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"Use every man after his desert, and who should 'scape whipping?"

Monday, 17 February 2014

RIP Beaufoy: property vultures kill another old favourite

It's becoming a sickeningly regular occurrence. Somewhere you'd always loved (but usually hadn't been to for ages, because you are a lazy slob) is suddenly no longer there.

Bookshops, cheap restaurants, music venues, they fall like leaves of London trees to the terribly sharp bladed axes of the speculators.

I realised some time ago that the Beaufoy Arms on Lavender Hill was going this way. Some time back it rebranded itself as the Beaufoy Bar, and it seemed to be thriving on DJ nights pulling in a much younger crowd. And then, suddenly (as it seemed to me) it was all boarded up. A month or so back the builders moved in, and now - where once there was this deliciously sleazy boozer, there is now the blandest of all empty commercial properties you could imagine.

Many loved the Beaufoy Arms back in the 1980s when it was quite a hot black music venue, with plenty of informal reggae nights and weekly live acts including the Afrobeat bandleader, ace sax player (and former Fekla Kuti sideman), Bukky Leo.

I remember the place with particular affection because it was one of the places I took my partner when she was not far off giving birth to our first child. She doesn't remember it I think but then I did drag her to some pretty odd places.

All the Beaufoy regulars of the time - they seemed to be mostly late middle-aged men from Trinidad or Jamaica, occasionally with wives or girlfriends or sons and daughters in tow - had something kind and encouraging to say, and the very loud music surely made some impression on the unborn son, who does still have a deep love for reggae.

The death of the Beaufoy sort of balances out the death of the reggae music shop at the other end of Lavender Hill two years back - the legendary Dub Vendor. These twin passings destroy the strange and pleasing cultural cocktail that the Hill once offered. Only BAC flies that old flag now, and it is looking desperately lonely. Yeah there are still plenty nice Portuguese and Sardinian and Vietnamese and Thai eating places, but the soul needs more than food and drink.

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