divides the city. He might be in a newsagent on the Soho side of the tracks. Damn, it was out of our jurisdiction. “I work from the Central Working, co-working offices on Bayley Street. It’s a great place as there’s so much talent and energy around with a plethora of creative technology start-ups. It was from starting there I came across Fitzrovia.”

Determined, I had kept asking after him, but my investigative instincts were exhausted. Maybe he didn’t really exist. I’d tried to track him down online, heard he used the name Dark Blue, but there was no evidence to be found. I spent weeks revving my search engine, trying to get it to crunch into gear. No luck. There are a million stories and mysteries in Fitzrovia. This was just one of them.

“I believe geographic identity is an important aspect of a company’s culture. You should be proud of the neighbourhood you call home. Active in your community, collaborating with local companies and protecting the area’s heritage you develop a strong geographic culture. At Dark Blue we build successful websites for our clients and grow as they grow. My dreams go beyond building a successful company. We run the company as a for benefit organisation. We earn profit and use it creatively for socially responsible projects. At Christmas we sent 100 boxes containing thermal shirts, flasks, USB sticks and Costa Coffee cards to a homeless shelter. We’re privileged to work within this incredible industry, so if we can work harder and put the extra profits into creative ways to help those in need that can only be a good thing. To me, that’s what being socially responsible is and it forms the culture I want inside this company. I hope this is the beginning of a life-long adventure.”

In Iggy’s story I could sense the reluctance to boast of his skill and talent. I minimise the page to find a second email with some links. “We’ve created campaigns for Secret Escapes, South Africa Tourism, Visit Scotland and British Airways. The travel industry is a great place for design as you get stunning photography to work with. Lonely Planet, I see them as the pinnacle of editorial travel. Throw a dart at a map. Wherever it hits, Lonely Planet will tell you where to eat dinner! I’d do anything to get those guys!”

It’s clear that Iggy has his eye on the sky, but his head’s not in the clouds. He talks of nocturnal thoughts, dreams, and the power of taking your mind out of the city and looking up. Scrolling through the showcase of work Dark Blue has produced, it’s the quality and the clear concise nature of the design that stands out. Ethical concerns, entertainers and aesthetes have all had the Dark Blue treatment.

“A lot comes through referrals. Every project has led to more work. It creates a consistent flow, and means we’re doing our jobs well! If there’s a customer I really want, I’ll do my homework and drop off a little handwritten note, with some Dark Blue propaganda and a gift. There’s an Indian themed bar near my house, so I dropped round and gave them some hand-painted postcards I’d picked up from Pushkar a few years before. I got a call within 48 hours. I think people appreciate the attention to detail.” So one late night, the dark blue sky pierced by the BT Tower, you catch a glimpse of a silhouette, flitting from doorway to doorway, pausing momentarily; surreptitiously leaving calling cards. Iggy Hammick is out. Out of sight.

All Along the Watchtower

All Along the Watchtower

Words Kirk Truman

Photography Adedotun Adesanya

“This is very much an operational BT building, but we try to create as many opportunities for people to visit as possible. The tower is intrinsic to the operation of the United Kingdom, some of the things that go on here have implications for the country as a whole.”

Under the veil of some hissing rain, I saw you standing there. Under the mist and the wet, you stood announcing yourself to the bodies below, mighty above the chimney tops, the square and some stony Mews. ‘But what is it?’ I thought: some wondrous thing unknown to the people who allow themselves to become so busy below. The years have gone by and I’ve heard, through and through, the words ‘Post Office tower’ by summer under the burning sun, the words ‘Telecom tower’ by winter under drifting snows. The pinnacle of British Telecommunications rises right here in the Fitzrovia neighbourhood, finally the mysteries mounting amongst us all along the watchtower I seek to answer.

I recall as a teenager, using the tower as a beacon point to help find my way home after last orders in pubs all over the city. Every Londoner has their relationship with the tower. Over the years, I’ve heard reference in anything, from local gallery owner, Rebecca Hossack, referring to it as the maypole of the village, forward through to watching the 1966 ‘War Machines’ Doctor Who episodes which centre around the square and tower.

On the site of the BT Tower there had long stood a transmitter; running temporary cables between cameras at Westminster Abbey, Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace and the BBC’s only transmitter at Alexandria Palace. In 1937, BT made history transmitting King George VI’s coronation live to homes throughout the UK. This broadcast was made from a much shorter steel lattice tower on the same site as the current. Soon after the coronation of the king, microwave radio technology replaced cable transmissions. Today, BT makes transmissions through fibre-optic technology where each able is made of plastic, or glass, and is thinner than human hair.

