Clerkenwell has been my milieu for many a year, and much has changed since I first arrived, and worked out my RAF leave for a basement photographers’ studio in Hatton Garden. Gamages Department Store was still trading, and seemingly had given rise to much of the trade in the Leather Lane Market. I worked simply for the experience and expenses for six weeks at Francis-Thompson Studios. It was part of Sidney Barton PR Services based in nearby Breams Buildings, Fetter Lane. I had absolutely no idea at that time of the part that this area of working London was to play in my working life.
I left many times – each time I returned there were subtle changes, but its heart kept beating, and the Twentieth Century brought the most extensive changes of all, and now many of the streets I first knew have disappeared, but Clerkenwell Design Week allows visitors to see the spirit of both the old and the new, and the warmth of the place lives on. A few of my past work colleagues still work here and for the past three years I have taken a camera to capture glimpses of both past and present and the quirky, and welcomed the establishment of Zaha Hadid’s Gallery that opened on my first visit to CDW.
On the Wednesday I treated myself to a break from the stresses of moving my home from Caddington to Marston Moretaine to pay a visit this year, and in chatting to a salesman in one of the first places Geoff Dann and I visited, he knew precisely where my new abode was situated, so this is indeed a small world. On a purely personal level both of us visitors were interested in working chairs for the lengthy times spent in front of Mac screens to post-process images from our respective cameras, and Elite had two interesting task chairs, the iSit and the Airflex which we flight-tested and flagged as worth considering.
Another showroom, Mosa held our attention from a background perspective with individual 300 x 900mm tile panels, we then headed to the Farmiloe Building, now seemingly termed the Design Factory, where my interest in cars was tweaked by the main Sponsor this year, Renault. Taking detail shots of this made it feel as if I was transported to Goodwood and the Festival of Speed. An old school that used to house studios for a couple of photographers I knew has become the London office for Zaha Hadid, whose influence could even be seen on the red Renault Concept Car, when you look at her acrylic furniture on display in her gallery, which we later visited. See if you can spot them.
My own interest in the quirky and amusing can also be seen in some of the more random shots taken during the day, such as architectural details, and amusing juxtapositions such as the lone blue Barclays Boris Bike amongst the line of Santander red ones – an omen that Barclays should heed? Our last major call was in Zaha’s Gallery, before a brief visit to another ex-business colleague John Swift of the Colour Company and his wife Annie, Retouchers with whom I worked before setting up ‘SOLUTIONS photographic’– they also are shortly leaving old London Town, but I end my visual trip where I started, at Old Street and the Tools of Change, the cranes. Till the next time, farewell to Clerkenwell; the beating heart of working London.