LONG before Hugh Grant and chums stuttered into town, Notting Hill was a hotbed of creativity. A new festival opening on Tuesday gives a fresh generation of film makers the chance to prove the area has not lost its artistic mojo. The week-long London On Film festival includes a host of features in which north-west London is the star, alongside exciting new shorts by up-and-coming artists.
Based in the intimate Lexi Cinema, a lovingly-converted Edwardian theatre in Kensal Rise, offerings range from an animation about a girl whose tears flood the world, to a satire about dog mess inspired by the silent films of Buster Keaton.
The event opens with Grove Roots, a documentary charting the evolution of Ladbroke Grove from the race riots of 1958 to the present day.Mick Eve, a former member of chart-toppers Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames, will provide music on the night along with Ronnie Gordon.
The saxophonist, who has lived in the area since the early 60s, spoke to the Informer about what made it unique.
"Notting Hill's very smart now but there's still a vibrant atmosphere around the place which is hard to define," he said.
"When I first moved here, an older musician told me 'I have to come here every few years to recharge my batteries'.
"I didn't understand at the time because I thought everywhere had the same hope, expectancy and vitality, but I realise now this is quite a special area."
According to Mick, the area owes much of its musical heritage to a single religious school in Kingston, Jamaica.
"A lot of immigrants who settled round here arrived with very high musical standards," he explained.
"Many of them, like the trumpeter Eddie Thornton, known affectionately as 'Tan Tan', had been to the Alpha School for wayward kids.
"The nuns taught them all about rhythm and tune and they were always very appreciative."
Mick modestly describes himself as the 'token white guy' in recording sessions during the 60s, but said it was incredibly exciting to be part of the birth of new musical forms, like blue beat.
He believes it is important the Notting Hill of that era is captured for posterity, in films like Grove Roots, before people forgot what it was once like.
"Notting Hill (the 1999 comedy by Richard Curtis, who is among the local figures featured in Grove Roots) did a lot for property prices in the area, but it kind of misled people," he said.
"Everyone assumes it's always been full of pretty houses and nice shop fronts but it used to be a bit tacky.
"Some of the black-and-white footage brings back what it was like. It wasn't very glamorous but it was an exciting place to be and you met lots of interesting people."
Among the highlights of the festival is The Girl With The Liquid Eyes, the sort of animation Tim Burton might make if he didn't have Helen Bonham Carter living next door to rein him in.
The short film is the first in a series of four fairy-tales based on different parts of the body by writer Charlotte Boulay-Goldsmith and artist Adam Smith.
Also worth looking out for is Busk London, by Christian McLaughlin, described as a 'three minute vignette into the thoughts and practice of five of London's finest buskers'.
Both films are being screened on the last night
London On Film festival line-up
TUESDAY, JUNE 16 - SOLD OUT 6pm/9.30pm Grove Roots (U)
Russ Henderson: The Pan Man (U) Followed by filmmakers' Q&A, networking evening, local Caribbean food and live jazz [25a0] WEDNESDAY, JUNE 17 7.30pm Dirty Pretty Things (15)
Channel 4 Shorts Followed by a panel-led discussion with renowned human rights activist Helen Bamber OBE and acclaimed international journalist Caroline Irby
THURSDAY, JUNE 18 7pm Finisterre: A Film About London (12)
What Have You Done Today, Mervyn Day?
Followed by a panel-led discussion with directors Kieran Evans and Paul Kelly, urbanist Richard Burdett and architect Alex Lifschutz. [25a0] FRIDAY, JUNE 19 8pm Big Smoke: BFI Archive Footage (15) With a specially commissioned score.
Followed by a BFI talk, alongside a 1920-40s fancy dress cocktail party and live performances from The Ministry of Burlesque.
SATURDAY, JUNE 20 3pm - Kids Club Flushed Away (U)
6pm Happy Go Lucky (15) 8.30pm Telstar (15)
With a special introduction by director Nick Moran
SUNDAY, JUNE 21 1.30pm - Kids Club Oliver! (U)
Song-sheets and old-fashioned sweets will be provided 4.30pm Babylon (15) 7pm Short Films (15)
Followed by live music from the very best of London buskers and a closing talk