Which street connects Soul II Soul with Jeremy Beadle?


For one eager young hack, Rochester Place in the 1990s was briefly the epicentre of a media era



36-38 Rochester Place, once Soul II Soul studios. Photo: Tom Kihl
36-38 Rochester Place, once Soul II Soul studios. Photo: Tom Kihl

Back in the summer of 1991 I was a fresh-faced intern eager to get his foot in the proverbial door of magazine publishing. Rochester Place – that cobbled backwater nestling between Camden Road and Royal College Street – was home to a certain WV Publications, boasting titles on the vanguard of the VHS golden age, including ‘What Video’ and ‘Camcorder User’.

As well as heaving boxes of magazines through the thick fug of tobacco smoke produced by geek hacks and flash ad sales execs by day, I was busy afterhours too, discovering the world of London’s nightclubs.

So it was particularly exciting to learn that the studios of all conquering Camden Town exports Soul II Soul – who achieved global fame with their 1988 #1 smash Back To Life – were situated directly across the cobbled mews at no.36-38. They were at the height of their powers, with second LP ‘Vol. II: 1990 – A New Decade’ going Gold in the US, so having Jazzie B pulling up outside made the little Kentish Town backstreet feel like the centre of the music world.

It was of course – I hasten to add – also the centre of the camcorder world, so that meant my boss was in bed with hilarious king of camcorder calamities, Jeremy Beadle.


LOCAL ADVERTISING


You’ll recall that Beadle was dominating weekly TV ratings. But beyond all that he was an obsessive researcher of odd facts, collected in his own library of over 30,000 volumes, plus a huge charity supporter.

And it was this charity support that brought him to host quizzes at Rochester Place, wine-soaked evening events for the staff and our friends. And they were so riotous the Funki Dreads would even peer through the windows at us for a change. (Rumour has it that Jazzie B even won a Lynx Grooming Set.)

The attractive thoroughfare is quieter today, with the lovely cottages of Reed’s Place leading gracefully west. There are also two houses built by esteemed architect David Wild, and, just beyond, the former school buildings once the site of The Rotunda.

But all that’s another story. For me this quirky Kentish Town footnote reveals Rochester Place was briefly what you might just stretch to call the epicentre of a media era; when nostalgic 90s ephemera – bulky home movie-making kit, big Saturday night TV stars, vinyl DJ culture, warehouse-sized music studios – ruled the day.


Tags:

  • Show Comments

  • David Powell

    And, of course, at the south end of Reeds Place, the wonderful “Dots, the Camden Music Shop” and Dot herself, deservedly a winner of one of the Mayor of Camden’s 2011 (unsung) Heroes of Music awards.

  • James Elm

    From the tweet, I thought this was going to be about what KT street connects Saint Etienne and Strictly Come Dancing.

  • Kentishtowner

    That would be Kelly Street. Perhaps. Check out our Mario’s Cafe feature if you’re a fan of the ‘Et.

  • Jenbel

    I can see my house from here!

  • Sheila Hayman

    As the lucky owner of one of the David Wild houses (the one not occupied by David Wild, in fact) I can testify that the premises that on our arrival twelve years ago were still occupied by Jazzy B, (who would occasionally, and thrillingly, drawl ‘nice baby!’ as he passed by) are now home to £12m worth of vintage cars. This seems an all too telling reflection of the times. Luckily we still have the silversmiths, Paula Rego, numerous architects, a picture restorer, an ecclesiastical stonemason, a luminary of the art world, the incomparable Nino of MDA Motors, and the world’s best dressed environmental engineer to people our famous street parties.

    And Dot and Noel, of course. How we love them.

  • Robin Kinross

    Since we’re local too (Bartholomew Road), can we mention that David Wild has published two books with us. The latest, “Jazzpaths”:http://www.hyphenpress.co.uk/books/978-0-907259-45-9, came out at the end of last year — accompanied by an exhibition of David’s photos and collages at the equally local Beardsmore Gallery.

    A favourite story: when David Wild’s first book was published, and when the Owl Bookshop failed to put it in their window, showing instead a book about the architecture of Zaha Hadid, David burst into the shop and asked ‘What has Zaha Hadid ever done for the neighbourhood?’.