The erection of the BT tower was delayed considerably by World War II. It was only after having been commissioned by the General Post Office that construction of the tower began in June 1961. Due to its height, its foundations sink down through 53 metres of soft London clay, formed of a concrete raft measuring 27 metres square and reinforced with six layers of steel cables. On top of this sits a reinforced concrete pyramid. Throughout the vast majority of the construction a tower crane jib sat atop the tower. The crane itself raised questions in parliament at the time, with Doctor Reginald Bennett MP asking the Minister of Public Building and Works how the crane would be removed after having fulfilled its purpose. For the contractors, Peter Lind & Co Ltd., it was not seen as an issue for the crane to stay in situ.

Originally designed by Eric Bedford, the senior architect behind the actual build was Mr. G. R. Yeats and, although construction of the tower was completed in July 1964, it wasn’t officially opened until over a year later by Prime Minister, Harold Wilson on 8 October 1965, and was made open to the public on 16 may, 1966 when it was operated by Butlins. The total cost of construction came in at £2.5 million pounds, with the tower being constructed out of a whopping 13,000 tons of concrete and steel, with 50,000 square feet being used for the exterior windows alone.

The tower quickly became a familiar fixture in London; although visible from almost anywhere in the city, the tower was ‘officially’ a secret, not appearing on Ordnance Survey maps until Kate Hoey MP confirmed its existence on 19 February 1993. Originally meant to have been a simple stalk at 111m high, the design expanded and today it stands at 189m – the equivalent of 25 double-decker buses packed end-to-end. In comparison to other structures in London; the Gherkin stands at 180m; 1 Canada Square, 244m; finally, we have the Shard dominating at 310m. At the time of its completion the BT Tower held the title as the tallest building in London, as well as the United Kingdom, holding on to its claim until being overtaken by the NatWest Tower (183m) in 1980.

The narrow, cylindrical shape of the building was a pragmatic choice that conforms to the requirements of the communications aerials, allowing for the building to shift no further than 25cm when up against wind speeds in excess of 95mph. At the time of its public opening, the tower, in addition to office space and communications equipment, featured viewing galleries and a souvenir shop. The first 16 floors were for technical equipment and power. Following that, a 35 metre section was used to hold up microwave aerials.

Beyond these aerials, of course, lies the famous revolving restaurant, or ‘Top of the Tower’, on the 34th floor where, in 1971, a bomb was hidden in the men’s toilets of the restaurant. Fortunately, when the bomb exploded, nobody was injured or died: responsibility for the blast was claimed by the Provisional IRA. Debris from the explosion was littered along Cleveland Street and New Cavendish Street, going as far afield as Oxford Street. Windows below were blown out by the sheer power of the burst, and they flew along Charlotte Street and beyond. This was a turning point for the usage of the revolving restaurant. The initial damage was catastrophic and much of the western face of the building destroyed. All windows and the structure were damaged, with the western face completely exposed. Work soon begun to repair the tower and public access to the building ceased in 1980.

Today, much to the disappointment of Londoners below, access is exceptionally limited due to the practicality of a building that wasn’t designed with today’s regulations in mind. One cannot simply walk into the BT tower to see a 360 degree panoramic view of London from above. In fact, BT now have to exclusively invite people to visit the tower: such patrons have included Her Majesty the Queen, Their Royal Highnesses Prince Edward and Countess of Wessex, Lord Sugar, Orlando Bloom & Dame Kelly Holmes. The tower today is continually used for BT’s corporate and charity fundraising events and, in the event of an international crisis, is utilised to host an online donating system and call centre on the 34th floor – all of which can be arranged in less than 24 hours.

I was lucky enough to be invited to find out how it is inside. Before entering the tower, all entrants must put on visitor badges and undergo a strict airport security-style search of their person and belongings. Passing through the main lobby of the tower, guests are then led into a small lift to climb the tower. Stomachs clench and turn as the high-speed glass-elevator-esc lift transports you up to the 34th floor of the tower at 7metres per second, making it to the destination in just under 20 seconds (yes I was sad enough to take the time to count).

And then begins the rotating of the 34th floor of the tower, 158m above ground. Fitzroy Square appears so small, the size of a 10 pence coin. To the south, parliament sits in the distance on the banks of the Thames and the Shard pokes into the low clouds ahead. The entire floor, and the widest part of the tower at almost 20m, makes its rotations as if it were alive, taking 22 minutes to perform a single cycle.  The floor itself sits on trucks which move it – although I would protest that I enjoy heights, the moment that BT head of brand delivery, Ian Shaw, informed me that we were indeed rotating, I instantly started to feel somewhat alarmed, deciding to appropriately attach myself to a railing and continue nervously asking questions. “This is very much an operational BT building. We try to create as many opportunities for people to visit as possible. The tower is intrinsic to the operation of the United Kingdom. Some of the things that go on here have implications for the country as a whole.” Ian explains, nonplussed to the movement around.

