As writer, presenter and Jocks & Nerds journo Mark Webster gears up to appear at The Date Easter Special with Nicky Siano and Danny Krivit, he catches up with The London Word about his east London roots and love for the river.
‘My most vivid London memory is walking across Tower Bridge from my parents’ pub in Bermondsey, holding my mum’s hand and panicking at the sight of it gently creaking from side to side in the middle.
You should always exit St Pancras from the front; the most dramatic of ways to enter London.
Both sides of my family’s roots are in the east (of London), so the vast swathe that encompasses The Boleyn Ground, home of West Ham, Canning Town, Canary Wharf, Stratford, Victoria Park, Hackney, Shoreditch and The City – so much of which has the river for company – has got the lot, for me.
My perfect London day out would take me back to the river. I’d take full advantage of the brilliant Thames Clipper, and get off at pretty much every stop from the O2 to The Eye. Greenwich, Wapping, The Globe, the Tower, Blackfriars, London Bridge… you get to approach the city’s history from a unique perspective.
If someone, somewhere is playing something funky, jazzy, Latiny, or any combination of the above – the Bussey Building in Peckham frequently delivers on that front, as does Perry Louis’ Shiftless Shuffle at Trapeze in Shoreditch – I’m interested. Stuart Patterson also puts on a big night. And Brenhan Magee’s Broadway Bar & Grill has got the lot, over Fulham way.
What makes London unique? It’s the stuff you can’t manufacture and market: history, diversity, culture. What you can do from all of that, though, is embrace it and enhance it. And London is positively talismanic to the other great cities of the Western world in the way it gets that right. We lead, others follow.
All my best clobber is built for chilly climates – love the layers! So I like winter into spring, summer into autumn. Grown men tend not to be wandering the streets en masse in flip flops then, too, so a bonus!
I like a good sit in a park. Not one of the big ones. Too… green. The ones that are more central, or just effectively the Squares. Find a bench, get out the diary, chew on a pen. Plus I walk loads. Always good for cogitating.
My favourite Londoner is embodied by that gadabout ne’er-do-well Bertram Wilberforce Wooster, so PG Wodehouse comes in to play. And I love a Londoner biography, so recently Samuel Pepys, Charles Dickens, Humphrey Lyttelton and Lionel Bart have been top of the charts. They’ve all got a bit of Bertie in them.
Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent is a wonderfully seedy, dark and at times depressing masterpiece that is played out with London as its backdrop. And with a group of characters that feel like they couldn’t come from anywhere else. More recently, Lloyd Bradley’s Sounds Like London encaptures a century of the City’s grooves. And for a brilliant black and white glimpse at post war London, the film I Believe In You.
To revisit my past I would go to a small pub on Bermondsey Street called The Hand And Marigold. I was born in Essex, but was south of the river within a few months to grow up in the pub with my mum, dad, then little brother John. The pub was a home and play area; Bermondsey Square was my back garden.
The Polo Bar on Conduit Street is exceptionally ritzy, but one of their killer martinis, sitting at the bar with a tray of their lovely snacks is my ideal – and sparingly indulged – way of kicking back and exhaling.
My old editor at Blues & Soul magazine, Bob Killbourn, would have to be one of my biggest inspirations. I had zero qualifications, but 100 per cent enthusiasm when I simply presented myself at their door in Praed Street, Paddington. But he gave me a chance, and gave me my head. It’s where my career began.
I’m putting together yet more diverse stories for the gent’s style quarterly Jocks & Nerds. I’ll also be heard alongside the fabulous radio broadcaster Dotun Adebayo on Saturday nights, on BBC 5 Live’s Virtual Jukebox. And my old oppo, the comedy maestro Kevin Day and I have a bit of a caper on the go that might just light up the telly.
Happiness is: a win at the final whistle for the home side in E13.’
Mark Webster will be playing in the courtyard at The Date, whilst Nicky Siano and Danny Krivit headline the loft disco room on Sunday 5 April at:
77-81 Scrubs Lane