From our friend in Barcelona: Els Encants Vells

A trip to Barcelona's grimy, exciting and intermittently rewarding Els Encants Vells flea market with Kavel Rafferty.

Els Encants Vells, I mistakenly thought this to mean 'market of old charms', which sounds delightful, but even if it were true might be stretching it a bit these days. 

The name actually relates to the time of the plague in Barcelona when the poor would sell the property of the dead, shouting 'en cantes' the prices outside the city walls. The original market dates back to the 14th century, making it one of the oldest markets in Europe; it was moved to the site near Glories in the 1920s to clean up the Saint Antoni area for the Universal Exhibition of 1929.

As with many markets, Encants has a mixture of new and old, from mountains of second-hand books spread out on blankets to phone unlocking services. The more permanent stalls around the edges tend to be new; household goods, electrical supplies, flamenco dresses, big pants and fabrics. In the centre are the grottier junk stalls; old paint, records, magazine, 'antiques' and collectibles, but really you could pretty much come across anything. You’ll need to dig around a fair bit, and you need good balance too as sometimes you have to climb over stuff to get to the back of the stalls. Amid all this bustle you'll find women selling platted garlic for a couple of Euros.

Every 10 to 15 minutes recorded messages are played over the Tannoy, in Catalan, Spanish and a strange American/English accent, mostly reminding you to take care of your bags. Along with this reminder to watch your belongings, are the shouts from stall holders todo barato (everything cheap), which is ironic as I find it a little over-priced, you really do have to barter hard. Ladies should beware of the onion rubbers 'a frotar la cebolleta' as my friend Arantxa describes the older gentlemen who rub up far too close to women, when they think they can get away with it.

Don't let any of this put you off, in general there’s a lively, exciting atmosphere. Most markets have s seamy aspect and this one is little different in that aspect to my past local of Brick Lane.

Work started recently to move the market to a modern, covered 25-metre marquee, just across the street but somehow I think this will ruin the feel. I'm not sure a flea market should be too clean – organised chaos should rule.

Els Encants Vells, Monday, Wednesday, Friday & Saturday. I usually give Saturday a miss as it can be pretty heavy going with the heat and crowds. It opens at 7am with auctions, the market proper starts around 9am fizzles out by 2pm.  
Metro: L2 Encants / L1 Glories 

You can see Kavel's illustration work on her website.

And for more Barcelona, don't forget to pick up our map!

Posted in Barcelona, Illustration, Kavel Rafferty, Markets, Shops

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

Lament for Intoxica!

And so the news is out, after 18 years trading, Intoxica! of Portobello Road is to close. It joins a long, sad roll call of record shops we have loved and lost: Plastic Passion and its later incarnation as home of the feuding Bills, Minus Zero and Stand Out; Camden Town's hallowed Rock On; Dobell's; Ray's; At The Hop in Fulham; Spinning Disc in Chiswick and so many more.

We miss them all and dearly wish that Intoxica! was not joining this unhappy list. Intoxica! will be open until June, we urge you to pay a visit while you can.

Intoxica!, 231 Portobello Road Notting Hill, London W11 1LT. Tel: 020 7229 8010

Below: Dobell's, Shaftesbury Avenue in the 1960s

Below: a series of photos taken at Rock On in 1980 by Flickr user Affendaddy.

Posted in England, Independent, London, Shops, UK

The acceptable face of advertising

It is an unavoidable part of our day to walk down Rivington Street, navigating the narrow pavement and dodging delivery vans, but even on the most miserable mornings we find our spirits lifted as we pass number 72, the exuberant offices-cum-lending library-cum-shopfront of YCN

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Posted in Advertising, London, Shops, stockists, UK

Herb visits… Koenig Books

 Charlie Sheen is not alone, we have our weaknesses too. Wandering along Charing Cross Road the other day, lamenting the loss of Murder One, Shipley’s and Bunjies folk cellar just around the corner, we spotted that Koenig Books have a bargain basement. The faint scent of discounted books was too much. A moment’s hesitation, a brief and half-hearted wrestle with the conscience, and we were in.

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Posted in England, Independent, London, Shops, UK

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