Often I hear the assumptions that, since the removal of the radio antennas on the exterior of the building, the tower has become a defunct dusty relic to the company’s past. However, little known to the public, at the base of the tower lays the operations centre for BT’s broadcast services. From this £5 million state-of-the-art international media centre, nearly every transmission to every television in the United Kingdom, from every network in the world (from CNN, to the BBC, to Sky) is monitored. The Tower sits at the centre of a vast network and even played a crucial role in the first ever live international HD transmission, first international 3D transmission and a number of other broadcasting firsts. In 2012 the tower played a key role regarding an international event held in London. As Ian tells me, “We were the communications partner for the 2012 Olympics. Not a single message left the Olympic Park without passing over our network. It was something we really didn’t want to screw up!”

As a significant figure on the London skyline, BT and Camden Council have agreed that the building will steer clear of promoting commercial messages through the LED information band at the top of the tower. Installed in October 2009, the information band is made up of 177 separate panels each with 177,000 pixels and 528,750 LEDS. Considered to be the highest of its kind in Europe and Americas, messages such as the results of games during the 2012 London Olympics were presented to the city via here, as well as the ‘It’s a boy’ message displayed in summer 2013 to welcome the birth of Prince George. I find this works in line with BT’s tagline – “connecting people.”

On the ground floor, there is an overwhelmingly large hall of mostly disused data connections to the entire country which have steadily been replaced by fibre-optics. These sit in library fashion with individual wires stretching from right here in Fitzrovia, throughout London, Birmingham, Manchester, and beyond.

Still today, the upper floors of the tower, between the ground and 15th floor, have been largely disused for more than a quarter of a century. Midway up the tower, control boards still sit unused, vintage wiring sits unused and telephone centres sit unused. What echoes are the control panels of a SPECTRE-like lair from Sean Connery’s era of the James Bond series: I recall watching, from my previous home on Maple Street, this section of the tower; puzzling over what goes on here – disappointingly enough it does nothing at all, perhaps a suited alternative to Doctor Who’s TARDIS control panel at best.

The assumptions that pass between us all here in Fitzrovia are of a disused tower, a revolving restaurant that hasn’t turned for decades. This tower, this maypole of our villages is alive. It is the beating heart that connects us all in our day-to-day lives and it’s right here in Fitzrovia! Though still, despite all of these solutions I’ve been given to questions that have gone unanswered for so long, I can’t help but keep one thing in mind; in living so close to the tower that is not as disused as we may think, how is it that I still cannot get BT Infinity into my Berners Street flat? We go about our days and we look up to you. Under mist, rain and the heat of sun, we see you to know that we are home in Fitzrovia, all along the watchtower.

Getty Images Gallery

Getty Images Gallery

Words & Photography Kirk Truman

There is probably very little of my life and your own that you will not relate here, Fitzrovia too. Those distant country lanes of the suburbs and the chaos filled stories told to us of the war, of the musicians that have come and gone. Life and the very humanity of our own existence is captured through a seemingly infinite array of imagery, telling stories, often horrors, and unveiling the beauty of all we know and see. I look behind the scenes through their archives and into the past of Fitzrovia, the home of Getty Images Gallery in the heart of our neighbourhood.

Getty Images houses some of the greatest photographic collections in the world, with their gallery offering a unique insight and access to their collection. The archives themselves hold millions of negatives, prints and transparencies from the 1850s through to the modern day. A vast contemporary library features some of the most creative photographers of the past and present. Their aim is to make their incomparable collection accessible to all. Getty Images Gallery right here in Fitzrovia was set up to in order to offer accessibility to the general public to an array of high-end/bespoke photographic prints.

Getty Images supplies stock images to businesses and consumers from its archive of over 80 million still images and illustrations, as well as more than 50,000 hours of stock film footage. The archive itself being made up of more than 15 miles of racking holding over 1500 individual collections. In 2004, Getty Images Gallery made the decision to move from the somewhat artistic area of Chelsea to Fitzrovia, Eastcastle Street. At this time, although there were many galleries in the area, Eastcastle Street was far from the art-gallery-laden street we know it today. The gallery begun to influence gallery owners to arrive in the area with more and more galleries popping up over the past decade.

With just one percent of their existing archive available online, Getty Images mass catalogue of archived imagery is rich in the lives of us all. From catastrophe to love and hope, to celebrity and war, the Getty Hulton Archive hosts many elements of recent history. Behind the doors of a seemingly ordinary warehouse by Westbourne Grove Station (roughly 5 minutes on foot) lies the Getty Hulton Archive. A David Bowie portrait sits in the distance, the corridors themselves stretch on and on through the archive with all image negatives miraculously ordered shelf-by-shelf by a somewhat patient Getty Images team.

