art history

Tom Vague London Psychogeography 2010 Vague 61

George Morland Children Nutting/The Plough
George Morland’s 1788 painting of ‘Children Nutting’ substantiates the theory that Notting Hill was named, as GK Chesterton put it, ‘in allusion to the rich woods which no longer cover it.’ The first local pub, the Plough Inn on the Harrow Road at Kensal Green, was cited in Notting Hill in Bygone Days as ‘remarkable for having been the favourite retreat of the celebrated Morland.’ The local artist, who specialised in painting inns, died near the Plough. Morland House on Lancaster Road, named in his honour, was once occupied by JB.

Augustus Wall Calcott and William Mulready original Notting Hill art scene
The mid 18th century ‘Old Kensington Notting Hill’ etchings depict a quaint rural scene of farmers, a country lane and a pond with a pig in the foreground. Paul Sandby’s 1793 ‘Notting Hill Toll Gate’ water colour apparently shows the start of Portobello Lane and the Coach and Horses inn. The first Notting Hill Gate artists’ colony appeared in the Kensington Mall Robinson’s Rents cottages off Church Street, featuring Augustus Wall Calcott and William Mulready. The latter painted local scenes of the Kensington Gravel Pits, as Notting Hill Gate was then known. The original local art scene also included WP Frith who lived on Pembridge Villas.

Holland House arts salon
At the Holland House arts salon of the early 19th century liberal hospitality was shown to politicians, poets, popular novelists and painters. On Napoleon’s banishment after Waterloo, amongst the busts of Whig worthies in Holland Park appeared the Napoleon of Notting Hill by Canova. Lord Holland is there in the painting at Kensington Palace when Victoria became queen in 1837. His statue is in the part of the grounds known as ‘the Wildernesse’. His son, the fourth and final Baron Holland, Henry Edward Fox was a patron of the local Pre-Raphaelite painter GF Watts.

Henry Alken Flight of the Hunted Tailor/Last Grand Steeplechase at the Hippodrome
In ‘The Flight of the Hunted Tailor’ sketch from 1834, the first illustrated local noise complaint as captured by Henry Alken or Aitken Junior, a dandy is chased down the road (Holland Park Avenue) by rich and poor locals, for ‘breaking the Sabbath and the window’ shooting at birds. Ladbroke Grove, where it looks like the fashion designer is about to be intercepted by the local mob, was still little more than a lane. 7 years later the last steeplechase at the short-lived Notting Hill Hippodrome racecourse was immortalised in a series of sketches by Henry Alken.

Tucker’s Cottage/Water’s Side at the Potteries
In Mary Bayly’s Ragged Homes and How to Mend Them, the sketch of ‘Tucker’s Cottage, the oldest house in Kensington Potteries’ in 1855 depicts a row of tumbledown shacks with rickety fences, a manure heap, a donkey, chickens and some pigs. The picture in The Builder magazine from 1856 of the Avondale Park area alongside Mary Place, entitled ‘The Water’s Side at the Potteries’, fails to capture the reputed acre of slime-covered toxic waste known as ‘the Ocean’, but conveys a suitably sinister atmosphere.

Gypsy Camp at Notting Dale/Portobello Farm The sketch in The Queen magazine from 1861 of one of the last gypsy camps in Notting Dale depicts the modern world encroaching in the form of building development on a laid back scene of chair-bottoming and needlework. The 1870s ‘gypsy street’ in Mary Place in the London Illustrated News was described by George Barrow as ‘chock full of crazy battered caravans of all colours… dark men, wild looking women and yellow faced children.’ The 1864 painting of the Portobello farm, shortly before its demise, shows the country lane winding its way up the hill with only the churches of All Saints and St Peter’s for company. The young Thomas Hardy sketched St Stephen’s church from his lodgings at 16 Westbourne Park Villas.

Luke Fildes Applicants for Admission to a Casual Ward
Luke Fildes’ harrowing painting of Victorian slum poverty depicting a dole queue outside a police station, where claimants had to register to get tickets to the workhouse, was sketched in 1869 ‘somewhere near the Portland road.’ The local branch of the Kensington Workhouse occupied the site of Avondale Park Gardens, behind the Notting Dale police station on Sirdar Road. Luke Fildes lived on Melbury Road in Holland Park. When Charles Dickens saw ‘Applicants’, he immediately commissioned Fildes to illustrate his last, drugs novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Dickens’ other illustrators, ‘Phiz’ Hablot K Browne and George Cruikshank, both have North Kensington memorials. The blue plaque on 99 Ladbroke Grove commemorates the residency of ‘Phiz’ and Cruikshank has a pedestal at Kensal Green.

Notting Dale women, as illustrated in the rather genteel 1913 sketch of a fight between Kate Kimber and Annie Strutton on Walmer Road, were fondly remembered by the missionary CS Donald for ‘their unblushing sauce, tempestuous laughter, Rabelaisian jokes and ever readiness for a fight.’ The mother of the local boxing hero Alf Mancini, Adollorata was the model for the Queen Victoria statue at the Buckingham Palace end of the Mall, with a baby – none other than Alf. Her elder son Big Jo was the model for the blacksmith with a lion statue outside Buckingham Palace.

Lord Leighton
Leighton House on Holland Park Road off Kensington High Street, with its renowned Arab Hall, is a monument to the Victorian artist Lord Leighton who specialised in Middle Eastern art. The house was the centre of the ‘Holland Park Circle’ art scene on Holland Park Road and Melbury Road, including Luke Fildes, William Holman Hunt, Phil May, Marcus Stone, Harno Thornycroft and GF Watts. The Arab Hall has been described as ‘the most sensuous room in London’ and cited in City Limits as ‘a must for people roaming around the Kensington area in urgent need of an immediate dose of romantic unreality.’ Leighton House also features paintings by the leading Pre-Raphaelite Edward Burne-Jones, an associate of Leighton and ancestor of Colin MacInnes the Absolute Beginners author.

