7 February 2011
YeAh, so Southwark has produced some big stars in recent history but where are they now? Living in LA or, even worse, north London. But behind all those big names are the local people who have continually done great work in the community without moving away and trying to put their Southwark postcode days behind them, writes Michael Holland....
One such man is Camberwell’s Mark Baxter, who has been providing us locals with music, fashion, books and now a film that all reflect the area that he was born and bred in, and that he loves with a passion.
I was lucky to nail him down for an interview in a busy schedule that includes being on the set of the film of his book - The Mumper, PR-ing for Soho’s famous Bar Italia, Walworth Road’s Threadneedle Man, or any number of other pies he has fingers in, or even, maybe, selling you something classy from a range of scarves and cravats that finish off any classic mod look with panache.
I was invited to his flat, each room filled with interesting London memorabilia and old photos. A big man, Baxter creates an impressive image in his lace-up brogue Chelsea boots, Levis and Ben Sherman that highlight his love for 60s fashion.
Mark Baxter began his education in Oliver Goldsmiths then on to Paragon before leaving with no qualifications but a headful of ideas. ‘We were let down, really,’ he explains. ‘Paragon was shutting down so all the teachers bailed out before we got to do our exams, leaving us with a load of supply teachers… I ain’t using that as an excuse,’ he adds; ‘we just didn’t rise to the occasion, so to speak.’ His real education came from socialising with local men who taught him much of what he knows.
One of his first jobs was as an apprentice cabinet maker that coincided with a recession, so lasted just two years. Then, through connections, he got work in the print where, it seems, from the way he talks about it, he enjoyed his best working years.
Before long, though, the mid-80s and the Murdoch Era began and the changes that were forced upon printworkers meant many of them left the industry or were pushed out. ‘I hung on ’til ’96,’ he tells me, ‘but my job went through many changes in that time.’
Since leaving the world of print Mark Baxter has been mostly self-employed and living on his wits. For about three years he had a clothes shop that fed into his love of fashion, while always DJing, managing bands and running club nights.
While at school he developed a love for English and History and always felt that he wanted to write a book. His first book idea was The Fashion of Football that he did the research for while established author Paolo Hewitt did the writing. ‘There was no money in it for me but I learnt a hell of lot from that… Paolo was a bit of a mentor, I suppose,’ he recalls.
Not long after this his father, who he was very close to, died, and this spurred him on to writing about the print world and the pub world that he had grown up in with his dad and his father’s friends. ‘I wanted to document that life that they had and which was quickly disappearing, so I began writing it all down.
’Three years on Mark had a rough and raw collection of stories with no narrative but a host of characters. ‘Once again,’ he goes on, ‘Paolo stepped in and turned it into a book.’ Even then, after all that time of using his lunch breaks to complete the writing no one would publish the book.
Never one to let a little matter of no publisher getting in his way, in 2007 Mark Baxter published his book himself by taking out his life savings to finance it.
He remembers: ‘It was a massive risk but I’ve always been a bit like that anyway, and if I believe in something I’ll give it a go and say bollocks to the consequences.’ He started with a print run of 50, but these soon went, so he ran off more and has been doing pretty much that since that first run. The Mumper has now sold hundreds.
Through his ducking and diving – or self-employment – Mark met Trix Worrall, the writer of sitcom Desmond’s, who, after reading just a couple of chapters, advised him to take it to Elephant & Castle man, Millwall fan and TV producer Tony Humphrys.
Subsequently, Humphreys put a team of good people together and Weighed In: The Story of The Mumper is now being shot for an autumn release.
Still very much in shock, Mark says that it has been a massive journey from struggling to write his book to have a film inspired by that book starring Bob Hoskins! Add in Phil Davis, Dudley Sutton, Rita Tushingham and young actors Adam Deacon and Calum McNab and this is a film I think all the country will be talking about, not just Southwark. ‘They’re all proper London actors,’ says Baxter, and young Calum is a Millwall supporter like me.’
As if all that is not enough to keep this SE5 man busy he relates another story: ‘When I was DJing down the Walworth Road a few years ago, local man Darren Lock turned up with a great 60s Mod look and a bag of great records, so I let him play.
The next time he came back he brought a massive bag of old photographs of Walworth that he had been collecting since he was a kid’.
Last year Baxter was thinking of ideas for books and remembered Darren Lock’s photographs. ‘Darren had started a Facebook page that quickly had 2000 members so I got us a book deal where I wrote the words and he provided the pictures.’ That book became the phenomenon that is Walworth Through Time, which is now on its second print run.
Mark Baxter is proud of his roots and his area, though is too much a gentleman to boast of his achievements. With Darren Lock he has stirred up the memories of many people with the Walworth Through Time book, and his film on The Mumper book will bring to life characters that other locals may recognise.
He worked hard to make his dreams come true and still talks about the film as if it is a dream and not really happening. It is real and it will be out in a few months. Well done Mark, Southwark is proud of you.
No comments have been posted.
RAILTON ROAD SE24,
Leasehold, For Sale
TEA TRADE WHARF SE1, £1,295,000 , For Sale
TOWER BRIDGE WHARF E1W, £550 , per week, For Sale
PROVIDENCE SQUARE SE1, £1,600,000 , For Sale