1. Constant change is wretched. My window display hasn’t altered since the 70s. People are thrilled to see that. I had one grown woman gasp when she brought her boyfriend here. She said, ‘I didn’t know if you were real or a dream, but it’s exactly the same!‘
2. It’s good to have your eggs in two baskets. I have mine in dolls houses and toys. Why? Because little girls also have brothers.
3. I buy things because I like them, not because they sell. My shop is a highly individual collection of things, not necessarily toys. I like to foster craftsmen. Children take away another side of life when they leave here.
4. In people’s minds, big size equates with big love. People think that if child is feeling sad they should buy them tremendous bear, but often it terrifies them. Aesthetics has largely gone from life, replaced with hideous things. I look at a toy for what it is. Then ask, is there enough beauty in it?
5. Children today are hooked on their sugar fix. They used to spend their pennies on small toys, now they queue up to spend it on fizzy drinks. Then it leads to alcohol. I could have told the government they’d have a serious problem with alcohol years ago.
6. Life is filled with happy accidents. I developed TB in the 60s. I’m sure it was from the kapok I used to stuff toys with back then. It used to float up. So I started making lampshades instead. We had a workshop where Housepresso now stands. In 1975 a huge raincloud rolled up the Heath and got stuck. The whole of Gospel Oak was flooded. We couldn’t even open the door of our basement. But we were given the keys to this place and since there was a school opposite we thought, why not get a few toys in? So suddenly I was working with toys again.
7. I like to keep an air of mystery, a little magic. There’s never been a sign and people often don’t think we’re open, but the hours have always been the same too. My mother called this area – the original Mansfield Road – the Hampstead Slums! We are a Kentish Town treasure, aren’t we?
Words & Pics: Tom Kihl