Back in February I wrote here about our project Many Cultures, One Community which hopes to mark the people and events that shaped a community. So I thought you may like an update on our progress.
Our first of seven speaker events took place the other week at Map Studio Cafe. The rubble, rat infestations and rationing in the aftermath of wartime Kentish Town may seem unimaginable today, but the highly regarded author and academic Jerry White brought history to life for the 100-strong crowd. The event also showcased the first three of seven local history exhibition boards, created by residents, covering three decades of Kentish Town’s past since the Second World War.
The year of 1946, White told the audience, marked a turning point in the history of social housing as soldiers, returning from war with heightened expectations of a better future, were confronted with the squalid reality of bombed-out London. The response to the urgent need for accommodation was the sudden and rapid growth in a squatting movement, which saw the occupation of army barracks and hotels in Central London. Although condemned by the authorities and elites on both sides of the political spectrum, it represented the most organised – and perhaps widely accepted – squatting movement in London’s history.
Later, a film screening included Magda Segal and Bunny Schendler’s short, entitled Timeline, which uses 13,000 images of familiar sights such as the Coin Op Laundrette, Blustons and Flaxon Ptooch parties to portray life on Kentish Town Road.
The friendly vibe at Mario’s Café featured in a short film by Roland Denning, while young up-and-coming filmmaker Billy Boyd Cape’s music video for band BIGkids was also awarded a warm round of applause.
The student filmmaker appointed to document the launch of a project, which encompasses youth workshops in performing arts and sound recording, had difficulty getting up the stairs, so packed out was the venue. But many Kentish Town notables were in attendance, from local GPs, community centre trustees, campaigners and local activists to broadcasters, designers, artists, journalists, students and mothers.
Incidentally, under 25’s will soon have the chance to enter a film-making and music-making competition so watch this space. And further opportunities to get involved include bringing your research, performance or artistic skills or enthusiasm in any capacity to a project that ultimately aims unleash a colourful costumed carnival to the streets of Camden next summer.
The next event is at lovely Doppio’s Café in Kentish Town Road on Friday 14 December at 6.30pm, when broadcaster and journalist Andrew Whitehead will explore fiction written in and about our neighbourhood since the Second World War. The talk will be followed by a short film screening about the Marathon Bar on Chalk Farm Road and some live music from saxophonist Bob Ellis Hawke.
Why does it matter? Because it’s through awareness of our local history, and by networking amongst ourselves, that we can build an even stronger, more enriched and connected community than we already have.
Words by Sara Newman, project co-ordinator of Many Cultures One Community.