The London Grill: Roy Reed

We challenge our contributors to reply to ten devilishly probing questions about their London and we don’t take “Sorry Gov” for an answer. Everyone sitting in the hot seat they will face the same questions ranging from their favourite way to spend a day out in the capital to their most hated building on London’s skyline to find out what Londoners really think about their city. The questions are the same but the answers vary wildly.

Roy Reed is a web designer and co-author of Ghost Signs: A London Story. He has been photographing ghost signs (the fading advertisements painted on the sides of buildings) since 2006. He studied documentary photography at the London College of Printing in the 1970s and then worked as a landscape and architectural photographer. His photos have been featured in exhibitions at the Hayward Gallery, the Royal Academy and many other places. His interest in writing on walls dates to the 1970s, when he began documenting political graffiti.

What’s your secret London tip?

Don’t drive. Get the tube, or better still, get a bus. And look up! It’s depressing seeing everyone walking around heads down just staring at the pavement.

What’s your secret London place?

It’s not that secret, but not many people seem to go there. It’s the Wallace Collection. It houses such an amazing collection of paintings and other artefacts.

What’s your biggest gripe about London?

People who drive into the city (unless it’s part of their job). It’s insane. Why would anyone want to drive in London? It costs a fortune to park – if you can find it anywhere – and makes the air taste foul. I used to cycle in London, but not anymore. I hate the toxic atmosphere between motorists and cyclists – and I am getting on a bit.

What’s your favourite building?

I have two, St Olaf’s House next to London Bridge which I was lucky enough to photograph inside and out for the Thirties exhibition at the Hayward Gallery in 1979 and All Saints, Margaret Street, the most amazing Victorian Gothic church just north of Oxford Street. At one time I would have included Battersea Power Station, but it’s been ruined by the new development that now surrounds it on three sides

What’s your most hated building?

St Paul’s Cathedral. I’m sorry, but I just don’t like it. It seems such a grandiose monstrosity. One of my greatest wishes would be to travel back in time and see the old Gothic St Paul’s from before the Great Fire of London.

What’s the best view in London?

The best view I ever had of London was on a flight coming back into Heathrow on a very clear evening on 5th November in the 1980s. The whole of the city was lit up with bonfires and fireworks from horizon to horizon.
But for something that you can see any day, Ray Davies had it right:
As long as I gaze on Waterloo sunset
I am in paradise

What’s your personal London landmark?

Postman’s Park – a small public garden just north of St Paul’s. It houses a series of memorial plaques to people who have sacrificed their lives to save others. I used to go and sit there for a few minutes peace and quiet when I was working around the City photographing the new developments around Broadgate.

What’s London’s best film, book or documentary?

My favourite films based in London would have to include Blow Up, My Beautiful Launderette, Babylon and Passport to Pimlico. Books would be Peter Ackroyd’s London: The Biography and Tom Harrison’s Living Through the Blitz. I was born in Brixton just after the war and the bomb sites were our playground.

What’s your favourite restaurant?

It’s very sad, but they’ve all closed.

How would you spend your ideal day off in London?

Flying kites on Parliament Hill. I’ve been flying kites on and off since I was 10 when my next-door neighbour’s Indian grandfather taught me how to make them. I can still remember the feeling when the first kite I’d made myself just flew out of my hand and sat against a blue sky instead of spinning and crashing like all the shop-bought ones I’d had before.

5 thoughts on “The London Grill: Roy Reed”

  1. Great choices from Roy.
    (My mum worked in the offices at St Olaf House for the Hay’s Wharf Company from 1938 until 1947. She was 14 when she started there just a year before WW2 broke out.)
    Cheers, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

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