The Beasts of Belmont Park

Provocative page-turner, set in our streets. Local author presents his digitally innovative debut novel at Queens Park Books

Hud Saunders, a born and bred West Londoner has lived in Queens Park over 20 years. Raised by his ardent feminist single mother (and her coterie of weird and wonderful friends), he grew up quickly when, aged 22, he became a father and experienced life at the sharp end of Thatcher’s Britain. Necessity being the mother of invention, Hud turned his hand to anything to pay the bills, including builder, busker and rock band manager.

park pic

His debut novel, The Beasts of Belmont Park and is a literary testament to this rich life, unconventionally lived. Following the footsteps, or page turns, of a rich pool of local literary legend, Zadie Smith, Mark Haddon, Melissa Benn, Doris Lessing, the novel is set in a fictional NW London suburb (hmm) but with some familiar places name-checked, such as West End Lane and Kilburn High Road.

It tells the story of Paul Marston, an out-of-work actor struggling with the hardest role of his life, being a stay-at-home dad. Whilst his wife, a best-selling author, is immersed in a glamorous other-world, a booze-fuelled post pub party drags Paul into an underworld at the other end of the spectrum, engulfed with drugs, gangsters, and high-stakes fishing.

The novel flips the lid on the middle-class dream while grinding its boot into the ‘daddy dynamic’. It enthrals and shocks in equal measure.

duck picThe novel is being published by The Pigeonhole, which takes an innovative publishing approach by digitally serialising books sending segments directly to your device. This allows for extra multimedia content, such as real-time conversations with the author and fellow readers. Read a free extract and find out how ‘buying staves’ of the novel The Beasts of Belmont Park works here.

Hud will be reading extracts from the novel on Tuesday the 3rd of November at 7pm in our beloved village bookshop Queens Park Books.

The Foxes are Coming, says Bill Amberg

London Design Festival stars the second Queens Park Design District , organised by the Bill Amberg Studio and the neighbourhood designers of #QPDD. As well as the new Common Collection of benches and stools on show in an open studio 21–27 September, Bill says you might spot a fox or two…

They swagger around like they own the place, rooting through our bins in the dead of night, leaving trails of rubbish strewn around our gardens. They colonise sheds, uproot plants, flatten flowerbeds and, as we approach mating season, fill the night air with an unearthly howling that seems to come from the grisliest depths of the underworld.

OUR FAVOURITE FOX PHOTO? This one taken in North-West London by Rachel Juarez-Carr aka

©2015 Rachel Juarez-Carr/

And yet, I quite like foxes. There’s something admirable in their sheer brazen chutzpah, their adaptable ingenuity and their ‘what are you looking at?’ insouciance. As much of a garden-trashing nuisance as they were, when I first saw the fox cubs making their first fearless emergence from beneath my shed, I couldn’t help but feel a pang of affection and wonder (before I fumed them out with a creosote-dipped rag a week or two later). I think, like many people, I regard them as an adorable menace – a pleasure to see, a torment to hear, and a pain in the arse to clean up after.

Foxes are everywhere in London of course, but here in Queen’s Park, we are especially blessed/cursed. With so many back gardens and the wide, open spaces of Queen’s Park and Tiverton Park to roam around, we live in a fox’s playground. Like them or detest them, the fox has become the unofficial mascot of the neighbourhood – as testified by an excellent (and now sadly, all but eradicated) series of recent street art.

So, when I was considering what would best represent our neighbourhood’s contribution to the London Design Festival, along with the other organisers of Queen’s Park Design District, there was really only one emblem that made sense.

QPDD was a great success on its debut last year, bringing hosts of people to the design businesses and studios of Lonsdale Road, Salusbury Road, Kimberly Road and around. Now back for a second year and running 19–27 September, it will see dozens of workshops, open-studios and events showcasing the creativity for which our area is becoming increasingly known. (The Bill Amberg Studio on Lonsdale Road will be open to all comers from the 21st to the 27th, so please do pop by and check out the new range of leather furniture that’s been keeping us busy for the last few months).

