It’s famously the backdrop to Richard Curtis’s film ‘Notting Hill’, starring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts as well as the setting for many a TV drama over the years. Now it’s time for Portobello to take the starring role in a new film whose premiere takes place in Soho on March 14.
If you're going to make a film about an antiques market it seems entirely appropriate to shoot it in black and white on an antique camera... and making it a silent film also fits the bill.
That's exactly the approach Howard Stean has taken to create a ten-minute production titled A Time to Remember. It's a bit tongue-in-cheek, he admits, but it also has a serious side as the filmmaker makes a personal plea to preserve and protect the Portobello Market he loves. Naturally, it features many Portobello traders.
The avid antiques collector, a dentist in Kew and a visiting professor at the University of Havana, Cuba, is an amateur filmmaker but his skills are certainly of a high enough standard to merit a West End debut at the MPC Cinema in Wardour Street, Soho.
"It is about how Portobello Market is changing and deteriorating and being redeveloped," said Howard. "To do that I've tried to make a retro film, silent, in black and white, to tell the story through ten minutes in pictures with a musical soundtrack. This is very, very different, done on 16mm film, not video, so the look is retro to imagine how the whole thing was 50 years ago."
He says the film is a 'cry for help for Portobello'.
"I go there every week and I love it. It is part of my life, and I'm absolutely distraught by the way stallholders are going and places are being redeveloped. It is a national treasure and if only someone could do something about it."
Howard, who first started going to Portobello as a child with his father, also an antiques enthusiast, said: "I'm a collector - clocks, watches, cameras, objects of art, and I've spent a lot of money on jewellery over the years. When Howard's coming the traders love it because I might be buying something else that I want."
He bought some of his equipment from Portobello traders but it is becoming harder to source stock and after buying the last remaining film and processing chemicals from Kodak he thinks he may have enough for just one more production.
"I try to be imaginative and I'm creative, but I work within the portfolio of what I can afford," said Howard, who funded the film himself.
"Having acquired this Bolex 16mm camera, which is a beautiful museum piece, I thought 'well, how can I get the most out of that at an affordable price?' Limitations then become its advantages; no sound and a lot of things. A living antique if you like."
So, can anything be done to protect Portobello? Howard suggests something like a Special Policy Area, as envisaged for the art dealers in Cork Street and Mayfair, should be considered.
"The only way I can see is for some planning rule to be put in place. The market could be protected for antiques shop use. That is not beyond the wit of government but it is about the desire to do it."
He is hoping that the film will act as a new rallying point for action, building on the work by the local dealer association and Save Portobello Facebook campaign.
"There is a snapshot of what is happening in Portobello during the filming: at least one trader I filmed wasn't there by the end of the film - poor old George and his cameras and photographs in the Admiral Vernon. The next week he wasn't there any more."
The film will be introduced at the premiere by Blanche Girouard, author of Portobello Voices, a collection of local characters of Portobello Market including the antique dealers in book form (see for more details).
For more information on the film contact Howard at firstname.lastname@example.org