A scene from a musical takes place in front of me as I sit working on my laptop at the back of Ye Olde Rose and Crown pub one Monday evening.
A string of local musicians start taking to the stage. They’re mainly playing country, but one young guy starts belting out a few bars of jazz swing.
He brings the house down – all 20 of us. But remember this is Monday night.
I’ve lived in Walthamstow for 15 years and there’s no doubt the place is in flux. We all know the story; gentrification, trendy pubs and house price rises. But there is something else. Something really good. Live music is back in vogue.
There have of course always been musicians in Walthamstow. But when I first moved into the area we used to mainly practise in our rented accommodation and gig in central London – Camden, Islington and Tottenham Court Road. Now, as the ‘disneyfication’ of central London marches on, it seems that zones three and four are now where you can buy the best tickets in town.
As a result, Walthamstow’s singers and players have crawled out of their flats and are spinning their web of melodies in every trendy gastro pub. It’s amazing what a bit of money can do to an area. New stages, new seats, and a craft beer to wash down the pie and mash (with carrot and crouton salad).
Most importantly, a ready audience of Londoners is looking to reconnect to something more meaningful than their smartphones. I get the feeling they’re sick of our capital’s increasingly fake centre and are happy to support the rebirth of London in places such as Walthamstow. I started working on my solo album over a year ago, pushed along by our borough’s musicians; I have met some talented and inspired people that deserve to be heard.
I remember walking home one night after playing the King William IV pub in Leyton and this mop-haired chap comes running after me to get my number. Earlier that evening he played a string of covers, giving everyone a serious shot of happy times. He was like a court jester with flicks of the head and tricks of the hand – a natural-born entertainer. Since then, I’ve bumped into him at various pubs and he’s even come into the studio to help me with some recordings.
Musicians are everywhere if you look carefully. Sometimes, they’re just drinking and reading the paper. Like ghosts they’re there, slightly out of sight. And like ghosts they could suddenly disappear and Walthamstow will never be the same. But right now they’re here and we’re all better off for it. My album was very much made in Walthamstow – recorded at The Cabin in the Village. I’ve been very fortunate that the first single Morning in Brixton is getting some attention in the US. I know it’s been blessed by Walthamstow. There’s no better charm.
Pallab Sarker’s album Grey Day is out now.