Last nights’ BBC documentary ‘The Secret History of Our Streets’ (iPlayer) was a remarkable history piece about the Cally Road and its environs. For a BBC documentary, the film pulled few punches (except organised crime, which was strangely absent).
Over the years, I spent a lot of time in Cally cafes, shops and launderettes and at endless campaigning community meetings. Including some rare enforcement action against a local landlord who may have featured (more later). In the 1990s I lived on Wharfdale Road for a year or so in the thick of the sex and drugs trade. I lived on the Cally for a year or two over ten years ago in a tiny flat in the one way system, then moved up market to Rufford Street, at the back of the Bemerton for eight years.
The Cally wasn’t an easy place, living in the area for me was a sort of sado-masochistic residential experience. The waves of crime and in your face poverty offset by strength, depth of character and sheer determination from local people, fighting from one day to the next. Perhaps typified in caricature at one extreme by the late Gloria Johnson. But little sentimentalism for the old days, little illusion that life was wildly better then.
Unexpectedly the film makers and participants captured this – the general sense that you can move out of the Cally but never really leave it. A bit like banging your head against the proverbial wall – it only hurts when you stop.
What do you think? Was the film balanced? Do you recognise that Cally Road, the ‘sh*thole’ as described on camera? No film can ever be all inclusive, but was it fair to show that angle? Let us know what you think in the comments (remember we moderate so behave). Apologies in advance to anyone offended by the language above. If you want to see some more Kings Cross local history click here.