What sets Getty Images Gallery aside from other photography galleries is helping clients by going beyond the gallery walls with extensive research able to be carried out by the Getty Hulton Archive team should a client seek an alternate to their current exhibitions. Their various collections can be looked through and a lightbox of images created and tailored to the client’s needs. When a selection of images has been chosen, Getty Image’s experienced darkroom technicians will study the negatives of the images in a ‘neg-check’ determining the quality and size of the final print.

All prints are produced from the original negative in one of Britain’s last remaining wet darkrooms. Prints are often patiently coaxed from damaged negatives or poorly exposed plates – the skill and patience of which is exceptional, though viewed as an essential part of the process. The outcome is an extremely high end photographic print, many of which being unique to the client as so much of the existing archive is yet to have been printed since its first publication.

From annual events to sudden catastrophes, from celebrity deaths to economic disaster, the Getty Images team are often called into action to scour their extensive archive for the usage of the world’s press, hosting images relating to just about every single topic and category imaginable. I am told of how, in the case of the untimely death of Amy Winehouse, the team were rushed into action to uncover and bring images of her career to light and deliver it to the press.

Amongst these shelves, as I wander guided by the Getty team, we uncover photographs of Salvador Dali along with a signed letter written by the late artist and images which tell a story of the history of photography itself (dating as far back as the 1850s). Wartime images present themselves to us from all over Britain, through to some original photographic portraits of unknown people – some of the images being the first ever taken of their kind.

We begin to uncover photography of our very own Fitzrovia neighbourhood, the backdrop for the Eastcastle Street Getty Images Gallery. First we uncover mid-20th century photography of the area, including Newman Passage and Charlotte Street. When searching further we discover photographs of Tottenham Court Road’s Centre Point, later there’s eerie imagery of the BT Tower shortly after being bombed by the IRA in October 1971.

Searching further, the Getty Images team and I discover a series of remarkable photographs taken along Warren Street as well as in and around Fitzroy Square of the once thriving used-car trade in full swing. Cars can be seen parked up and down Warren Street, their owners talking with potential buyers: the backdrop of the area appears almost entirely unchanged even those these images were all taken during the 1950s. We next uncover the original contact strips of the photographer who’d taken the shots with a particular image highlighted for usage in an article about the used car scene in the area at the time.

Getty Images gallery keeps up a regular programme exhibitions in order to showcase their collections, all covering an array of topics and themes with each exhibition carefully curated from their collections. Exhibitions have included an exploration of the career of The Beatles in 2009, and a series in 2012 capturing the Olympics through the ages. Most recently an exhibition of the works of Michael Putland was displayed featuring a star studded array of photography including David Bowie, Led Zeppelin and other iconic artists such as T-Rex and The Who. Currently on display is an exhibition capturing the year of 2014 with all images taken by a variety of artists throughout the world. (The exhibition is actually celebrating 2014 in ‘Getty Image’s photographers’ only.)

What Getty Images Gallery offer is truly unique in the photographic world. Their gallery and achieve incorporate the very history of photography and still today continue the tradition of darkroom photo-processing. With their archive consistently expanding as the years pass by and the history of the lives of others continuing only to grow, it would appear that Getty Image’s goal is to take moments from life respectfully, and go on to allow them to be enjoyed and accessed by future generations. There is no doubt about it; you will find much of your own life captured in their archives. Everything you think you know about yourself is just a shot away.

The Cleveland Street Scandal

The Cleveland Street Scandal

Words Darren Hawes

Illustrations Luke Stuart

“And that was how a great scandal threatened to affect the kingdom…”

In 1891 Sherlock Holmes appeared in a short story called Scandal in Bohemia, where the detective races against the clock to smooth over what could become an international incident. Less than two years before Sherlock’s encounter a real scandal with true political implications struck at the heart of London. Hidden away down Cleveland Street, an outrage of titillating realisations had occurred.

It came to light in 1889 that 19 Cleveland Street was housing a dark secret. Far from the legitimate businesses you can now find along the streets of Fitzrovia, the proprietors were in search of decadent delights, hushed away from public knowledge and even downright illegal – for a Mr Charles Hammond had, for quite some time, been running an illicit male brothel.

At this time, Constable Luke Hanks, investigator of a supposed theft at the London Telegraph Office, came across a 15 year old messenger boy, Thomas Swinscow, who was in possession of something much more damning than his bag of letters… he had, in his coin purse, money to the princely sum of fourteen shillings (equivalent to around £300 in today’s currency!).  Of course, there was little to be suspicious about young men carrying out this work, but, at this time, it was illegal for them to even carry around their personal allowance. It seemed to be unequivocal evidence of the boy’s guilt. Hanks must have thought he’d got his man!

