Many Londoner's are fascinated with the city's past and the glimpses of history on most streets. None more so than the brilliant Faded London, documenting "a city constantly re-inventing itself, but every now and then there's a window on to the past..all worth recording before they are finally removed or hidden". We've been wanting to talk to this London blogger for a while.
If you had to describe your blog in fewer than 15 words how would you do it?
A Walk On The Mild Side - Celebrating The London Others Rarely Bother With
Why did you start blogging?
It's all down to being given a digital camera one Christmas. After months of saying "I saw a really interesting drainpipe - coalhole - shop sign this morning" my bluff was called and I soon found myself with a load of photos that I wasn't quite sure what to do with. A blog seemed a good way of having to put some sort of structure to them and also made me think about what I was recording as there was always the possibility that someone might actually be reading it! I'm not savvy or dedicated enough to think about creating a proper full-blown website so the informal and straightforward nature of a blog suited me down to the ground.
What about London inspires your blog?
I've lived in London, and South London at that, pretty much all my life, which makes it difficult for me to identify something 'different' or 'inspirational' about London as it's pretty much the only environment I know. If I was to try to put my finger on something specific though I'd have to say that the blog is inspired by London's ability to share small secrets. A city like London is basically a layer cake of styles and aspirations laid down over the centuries and however modern it appears at first glance clues to these older layers are impossible to eradicate - even if for the most part we ignore them for their irrelevance. How many people see or notice coalholes or even know what they are for? Or bootscrapers, house name-plaques and drainage vent-pipes? London is always playing peek-a-boo with the past and once you realise that the game is on it's quite enjoyable to join in.
What's your favourite find so far to date - and is there anything you're still hunting for?
I don't think Faded London is a hunting sort of blog, by which I mean that it's primary purpose is not to catalogue, classify and record. Not to say that there's anything wrong with having that as an aim of course and enormous credit must be due to all those that take on such an ambitious role, like Sam Roberts at Ghost Signs a great blog with great pictures and loads of research. Faded London on the other hand is very much a personal indulgence. I want to go to new streets or areas, wander round and be - for want of a better word - delighted. I want to find things that puzzle, intrigue and amuse me. It's also nice to feel that small thrill of discovery when you spot something old and insignificant in a very modern setting. Just for a second you can indulge yourself with some form of imagined metaphysical connection to the past, a sort of sympathetic empathy I suppose. One comment on the blog called it 'psychogeography', a perceived urge to make connections in an urban landscape. So I'm not hunting, I'm apparently on a 'derive' or urban drift which sounds a lot more interesting and takes off any pressure. If someone tells me I missed something in such and such street it doesn't really bother me and I don't have any burning urge to rush back to capture it on film. My feeling is that if missed it first time then there's always something new for me to see if I ever revisit the area.
Favourite finds so far? Well I loved the Tooting house covered in tiles and I was very pleased to have spotted a coal hole with the 'dog and three legged pot' motif but my overall favourite this week, and for no particular reason, is an innocuous house in Clapham with an intriguing plaster motto. I'm sure it has a story to tell but I don't know what it is yet.
What would you advise people to do to notice the details in London you do?
The obvious thing to do is to say is to 'look up and then look down' but really the main thing to do is just to look, full stop. I don't think we look enough really. Or to be more accurate when we do look we tend to look with filters on and if what we see isn't relevant then we ignore it. After spotting something anachronistic though, I suppose the next stage is to then express a mild sense of curiosity and start to think of it in its original context. I'm by no means an enthusiastic historical researcher - I'm far too lazy- but I am happy to wonder what happened to a particular manufacturer, charity or individual and to poke about a bit until my curiosity is satisfied.
Would you feel less connected to London, or missed out on things without your blog?
Without a doubt I'm much more connected and would never have noticed half of what I have without the blog. I've been re-visiting old haunts with a fresh pair of eyes and going anywhere new to me is always a potential revelation. Even the fringes of London with their 30's housing can throw up the odd intriguing item but I've only started spotting them recently due to having my 'blogger glasses' on.
How has your blog connected you to a community of bloggers in London? The world?
If someone has an interest related to your own then it's impossible not to have some sort of contact. They'll always be on the lookout for their own areas of interest whether street names, weather vanes, bollards, ghost signs or horse troughs and because Faded London looks at pretty much anything that catches my eye - and sometimes features a collection of photos around a specific theme - you tend to build up a network of contacts. You often see mutual links to each others sites and after a while you can see an informal network developing.
Tell us about another London blogger you like
Just the one? That's a pity as the front runners would be between Ghost Signs , mentioned before, Jane's superb montages of photographs at Jane's London or Sebastien Ardouins dedication to shopfront-mosaics and ghost sign's at Painted Signs and Mosaics . However we all cover overlapping fields of interest so if you twisted my arm until I squeaked the one I picked would have to be 'Another Nickel In The Machine'.This is an evocative a blog that picks out long-forgotten stories of London scandal and intrigue illustrated with copious atmospheric images of the time and rounded off with a selection of appropriate musical titbits. For lovers of London it's a 'must read' site and could quite easily make a fascinating book.
And for some general London chat Where do you live and why do you love it?
Morden, South-West London at the end of the Northern Line. 'Love' is going a bit far though as we originally moved here as the only place we could afford in the area and still get up to town. I'm originally from the Battersea of the 'Up the Junction' era, grew up in Putney and then spent the 80's in Brixton and Putney, before actually having to buy a house and looking for cheap and convenient which pretty much sums up Morden. Actually, as it turns out, I quite like the place. The High Street is a bit shabby but has all the basics, we're close to the throbbing flesh-pots of Wimbledon and Sutton and there's a surprising amount of historical associations, buildings and parks in the area. Good Shoes did Morden a bit of a disservice in my opinion, but I can understand the frustration of an up-and-coming indie band at not being from somewhere with a bit more credibility. However I can only applaud their decision to get a kebab in the excellent shop near the tube. Good choice Good Shoes!
What's your favourite place in London?
The Tempest End Stand at Kingsmeadow Stadium, Kingston on a Saturday 3pm with AFC Wimbledon just about to take on... well anyone really. Not a Faded London hot-spot to be honest, although I have spotted an interesting Parish boundary marker on the way in to the ground. I'd like to pretend it's the quality of the architecture or the interesting scroll work on the signage but the truth is that nothing beats the emotional charge of a closely contested game. The crowd, the terraces, the smell of the burgers, the floodlit arena, the sense of community, the jumpers for goal-posts, the roar of the grease-paint. Can't beat it! In fact I love the place so much I've spent far too much of my free time producing over 40 different banners to decorate it with.
vWhat do you know about London no-one else does?
I'm sure that in the politically charged days of the 80's that there was a movement to rename Brockwell Park in Tulse Hill - my then local park - as 'Zephaniah Mofopeng Park'. No-one seems to remember this though, probably not helped by the fact I have undoubtedly got the name wrong, so I think I'll claim this as my 'thing no-one else knows about London'. Even if I'm wrong.
Have you ever been sick on the tube?
Categorically, 100%, positively not. I've been lucky in apparently having the self-control to get to always get to a more acceptable repository. And I don't mean a Black Cab either...