 …Which brings me back to the foxes. The property developers Londonnewcastle, who are currently putting the finishing touches to Queen’s Park Place, commissioned my neighbours, the concept agency Some Ideas, to create two large fox sculptures for the building’s gardens. Designed under the creative eye of Phil Dickinson, the prototypes are now complete, and a small collective of QPDD designers have been engaged in a small fox-based sculptural movement to develop the fox as a symbol for our design district.

This is why, should you wander down Lonsdale Road later this month, chances are you’ll spot a fox or two – except these ones will be made of plastic. By next year, the full sculptures – around three times bigger than the protototypes – will be complete. We’ll also be working with a sculptural foundry in the southwest to create a number of small foxes to the same design, so by the time QPDD rolls around for 2016, we’ll have a small army of furry critters to line the streets – vulpine ambassadors for Queen’s Park steadily taking over London…

Who knows? Perhaps one day our fake foxes might outnumber the real thing? 

(As if.)

Queen’s Park Design District is held as part of London Design Festival, 19–27 September; a fox? Bill Amberg is collecting pics of our friendly neighbourhood pest for QPDD – please submit yours.





Park-turned-picturehouse: The Nomad Strikes Back.

From early morning dips in the heath ponds to dancing in the streets at Carnival, we all know there’s nothing like summer in London. After last year’s triumphs under the trees, The Lexi’s barefoot and free-spirited younger brother, The Nomad Cinema, returns once more to Queen’s Park for an open-air cinema series under the stars.



Hoggle, Ludo, Jareth the Goblin King: ultimate picnic company. Did you know that MJ was ‘strongly considered’ for the role of Goblin King? Magic Dance may have become the moonwalk…!


Conniving Claire Underwood once played darling damsel-in-distress Princess Buttercup? Inconceivable!

If your kids haven’t been on this 1987 adventure over cliffs, down quick sand, battling giants and witnessing true love, this is your chance to rectify that, while reliving a childhood classic right there beside them.


Dysfunctional family + yellow VW bus + road trip to fulfil a child’s beauty pageant dreams. Now that’s the making of a modern classic. A word of warning! Despite the feel-good family feel, don’t forget to book the babysitters as this one’s actually certificate 15.


‘You are invited to spend an hilarious weekend in the English countryside’ read the 1987 tagline. Well Nomad invite you to cut out the M40 and spend an equally hilarious weekend at home, in the park. With a bottle of gin, if you’re partial to Withnail’s ways. Please drink responsibly…


On site this year you will find Madame Gautier serving up Poulet au Citron and Mushroom Provençal; ATE street food whose brioche buns spill with paneer and raita or BBQ pork and Asian slaw or festival favourite Cheeky Burger. Top that all off with Cream & Country ice-cream’s best of British flavours, which include Cream Tea and Rhubarb & Stem Ginger.

Madame-Gautier-Poulet a la Provencale

What’s more, lounge in style with a Magic Carpet ticket, delivering more goodies than any year before.


Fancy venturing a little further afield? Peruse and book over 50 other titles to choose from this summer, popping up in venues from lidos to palaces, secret gardens to cemeteries.

Book tickets and find out all details, including transport and timings, at

Grab your neighbours, bring a blanket and catch you on the grass!

Giggles all aboard The Good Ship

Edinburgh Fringe is fast approaching!

Heading up? We have your warm-ups sorted. It’s dangerous not to do some abdomen stretching before a laughter marathon, after all.

Not going? Never fear, us lucky NWers don’t have to venture far – excitement likes to turn up on our doorstop.


The Good Ship Comedy Club is halfway through their Edinburgh previews. We were at last week’s cackle-fest, astounded by not only by the quality of outstanding headliner Nish Kumar, who nailed his set – from covering the formula of any Bond theme to articulating the inverted morality of Monopoly – but also by the polished performances of the two warm ups.

With online tickets at £4, that works out as £1.33 for each act. Certainly saves on the train fare to Scotland…

After nearly nine years of running comedy at The Good Ship, veteran Ben hosts regular Monday nights August to June, but right now during festival frenzy, catch:


MONDAY 20 July: Dark comedy troupe Gein’s Family Giftshop Vol. 2

TUESDAY 21 July: GQ’s ‘best comedian of his generation’ – Richard Herring

THURSDAY 23 July: Paul Sinha – Postcards From The Z List aka one of the ‘Chasers’ on The Chase (not to mention a highly acclaimed comedian… he must really hate the Chase thing).