Here the plot thickens… It is reported that, in his statement, Swinscow was adamant to profess that he “got [the money] doing some work away from the office…  [for] a gentleman named Hammond.” And the story takes a turn. Let us remember that in 1889 Cleveland St was a relatively unimportant place of nondescript houses, its only claim being that Charles Dickens’ childhood home was at number 22. Swinscow admitted that he “…got the money for going to bed with gentlemen at [Hammond’s] house.” And the fate of Mr Hammond was sealed. Of course, it was not only Hammond who was indicated in the crime. The statement also reads, “[Henry Newlove] asked me to go into the lavatory at the basement… we went into the water closet and shut the door and we behaved indecently together.” Of the names that later came to light in the ensuing investigation there are some that stand out greatly, people with direct links to the British establishment. Naturally, those I am about to list are largely alleged to have been clients of Mr Hammond’s.

Allow me to introduce somebody whose links to the surrounding area live on today: Henry James Fitzroy, Earl of Euston.  His involvement came out through an article by Ernest Parke in a radical newspaper at the time, The North London Press. Lord Euston admitted upon trial that he had indeed visited the premises of 19 Cleveland Street simply on the presumption that it was housing a display of artistic nudes – the sign on the door read Posés plastiques. Euston’s innocence was proven, based on contradictory accounts by the defence failing to correctly identify or formulate an indicative narrative of his guilt.

Poor Euston never managed to stake claim to the area that surrounds Fitzroy Square since he died before he was able to inherit his father’s land. Instead, it passed to his younger brother, Alfred, later the Duke of Grafton, adding to the rich tapestry that is now a centre for creativity, Fitzrovia.

Two more names stand out on the list of the accused: Lord Arthur Somerset and, most scandalous of treats, Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence, grandson of Queen Victoria. Interestingly, the former was a client of the brothel named by none other than Lord Euston himself during an account of his visit. Amongst a growing mountain of evidence, and some strong anecdotal accounts, Somerset’s hand was against him. Through contacts and dealings, Lord Somerset (allegedly) was able to convince the Home Secretary of the time to put a halt to court proceedings and delay the time until action would be taken.

Seizing his chance, Somerset fled to Germany on the 22nd August 1889. Upon returning to England, he was tipped off that his trial was imminent and that he would be unable to evade prosecution. With this knowledge, the not-so-noble-lord fled again, this time to France, and commenced travels that took him as far as Constantinople (Istanbul now), before settling back in France, where he was to die at the age of 74 in 1926, 37 years after evading justice.

And so, I’ve left the juiciest tidbit until last, the curious case of Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale. Was it mere rumour that spread across Old London town, as these things so often do? Was it a fabrication of Lord Somerset, in the hopes that it would take some of the focus off himself? Was it just another episode like that of Lord Euston?

Many historians deny that the Prince had any involvement in the scandal, continuing the narrative that it was raised to merely try and deflect some of the darker charges from other culprits. Regardless of truth, the inclusion of the Prince’s name gave the case further infamy. This was the moment it would change from a scandal to a cultural phenomenon where homosexual acts and despicable deeds became viewed as aristocratic vices, proof that the very pillars of the establishment were embroiled in decadence of morality, and outright debauchery. Almost a gift to the speculation, Prince Albert’s inclusion led to something most unheard of… The Prince of Wales himself took a key interest in the case, intervening personally to put a stop to the degrading of his son’s character. To the outside eye this could quite easily be seen as an attempt for a cover-up. Indeed, it led to much speculation.

The buzz in the air caused by this scandal did not die down within a few weeks. It became the spark to light the fuse, resulting in an explosion of anti-homosexual activism. The stories surrounding Cleveland Street became legend fast, just another moment to be bandied about in court with regards to ‘gross indecency’.

A review in the Scots Observer asks of Wilde’s novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890), “Why go grubbing in muck heaps? … [Wilde] can write for none but outlawed noblemen and perverted telegraph boys.” This reputation was to come to a head in 1895 at Wilde’s trial. Suffice to say, the release of his novel so close to the scandal led to an inextricable link. Upon verdict, it is reported that a cry of “Shame!” ran through the courtroom and, when the accused looked to the judge and asked “May I say nothing my lord?” the so-called honourable Justice Wills waved a hand at the warders merely to stop the man from fainting to the ground.

The ultimate verdict was that “you, Wilde, have been the centre of a circle of extensive corruption of the most hideous kind.” So it was to be that on the 25th May, 1895, Oscar Wilde was convicted for gross indecency and received the maximum sentence for his crime: two years hard labour.

All that is left to say about the Cleveland Street Scandal is that it has gone down as a cultural keepsake. And although if you were to venture down Cleveland Street now, a search for number 19 would be in vain (the address was stricken from the land register in 1894), the energy of the area lives on in various guises. In Fitzrovia, experience meets art and creativity takes many forms – from sheep in Fitzroy square, to a public-lavatory-turned-coffee-house.