Linley Sambourne

Linley Sambourne House on Stafford Terrace off the High Street was the home of the Punch cartoonist Edward Linley Sambourne. The Melbury Road Tower House, later occupied by Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, has themed rooms including an astrology hall with the signs of the zodiac painted on the ceiling. The Little Holland House studio, as depicted by Thomas Rooke in 1904, was the ultimate arty Notting Hill room.

The writer Violet Hunt was born into the Campden Hill Pre-Raphaelite scene, the daughter of the landscape painter Alfred and Mrs Hunt, the model for Tennyson’s ‘Margaret’, who lived at Tor Villa (the former residence of Edward Lear). Violet had her first affair with the older painter George Boughton, after being half seriously proposed to by Oscar Wilde. Her archetypal arty Notting Hill society has been described as ‘having a certain Bohemian flavour, it nevertheless dressed for dinner.’

Ford Madox Ford, the half-German grandson of the Chelsea Pre-Raphaelite painter Ford Madox Brown, thought of Campden Hill as ‘a high class Greenwich Village in which all the artists should be wealthy, refined, delicate and well-born.’ Peter Washington summed up Ford’s time as ‘Notting Hill’s greatest period of sexual glory so far as a province of Bohemia, where artists starved on Ladbroke Grove and peers and poets kept their filles de joie on Campden Hill.’ Shortly after his arrival on the hill, Ford renewed his Pre-Raphaelite link with Violet Hunt as she was moving into South Lodge, 80 Campden Hill Road. The office of Ford Madox Ford’s journal The English Review at 84 Holland Park Avenue, next to the tube station above a fishmonger’s, featured Ford Madox Brown Pre-Raphaelite paintings up the stairs.

Wyndham Lewis/Vorticism
Violet Hunt and Ford’s South Lodge on Campden Hill became the HQ of Wyndham Lewis and Ezra Pound’s Vorticist art revolution prelude to World War 1; featuring Blast, Lewis’s Review of the Great British Vortex, clashes with the Italian Futurists and proto-punk rock Vorticist clothes designed by Violet Hunt. In the 30s, as Lewis painted his classic ‘Surrender of Barcelona’, he also sketched Oswald Mosley and contributed to the fascist paper the British Union Quarterly. At this most dubious stage in his career, he moved to 29a Kensington Gardens Studios at Notting Hill Gate (on the corner of Palace Gardens Terrace) on the old Notting Hill High Street; where, after undergoing various operations, he got out of his art fascist groove and attempted to make amends.

As Lewis painted his fellow hollow men TS Eliot and Ezra Pound, the latter was becoming far more dangerously involved with Italian fascism. The iconoclastic American poet, editor of ‘The Wasteland’ and inspiration of Vorticism and Rotting Hill, carried on supporting the fascists through the war and ended up indicted for treason. After the war, as Lewis set about writing Rotting Hill, he struggled to cope with the old upstairs downstairs world turned upside down. In the eyes of his socialist cockney carpenter, he felt ‘worse as he saw it than the rotten: “A blooming artist”, who belonged to the rot – to a rotted social class.’ Lewis’s blue plaque is on his earlier address, 16 Palace Gardens Terrace.

On the Notting Hill Gate speed art history tour there’s Max Beerbohm at 57 Palace Gardens Terrace, Walter Crane at 13 Holland Street, Frank Dicksee, Phillip de Lazlo and William Russell Flint on Peel Street, Phil May at 11 Campden Hill Square, the Punch illustrator John Leech at 62 Holland Park Avenue, and JS Cooper at 42 Chepstow Villas. William Cleverley Alexander, who lived at Aubrey House, sketched Walmer Road in Notting Dale and his daughter Cecily was the model for Whistler’s ‘Harmony in Grey and Green’. The Lansdowne House studios at 80 Lansdowne Road hosted the artists Vivian Forbes, Glyn Philpot, James Pride, Charles Ricketts, F Cayley Robinson and Charles Shannon. The Express cartoonist Osbert Lancaster was brought up at 77 Elgin Crescent down the hill.

According to the ‘Notting Hill Interzone’ International Times, Powis Square was known in the 20s for its multicultural mix of ‘eccentrics, madmen, political radicals, poets and artists.’ After George Orwell stayed at Notting Hill Gate in Mall Chambers when he was at Eton, Ruth Pitter, from the Mall art scene, put him on to a room next to her pottery shed at 22 Portobello Road. This was where the most popular political Blair, Eric, set out from in the late 20s to go Down and Out in Paris and London and become George Orwell. As Orwell paid Homage to Catalonia, refugees from Spain settled in North Kensington and Bayswater. On the 70th anniversary of the start of the Spanish Civil War the ‘Echoes of Spain 1936-39’ memorial mosaic was unveiled at the entrance to the Portobello Green Arcade under the Westway.

Dada/Surrealism Max Ernst/Kurt Schwitters
The Dadaist/Surrealist Max Ernst and Kurt Schwitters (who had his own Merz collage art movement) stayed up the hill whilst in exile from the Nazis. The first victim of the local serial killer John Christie of 10 Rillington Place, Ruth Fuerst, was the daughter of the Viennese painter Ludwig Fuerst.

