The London Column is born

Travellers’ community, Westway. Photo © Dave Hendley 1972.

It came kicking to life last week, with a series of welcoming smiles – of which I love this one, by Dave Hendley.

Hendley writes:

The picture was made one Saturday in the late summer of 1972 at the other end of my working life and in a very different world. I was on a job for Time Out and the mission was to photograph a free music festival in what was then a grassed area under the Westway by Latimer Road… a small and very comfy affair with an audience of around 150 – 200 people.

A short distance away, under what is now the West Cross interchange, there was a cluster of caravans and I spotted a group of traveller men-folk observing the event with curiosity and great amusement.

I wandered over and asked to take a photograph. These were times when being photographed was something of a compliment and the lads posed willingly…

David Secombe was one of the founding members of the quirky, erudite and surprising London history/photographic blog, Esoteric London – which he has now left, in order to start up The London Column. (Unfortunately his material has also left the site; but some of it will see the light of day afresh in new contexts.) It’s sad to see the end of the old Esoteric, with its gorgeous, austerely Baroque sensibility; but Roger Dean has kept the site on, so his richly textured images of London’s detail will continue to appear.

The London Column is going to feature more of London’s people, and the daily life of the city, and possibly concentrate less on its buildings and artefacts – though I hope we’ll still see those, too. It will feature more photography by other photographers  (and I happen to know there is some very impressive stuff lined up), with texts both original and sourced, by a wide spectrum of writers – poets, novelists, essayists, psychogeographers, historians, journalists. The idea is to create a spectrum of vision, a teeming impression like the city itself – but of course filtered through the Secombe editorial lens.

About The London Column, David writes:

There is nothing so distant as the recent past. Whatever London you occupy today, it will be gone by tomorrow or the day after. The life of the city is infinite and unknowable; all we can do is look and report on what we find.

The London Column aims to do just that. Dispatches, comment and analysis from the past sixty years, from the Festival of Britain to the present. London now, London then.

This is a site dedicated to the writers and photographers who have made sense of the teeming city.

There’s also a Facebook London Column page: photos, anecdotes, YouTube clips and other fancy stuff.

And here, finally, is the reason I like the title of The London Column so much:

column |ˈkäləm|

1. an upright pillar, typically cylindrical and made of stone or concrete, supporting an entablature, arch, or other structure or standing alone as a monument. [n.b., also the thing that so beautifully holds up the buildings themselves]
• a similar vertical, roughly cylindrical thing : a great column of smoke. [as in, smoke signals]
• an upright shaft forming part of a machine and typically used for controlling it : a Spitfire control column. [or, the thing that brings the whole machinery to life]

2. a vertical division of a page or text.
• a vertical arrangement of figures or other information.
• a section of a newspaper or magazine regularly devoted to a particular subject or written by a particular person. [literally, the blog]

3. one or more lines of people or vehicles moving in the same direction : a column of tanks moved northwest | we walked in a column. [n.b., as in the march of time, which we are all on]

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