25 Powis Square

25 Powis Square west side 1971. ‘Took a trip in Powis Square, pop star dyed his hair, mobsters came and flushed him out… gang land slaying, underground, new identity must be found, on the Left Bank for a while, insanity Bohemian style.’ Big Audio Dynamite, ‘E=MC²’ 1986. Chas: “What a freak show.” Tony: “Well, where are you then?” Chas: “Oh, you know, out on the left, it's a right piss hole, long hair, beatniks, druggers, free love, foreigners, but I'm not bothered, Tone, I'm well in and you couldn't find a better little hidey-hole.” 'Performance' 1968.

After the liberation of the square gardens in 1968, Powis Square was chosen for its ‘kaleidoscopic moods in a strange and faded area of London’ as the setting of Mick Jagger’s house in 'Performance'. The classic Notting Hill film by Donald Cammell and Nic Roeg, defining both Heaven W11 and Notting Hell, is largely set at the Talbot Road corner house, 25 Powis Square (81 in the film), but the interior scenes were actually shot at 15 Lowndes Square in Knightsbridge. Mick Jagger stars as the reclusive rock star landlord Turner Purple; basically playing himself or a Stones amalgamation of himself, Keith Richards and Brian Jones, who really lived on Powis Square in the early 60s.

James Fox as Turner’s alter-ego the gangster Chas appears on the corner of Colville Terrace to Ry Cooder’s ‘Powis Square’ Wild West 11 cajun-blues theme, which is also used in 'Paris Texas'. In the 'Bohemian atmosphere' setting sequence, Nic Roeg shoots him from different angles, inter-cut with the crumbling stucco splendour of number 25, a black boy playing by the gardens, black men walking by, Rachman and Michael X-types, a rock group, an Asian couple, and children looking out of a multi-occupied bed-sit window. James Fox reappeared in Powis Square in 'Runners' in the 80s. At the beginning of the 20th century 25 Powis Square was the surgery of doctors Sheldon, Wiggins and Sheldon.

'Powis (Wenceslas) Square in Notting Hell for the Devil's Party' King Mob flyer International Times 1968. At the time of the 'Performance' film shoot, another Notting Hill community campaign was launched in International Times by King Mob, after six of the Powis Square protesters were charged with causing ‘malicious damage’ to the gates. Following the Russian suppression of the Prague spring uprising in Czechoslovakia, King Mob twinned Powis Square with Wenceslas Square on their demo flyer. In the wake of the 1968 student revolution, John Barker moved into the 'Performance' house 25 Powis Square. Inspired by King Mob, he joined the Notting Hill People’s Association and frequented their office/café at 90 Talbot Road. In 1970 the People’s Association was engaged in such community activism as auction-busting, squatting, Carnival float-building, and the West London Claimants Union.

Powis Square is cited in 'The Angry Brigade' book by Gordon Carr as the inspiration of the hippy terrorist group, as ‘living evidence of capitalist society in decay.’ By then the gardens had been ‘concreted over and enclosed by a high wire netting fence so that it looked like a prison compound.’ Carr added: “It was, and in some senses still is, the centre for radical student drop-outs and for anyone who wants to go to the extremes in social and political life without too much attention from his neighbours or the authorities.” As the basement of 25 hosted a 'group improvisation of a play about the fuzz and life in Notting Hill', the Angry Brigade bombed the Miss Word contest at the Albert Hall and the Biba boutique on Church Street.

In 1971 Jake Prescott was apprehended on Talbot Road on suspicion of possessing drugs, and duly connected with the bombings. The police were getting warmer when they discovered a copy of 'The Society of the Spectacle' by Guy Debord in the basement of 25 Powis Square, containing notes in John Barker’s handwriting linking him to the Situationist-influenced Angry Brigade communiqués. Police subsequently seized a communiqué in a raid on the Notting Hill People’s Association Carnival office at 90 Talbot Road, shortly before the arrest of John Barker’s revolutionary cell in Stoke Newington.

When number 25 came up for public auction in 1972 the premises were squatted and People’s Association members outbid property speculators in an auction bust. A handbill was distributed describing Colville as a ‘noisy, unstable, multi-racial, high-crime area, where political demonstrations, affrays and rioting are frequent occurrences.’ 25 Powis Square’s outstanding health orders were listed, including the structurally unsound portico, faulty wiring and rising damp, and potential buyers were warned that the occupants would resist eviction by any means necessary: ‘This house has been and will continue to be a focal point for the escalating militant community hostility towards the activities of property speculators in the area.’ After that Mick Jagger's house was sold to Notting Hill Housing Trust.

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