In the mid 50s the Lonely Londoners author Sam Selvon moved into a Colville basement, where he was joined by the rest of the Caribbean Artists Movement. Rachman’s main Polish protégé rent collector was Serge Paplinski, a former partisan-turned-St Martin’s art student. One of the major clashes in the 1958 riots took place on the corner of Bramley Road and Blechynden Street on the site of ACAVA studios. Ken Sprague’s etching of the 1959 murder of Kelso Cochrane features a Nazi stormtrooper urging on the Teddy boy assailant on Southam Street.

The local Bohemian artist hangouts were the Two Bare Feet cafe on Westbourne Grove, the West Indian cafes Totobag’s on Blenheim Crescent and El Rio on Westbourne Park Road. At the latter Stephen Ward of Profumo affair notoriety sketched the clientele. At the time of Ward’s trial an exhibition of his sketches opened including the fascist Oswald Mosley, West Indians and royalty – the latter were swiftly snapped up by an anonymous buyer.

Lucian Freud Large Interior W11
Lucian Freud dates back to the old Notting Hill art drinking scene that revolved around the Windsor Castle pub on Campden Hill Road, also featuring Dylan Thomas, and the proto-Gilbert and George Robert Colquhoun and Robert MacBryde. Freud’s ‘Large Interior W11’ painting from 1979, which sold for £3.5 million in 1998, is described as the ‘masterpiece of Britain’s greatest living artist’. The painting, after Watteau’s 18th century Pierrot teased by flirting women, featuring his daughter Bella on mandolin, probably does capture the essence of W11 artiness. He had previously painted ‘Interior in Paddington’ for the Festival of Britain and ‘Wasteground with Houses, Paddington’ in the early 70s.

‘The Hermit of Holland Park’ has since become renowned for his portraits of Leigh Bowery, the terrifying ‘Benefits Supervisor Resting’, and Kate Moss who famously posed for him up the hill in 2002. Lucian Freud established the Lisboa café on Golborne Road as the arty hangout of Notting Hill. In the short film God of Small Things he appears by the canal in Kensal with a falcon. In Hideous Kinky his daughters, the author Esther and fashion designer Bella, are waiting for money from their father to return from Morocco. Bella Freud’s John Malkovich collaboration films were shown at the Portobello Film Festival and she organised the street traders fashion show at Westbourne Studios in 2006.

Bridget Riley
The Op-artist Bridget Riley lives off Holland Park Avenue and has a studio at ACAVA on Blechynden Street. A contemporary of Peter Blake and Frank Auerbach, she came up with her own Op Art movement in the early 60s, consisting of disorientating black and white geometric designs. Op art was closely linked to psychedelic happening ideas of opening the doors of perception. Bridget Riley became disillusioned with Op when it became commercialised and got into colour stripe painting in 1967. She later explored Egyptian hieroglyphic decoration colour and contrast. Typical of her early Op art is ‘Movement in Squares’ from 1961. Of her later colour material, ‘Shadow Play’ from 1990 is most renowned.

David Hockney A Bigger Splash on Powis Terrace
Powis Terrace/Hedgegate Court, the most notorious Rachman street, became further renowned in the 60s for David Hockney’s studio and the psychedelic London Free School. The Hockney docu-drama film A Bigger Splash (named after his LA swimming pool painting from 1967) by Jack Hazan and David Mingay is partly set in the studio-flat at the north end of the street, with diversions to the fashion designer Celia Birtwell’s on Arundel Gardens; Hockney’s dealer sidekick Mo McDermott walking across Ladbroke Grove around the Elgin; and Hockney driving along Latimer Road under the Westway. In the late 70s Hazan and Mingay made the Clash film Rude Boy in the same part drama documentary format.

David Hockney’s Powis Terrace studio is also notable for an early appearance of the Hair star Marsha Hunt in an experimental film. Hockney was in the Young Contemporaries exhibition with Peter Blake but was closer to Francis Bacon and Andy Warhol. In 1971 he painted the famous ‘Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy’, Ossie Clark and Celia Birtwell and their cat in Notting Hill. In the 80s he painted Celia Birtwell again for Vogue – her shop is now at 71 Westbourne Park Road.

Swinging 60s Portobello art scene
Christopher Logue recalls the Denbigh Close mews in the 60s, when art students earned a living reproducing paintings of the 1739 battle of Porto Bello (from which the road got its name). The local art scene then featured David Hockney on Powis Terrace, Peter Blake, Alex Trocchi, Heathcote Williams, and a Bohemian outpost of Royal College of Art students down Lancaster Road. The Bohemian art scene local was Henekey’s (the Earl of Lonsdale) on Westbourne Grove.

Psychedelia/Emily Young/Peter Blake
Psychedelic poster art arrived with Pink Floyd’s London Free School Sound/Light workshop gigs at the old All Saints church hall in 1966. The local sculptor Emily Young’s looning about in Notting Hill with Anjelica Huston inspired Pink Floyd’s second single ‘See Emily Play’. All Saints hall also witnessed some Jeff Nuttall performance art. Peter Blake found inspiration for the Beatles’ ‘Sergeant Pepper’ album sleeve in the antiques market Victoriana and the Guards jacket shop Lord Kitchener’s Valet at 293 Portobello Road.

Gustav Metzger/Fluxus/Yoko Ono
The Free School adventure playground on Acklam Road was inaugurated with a Gustav Metzger auto-destructive art performance. This consisted of the local kids burning a pile of rubbish. Gustav Metzger was and still is part of the Fluxus avant-garde art movement, which also includes Yoko Ono and influenced Jimi Hendrix and the Who. The London Free School playground experience would inspire the Gerald Scarfe animation video for Pink Floyd’s 1979 single ‘Another Brick in the Wall’.

