Listen to a Londoner is a weekly interview post with people who live (or have lived for a while) in London. If you fit the bill and want to be interviewed, give me a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org. Always looking for new volunteers.
In this ever-changing city that is slowly being devoured by corporate coffee chains and high street shops, Michael and Jackie have frozen a few favourite London locations that have been lost to the times on their website, London RIP. They welcome and encourage others to reminisce and contribute their own loved and lost locations from London life.
LLO: Tell us a bit about your website London RIP.
M&J: London-RIP celebrates the London places we’ve lost and are losing. It’s a very personal record of an ever-changing landscape and we invite people to contribute their memories of their favourite places. We’re not particularly interested in places that are “important” – more the pubs, clubs, cinemas, record shops and bookshops that make up the city as people really experience it. We’ve been friends since the 70s, so London-RIP tends to focus on that era a bit, but we’re just as interested in what’s happening now, especially as London is going through such a period of change.
LLO: Which London loss has been the most disappointing for you?
M&J: Our ex-local pub, The Royal Oak, in Temple Fortune. There wasn’t anything particularly special or wow about it, and that’s the point. It was just an average local boozer which happened to be at the heart of the community. Its loss is emblematic of all the local pub closures going on in London.
LLO: What was the most unique place you can remember that has now disappeared?
M&J: Production Village in Cricklewood. It was a faux village that was actually a film set, and had a pub that served a vile beverage called Hog’s Grunt. The whole place was mad as a box of frogs and utterly unrepeatable.
LLO: The two of you met in the late 70s. What were the best pubs and clubs in London back then that aren’t around any more?
M&J: Neither of us ever saw the Sex Pistols at the Roxy or anything like that, so we can’t pretend nostalgia for anything particularly lionised, but we do miss a lot of the mid-sized music venues that seem to be disappearing – the Music Machine, later the Camden Palace is an exception because it’s still a venue, but places like The Moonlight and The Nashville have sadly gone.
LLO: You ask your readers and share Emma Thompson’s anwers – what aspects of London’s past do you miss most? What are your own top 5 answers to this question?
1.) Cheap and cheerful cafes
2.) Non-ironic, sensible specialist shops (eg haberdashers as opposed to chichi cheesemakers)
3.) Being able to park in Regent Street (not environmentally sound, but very handy)
4.) Green line coaches
5.) Someone we met recently remarked that 15 years ago you could safely shout at policemen if you felt like it. The context of this was watching some bloke handcuffed on the ground surrounded by angry coppers after what looked like a pub scuffle. Not sure if you really could shout at policemen (at least without getting a good hiding), but we like the idea of everything being a bit less serious and officious than it is now.
LLO: What has been the most drastic or surprising way London has changed since your childhood?
M&J: The move towards the city centre, particularly the east. In the 70s and 80s, some people predicted that London would become like an American city with the centre dead apart from commuters and life revolving around the suburbs. That so hasn’t happened, with places like Hoxton becoming the new Camden (and rapidly evolving into the new Hampstead).
LLO: Share a photo of a well-missed London location?
M&J: The picture is of Oriental City. It certainly wasn’t very promising from the outside, but this oriental shopping mall and all-round food paradise was a wonderland at the Colindale end of the Edgware Road. The real Chinatown, RIP.
Thanks Jackie and Michael!
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