MONDAY 27 July: Angela Barnes

THURSDAY 30 July: Liam Williams

Book online and find out about other upcoming gigs.

The Good Ship is based at 289 Kilburn High Road, NW6 7JR. A 3 minute walk from Kilburn tube station and Brondesbury Overground.

Chuckles commence at 8pm.

Camp Bestival: it’s good for you

Camp Bestival, 30 July–2 August, Lulworth Castle, Dorset… ‘But that’s not in Kensal or QP’, you cry! No. But half of Kensal and QP will be there…


We’re usually pretty damned strict about only posting about our postcode – and try only to talk about events and occasions right on our doorstep or a small stagger beyond – but since we’ve noticed a ridiculous amount of you head off to festivals over the summer, especially in the case of Camp Bestival, we thought we’d flag up some fun happening this family-friendly li’l sis to Bestival…


Set at Lulworth Castle’s sprawling grounds, you probably know all about its music mayhem – but did you know it will have a new wellness retreat and spa area, The Hideaway this year? So now Camp Bestival is clinically proven* to be good for you. Book a restorative massage, a family-orientated yoga class or even a hot tub… here.

As for giving this festival a local spin… there are no doubt lots of ways in which its headliners and favourite acts are connected to our neighbourhood… such as ‘Rather Be’ by Clean Bandit (playing Friday night; pictured below) was recorded at South Kilburn Studios, and the Cuban Brothers and Dub Pistols are former Kensal/QP residents and much-loved regulars at the Paradise and Masons Arms…

Maybe next year they should organise a special transfer from NW10 straight to this little corner of the Jurassic Coast. Book tickets here.

*A small exaggeration, possibly.

rather be by clean bandit


Chief Wild Thing Rob da Bank says: “Camp Besti’s creative team have outdone themselves once again with an absolute truckload of wild and wonderful fun for all the family. From the brand new adaptation of Julia Donaldson’s brilliant Scarecrows’ Wedding, and hip-hop’s answer to ‘Whose Line is it Anyway?’ with the Freestyle Funk Forum, to the hugely inspiring Gorilla Gardening and our old fave Marawa the Amazing, the Greatest Tent on Earth is certainly living up to its name. Add in Albert’s Band, Musical Bingo, Gospeloke and Morris Dancers, Blue Coats and the brilliant Insect Circus and you’ve got a recipe for a properly wild weekend! So we’ll be seeing you at Lulworth Castle in July”.

Fork to Fork food festival / Saturday 13 June

FORK to FORKJust received this exciting news release: Thomasina Miers and Laura Harper-Hinton have announced the first Fork to Fork food festival at ARK Franklin Primary Academy in Kensal Rise!

Thomasina Miers, MasterChef winner and co-founder of Mexican restaurant group Wahaca, and her friend Laura Harper­‐Hinton, co-founder and creative director of Caravan, have come together to launch the first Fork to Fork Food Festival. 

Tickets – £5 (£8 on the day), kids under 12 – free.

Fork to Fork food festival brings together some of London’s most talented and creative chefs, restaurateurs and producers, with the aim to raise funds in support of the Open Air Classroom project which will launch at ARK Franklin Primary Academy following the festival.

The one-day festival this June will feature chef demos, talks and tastings, food and produce stalls, a bar serving craft beer, wine and gin, a secret picnic garden, a world fete, live music and numerous children’s activities. Guests of all ages will have the chance to mingle with the great and good of London’s food scene in a relaxed and family-friendly environment. Stalls will be manned by chefs from Hix, Ottolenghi, Koya, Soho House, Polpo, Caravan & Caravan Coffee Roasters, E&O, Moro, Union Street Café, Granger & Co, Vinoteca, Gracelands Café, The Shop, The Whippet Inn, Fed By Lillie and Gail’s Bakery. Plus food trucks from Wahaca, Dirty Burger, The Bowler and Young’s, as well as drinks stalls from Beavertown and Camden Town breweries, New Zealand Wine Cellar, Borough Wines, Portobello Gin and Vinoteca.