The tenuous Andy Warhol local link
The Notting Hill avant-garde rock scene seems to fall somewhere between San Francisco’s Avalon Ballroom and New York’s Factory. John ‘Hoppy’ Hopkins says: “There was a certain amount of synchronicity, in that it turned out that what we were doing in London towards the end of ’66 was also being done in San Francisco, lightshows and showing movies on walls and generally throwing together different art forms. The Velvets were in New York, they weren’t quite the same scene, but that was sort of thrown into the mix as well.” In Nicholas Schaffner’s Saucerful of Secrets Pink Floyd book, New York was originally more influential; with the All Saints hall gigs imitating Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable happenings, Hoppy’s Warhol star girlfriend Kate Heliczer bringing over Velvet Underground tapes, and Pete Jenner attempting to become their manager.

The Boyle Family
Mark Boyle and Joan Hills did the lightshow for Michael Horovitz’s Live New Departures at the Marquee in 1963, and psychedelic shows at the UFO club and on tour with Soft Machine and Jimi Hendrix. The Boyle Family specialised in artwork made from rubbish found at randomly selected sites around Notting Hill. In ‘The Street’ happening of 1964 they took their audience down Pottery Lane into Notting Dale, to a door marked ‘theatre’. Once inside the participants found themselves facing a curtain which was drawn back to reveal the Crown pub corner, and whatever happened in the street was the performance art. In 2006 Mark and Joan’s son Sebastian put on an exhibition of 60s counter-culture art at the Westbourne Tavern on Westbourne Park Villas.

Hapshash and the Coloured Coat/Oz Princedale Road
The psychedelic Princedale Road hosted Oz magazine and Hapshash and the Coloured Coat. The Oz designer Martin Sharp came up with the sleeve of Cream’s ‘Disraeli Gears’, Dylan, Donovan, Legalise Pot and Vincent van Gogh posters. Hapshash and the Coloured Coat was the psychedelic design team of Michael English and Nigel Waymouth, responsible for Pink Floyd, Hendrix, Who and UFO club posters (who employed Mickey Finn, later of T Rex). The London Free School member Nigel Waymouth also co-founded the King’s Road shop Granny Takes A Trip. The notorious ‘Schoolkids’ issue of Oz, busted by the Obscene Publications squad in 1970, featured a surrealist naked black girl montage cover and a pornographic Rupert Bear cartoon strip.

The Exploding Galaxy performance artist David Medalla described the Notting Hill hippy scene as a euphoric classless society with free food, housing and love. If you needed money you just set up a market stall, and benevolent rich hippies like Tara Browne and Robert Frazer financed the arts and parties. To sum up the summer of love vibe, Chris Rowley cited the wedding reception of the Who and Free School designer Mike McInnerney in Hyde Park as “like something out of Tolkein or a spoof there of… The wealthy would get into their Rolls Royces, and Michael English would go off to Portobello to put out the next poster and capture this atmosphere of trees, golden haze, an aura of decadence and mellowed out young people.”

King Mob/William Blake
The most enduring legacy of the 1968 student revolution in Notting Hill was the graffiti. The writing on the walls, largely attributed to the Situationist King Mob group, included Romantic poetry by William Blake, Coleridge and Shelley. Blake’s ‘The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction’ on Basing Street was tagged with ‘Rent revolt’ and ‘QPR Loft End agro’. The leading British Situationist Chris Gray, the editor of the King Mob Echo paper who lived on Cambridge Gardens, is credited with originating the ‘unpleasant pop group’ punk rock idea. When the Sex Pistols’ manager Malcolm McLaren was a radical art student follower of the Situationists, Viv Westwood was selling hippy jewellery on Portobello market to support him.
In Once upon a time there was a place called Notting Hill Gate, the Wise brothers noted that the Notting Hill graffiti predated the slogans of May ’68 in Paris, but had to admit they didn’t have quite the same revolutionary effect. They also disassociated King Mob from later Heathcote Williams material. Mostly through the graffiti, the influence of the Situationists on the hippy movement rivalled that of the beats. Dick Pountain recalled how King Mob used to “terrorise” the IT office with their posters. After the attempted assassination of Andy Warhol by the radical performance artist Valerie Solanas, King Mob issued their own hit list in solidarity; featuring Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithfull, Miles, Twiggy and David Hockney.

Interzone A/Performance art
As students took to the barricades in Paris, John Hopkins came up with International Times 30, the Notting Hill ‘Interzone A’ map issue – inspired by a combination of William Blake and William Burroughs, Situationist psychogeography and local history. The ‘Interzone’ IT cover features a Ladbroke Grove Carnival procession cut-up collage by Miles, incorporating some King Mob graffiti and the mayor Malby Crofton. The fold-out and fill-in map, ordained with ‘God gave the land to the people’, became a fixture on local hippy pad walls. In Performance, as Chas (James Fox) dyes his hair red, Mick Jagger first appears as Turner doing King Mob-style red spraycan graffiti at ‘81 Powis Square’. On their first meeting Chas says “I’m an artist, Mr Turner, like yourself.”

Barney Bubbles
Next door to the office of the underground paper Friends/Frendz at 305 Portobello Road, the 307 ‘Teenburger’ of the Famepushers roadie mafia was occupied by Barney Bubbles (real name: Colin Fulcher). A psychedelic slideshow operator turned graphic artist, Bubbles designed Michael Moorcock’s New Worlds science-fiction mag and Hawkwind’s album sleeves. On his renowned gatefold sleeve for their 1971 album ‘X In Search of Space’, the group are pictured playing a free gig under the Westway. In ’71 the second Glastonbury Fayre was mobilised by Arabella Churchill from her Revelation Enterprises office at 307 Portobello Road, with Bubbles designed posters.

