My West Hampstead: Award-winning music journalist and author Charles Shaar Murray

17:00 17 January 2014

Music writer Charles Shaar Murray selling his books, CDs  and records at West Hampstead Market. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Music writer Charles Shaar Murray selling his books, CDs and records at West Hampstead Market. Picture: Nigel Sutton

© Nigel Sutton email

Award-winning music journalist and author Charles Shaar Murray, 62, became well known for his antics while writing in NME and OZ magazines. Since moving to West Hampstead in 1998 he says he’s been “on his best behaviour”.

What brought you to West Hampstead?

After leaving the Islington shoebox-in-the-sky, which I’d inhabited for 25 years, I sought somewhere quiet but not remote, funky but not actually dangerous, and artsy but not pretentious.

Now I’m comfortably settled in leafy West Hampstead, and will need to be forcibly removed, kicking and screaming.

How has the area changed?

I mourn the disappearance of so many proper shops selling proper stuff, like the butchers, fishmongers, electrical stores and “boring hardware store”.

If you were guest editor of the Ham & High for a day, what one local issue would you most like to see reported?

I’d focus on the way the council seems to be rubber-stamping planning permission for so much high rise luxury apartment building, with little or no consideration for affordable social housing or additional parking facilities, let alone the unique character of the neighbourhood.

What is the area’s best-kept secret?

My Hothouse Project: Journalism As Craft And Art course, of course! Unabashed plug!

But also, a great bookshop – West End Lane Books, locally sourced free entertainment at the Brioche, historic musical echoes from the 1960s in Broadhurst Gardens.

Here’s to hoping the late Doris Lessing’s former home in Gondar Gardens rates a blue plaque sometime soon.

Which other place in the world would you twin with West Hampstead if you could?

It’d be a toss-up between St Ives in Cornwall and New York’s Greenwich Village circa 1968.

If you had to write your own epitaph, what would it say?

Still pondering mine, but considering, “I think I can do it better. Can we try that again?”

Charles Shaar Murray was in conversation with Paul Wright.


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