The idea behind the Open Air Classroom at ARK Franklin is backed by considerable research taken from edible garden projects in the US and Australia, which shows that creative outdoor spaces have a huge benefit in developing children, particularly those with behavioural difficulties or who are not classic ‘academic’ learners. In 2011 Ofsted stated, in relation to a garden project: ‘Enrichment opportunities are particularly good and contribute strongly to pupils’ good personal development.’ Evidence shows that when children are taught science in the open air with mechanisms that work in front of their eyes, the subject comes alive, and when children grow food, they are more willing to eat it.

Thomasina Miers

The Open Air Classroom will be a place where pupils and locals can be creative and learn a range of disciplines in a stimulating environment. The garden, endorsed by restauranteur and activist Alice Waters, who pioneered the Edible Schoolyard organisation, will have raised beds to grow food (the school also has a kitchen to cook the produce) and a place to sell it at the Queen’s Park farmers’ market (voted best UK farmers’ market in 2014). Through the cooking and selling of food, the children will learn and understand nutrition, health, science and commerce. The Open Air Classroom will also include a pond to teach marine science, a conservation area with wildflowers to attract butterflies and a beehive, a wormery to recycle food waste, an amphitheatre, a sundial and several climbing frames.

The experience of an Open Air Classroom feeds back into the indoor classroom, improving focus and the ability to concentrate. Through the project, the school hopes to foster links to its community and will throw the garden doors open to the local community at the weekends and during school holidays. Fork to Fork Festival, which Thomasina and Laura will become an annual event, will offer a day of entertainment for all the family whilst raising the funds to make the Open Air Classroom come to life.

Laura commented on the festival, ‘We hope that people will be excited and embrace the first ever Fork to Fork festival this June, and that our space will become a loved and respected local West London landmark and an inspiration for many other schools across the country to see the learning benefits for children and open their own open air classroom.’

 Fork to Fork Festival will be on Saturday 13 June at ARK Franklin Primary Academy in Kensal Rise from 12pm–6pm. Follow them on Twitter @forktoforkfest and Instagram @forktoforkfest and you can donate here too.

Have you been to Café Zest yet?

If not. Why not? You’re missing out. Café Zest coming to Kensal Rise has Karen Proctor overjoyed – fabulous breakfasts, delicious lunches, first-class breads and pastries and take-home dinners to suit every taste or mood. Friendly and efficient service, warm atmosphere and reasonable prices – it’s cheery in decor, and uplifting with its menu…

Zest 2The vibrant food and drinks are healthy and of the highest quality: from the just-baked bread, delicious pancakes with fresh fruit to the inspired flavoursome salads and aubergine stuffed with lamb we had for dinner the other night, it’s a cut above anywhere else.

Any of my friends who I’ve gone there with have been blown away too – I notice that the customer base is very diverse and is coming in from way beyond Kensal, thanks to them already having such a strong reputation. I have found myself eating at  Zest about 10 times a fortnight (sometimes I can’t resist popping in just for a pecan slice). How can you not when you know that you’ll get the consistency and the quality in food in terms of locally sourced produce and organic meat when you’re too busy to cook? Even my daughter has given it the seal of approval.

ZestRaj Rathod has over 20 years of experience in some of the top café, bakeries, and delis as well high-end restaurants which is probably why Zest delivers on so many levels in terms of tastes, atmosphere and service. He is also a local Queens Park resident, an avid fan of yoga and health food and someone not prepared to compromise on what he believes in. I wish Zest every success and I am just hoping I’ll still be able to get a table in a few months – but at least if you can’t, you can always take the food home… Cheesecake brownie, anyone? (pictured)

Café Zest, 59 Chamberlayne Rd, Kensal Rise, London NW10 3ND (020 8968 8321)


The history of Portobello Road by Curll Press

Portobello Road’s history stretches back to the creation of Smithfield Market in the Middle Ages; here is an extract from Galleries, Palaces & Tea: An Illustrated Guide To London (£9.99; author, David Backhouse) by Curll Press which can be ordered from all good bookstores…

PORTOBELLOROAD - BITMAPOne of the great pleasures of London life is moseying through her street markets. Those whom you pass may be fashion industry trend spotters, dressed-down gazillionaires, or frugally minded souls who suspect that parsnips may be 5p cheaper a kilo at that veg stall along the way. Portobello Road and her North London counterpart Camden Market are both integral parts of metropolitan life as well as being must-see attractions for visitors from across the globe. The stallholders of both have prompted books – Caitlin Davies’s Camden Lock and The Market and Blanche Girouard’s Portobello Voices. However, this does not mean that the two souks are of one hue. Almost all of Camden is controlled by a single privately owned company. It is located in a borough that has been run by the political left for decades. By contrast, Portobello is a publicly owned market that is run by the most staunchly Tory council in Britain.

