I can’t really claim to be a big fan of the pop group Madness, but as a man of a certain age I am aware of their oeuvre shall we say. And I recall that in one of their videos from the early eighties the ‘nutty boys’ can plainly be seen breakfasting in the old Venus café on Golborne Road and then taking a walk up towards Trellick Tower.
The Golborne was rather different back then, much more down at heel and fairly bleak quite frankly. But over the years things have greatly improved, not least because of the efforts of the Council, so it was with genuine puzzlement that I learned that a campaign is underway to “Save Golborne Road”.
According to the campaign’s online petition, the Golborne Road Market is threatened by a Council development that will “sound the death knell for independent businesses.” And we are not talking about any old development either but the worst possible kind: one that will “gentrify”.
You will therefore be relieved to hear that thousands are rising up against our proposals, by which I mean they have signed the online petition which was created by the fashion designer Bella Freud. Others manning the barricades include the owner of the Leon restaurant chain, John Vincent and his wife, the newsreader, Katie Derham.
“Please protect the soul of this iconic market street,” the petition prays. “Golborne Road is one of the few remaining authentic markets in west London where you can still get a bargain antique and a good piece of vintage” it gushes. “We refuse to see this spirit replaced with chain stores and expensive boutiques,” it cries.
And just how is the Council going to drain Golborne of its soul? “Kensington and Chelsea wants to gentrify it by widening the pavements and adding a complicated drainage system,” the petition explains.
Ah the old better drains and pavements trick, mwah ha ha!
But you know there is a much more innocent explanation for the Council’s actions and it is this: local people and local councillors asked us to address some issues on the Golborne Road. A working group was formed that included residents, traders and councillors. That group came up with some proposals which we are consulting on. They are fairly light touch, and involve improving the drains (I was on the market only last Friday and witnessed the stagnant puddles for myself), introducing new lighting and new trees and improving – but not widening – the pavements. But don’t take my word for it, look at the proposals for yourself at www.rbkc.gov.uk/golborneroad
Should Golborne Road at some time in the future suffer a change in character it will not be because of improved drainage, new lighting, or five new trees but because of things plainly beyond the Council’s control, like changes in the economy perhaps or changes in the tastes and shopping habits of the British public.
And anyway it is quite impossible to fix the character of any British street, let alone the Golborne Road. For instance, would the regular diners of the long departed Venus café have viewed today’s campaigners as the guardians of the Golborne’s authentic spirit?
Somehow I doubt it for those campaigners were of course once themselves agents of change and progress on the Golborne Road.