As I was sat at the front of the room during the Q&A I noticed a hatch at the top of the wall near the ceiling then cast my eyes across to a ladder running down the wall and realised that where we sat chatting about Bob’s art and my film was where firemen would have slid down a pole and raced off to battle blazes across Islington.
I found this picture some time ago, and it is only after watching the superb adaptation of The Diary of a Nobody on BBC4 that I now realise that these chaps are in fact The Holloway Comedians mentioned in the book.
It is wrongly believed that ‘The Diary of a Nobody’ is a fictitious book. It is in fact, well, fact. George and Weedon Grossmith lived in Islington. The topographical detail of the book tells us that they had an intimate knowledge of the area. The diary was a double-bluff, made out to be fictitious in order to be publishable – confessional literature was not yet in vogue (that changed after the publication of WNP Barbellion’s ‘Journal of a Disappointed Man’ in 1919).
The discovery of this photo in Camden Passage, Islington next to some very old dancing shoes I think confirms it’s authenticity. The toothless old drunk who sold it to me confirmed that it had indeed come from a skip outside the Pooter/Grossmith household of ‘The Laurels’, Brickfield Street, Holloway. She elucidated further that the rather camp looking gentleman with a wistful look on his face, second from the right, is in fact the Pooter’s son ‘Lupin’ who apparently remained an active member of The Holloway Comedians until a ripe old age.
As to the location of the photo she was not sure, and to be honest, the way she waved her empty pint pot around in front of me made me think she was after another pint before she made something up (she had craftily set up her pitch outside The Camden’s Head). Personally, I think it could be the hall at Islington Central Library on Holloway Road. But if anyone out there recognises the venue I’d be most grateful if they could leave a comment. I’d also be keen to discover more about the play that The Comedians are promoting ‘Give Me A Kiss’. Maybe I could stage a long-overdue revival. Although I have never been a member of The Holloway Comedians, I have been a comedian in Holloway.