Filmed in Fitzrovia

Filmed in Fitzrovia

Words Peter West

Illustrations Lucy Bayliss

Over the years, location scouts, producers and directors have flocked to Fitzrovia to make use of its buildings and streets in a variety of films and TV programmes. Here’s a look at some of those productions. As a prime example of a beautiful Georgian space, Fitzroy Square has attracted many film crews keen to use its authentic locales for historical dramas and period pieces. The BBC adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma (2009) filmed extensively in the square, while 3 Fitzroy Square was the home of Vanessa Redgrave who took the title role in Mrs Dalloway (1997). The interiors of 6 Fitzroy Square served in the BBC pre-Raphaelite drama, Desperate Romantics (2009) and again in Vanity Fair (2004)a version of Thackeray’s novel starring Reece Witherspoon.

Fitzroy Square has also popped up in later time periods such as the pre- and post-WW2 drama The Heart of Me (2003), as well as the BAFTA-winning Vera Drake (2004), the story of an illegal abortionist set in the 1950s, with Imelda Staunton in the eponymous role. More than one filmmaker decided that 33 Portland Place had the right look for an office. It served as Lionel Logue’s office in The King’s Speech (2010) and as the office of Peter Sellers’ agent in The Life and Death of Peter Sellers (2004).

“Sherlock Holmes’ Adventures in Fitzrovia” isn’t the title of a Conan Doyle book, but the area has been used in two films about the great detective: Robert Downey Jr starred in Sherlock Holmes (2009), where scenes were shot in Bedford Square, while the BBC’s Sherlock (2011) filmed a night scene in Whitfield Street for the episode entitled ‘The Reichenbach Fall’. Fitzrovia has caught the eye of horror filmmakers: The Mummy Returns (2001) was filmed in and around UCL, while a city worker met a grizzly end at Tottenham Court Road tube station in An American Werewolf in London (1981). 

But, perhaps the most famous – or infamous – horror film that featured Fitzrovia was Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom (1960), which used the Newman Arms, Newman Passage and Rathbone Place as locations. This thriller/horror film, directed by Michael Powell, told the story of a serial killer who captured his victims’ dying expressions of terror on camera. The film was highly controversial when released but was later hailed as a masterpiece. Another controversy-later-acknowledged masterpiece was Stanley Kubrick’s last film, Eyes Wide Shut (1999). Curiously, he used Berners Street as a stand-in for Greenwich Village.

Fitzrovian restaurants have featured in films. Hugh Grant tells a girlfriend it’s all over at Hakkasan in Hanway Place in About a Boy (2002). Gwyneth Paltrow both worked and drank at Bertorelli’s on Charlotte Street in the rom-com Sliding Doors (1998). Charlotte Street has appeared in a variety of films including Sapphire (1959), a British crime drama about racial tensionMike Leigh’s film Naked (1983), and Smashing Time (1967), where Rita Tushingham and Lynn Redgrave, two Northern girls in London strolled down the street after a party. Night rain scenes were filmed where Charlotte Street intersects with Percy Street in Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971).

Beatlemania was in full swing in 1964 so a Beatles’ film made sense both commercially and as a reward for their dedicated fans. In A Hard Day’s Night (1964), the ‘Fab Four’ ran down Charlotte Street and ended up in the Scala Theatre, where they played a concert. Sadly the theatre no longer exists – it was damaged by fire and later demolished in 1969. Fitzrovia’s largest landmark is the BT Tower. This prominent building has figured in a number of films such as Bedazzled (1967), a British comedy starring Dudley Moore, with Peter Cook as the Devil; Sebastian (1968), where Dirk Bogarde and Susannah York sipped tea in the then-rotating restaurant at the top of the tower. An episode of The New Avengers (1976) showed Garth Hunt and Patrick Macnee (AKA Gambit and Steed) looking out over a deserted London from the 34th floor of the tower. In the War Machines (1966)the original Dr Who, William Hartnell, landed the TARDIS near the BT Tower in Fitzroy Square.

But perhaps the most famous appearance of the BT Tower was not actually the tower at all.  Rather, it was a model. It appeared in an episode of the popular British comedy TV series, The Goodies (1971), which starred Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie: entitled ‘Kitten Kong’, the episode centres on a white fluffy kitten called Twinkles who grows to an extraordinary size after being fed some super-growth food. The shot of the kitten scaling the BT Tower was forever etched on all who saw the episode in the 1970s. You’ll find it on YouTube.

Rivet & Hide

Rivet & Hide

Words Gordon Ritchie

Photography Manu Zafra

“We are a destination store. People come to us from all over the world, as well as the UK, to see our brands in the flesh. There are perhaps a dozen stores like Rivet & Hide around the world at best.”

