Tavistock Crescent

On May 15 1966 Rhaune Laslett's London Free School playgroup at 34 Tavistock Crescent (since demolished) was visited by the world heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali (in the run up to his second Henry Cooper fight). Rhaune Laslett is to Ali's right in the picture with the kids.

This was also where the first Notting Hill Carnival procession began on September 18 1966. Rhaune Laslett organised the Free School Fayre pageant parade around the area, featuring people dressed as Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and Charles Dickens characters, the London Irish girl pipers, a New Orleans-style trad jazz marching band, Ginger Johnson's Afro-Cuban band, Russ Henderson's Trinidadian steelband from the Coleherne pub in Earl's Court, and a fire engine.

The Carnival pioneer steel bandleader Russ Henderson recalls: "Some kids dressed up a bit and bunting in the road, they had a clown, donkey cart and juggler, just things to entertain the kids… Instead of staying outside of Mrs Laslett's building we walked to one end and we walked back down and we thought that was going good and we said we'll move the barriers and make a little run." Although the parade was planned in advance.

Rhaune Laslett's Neighbourhood Service at 34 Tavistock Crescent offered 'free advice for county and magistrates court proceedings, depressives and young addicts in need of help and advice as well as causes of acute distress, especially housing.' The 1968 Notting Hill Fair/Carnival concluded at the London Free School 'shanty town' adventure playground between Tavistock Crescent and Tavistock Road, with an 'open air dance' featuring the mod band the Action, Ginger Johnson, Pure Medicine and a steel band. Pete Jenner's Blackhill Enterprises put on benefit gigs for the Neighbourhood Service at the Roundhouse by the Small Faces, Sly and the Family Stone, and David Bowie. 

The St Luke's Road corner of Tavistock Road hosted the Metro Youth Club, the scene of Alton Ellis and Aswad gigs and various police incidents in the 70s. Rhaune Laslett's house and the Metro are actually over the Colville and Kensington boundary in Westminster. 

The Tavistock Hotel/Arms pub on the corner of Tavistock Crescent and the footbridge under the Westway, the north-eastern most extremity of Colville, appeared in ‘The L-Shaped Room’, the Clash film ‘Hell W10’ and ‘Withnail and I’, before the site’s post-modern luxury flat conversion in 2011. After Richard E Grant and Paul McGann were chased out of the Tavistock (when it was the Frog & Firkin) in ‘Withnail and I’, the pub was named the Mother Black Cap in reality after its role in the film. 

Tavistock Crescent and Road were developed in the late 1860s alongside the Hammersmith and City railway line from Westbourne Park station, originally as Great Western Crescent and Tavistock Terrace. On the 1900s Charles Booth map, the Tavistock streets are down as poverty and comfort mixed/fairly comfortable, but Silvester Mews, between Basing Street and All Saints Road, is very poor dark blue. By the mid 20th century Tavistock Crescent had gone from being respectable working class to the worst slum of the area, and was duly demolished in the late 70s.

The Junction Arms Tavistock Road, Crescent and Basing Road now Street junction political meeting 1920s. The banners include the National League of the Blind, the North Kensington Branch of the Street Traders Union, and the Union of General Workers Kensal Green. Portobello market became official with licensed stalls and market inspectors in 1927. John Recordon recalled in ‘Going Down the Lane’: “There was a lot of political activity around Portobello market in the 20s and 30s, I was a Young Communist. Most of the meetings were on bread and butter issues, unemployment and the atrocious housing conditions. They were good humoured, though there was a lot of heckling. The costermongers tended to object. Our meetings didn't interfere with their trade, it was more their politics – they were strongly patriotic Tory.” In the 70s the Junction pub at 92 Tavistock Road became the Point Community Action Centre, thus described in Tony Allen's Corrugated Times: 'First it was a pub, the Junction Arms, then a Labour Exchange, then a clinic, then it was tinned up for a few years, squatted, occupied, hassled for, now it's ours.' The site is now occupied by the west end of Tavistock Gardens.

During the 1976 Carnival Tavistock Road became the riot frontline between the police and youths. The junction with Portobello also appears in the car chase in 'The Squeeze' film, starring Stacy Keach and Freddie Starr. The Clash singer Joe Strummer said in an interview with Chris Salewicz in 1978: "The other day I was walking along and I saw that all of Tavistock Crescent is gone. And they used to seem to really know how to build houses fit for human beings to live in in those days. I mean, round by Westbourne Park Road these real egg-boxes suddenly sprung up from behind the corrugated iron, which is just brutal." Strummer later lived at 37 Lancaster Road, he returned to Tavistock Crescent in his 'Hell W10' film (though he was in W11) and when he formed the new Clash group in the mid 80s. Lancaster Road also hosted the Rasta House of Dread visited by Bob Marley, Patsy Kensit of 'Absolute Beginners' and Dan Donovan of Big Audio Dynamite. The new Tavistock Crescent residents include the speed-rapper JC001. The Tavistock junction with Portobello has been a pedestrian precinct since 1982, known as Portobello or Tavistock square, piazza or plaza.

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