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Camden New Journal - One Week with JOHN GULLIVER
Published: 1 November 2007

Antique dealer Hilary Fisher with one of her Gordon Bennett art works
Gordon Bennett! His works are finally being appreciated

READERS may recall a story I featured a few months ago about the sale of 500 paintings by the former RAF pilot and art teacher Gordon Bennett.
Since the auction at the Hampstead Community Centre, which saw his WWII flying log books, easels, brushes and books sold as well as his paintings, I have heard that Gordon’s works have been fêted around the world.
Art dealers in America have been singing his praises, claiming he carried the baton through the latter part of the 20th century for the Camden Town School of art.
This week, I was contacted by antique dealer Hilary Fisher, who runs a shop in Portobello Road and has bought three pictures from a neighbouring art dealer.
“I saw a painting on a stand in the stall next to mine and loved it,” she tells me.
“It was an abstract landscape. I bought it and then noticed the signature – it is a name that stands out.”
After searching the internet for more information on Gordon she discovered the work to be by the man who spent his life filling a mews garret in Swiss Cottage with work.
Now she wants to visit Gordon’s final resting place, and raise a glass of wine in his honour – and set up a Gordon Bennett Appreciation Society to keep his memory alive.
I envisage meeting once a year to drink a glass of fine wine in his honour. We could gather on either his birthday or on the date he was shot down over Libya during the war and had to walk for a week through enemy territory back to his base. (He was greeted by his commanding officer with the immortal words: ‘Back, eh, Bennett... where’s your plane, then?’).
If any of my readers can furnish me with the whereabouts of his grave, I’ll point them in the right direction, and join them in celebrating a much admired and much missed artist whose works are beginning to be recognised at last.

Guardian versus Observer – what’s the Fallout?

SO, what is the real story behind Observer editor Roger Alton’s decision to step down last week and the apparent sour relations between it and its sister paper, the Guardian?
And did the man from Haverstock School have anything to do with it?
I don’t mean David or Ed Miliband, who both attended the Chalk Farm school, but another ex-student from the 1980s: Andrew Anthony, who I first came across seriously about six years ago when he wrote an incisive investigative piece on the murder of his old classmate Ronald Hinkson.
He has in fact been writing for the Observer for more than a decade and as one of Alton’s preferred contributors, he has been named in the right-wing press as a key player in the spats at Farringdon Road.
Maybe the reports of the disagreements have been overblown and exaggerated, maybe it’s just a case of the kind of rivalry that permeates through all dailies and their stablemate Sundays.
But it did make me take a look at Anthony’s recently published political memoir The Fallout again, in which he not only talks about life growing up in Kentish Town but argues that you have to be middle class to be liberal, all of which led to frowns from the Guardianistas and a review which suggested he was having a mid-life crisis.
Interestingly, Alton was namechecked in the credits.
Was the lukewarm response to the book a way for the Guardian mob to score a few points?

* The Fallout: How a Guilty Liberal Lost His Innocence, published by Jonathan Cape, £14.99.

Let’s raise a glass to this happy couple!

STATISTICS are supposed to show it, the pundits say it, and that is marriage is on the decline.
If that is so, how does one explain why the Registry Office at the Town Hall is always crowded with couples seeking a licence?
Or why one of the first couples a colleague got chatting to at a ball on Tuesday held by the Camden Inner Licensees Association couldn’t helping talking about their coming... marriage?
She had found them laughing and giggling and chasing each other through the corridors at the ball.
The charming couple Julie Colin, 29, and Peter Sandblad, 23, met at the World’s End pub in Camden Town, where they both work as supervisors. The pub clearly seek their staff from far and wide – Julie comes from France, Peter from Sweden.
Peter’s boss in Sweden used his contacts at the Underworld, the nightclub beneath the pub, to secure his young apprentice’s position at the two-storey rock haven.
The pair, who share a passion for The Doors and Velvet Revolver, were inspired by the sitcom Friends, another passion, to choose Las Vegas as their wedding venue next February.

With change in the air, let’s chase the spare land

IS it possible that at a Labour meeting in a small hall in Dagenham the other evening a government minister drop­ped a hint that signals a shift in policy?
In a debate on housing between junior housing minister Iain Wright and that Kentish Town firebrand Alan Walter – chairman of the national pressure group Defend Council Housing (DCH) – Wright said: “I presume I’ve been brought here to attack Alan but I agree with virtually everything he said.”
Naturally, Walter would have been arguing for the need for local authorities to start building council homes again after a dark winter of decades.
I’ve got a feeling that both Walter and Wright thought they may have been set up for a battle of words to suit party factions battling for a decision one way or the other by Gordon Brown.
As it was, I hear both contestants went down well that evening. After the meeting, I hear Wright told Walter the DCH were too ‘cynical’ about Gordon Brown’s commitments on council housing.
In the Queen’s Speech next week I understand a bill will be announced to give councils power to build homes but only on council owned land. Is there any spare council land going in Camden?
Maybe, advocates of council housing should start scouting for it?

Is this the end for dumb movies in Hollywood?

I WAS delighted to hear my former colleague Robert Eddison (pictured) has expanded his considerable talents into the realm of public speaking and even further, to the gates of Hollywood.
Robert, a lifelong member of MENSA, will ask an audience at the South Place Ethical Society at Conway Hall on Sunday whether high IQ should be promoted or ignored.
“I want to ask if elitism of any kind is a good thing,” he told me. “And is there a price to be paid for dumbing down?”
Talk turned to his other passion, play writing, and it emerged that besides penning Joe Orton’s Last Laugh – his new play about the final three hugely successful years of the playwright’s life, due to premier in LA next April – he might also be courting Hollywood.
“The whole thing is under wraps,” he confided, “but there might be a hopeful screen treatment of my first full length play, Commanding Voices.”
When Commanding Voices was first performed at Hampstead’s New End Theatre in 2002, it starred West End regular Jeremy Child and received 14 reviews – virtually unheard of for a first fringe production. It seems I shall have to keep my eye on Mr Eddison.

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