I was cutting through the South East corner of Fitzrovia. A believer in taking the road less travelled, as I got to the junction of Charlotte Street and Windmill Street I realised I had never actually turned right and gone down Windmill Street before, so I did. In the distance, at the far end of the street, I could see a grey walled, canteen type café with large windows and a cool white, minimal interior looking all Scandinavian and Berlin-ish, which looked interesting, it actually turned out to be more Austrian/Bavarian.

I was just beginning to think how this side road had a similar atmosphere to Aoyama or Omotesando in Tokyo where you can find fantastic stores in the backstreets when, glancing to my right, there was a large picture window drawing me in. On display was dark denim, military jackets and the title, Rivet & Hide in a classic gold scrolling typescript across the door.

I’d always thought, with the huge amount of media companies in this area, there were a lot of young men around with money to burn, and nowhere to burn it, on clothes. Now someone had done it. I stepped in to the interior. The shop felt welcoming; an impressive wood-floor led my eyes down the long interior, with natural light appearing to flood in at the far end. A friendly hello, a swathe of dark, stiff, flat Japanese selvedge jeans along one wall accompanied by the sound of tap, tap, tapping, and then a slightly heavier hammering, adding to the fresh atmosphere.

It felt warm and welcoming, like a workshop, and the friendliness definitely added an echo of the Japanese level of service. The extensive denim selection was accompanied by t-shirts in subtle shades, and substantial leather wallets and accessories in natural, nude tones. Old wood and metal school seating, wood and glass cabinets, and copies of Men’s File magazine contributed to the air of investment in authenticity.

Danny Hodgson and his partner, Junior, faced a mountain of a deposit to secure the lease on the property in Fitzrovia, but, with determination they did it. We got talking… ”we decided on Fitzrovia pretty quickly. We looked at a unit further up Charlotte Street which we liked but, when we saw No. 5 windmill Street and the unique charm of this area, I knew this was where it had to be. It’s not easy getting a landlord to take on a new tenant with no trading history, especially in a market like London. I wanted to be somewhere easy to get to but off the beaten track in central London. Fitzrovia to me feels like village London; albeit a very busy village with a charm of its own.”

Rivet & Hide opened its first front door early in 2014. They had already been selling online for around 2 years. A well-travelled Danny had discovered the Japanese selvedge denim culture on his frequent trips to the US and Japan, where his job with an airline often took him. Learning and being drawn into the detail of the artisan aspects of Denim brands like Flat Head, Iron Heart, Pure Blue Japan, 3Sixteen and Stevenson Overall Company, he began to gain the trust of selvedge Samurai.

“You have to build strong relationships with the Japanese to do business. I meet up with the brand owners twice a year to discuss the collections and any collaboration. I could not do that if I had an endless brand list. The connection with the brand is important.” They educated Danny in the irregular aspects of the weave in the denim cloth produced by Toyoda looms. He also learnt the Aizome way of indigo dying the cotton fabric, and was taught the technique required to operate a union special machine to chain stitch the hems.

“We love small batch brands that are devoted to their craft. The denim we carry is the best in the world, made on vintage looms by some very skilled craftspeople. The brands themselves have big personalities and the denim they produce has tremendous character.” It’s not just the denim that is top-grade though: there are great flight jackets and pea coats, checked and flannel shirts and sweats.

“I also like lifestyle brands; ones that produce a whole range of apparel to complement their denim. It keeps the narrative of the store very focused.” Danny had never seen these brands in the UK, and coming across a new British Brand, Huit, who were using Japanese bought denim to make jeans in Wales, and Dawson Denim who were using the tough, dark, unwashed cloth to craft heavy duty aprons in Brighton, he began to see the future and the concept that could bring all these labels together and sell them under the banner Rivet & Hide.

“We are a destination store. People come to us from all over the world, as well as the UK, to see our brands in the flesh. There are perhaps a dozen stores like Rivet & Hide around the world at best.” The interior of the store attracted curious Fitzrovians eager to see what this store was going to be all about; with its laying down of an impressive floor made of oak and groyne, reclaimed from Sussex and South Coast homesteads – which will age and change over the years in the same way a pair of jeans bought from Rivet & Hide will acquire character over their lifetime. Engaging them with the beauty of the pieces they would be selling, their stories of far easterly lands, plans and enthusiasm when they opened, the Fitzrovians came back ready to be inducted in the rights of raw denim.

Danny sums up the future. It’s simple: “To continue introducing new customers to some seriously good denim and work-wear of unsurpassed quality.” So, walk to Windmill Street and find a quality store with fine product and a growing following. Rivet & Hide are constructing a reputation built to last and age with distinction.