His crashed spaceship cover image of Hawkwind’s 1974 ‘Hall of the Mountain Grill’ album was a prime example of the heavy metal/goth rock imagery pioneered by Hawkwind and Lemmy’s Motörhead. The album was named in honour of the legendary Mountain Grill greasy spoon cafe at 275 Portobello Road, described by the singer/sci-fi writer Bob Calvert as “a kind of left bank café/meeting place for the Notting Hill longhairs, a true artists’ hangout, but it never became chic.” In The Time of the Hawklords sci-fantasy novel by Michael Moorcock and Michael Butterworth, Hawkwind’s post-apocalypse HQ was ‘the yellow van commune’ at 271 Portobello Road. The previous tenants, who painted the front in geometric hippy designs, were ‘outlaw publishers of underground pamphlets, friends of Hawkwind who had been hideously killed by marauding gangs of puritan vigilantes.’

As detailed in Pete Frame’s ‘Pub Rock Afterglow’ family tree, the local mod soul group the Action turned into the prog rock outfit Mighty Baby, who split into Ace and Chilli Willi. The latter’s sleeves were designed by Barney Bubbles and their roadie Andrew Jakeman became Jake Riviera the co-founder of Stiff Records with Dave Robinson (who was also at 307). Barney Bubbles made the punk rock leap to become the in-house designer at the Stiff, Radar and F-Beat labels, based on Woodfield Road and Alexander Street off Westbourne Grove. He also came up with the NME logo and directed the Specials’ ‘Ghost Town’ video. Stiff encompassed Elvis Costello, Ian Dury and the Blockheads, Nick Lowe, the Damned, Deviants, Devo, Motörhead, Madness and the Pogues.

The Mangrove
In Days in the Life Courtney Tulloch cites the Mangrove restaurant at 8 All Saints Road as the spiritual home of the Carnival: “That was a good example of using the skills, abilities and crafts of all those people who were condemned as pimps and so on… It was those same people, the ones who were called pimps and prostitutes and drug pushers, who created Carnival and keep creating it. We demonstrated that those people could come out of those basements and create their art and their music, which is what they’d always wanted to do. On that level the establishment did not suppress the black movement. We won; we more than won. We created a community.”

Jenneba Sie Jalloh evokes the restaurant’s distinctive vibe in her All Saints and Sinners black history book poem: ‘Mangrove, smell of hashish, swirling clouds of ashen smoke, weave in, around, away, palms like giant fingers, sounds of laughing, belly deep and penetrating, wise words and indiscretions, deep canary yellows, matted reds and browns, a tropical tapestry of colour, light and sounds.’

The Westway
In the summer of 1972 there was a public meeting about plans for the area under the Westway at Isaac Newton School on Lancaster Road. A poster under the flyover advertising the meeting featured cartoons of All Saints hall on Powis Gardens, a bulldozer, a drummer, a man being punched and a hippy saying: ‘All Saints church hall is being pulled down. Perhaps a public hall should be built under the flyover.’ The Acklam Hall would eventually open in 1975 with a gig by Joe Strummer’s 101’ers. In the meantime there were benefits for the Westway mural project of Emily Young (of Pink Floyd’s ‘See Emily Play’ previous) and Arabella Churchill, at the Westway Theatre on the site of the Portobello Green Arcade.

Richard Adams/Open Head Press
The office of the last incarnation of the underground paper Frendz was at 2 Blenheim Crescent, above the Dog Shop (now Minus Zero record shop). The Oz designer Richard Adams moved up Blenheim Crescent from Princedale Road to carry on designing the last issues of IT, Oz and Frendz with Barney Bubbles. After the final episode of the radical Friends/Frendz series came in 1974, in the wake of the Whole Earth Catalogue, they produced the Index of Possibilities journal featuring Michael Moorcock sci-fantasy stories. After the last Oz, Richard Adams became part of Felix Dennis’s Honeybunch group – as the least intelligent Oz editor, according to the ‘Schoolkids’ judge, founded his publishing empire with cOzmic Comics and the Kung Fu Monthly Bruce Lee postermags.

Having spent his Bruce Lee advance on the road in the States, Richard Adams returned to Portobello to found the Open Head Press with Heathcote Williams, the local graffiti artist/squatter/playwright/actor, etc. Their Open Head publications included The Fanatic proto-X-files mag and the programme for Ken Campbell’s Illuminatus conspiracy theory fringe theatre epic featuring the Time Bandits star David Rappaport (also of local squatting fame). Through the 70s they shared the upstairs offices at 2 Blenheim Crescent with the Index of Possibilities, Emma Tennant’s Bananas surrealist quarterly, the hippy Tony Bennett’s Hasslefree Press/Knockabout Comics (featuring Robert Crumb and Gilbert Shelton’s Freak Brothers), the Legalise Cannabis Campaign, John Michell, Michael Moorcock, Lemmy, Nik Turner, Gong, Marianne Faithfull and Boss Goodman.

The Family Dog Shop at 2 Blenheim Crescent, named after the San Francisco ballroom commune of the acid guru Chet Helms, was the Portobello hippy ‘headshop’. On the site of Minus Zero 60s and 70s punk specialist record shop, ‘psychedelic posters, rings, skins and things, clothing from the East, incense, jewellery, pipes and other smokers needs’ were purveyed to followers of Camel, Caravan, Hawkwind and Quintessence. Nik Turner of Hawkwind was employed as the Dog shop delivery van driver. The beatnik landlord Bill Hopkins let the upstairs office to the Word underground poster designers, who at Christmas ’68 sent season’s greetings ‘to all IT readers and heads everywhere, and new friends and old in or out of jail.’ The 2 Blenheim Crescent shop front once featured a giant nose and when the premises incorporated Aquarius Waterbeds it was ordained with a hippo on a waterbed mural.

