My Belsize Park: PR guru Raoul Shah speaks about draconian parking regimes and his obsession with ‘do not disturb’ signs

Raoul Shah. Picture: Alex Griffiths

Raoul Shah. Picture: Alex Griffiths - Credit: Archant

Belsize Park resident Raoul Shah, 44, founded the communications agency Exposure from a West Hampstead flat in 1993 and it now has offices in LA, New York and Tokyo. The company is attempting to raise £20,000 for London’s deprived youth with an online auction to mark its 20th anniversary.

What brought you to Belsize Park? I’ve always lived nearby and so it’s “home’’. I was brought up in Golders Green, went to school in Hampstead, Camden and then Highgate, and my first flat was in West Hampstead. The minute we saw this place in Belsize Park, we were ready to move – here we can still be close to my roots and family who are all in north London.

You have a day off to spend as you wish in the area, what would you get up to? I’d go for an early morning walk on Hampstead Heath, starting at Whitestone Pond and wandering down to the ponds near South End Road. I spent a lot of my childhood here, so I love coming back to daydream and let life slow down a bit. From there, I’d wander over to Belsize Village, have a coffee at Oliver’s Café, buy lunch at the Village Delicatessen and sit outside to eat and people watch (weather permitting).

Is there anything about Belsize Park you would like to see changed or improved? The parking is fine if you’re a resident, but a little tricky for visitors. The wardens seem to take advantage of the number of schools in the area and issue tickets without any hesitation. It’s a bit draconian.

As guest editor of the Ham&High for a day, what one local issue would you most like to see reported? I’m a big supporter of the need to allow local businesses to grow and flourish in the area. It’s vital that there’s a balance between big chains and more personal, artisan shops and businesses. The service factor is a world apart and the relationships help define our community.

What makes you smile on your way home? The thought of seeing my family. And the fact that a 15-minute journey from central London brings me to beautiful tree-lined streets that feel suburban and less hectic than town.

What is your most prized possession? My front door key is pretty important, as is my phone to stay close to my family. But I’m also fairly obsessive about my collection of Do Not Disturb signs from every hotel I’ve ever stayed in.

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If you had to write your own epitaph, what would it say? Loved people. Lived life. Left something for others.