Wednesday 17 May 2023

A look at Edgware in the 1980's - What we've lost and what we've gained

I thought I'd share some personal reminiscences of Edgware with you. I was born at Edgware General Hospital and went to Orange Hill School which was in Burnt Oak, that is a district of Edgware and had a large catchment area within Edgware. As Mill Hill Broadway lacked a pub, a cinema, a tube station, a nightclub and a nearby football ground, I spent a lot of time in Edgware. It also had two half decent record shops, the Catholic Church had a vibrant club, the Broadfields Estate had a wonderful pub, which not only was a fine music venue, but was also popular for weddings and other functions. AS a teenager, the restaurants were not like the more stuffy, posh Mill Hill venues of the time (apart from the Indian and Chinese). They had the sort of food that teenagers loved (and soon grow out of), such as great Pizza's, KFC, etc. They had Mr Jacks, owned by George Michael's Dad. A place where just about every local had their first kebab. 

So what did we do in Edgware? The cinema in Edgware was wonderful. It was a big venue, constructed in the 1920's with great fanfare. This is how I remember it, I saw many films here, a few that particularly stand out were Return of The Jedi and the Indiana Jones films. 

As soon as Edgware lost the cinema, it lost much of it's alure. Another place that everyone would visit was Jingles night club at The White Lion (Thanks to Pats Mizon for this wonderful Pic)

The place was always packed with locals out for a night of fun and funk.The White Lion was a big pub, which also had a football ground at the back, home of Edgware town. My Dad was a sponsor of Edgware Town in the 1960's and would take me to matches, and we'd invariably have a drink in the clubhouse, or in the pub. Those were my fondest memories of The White Lion. 

Whilst Jingles was popular, the White Lion pub was not really a destination as a teenager. We may have had the odd beer in there, but the centre of our world was The Beehive. I've yet to find a picture that does it justice. The atmosphere was always brilliant. On the door was Eddie, with the bouffant hair (brother of John who now runs the guitar shop). I was never quite sure what Eddie's job was, as he never prevented anything, although he did throw the occasional drunkard out. You had to be very badly behaved to get slung out. The bikers were at the back, dealing various substances. In the middle were the Au Pairs. A mate of mine, Chris, was the barman. We'd occasionally visit other pubs, such as the Masons Arms, The White Hart and The Railway Hotel, but these were a bit more grown up and respectable.

When the Beehive closed for the night, we'd head for a bite to eat. Often this was in Pizza Hut or Pizzaland. If you had a  Pizza you could have a beer and drink into the early hours. Some Saturdays, it seems that the whole of the Beehive had relocated. If we were going back to a friends, we'd nip into KFC. There was a period where a few local fascist skinheads were targetting the young Jewish kids, thinking them easy pickings. We were in KFC, when some trouble kicked off. What the skinheads didn't realise was that a bunch of Jewish hardnuts, some with Israeli army experience,  were waiting in ambush. Let's just say that the problems stopped. I found a tweet that recalled this

I went to Orange Hill with a fair number of the local Jewish kids.  Some had older Dads and Uncles, who'd cut their teeth in the 1960's in anti fascist punch ups. They were simply not prepared to put up with such things. I recall one guy leaping off a table and landing a flying headbut on one of the skinheads. It really was quite spectacular. By the time the police came, all of the protagonists had left and the queue for chicken had resumed. The rumour was that the Skinheads would return mob handed the following week for a monumental battle. We truned up to watch the entertainment after the Beehive kicked out, but there was no trouble at all. Battle had been done and the matter was dusted. I spoke to one of my school mates and I soon realised that a lot of planning had gone into the whole matter. It was no accident that the issue was settled so quickly. 