Ed Barker
In the mid 70s International Times ended up on Portobello Road north of the Westway, over the road from Frendz, for a few more John Lennon financed issues. The last editor, Roger High Sixties Hutchinson lived at 299 and rented an office over the road at 286, where he produced the paper with his flatmates Caroline McKechnie and Ed Barker. Mick Farren won the last underground press obscenity trial of his Nasty Tales comic, and wrote the Elvis to the Angry Brigade blurb for the Ed Barker designed Watch Out Kids book. Barker was also responsible for the Pink Fairies’ flying pig logo and Boss Goodman’s Dingwalls ads. Then Farren, Barney Bubbles and co deserted the underground for the NME. After Mick Farren predicted/called for punk rock in NME, he received a patricidal blast in the punk-Vorticist fanzine Datsun: ‘Get lost Mick Farren, sick of seeing your stupid face down the Bello.’

Heathcote Williams
Another important Notting Hill prog rock site is the studio next to the Globe bar on Talbot Road, where the group Yes practised in the mid 70s. This inevitably led to the building being sprayed with ‘No’ graffiti by Heathcote Williams. In the account of the novelist Sally Moore in the Inside Notting Hill guidebook, the proto-Banksy street artist subsequently moved on to the restaurant next door and was beaten up by the waiters. ‘These people at the Gate have clearly embraced the idea of a magical city. Their clothes, their language, their religious beliefs, their folk art belong to a synthetically-reconstructed tribal culture ruled by superstition, totems and taboos.’ Jonathan Raban Soft City 1974

Paul Simonon
Paul Simonon recalls West Indian rudeboys on Golborne Road laughing at Joe Strummer and Mick Jones as they modelled his paint-splattered Jackson Pollock look. Simonon went to Byam Shaw art school on Campden Hill and painted the original scrapyard Clash backdrop. The group first promoted themselves with a graffiti campaign featuring ‘The Clash’ on a Westway stanchion near Royal Oak. Some early Clash posters were designed by Sebastian Conran. The Westway, Trellick Tower and the surrounding urban wastelandscape was immortalised in fanzines, Don Letts’ Punk Rock Movie and Lech Kowalski’s DOA as the iconography of punk London.

Rocco Macaulay’s iconic photo of ‘The Clash’ moment during the 1976 Carnival riot of policemen charging at black youths under the Westway became the back cover of the first Clash album, the ‘White Riot’ tour backdrop projection, a badge and shirt design. Don Letts’ Wild West 10 walk across the police line appeared on the sleeve of the ‘Black Market Clash’ mini-LP in 1980. In The Clash Songbook ‘London’s Burning’ is illustrated by a montage of towerblocks, fencing and a 1666 Great Fire of London painting; ‘City of the Dead’ has a grainy shot of the Warwick estate across the Westway.

The Big Audio Dynamite album ‘Tighten Up Volume 88’, featuring ‘The Battle of All Saints Road’, has a Paul Simonon painted sleeve depicting a blues party under the Westway and Trellick Tower. In 2007, the Good, the Bad and the Queen London psychogeography supergroup, featuring Damon Albarn of Blur, Paul Simonon, Tony Allen the Fela Kuti drummer, and Simon Tong of the Verve (rehearsed and warmed-up in the Tabernacle), appeared in front of a Simonon painting backdrop featuring the Ladbroke Grove Great Western Railway bridge and the gas works.

Jamie Reid
In the run-up to the Queen’s silver jubilee in 1977, Virgin promoted the Sex Pistols’ ‘God Save the Queen’ single, in Jamie Reid’s safety-pinned queen picture sleeve, from Vernon Yard on Portobello. In the first promo stunt for the record the Pistols posed for photos under a ‘Long Live the Queen’ banner outside the off-license at 120 Kensington Park Road and being questioned by a policeman along Westbourne Grove. Next door to the site of the off-license is now an Agent Provocateur shop founded by Joe Corre, the son of the Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren and Viv Westwood.

The sleeve of the third Pistols single ‘Pretty Vacant’ featured a smashed empty picture frame. Jamie Reid says, that with short notice from McLaren to get the artwork to Virgin, he bought the frame in the art shop on the corner of Portobello Road and Westbourne Grove (now part of the controversial All Saints clothes store), and smashed the glass as he went into Vernon Yard. The Situationist ‘Nowhere/Boredom buses’ on the back of the ‘Pretty Vacant’ sleeve recently reappeared on Portobello, on the Oxford Gardens corner, to promote a jeans store. Is nothing sacred?

After Richard Branson promoted the ‘Never Mind the Bollocks’ album in the Virgin record shop at 130 Notting Hill Gate he was prosecuted for displaying the Jamie Reid artwork under the 1824 Vagrancy Act. Reid had previously been the designer of Suburban Press and the Situationist Leaving the 20th Century book, he went on to do a Transvision Vamp sleeve and Vague covers in the 80s.

