My Golders Green: Oral historian and broadcaster Alan Dein

Alan Dein believes everywhere in the world should have a Golders Green.

Alan Dein believes everywhere in the world should have a Golders Green. - Credit: Archant

The award-winning radio documentary presenter on walking the same terrain as William Blake, travelling through time to see The Who at The Hippodrome, and why Golders Green is facing the biggest changes since the Edwardian era.

What brought you to the area?

I grew up close-by, and I actually wanted to leave forever when I left home as a student lured by the hustle and bustle of the inner city. My wife had grown up in Highgate and lived in Kentish Town so she didn’t have the same familiarity with this side of the Heath as I had. She suggested that I could overcome my reticence to return...

Why do you think the area is unique, do you have any recommendations?

We are very lucky to live in a place where so many people have made an enormous effort to inform us about its history and to help preserve its natural environment. It’s wonderful that we can walk that very same terrain in the North End of the Heath as John Constable or William Blake. Heading north past Evelyn Waugh’s family home we get to the Clock Tower constructed as a non-denominational WW1 Memorial in 1923, and paid for by local people. I always look up at the words ‘Justice’ and ‘Courage’ - a timely symbol of hope in turbulent times.

You have a day off to spend as you’d like around the area, what would you get up to?

I’d visit the locations of the former cinemas in Golders Green and imagine sitting in a packed house watching the latest by Alfred Hitchcock or Howard Hawks. There were four beauties - the Regal in Childs Hill, the Ionic where Sainsbury’s is now, the Orpheum in Temple Fortune and the Lido at the top end of Golders Green Road. Next would be a wander to the superb former Hippodrome Theatre built in 1913, and now thankfully a Grade 2 listed building. I’d then dive into a time machine to witness the place packed to the rafters for a raucous night of Music Hall. Final time travel stop would be the 1960s, a journey underground to the cellar music club at the Refectory. The Who, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cyril Davies R&B All Stars. Amazing to think that they all played Golders Green!

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If you were editor of the Ham&High, what issues would you focus on?

Alerting people to major redevelopment – take Golders Green today. It is facing the largest transformation since the Edwardian era when a new world was constructed out of the north west London fields. Now even the clock tower is threatened with demolition. It is vital to urge everyone to know what’s going on. To question whether we need to build thousands of expensive homes on top of a bus station in a place that doesn’t even have any kind of arts and community centre. Read the planning brief, and have your say!

Where in the world would you twin with Golders Green?

In some ways everywhere should have a Golders Green. It’s full of contrasts and contradictions. It’s where people have lived for generations and like its famous bus station, it’s a transient place of comings and goings. On the one hand it’s unpretentious - on the other it is has the highly stylised architectural vision of the Hampstead Garden Suburb. It’s a positive role model of tolerance, and houses the unexpected – who’d have scripted that Anthony Joshua, the current heavyweight boxing champion lives on the same NW11 street as a kosher butcher?

Who is the most inspiring person you have ever met?

I’ve been fortunate to interview hundreds and hundreds of fascinating people. Sadly though I never got to record my grandmother Sybil. An East Ender with an indomitable spirit and a remarkable story which needs telling one day - and who moved to Golders Green in the late 1930s...

Alan Dein’s forthcoming book ‘Curious Golders Green’ unearths many previously untold tales about the area.