The Egoist Body

The Egoist Body

Words Kirk Truman

Photography Astrid Schulz

“I began to feel like the gym was something that I had to do to be healthy – in the same way that I would go to work to earn money. I wanted to create an environment that made people want to exercise and want to be fit. I didn’t want people to feel as if it were a chore.”

For many Londoners, blighted by routine, by tube rides into the grey tunnels of our lives and jobs that seem only to drown us, health and fitness has gotten to be a chore. We live with the knowledge that our health is not a given but an active choice we make in life, that our bodies take true courage and passion to respect and value. A career which followed an entirely different path to that which she desired, an underlying passion to continue pursuing her practice of dance and structured health routine, Lina Petraityte avows to me the story behind The Egoist Body, and her motive to follow this path toward a career in fitness.

Lithuanian born Lina founded The Egoist Body just over 5 years ago now. After having studied economics, she went on to work in finance at Hedgefund in Mayfair. This had been a step away from another life back home in Eastern Europe, where she had trained as a professional ballroom dancer since the age of 5. Though Lina wasn’t originally taken by dance her mother encouraged her to attend classes – which she frequently skipped. Soon, however, she began to practice dance on a regular basis as a youngster, developing a passion for health and fitness working closely with a number of dance partners.

She worked for half a decade in finance, describing her daily routine as simply work, sleep and eat – often unbearable. During this period the long hours and workload caused her to become stressed in herself, leading to the development of health issues such as allergies. Health and fitness had become a secondary priority to Lina’s intensive workload. This was something that really bothered her.

The routine of the job had meant that it wasn’t feasible for her to find time to exercise, focus on nutrition and, of course, dance. As Lina tells me, “I began to feel like the gym was something that I had to do to be healthy – in the same way that I would go to work to earn money. I wanted to create an environment that made people want to exercise and want to be fit. I didn’t want people to feel as if it were a chore.”

The longer she spent in her financial career, the more she felt trapped and unsatisfied with her day-to-day routine. Having realised the decline of her health was perhaps caused by the stress and long hours, Lina lost passion, deciding that it was time to focus on her health and fitness. She explains that “Before I started my role, I was very fit. With my job in finance I never had the energy to exercise or the time eat healthily. My job meant that I often would have my lunch brought to my desk – it was almost impossible to leave the front of my computer screen!” This was her lowest level of fitness, thus it was to become the foundations of a very different career direction.

Lina began searching for a place in order to set up a boutique style personal Yoga & Pilates studio whilst still continuing her day job which she soon decided it was time to quit. She started with the idea in mind of enabling people who had followed similar careers and routines to herself: to enjoy flexible, healthy and stress relieving classes around their busy, and often chaotic, lives.

In searching for her studio, Lina eventually found her way to Fitzrovia – more specifically Fitzroy Square. Lina tells me of the lucky circumstance she found the location; “The studio wasn’t advertised at all – I found it through a friend of mine who was a member of the Georgian group, which the house belongs to. The space needed a lot of work, but what stood out to me most of all was the view of the square and the natural light that shone into the space. It felt like home to me!” She laughs.

Soon after, having fallen for her dream studio at No. 6 Fitzroy Square, she did not only begin work on readying it to open, but made the floor above the studio her personal residence. The studio space of The Egoist Body makes for the perfect collaboration of classical Georgian architecture and a modern health alternative. The experience of the classes here is calming, a breath of fresh-air away from the bustle of central London. With views looking through the building’s tall classical Georgian sash windows and out over the beauty of the square, Lina and her team of instructors offer an intimate and bespoke way to enjoy Yoga and Pilates, with health and nutrition advice on hand.

Many clients who attended when The Egoist Body originally launched 5 years ago are still regular clients today. A general mix of genders makes up the users and there is much sociability between them. The studio hosts 3 classes a day; lunchtime, evening and late evening. Although the majority of her daytime and evening clients are local and living in the Fitzrovia area, or transients who work in it, Lina finds that late evening clients come from much further afield: many fall under the category of people she sought to help when opening the studio; people who work very long hours and find exercise to be a chore. Unsurprisingly to Lina, many of these people work in finance.

Upon opening, Lina’s was one of the only independent studios of its kind. Today The Egoist Body continues to grow strong, with new regular clients frequenting the studio – many of whom were referred by other attendees. The sessions here are a stray away from much larger classes, and are taught by true professional teachers whom, unlike many conventional trainers, understand the importance of the practice and precision of instructing these classes without damaging the bodies or joints of attendees.

With health and fitness becoming more of a focus in London as a whole, Yoga and Pilates classes are becoming more popular and the norm for both genders, Lina confesses that today many of her former colleagues in finance have come to turn their health around. Today, Lina is looking to start a new business called ‘Retreats I Love’ which aims to help people incorporate their health into a short-term retreat. Fitzrovia is both Lina’s neighbourhood and the home of her business.