Rough Trade The original Rough Trade shop at 202 Kensington Park Road was a hippy head/printshop when Geoff Travis began the punk takeover in 1976. The headshop’s Wild West 11 wagon wheel still adorned the front as Rough Trade ‘step forward with new wave and reggae’, ‘punk magazoons’ (sic) and their original pre-punk hippy-style logo. The first Rough Trade shop acted as the office of Mark P (Perry)’s Sniffin’ Glue fanzine, which inspired a deluge of Xeroxed DIY efforts by punk fans, distributed by Rough Trade. The shop frontage and walls were ordained with indie punk label posters and record sleeves (recreated at the current shop at 130 Talbot Road in 1983).

Futura2000/Hip-hop graffiti art
The first hip-hop tag graffiti in the area by Futura2000 appeared on Freston Road and under the Westway. In 1981 the Clash posed for the cover of Zigzag magazine in front of the Apocalypse Hotel squatted pub on Freston Road, Mick Jones already with a hip-hop ghettoblaster. For the rest of the 80s Futura2000 graffiti marked the spot of the punky hip-hop party. Futura appeared on stage with the Clash doing graffiti and rapped on ‘Overpowered by Funk’ on ‘Combat Rock’. In the wake of the squatted Republic of Frestonia, the Clash and Motörhead rehearsed at Ear Studios in the People’s Hall on the corner of Freston and Olaf Street (now design studios).

The local hip-hop group the Krew were described in Melody Maker in 1983 as ‘a bunch of kids from Ladbroke Grove into rapping, spray-painting, breakerdancing and other activities more commonly associated with the Bronx.’ As the old hippy slogans under the Westway were superseded by hip-hop tag graffiti, along Golborne Road the sunken basketball court on Wornington Road became a New York-style graffiti ‘hall of fame’; said to be the most prestigious in Europe. This was the scene of a particularly bitter graffiti battle between Goldie and Rough aka VOP (Visual Orgasm Productions). In Powis Square the Tabernacle youth centre hosted a hip-hop graffiti convention organised by Mark Jackson and Sandra Belgrave, featuring the Chrome Angels from Wimbledon, the Non Stop Crew and the local Mad Ethnics.

Rip Rig & Panic, featuring Neneh Cherry and Andrea Oliver, Bristol’s premier post-punk-prog-jazz-funk outfit were summed up in the Face as ‘Boho-dancers in Notting Hill Gate, they construct their music like an action-painting.’ After Rip Rig’s last gig at the 1983 Carnival was filmed by JB, they became Float Up CP and, without Neneh, Head. The sleeve of Aswad’s ‘Live and Direct’ album from ’83 features a collage of Donna Muir artwork and Adrian Boot pictures of the Carnival and the local reggae heroes in the area.

In Hollywood W11 in 1987, ‘while London burns’ Sammy and Rosie Get Laid with an obligatory riot scene and hippies abseiling from the Westway. Stephen Frears and Hanif Kureishi’s follow up to My Beautiful Laundrette focused on an anarcho-hippy travellers’ encampment by the Westbourne Park curve of the Westway now occupied by Westbourne Studios.

ZTT/Basing Street
In the 80s the Island recording studios on Basing Street became the HQ of ZTT, the post-modern pop multi-media scam of Paul Morley (of NME previous) and Trevor Horn (of Yes and Buggles). The initials are from the Futurist avant-garde art poem extract ‘Zang Tuum Tuum’. The late 20th century ZTT pop art attack largely consisted of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s ‘Relax’, the accompanying ‘Frankie Say Relax’ T-shirt campaign, the follow up ‘Two Tribes’, Art of Noise and Grace Jones.

Basing Street has been another graffiti hall of fame from the hippy days to hip-hop and beyond. In the 90s the cyber-punk mural on the children’s castle corner of Westbourne Park Road (on the site of the new post-modern block) was ‘bombed’ by critics of the commissioned street art. Along Westbourne Park Road, ‘Hollyweird West 11’ graffiti ordained the wall by the notorious Notting Hill the movie ‘blue door’ (opposite the Warwick Castle). The almost real Portobello princess, Delphine Boel, the illegitimate artist daughter of King Albert of Belgium, lived up the hill by the Sun in Splendour pub.

Frestonia Car Breakers gallery/Mutoid Waste Company/Joe Rush/Brett Ewins
Joe Rush’s Mutoid Waste Company came out of the Car Breakers art gallery of the squatted Republic of Frestonia, founded on Freston Road in 1977 as a Blakean Albion Free State interzone of Notting Dale. Frestonia street art included a whale on Stoneleigh Street, created for Ken Campbell’s production of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, and an urban Vietnam Apocalypse Now re-enactment. The latter happening, outside the Apocalypse Hotel squatted pub (the Flag/Trafalgar) across the road from the Bramley Arms, consisted of ‘The Ride of the Valkyries’ at 2am, floodlights, bicycles, LSD and gloss paint.

The junction of Bramley Road and Freston had previously seen the start of the 1958 race riots and the police crash scene in The Lavender Hill Mob. Jon Savage produced an issue of his London’s Outrage punk fanzine consisting of classic Freston urban wasteland photos montaged with the ‘Same thing day after day’ graffiti under the Westway. The Frestonian Heathcote Williams’ Portobello Guide graffiti section featured ‘Crime is the highest form of sensuality’, ‘Come back Rachman, all is forgiven’, ‘A woman without a man is like a banana without a bicycle’, and ‘Remember the Truth Dentist’.

Brett Ewins, who had an exhibition at the Frestonian Car Breakers art gallery, designed 2000AD comic strips Judge Dredd and Rogue Trooper. In the 80s Mutoid sculptures ordained various local sites, most notably the large incendiary device bomb above the Ignition T-shirt shop at 263 Portobello Road. Their last local squat in the early 90s was the art gallery/club Mutoid Building at 280. Down the pub the Mutoids were represented in Finch’s by Richie Bond, who formed a hippy/hip-hop alliance at the Fantastic comic shop. The Mutoid Waste Company yard on Freston Road is now occupied by the Talk Talk building. Freston also hosts the Louise T Blouin gallery in the old Smiths Depository.