In truth, there was rarely trouble. The only time I personally was threatened was one night when I was about sixteen. I'd been to Dingwalls and drunk eight pints of cider. I wasn't used to boozing. I fell asleep on the tube home, woke up at Edgware and realised I needed to throw up. I decided that the best place to do this was the little alley that ran by the side of the station sidings. I ran there as fast as possible, only to be ambushed by three thugs, all bigger than me, intent on bashing me up. I issued a warning that this was a  bad idea. The lead thug grabbed my lapels and said "What are you going to do". Sadly, for him, what I did was discharge eight pints of cider and a kebab all over him. Any desire to fight immediately departed him. His mates also lost their fighting spirit. As I shuffled off, I distinctly recall him picking off pieces of kebab from his jacket. I never saw the three of them again.

I abhor violence and I was very thankful that the Good Lord protected me in such a novel way that night. I don't advocate drinking too much, but there is a saying that the Lord protects drunks and this was my most graphic example.

As a member of The False Dots and having a Dad who ran a garage that had at one stage or another, employed most of the local thugs and villains, people knew me and I never had any problems.  Edgware was full of characters. People such as Yogi - Edgwares last Hippy, who dealt cannabis and LSD, Eddie the Bouncer and his brother John and Tank, a large, blond biker girl, who regularly punched out the lights of guys who annoyed her. She was mates with my then girlfriend, so she was fine with us, but woe betited anyone who she took a dislike to.

As a rock and roller, I must also mention The Sparrowhawk pub on The Broadfields Estate. This was the local music venue. It had regular 50's Rock and Roll / Rockabilly nights, as well as Friends of the Earth Benefit gigs, with some excellent Blues and Prog Rock outfits. All of these were packed.

What really struck me when I started to put this together was just what a great place Edgware was to grow up in. As a teenager, we had a cinema, a nightclub, cheap and cheerful Pizza joints, a KFC, pubs that were edgy but safe and a community that didn't take any bullshit. What is so sad is that all of that seems to have gone. A teenager at Mill Hill County School (which took over the Orange Hill mantle) simply would never go with their mates down to Edgware. I know that some nefarious activities were mentioned, but all of this was vary low level and on a very social basis generally. Many of my mates, who would accompany me, went on to have families, careers and do very well for themselves. We have Orange Hill School reunions and I see many. Amongst our Alumni are Phil Golding, a professional golfer, who won the French Open, Steve Pankhurst who set up Friends Reunited and sold it for £65 million to ITV and Boz Boorer, who has a stack of gold discs for his work with The Polecats and Morrissey. All of these knocked around the places mentioned. 

When Lucy holds her meetings, the question I have is "What provision will you be making for teenagers and young people". Edgware was a brilliant place and somewhere between about 2002 and now, it all went wrong. We lost the cinema, the football, the nightclub and the pubs. There is no real reason for me ever to go to Edgware. My kids, all in their 20's, have never been with their mates for a night out there. They go to pubs 'in town'. Sadly, many have been spiked, as such places do not have locals looking out for each other. The community in Edgware and the local police, knew that shenanigans went on, but ensured it was never at a level that real harm happened regularly (of course there was the odd incident, but this was rare). Communities are built and they focus around venues where people mix. Cinema's, nightclubs, pubs, cafe's are places where this happens. They need to be affordable. I had a pint in Mill Hill last night and it cost £7.50. This is too expensive for teenagers. You don't stop teenagers from drinking by making it expensive. You just force them to drink cheap tins and do it in anti social ways. 

What have we gained in Edgware since the 1980's? Try as I may, I cannot think of anything. If you can please let me know and I'll add it on here. Just about everything I mentioned above is long gone.


This is why this is needed


Anonymous said...

Well said

Anonymous said...

What a great review of Edgware of the past, self governing to a large extent, fun, entertaining. Sadly there is little interest in these areas nowadays. I lived in Burnt Oak, but spent good times in Edgware too. The same can be said of Burnt Oak, it is just nothing like it used to be, I'd no go back. All the best with making Edgware great again.

Anonymous said...

I remember Phil Golding and his brother Neil from School and from 2nd Edgware Scouts.