From our friend in Belfast: The Shop With No Name

In the last of a series of reports filed from Belfast by Richard Weston, our intrepid correspondent peers into the dark corners of The Shop With No Name

It came out of the blue. Totally unexpected. Couldn't have been more of a surprise actually. About, oh I don't know, four or five weeks ago, what used to be a boarded-up bingo hall, just over the road from our studio, re-opened its year-or-more-closed shutters. But there's no more "two fat ladies" or "clickety-clicks" now; instead, we have a veritable emporium of vintage delights.

The Shop With No Name (which, incidentally, isn't its name, it hasn't got one) is both a boon and a curse. 

If ever there was an ideal lunchtime distraction for me, this was it, in all its mixed up, ephemeral, kitsch, government surplus, dead man's stuff glory.

Packed full of the unexpected, so far I've invested good money in such valueless nonsense as: employment cards from the 1970s, an embroidered souvenir pennant from Lourdes, a rather fine and mighty T-square like I used in art school; a Canadian Airways luggage tag and, very best of all, a letterpress printer's composing stick.

And therein is the curse: I can't resist a bit of vintage trivia. So having a shop just over the road is far too close to resist. Thankfully, to date, I've displayed just about enough discipline to only purchase small, low cost objects. This means I've managed to abstain from shelling out on the old bicycle in the window, side-lined the fully working manual till, ignored the Olivetti Lettera 25 typewiter (just) and walked away from the not-so-old but bargain-priced Eye magazines from the early to mid 1990s (three quid a pop, they're listed on ebay at £30 each).

The crammed-full shop is run by Ian and Michael, who use it to clear surplus materials not needed for their prop hire operation. And they have all sorts of stuff. Interesting, surprising stuff; some familiar, some never seen before. Some you'd probably be happy not to see again but lots and lots that is quite fascinating. 

I couldn't help wonder, where does someone get so much weird stuff from? So, the other day, I asked Ian. With a straight face he said, quite simply, "Robberies, mostly".

The Shop With No Name is on the Lower Newtownards Road, just opposite Portview. If you're nearby, you should drop in and buy something. A set of opticians lenses or a Lady Di plate, perhaps.

We know you will be as sad as we are to bid farewell to Richard, the good news is that you can read much more by him at Ace Jet 170, where he muses on design, typography, ephemera and recent finds from the Shop With No Name.

Posted in Belfast, Independent, Richard Weston, Shops, UK

Launching The Look Of London

Last week we hosted a modest event to launch The Look Of London, our new publication which we have produced in a collaboration with Paul Gorman. The map is a celebration of the independent shops and small businesses from which global fashions have sprung, and so we were delighted that we were able to do this in the lovely surroundings of Lewis Leathers, a prime example of just such an enterprise, and one that thankfully still thrives.

It was, to coin a phrase, a dark and stormy night but we were delighted that so many braved the rain and were able to raise a bottle of Saint Craft Lager to this new publication and to the pioneers documented in the map, some of whom joined us on the evening.

Our thanks go to Derek and all at Lewis Leathers, Nicola Murray at Dawbell, Saint Craft Lager, Kitty Regan, and all who showed up.


Top: Nigel Waymouth; Caz Facey and Lloyd Johnson
Middle: Jeff Dexter; Paul Gorman and Bruce Marcus
Above:  Derek Harris
All photos by Kitty Regan

Posted in Independent, Lewis Leathers, London, The Look Of London

Herb visits… S.E.H. Kelly

We spend a great deal of time celebrating traditional businesses and mourning those that pass, so it's particularly satisfying to find a brand new operation with the integrity and the ethos of an old one. One such is clothing manufacturer S.E.H. Kelly, whose studio and shop is a short walk from our own modest premises, and where we stopped in to have a cup of tea a while ago now, back before the leaves started to turn.

S.E.H. Kelly specialise in workwear for men, using only fabric and materials from the British Isles which are manufactured to exacting standards frequently in very limited runs. They operate on a small enough scale that should the fancy taken them, they can make use of finds such as a single piece of fabric that will make fewer than 20 shirts, and so that becomes the whole run. Which is something to bear in mind if you spot an item you like – this may be the last one ever made. We were particularly impressed with their horn buttons which come from a 150-year-old button factory in the Midlands, but this level of care runs throughout their business, and not just in the clothes they make and the austerely charming studio in which they labour.

On any Saturday and Sunday, from 12noon-5pm, you too can explore the creations of SEH Kelly at their workshop, and meet Sara and Paul, the delightful pair at its helm. We'd say a visit is a bit like going back to a better time, but it's better than that because it gives us all hope that good, modest businesses can prosper in the present day.

S.E.H Kelly, 1 Cleve Workshops, Boundary Street London E2 7JD. Tel: 020 3397 0449
Photos are courtesy Paul, SEH Kelly

Posted in England, Independent, London

Herb visits… Diwana Bhel Poori House

On Drummond Street, next to the supermarket where Patak's pickles were born is Diwana, serving vegetarian Indian food since the 1960s. Their buffet lunch remains one of the city's great food bargains, attracting nearby office workers, impecunious pensioners, weary travelers and plenty of regulars. In The Discriminating Guide to London (William Heinemann, 1977) it is described accurately if a little harshly: "small, very simple – even uncomfortable... we include it because of all the English vegetarian restaurants in central London none has been good enough to recommend. The food here is delicious and almost ridiculously cheap." The same is true today; it is an entirely unselfconscious timewarp, with its hard benches, stainless steel beakers and trays. The lunchtime buffet is far from the familiar pea and potato gloop of other similar establishments, with salads, curries, home-made pickles and chutneys, all of which are constantly refreshed, while "a la carte" bhel poori and dosas in the evening are also excellent.
With HS2 threatening to destroy Drummond Street and large swathes of Euston and Mornington Crescent, we urge you to visit while you still can. This is an area little known to those who neither live or work in it, but it has a large, settled residential population for whom life is beginning to look very bleak indeed, as shown by the video below and linked here.

Diwana Bhel Poori House, 121-123 Drummond Street, London NW1 2HL. Tel: 020 7387 5556

Posted in Drummond Street, England, Food, Independent, London, Restaurants

Herb visits… Russell's of Clapton

We are frequently asked to suggest good places to stay in London, but as residents of this great metropolis, our experience is limited. We can recommend hotels with pleasant bars or restaurants, and point out those with spicy histories or suffering from a particularly lamentable renovation, but if you're asking about clean sheets and a pleasant atmosphere, we come up with little. Until now that is, because if you are planning to stay out east, we recommend Russell's, a delightful bed and breakfast on rapidly-evolving Chatsworth Road.

Russell's is light and clean, homely and well cared-for but not fussy in any way; it's not the bed and breakfast of popular fiction. It is run by Annette with Reggie, her beautiful whippet, an excitable, elegant assistant. If we found somewhere as nice as this to stay while on our travels, we would be very pleased indeed.

Russell's of Clapton, 123 Chatsworth Road, London E5 0LA. Tel: 07976 669 906

Below, Reggie vamps it up. Photograph by Instagram user whybray.

Posted in Independent, London, UK

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