Monday, December 28th 2015
When we eventually emerged from our slothful bed, the question we posed one another was: ‘Where would you like to go for breakfast?’ Amusingly enough, we both had the same idea.
Yes, our destination was Kentish Town, easily reached with a leisurely ride on the 214 bus. It was our intention to have our breakfast in one of our favourite cafes, Cafe Renoir in Kentish Town Road. We should have checked that they were open because, alas, they were not.
We chose an alternative cafe for our repast and I will not say which one as the experience was, well, shall we say disappointing? To console ourselves, we went for coffee at the above establishment called Doppio Coffee Warehouse.
Since the 1990s, the UK has become used to chain coffee shops such as Starbuck’s, Costa and Caffè Nero. These provide a valuable service and I am a card-carrying member of the Costa Coffee Club. Recently, we have noticed the arrival on the market of what one might call “connoisseurs’ coffee shops”. In addition to serving carefully crafted coffee, they also sell coffee beans, crockery, small coffee makers and the larger professional coffee machines used by themselves and other coffee shops. Doppio in Kentish Town is one such and seems already to have made a place for itself in the local community.
After our coffee break, we went for a little ramble around Kentish Town. You may remember me saying that I used to work in Kentish Town, in the polytechnic building on the corner of Prince of Wales Road. The poly is long gone, the premises converted into a residential block, but the area still holds memories for me and some of its landmarks seem like old friends. One of these is the Greek Orthodox Church of St Andrew on the corner of Bartholomew Road.
And this is another, the Abbey Tavern where I usually went for lunch. Back then (we are talking about the 1970s and early 1980s), it was a very popular place with a mixed clientele that typically included working men with paint- and plaster-spattered overalls and bright young men in smart suits from the Dunn’s hat factory down the road (long since closed down).
Then there is this intriguing establishment. During my time in Kentish Town it was a motorcycle showroom but has now experienced a change of purpose. The architecture clearly declares this to be an old tube station. Set between Camden Town and Kentish Town stations, it operated as a station between 1907 and 1924 when it was closed because very few people were using it. During its life time, it was called Kentish Town South but had originally been named Castle Road and I am told that this name was actually moulded into the tile work. During World War 2, the station served as an air raid shelter and today provides a means of access for Underground maintenance crews and a possible emergency exit for staff and passengers.
Kentish Town (and neighbouring Camden Town) is a prime area for street art and so we went on a tour to see what was on show. What follows is a set of samples of what we saw. If the work appears to have a title (or a quotation), I put that in bold and if I know the name of the artist, I put that in italics. As you see, the above striking piece is by Irony.
Amara Por Dios is one of a group of artists whose works are immediately recognizable while still being infinitely variable in subject and design. She is very prolific and we have encountered works by her all over London and in other cities.
One of the more intriguing aspects of street art is the amount of collaboration that occurs. Some artists habitually work in pairs or teams and others share a ‘canvas’ on a more ad hoc basis. Here, Real Dill and Tony Boy have jointly created a painting. This doesn’t seem to happen in ‘conventional’ art circles: can you imagine, say, Auguste Renoir and Claude Monet working a canvas together?
You have to love an artist who paints cats!
Being a tigrophile1, I of course greatly admired this painting. The tiger’s concentrated ‘prey stare’ is so well captured that I found it riveting.
Osch paints in a variety of styles but continually returns to figures made from wound and woven tape. Would it be possible to follow the thread and discover that each figure is made from one continuous tape? I don’t know the answer and leave this as an exercise for the reader!
Having viewed and photographed some, but by no means all, of the extant street art in Kentish town, we moved on to another district. Tigger wanted to take a look at Pimlico and we paid a short visit there. What we saw was not overly exciting (though I am prepared to accept that we may have missed the best bits) but I did record a trio of Edwardian buildings that seemed worthy of interest.
The one with the most character was probably this one, a Salvation Army Hall dated 1908. It still belongs to the SA and forms part of their network of assistance to the homeless.
The royal court of arms displayed above the entrance shows this to be (or to have been) the premises of an official body of some sort. Just above the door (in shadow in the photo), we read the words ‘Police Court’. These courts were the first court encountered by someone charged with an offence. The court could deal completely with lesser matters but more serious charges would be referred to a higher court. These duties were later taken over by magistrates’ courts and any surviving police courts will have been diverted to other purposes. This one is now an apartment block.
This, I think, is a gem of a building in which style and function are perfectly combined. The sunshine brings out the colours beautifully. Unfortunately, it is a victim of the series of closures of Greater London fire stations perpetrated by Mayor Boris Johnson. The good news is that it is Grade II listed, which should offer it some protection from the depredations of rapacious developers. It will be interesting to see what uses will be found for it. (My guess is as an apartment block with retail units on the ground floor.)
1There does not appear to be a noun in English to express the concept ‘one who loves tigers’ but the word tigrophile has gained a certain currency in French (though it is also used to describe fans of golfer Tiger Woods!) so we can perhaps import it into English which has ever been a welcoming host of felicitous expressions from other languages.