Image above: The old soap factory in Catherine Wheel Rd, now home to the Duke of London vintage car showroom and Santa Maria pizza restaurant, amongst others; out front, the silver caravan of hair stylist Timothy David
Brentford has looked dreadful for years. Locals have become inured to the boarded up buildings and huge hoardings everywhere but unless you knew Brentford well, you’d think that’s all there was.
The Brentford Project is now under way, with phase one of the new town centre being built, as witnessed by the towering cranes overshadowing the hoardings. Phase two, the old soap factory in Catherine Wheel Rd (aka the Blue Road, since it has been painted blue) is full of ‘meanwhile’ businesses – a cluster of cool, arty places which have sprung up in the old industrial landscape, happy to take a short term lease in scruffy accommodation until the time comes to demolish the lot.
Image above: Creative Mile venues, The Museum of Water and Steam at Kew Bridge; the Musical Museum; The Loft
This will be the focal point of an art trail, ‘Creative Mile‘, celebrating the work of Brentford’s artists over the weekend of 3-5 September, with work being shown in the Duke of London Vintage car showrooms, the Loft studio space, the Ballymore event space and the nearby community of artists on Johnson’s Island. It’s a great venue for art because there’s plenty of space with an ever changing landscape of interesting things to look at, good food and live music.
The Creative Mile starts at the Museum of Water and Steam by Kew Bridge, continues with work on show at the Musical Museum, Watermans and Studio Flox beside it, and finishes in Catherine Wheel Rd.
Gwen Shabka, who is promoting the event and showing her own photography, told The Chiswick Calendar that Brentford has a thriving artistic community which normally operates under the radar. The opportunity of a bit of funding came along and this is a chance to show off what a vibrant place Brentford actually is.
Images above: The Duke of London; James Bannister at Naturally Aspirated Wines; downstairs cafe
The McCormack family are at the centre of operations in Catherine Wheel Rd. Merlin McCormack, 27, started his Vintage car business in 2014 with car show rooms in Lionel Rd before the Brentford Community Stadium was built. As the diggers moved in they shifted the vintage cars to the old soap factory in Brentford and the business has expanded quickly. He works with his brother Algy, a talented metal worker, and his father Lance, a Classic car restorer, who each have their own businesses on the site.
There’s a huge appetite for Vintage cars, Merlin told us, which is currently under served in west London. He’s created a classic car hub, a destination for owners to come and socialise, eat pizza, hang out and talk about cars. The Porsche owners club meets once a month, buying a £10 ticket to raise money for charity.
Merlin bought his first car at the age of 11, a Peugot 205 that had failed its MOT, which he bought for £31. His mother Annie had to go and pick it up for him. He got it done up and sold it on for £500 and acquired a taste for the car trade.
Image above: Annie McCormack outside the Brewery Tap
Annie used to run an estate agents in Ealing, but now runs The Brewery Tap, a Fuller’s pub a couple of hundred yards away from the car showrooms, which she took over in November 2019, bringing it to life with an eclectic mix of live music and good food – Santa Maria pizzas.
The Santa Maria pizza restaurant is above the car showroom and serves authentic Neapolitan pizza. Twice voted best in London by Time Out, with restaurants also in Fitzrovia, Fulham and Ealing, you can sit in the restaurant or order from the pub. They also do takeaway.
“Their first pizza shop was in South Ealing Rd. I took the boys there when they were little. They opened here last summer” Annie told us.
Images above: The Duke of London
There are some 40 businesses in the old soap factory building now. It’s a huge space, with the Duke of London showrooms at the front, a coffee shop, a wine bar selling naturally aspirated wines and the Santa Maria pizza restaurant above. Tucked away in the back there are also fashion brands, a Burlesque costumier, a seamstress and a tailor about to open. There’s also a cobbler, a bicycle repair shop and an e-bike shop.
The shiny silver caravan out front belongs to Timothy David, the hair stylist who has actress Gillian Anderson amongst his clients. That was supposed to be hush hush, says Merlin, but then she very generously tweeted about it.
Images above: Gwen Shabka series Light Graffiti
The Creative Mile
More than 60 artists will be taking part in the Creative Mile.
The Duke of London will feature exhibitions by two local photographers, Gwen Shabka and Jam Patel, with the upper level featuring an exhibition of highly-textured abstract paintings by local artist Sam Carroll. Upstairs also Lance McCormack, founder of Romance of Rust, will be showing his ‘Voodoo Art Car’.
The outside space will have work by Tom Morley, formerly of Scritti Politti, whose Chalked Car is his canvas. Near the water’s edge Sue Cooper’s life-sized caricature figures will be cooling off in a paddling pool.
Images above: Sue Cooper’s Summer Party; artworks by Mr Mr Pearce in the Loft; Tom Morley’s Chalked Car
Developer Ballymore’s vast industrial events space will be featuring work by artists from Redlees Studio, and The Loft art studio, opposite the pub will have the work of local artist and Creative Mile co-chair ‘Mr Mr’ Pearce and fellow artists.
Take the trouble to cross the footbridge to Johnson’s Island, where you will discover the work of collage artist Sam Dodson, amongst others. Sam is a former band member of ‘Loop Guru’ and the ‘Transmitters’; his work has appeared on album sleeves and has been featured in books and magazines on Dada and Surrealism.
Images above: Boatyard at Dock Rd with the Ballymore car park in the background; The Brentford Project event space; overhanging shed near Dock Rd – photographs, Gwen Shabka
You can see all the artists taking part in Creative Mile and where to find them on the trail on the Creative Mile website.
Image above: Map showing the route of the Creative Mile
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