  • In 1739 Admiral Edward Vernon defeated a Spanish force at Puerto Bello in the Caribbean.[1] To mark the victory, a farmstead, in what is now Notting Hill, was named after it. Portobello Road derived its appellation from the property.
  • A local market existed in the late 1830s. This was dominated by Gypsy horse-traders who had been drawn to the area by the nearby Notting Hill Hippodrome racecourse. In 1841 the track was closed. The repository faded away.
  • In the 1880s an informal street market grew up. Following the First World War many of the stallholders were ex-servicemen. This factor prompted the authorities to hold back from suppressing it. The London County Council finally licensed the mart in 1927. During the 1930s antiques dealers began to do business in it. After the Second World War the general market of the Caledonian Market in Islington was closed down. Portobello Road received many of the traders who had been working there.
  • There is a daily street market. On Saturdays the northern section of the road becomes geared to the young and international visitors, while the southern portion tends to be more weighted towards the antiques trade. During the market’s first couple of hours, the dealers sell items to one another. At around breakfast time antique collectors begin to appear and as the morning progresses so the ordinary public come to predominate.

Further reading: Blanche Girouard’s Portobello Voices (2013).

[1] ‘Old Grog’s’ participation in the major British setback at Cartagena de las Indias, on the northern coast of South America, two years later is not commemorated. Indeed, to most Britons it is completely unknown. The admiral’s popularity survived the débâcle untarnished. (There had been other British naval successes at Portobello in 1707 and 1726. These too are little known.)

London Stories, London Lives (£9.99) is the latest in the series. Currently downloadable is the mini-guide Galleries, Palaces & Tea: An Illustrated E-Guide To London (£1.29 e-book). Future titles in the London series include: Beans, Bears & Piracy and Art, Guns & Snuff.


Introducing the #RealFamilyPortrait

‘The most difficult thing for me is a portrait. You have to try and put your camera between the skin of a person and his shirt.’ – Henri Cartier-Bresson


Kensal Rise’s Rowan Williams loves her family’s photos: ‘I’ve collected portraits of family through the generations. The oldest one dates back to just before 1900. It’s lovely looking through them and scrutinising those faces for family resemblances, but it’s only from my mother that I know that my great grandfather was really funny and great with children, or that my great grandmother was eccentric and a real character – those old photos don’t tell me what kind of people they were. Without the stories handed down to me, I can’t get a sense of their characters.’

Meanwhile, we also love family photos, but we’re just not the kind to go in for posed studio portraits – we wanted a picture of us together that was also a snapshot of our personalities…

‘Thankfully we live in a time where photography is so accessible that we have the equipment and digital opportunity to experiment and capture true personalities. That’s is what I love to do with my photos. Experiment, create and capture characters,’ says Ro.

Being a family-portrait photographer requires Rowan to create a relaxed atmosphere and put people at ease; so she thought it would be great to really have some fun and tell stories for future generations…

Rowan Williams Photographer

‘The little quirks and differences within any family are what make it work. I loved taking this photo; setting up the shot with Kitty and spreading the pens around and discussing what to draw, while Simon got ready to pose on the stairs with the brush and vacuum cleaner (and genuinely started to clean the stairs while he was there) while Juliet was Instagramming a photo of me taking the picture. It was truly a real family portrait.’

And so there you have it: the first #RealFamilyPortrait was born.

Cost: £100 for an hour-and-a-half session. Chat to Ro on the phone or over a coffee about how your photo might look. On the shoot day she’ll come to your home and you’ll create the ‘real life’ scene together. Rowan edits and supplies a selection of 10 images for you to pick one from to be printed, plus you get the digital file to keep. ‘Oh, and I’m not averse to helping out with the tidying up after!’ 

Get in touch at