MuTate Britain under the Westway
In the run up to the 40th anniversary of the opening of the Westway there has been a resurgence in counter-culture activity under the flyover. In 2009 Joe Rush returned with the MuTate Britain: One Foot in the Grove gallery of radical techno art and graffiti, in the former Acklam Road adventure playground bays off Portobello.

The MuTate line-up featured: Mode 2 of the legendary Chrome Angels from Bristol (who also featured 3D Robert de Naja of Massive Attack), Paul Insect, Shepherd Fairey of Obama stencil and Banksy’s Exit Through the Gift Shop fame, Banksy’s printer Chu, Bagsy, Brett Ewins, Nick Reynolds (the son the Great Train Robber Bruce) of Alabama 3, Snug, Inkie, Dr D, Alex from the Mutoids’ Time Machine (which won the 2009 Alternative Miss World at the Roundhouse), Giles Walker robots and local pop psychogeography tiles on the toilets. The Portobello Film Festival presented a filmshow at the MuTate of the Mutoids in Frestonia in the 80s and in Berlin outside the Reichstag on the site of the Wall.

Jamie Hewlett/Gorillaz
At the end of Brit pop in the late 90s the Blur frontman Damon Albarn formed Gorillaz, his animated punky hip-hop concept group with Jamie Hewlett in North Kensington. The cartoon pop West 10 World incorporating Trellick Tower and the Westway was created at Buspace studios on Conlan Street, off Middle Row in Kensal, and Westbourne Studios by the Westway; also home to Blur’s management. Jamie Hewlett had previously drawn the Tank Girl comic strip filmed in 1994, which is said to be based on Sally of the Mutoid Waste Company.
Hewlett’s office at Westbourne Studios, featuring a Zombie Flesh Eaters mural, was frequented by Banksy. An early Banksy/Hewlett piece on the roof, which would be worth a few bob, was removed by Westbourne Studios. Jamie Hewlett and Damon Albarn have since come up with the Monkey opera, rehearsed at the Tabernacle, and incorporated alias Simonon and Jones from the Clash into Gorillaz. Damon had previously commissioned Chapman brothers sculptures for Justine of Elastica’s house on Kensington Park Road.

Damien Hirst
Damien Hirst’s Pharmacy Brit pop art restaurant opened at 150 Notting Hill Gate in 1998, causing yet more local celebrity press gossip featuring the usual suspects including Kate Moss and Geri Halliwell (who they refused to serve unless she was without her pet dog). Damien Hirst had previously featured in the Roughler local mag of Welsh Ray. In 2004 he appeared on the cover of the relaunched Roughler with a spanner on his nose.

Banksy Last Exit to Bristol
Banksy continued the Westway graffiti tradition with his Che Guevara monkey stencils on the Portobello Railway Bridge (succeeding ‘Nuclear waste fades your genes’) and ‘Banksy’ on the Ladbroke Grove bridge. An early ‘laugh now but one day we’ll be in charge’ Banksy monkey ordained the wall by the Elgin along Ladbroke Grove. Stencil graffiti had previously been a feature of the 60s ‘Open the Squares’ campaign and the anarcho-punk movement of the 80s. Banksy basically follows in the Crass ‘Anarchy, Peace and Chips’ stencil tradition with a more humorous pop Situationist bent. He also maintains the Bristol-Ladbroke Grove tradition of the Pop Group/Rip Rig & Panic.

The original of Banksy’s rioter with bunch of flowers used to adorn the staircase at Westbourne Studios, and he did Jungle Book kids in the rainforest for Greenpeace at Third Planet (which was based at the studios). At the 2004 Carnival Banksy £10 notes with Princess Diana’s head instead of the queen were thrown into the crowd. The following year his ‘Crude Oils’ show at 100 Westbourne Grove famously featured live rats running about the gallery. In protest at Blairite anti-graffiti measures, Banksy wrote an article in the Standard illustrated by community street art on Great Western Road and the Meanwhile Gardens skatepark.

Back by the Westway in 2008, the artist spraying ‘Banksy’ stencil on the Acklam Road corner reputedly sold for a quarter of million but has yet to be removed. Instead the graffiti was covered by Perspex and then framed as it marked the entrance to the MuTate gallery along Acklam Road. A Banksy rat on Needham Road off Westbourne Grove was gouged out of a wall, early Banksys were nicked from an office on Conlan Street in Kensal, and the Bankrobber gallery on Lonsdale Road sold his stuff against Pest Control wishes. Bankrobber followed up their Banksy exhibition with Pete Doherty of the Libertines/Babyshambles’ Sid Vicious-inspired ‘Bloodworks’ paintings.

Alex Martinez
The most outstanding street art of recent years, the Alex Martinez Michaelangelo monkey mural on the Number 10 bar (the old Prince Arthur pub) under Trellick Tower, was painted over by the new members’ club owner. His Samuel Beckett mural on Blenheim Crescent met a more existential demise by gradual graffiti erosion. Alex Martinez led local protest against the Council commissioned corporate art covering up community street art under the Ladbroke Grove and Portobello railway bridges. In breaking local street art news, Samuel Beckett is to be restored.

The Film Festival’s neighbour in ACAVA studios, Angela De La Cruz has been shortlisted for this year’s Turner prize. As recommended by JB, ‘she basically paints pictures and then smashes them up.’




PFF report