Tag Archives: play

Old Town

If you stand and listen in the Old Town showroom in Holt, Norfolk, you hear the ticking of the clock and the sound of the sewing machine upstairs, making garments from traditional, hardwearing materials. There is no sleepy electronic beeping or the soft hum of computer fans that  we tend to take for granted.

The list of fabrics they use reads like a hymn to the forgotten glories of British mills – not just Harris Tweed but also corduroy, heavy tactile linens, cavalry drill, wool serge, moleskin and flannel. Shapes are simple, inspired by workwear from the last hundred or so years, and crucially don’t change seasonally. If you find something that suits you can continue having it made for you in summer and winter weight materials.

Old Town started 18 years ago in Norwich as a retro kitchenwear shop, but gradually the clothes started creeping in, and gained a fanatical following.

In their own words “Our single breasted rever collar jacket is an unfaithful copy of one found in a tool locker during the demolition of Stratford locomotive works; locker and contents seen on offer at Lea Bridge Road car boot sale.

Handed in as lost property in 1936, the originals for our style know as ‘High Rise’ were then mislaid behind a radiator in the London Transport Lost Property Office until redecoration in the early nineteen eighties.

Our popular ‘Overall Jacket’ is the mutant offspring of a pre-war lamplighter’s jacket glimpsed on the back of a chair in Coffee Republic at Canary Wharf.”

The Old Town look isn’t a painstaking reproduction of a particular period, but more an exuberant ramble through Britain’s idea of its heritage. Playful references to the Nanny state (the ties you can just see in the photo above), a range of Fair Isle tank tops straight out of an Enid Blyton book, and the dreaded Aertex which sadly reminds me of the smell of my old school changing rooms, all contribute to a jolly air of faded seaside holidays and 1950s milkmen.

Everything both downstairs and up contributes to this feeling – there is no jarring note of  the 21st century creeping in.

Upstairs is a low ceilinged work room reminiscent of those on Saville Row, where everything is cut out and much of it sewn, the rest being sent out to local seamstresses before coming back for finishing. It is the exact opposite of buying semi-disposable chainstore clothes made in the Far East.

So, if you prefer Gill Sans to Helvetica, and paper cones of winkles to plastic trays of sushi, do investigate further. Telephone former Woolworths saturday girl Miss Willey, visit the store in Holt or their fine website, where most of the male models sport estimable beards and the ladies sensible shoes suitable for bicycling through country lanes.

Old Town clothing

Also turn to The Evening Star, their cheerful publication which makes the final demise of pale blue Aertex headline news. Next edition coming soon.

Old Town, 49 Bull Street, Holt, Norfolk NR25 6HP. 01263 710001. (they do say it is advisable to telephone before travelling any great distance).

Opening times Tuesday to Saturday 10am – 5pm

NB If you’re interested in reading more about art, design and culture in East Anglia, please do follow the blog to its new home at http://flatlanders.co.uk/ – you’ll find more posts on everything interesting happening in the area.


Eight at Baldock Arts

Baldock in Hertfordshire is a slightly depressed town with the most glorious brick architecture from another age. It was once one of the coaching stops on the main road to London, and the doublewide high street is full of parked cars and big old inns are sadly shabby, many closed. 

In a ‘Lets put on the show right here’ kind of way, the closed town hall has been turned into a tiny studio theatre, and a new arts festival has burst upon the world. (Full disclosure, I’ve been helping out and thus am totally biased in its favour).

On Sunday night a play called Eight is stopping on its way between London and New York, which is quite exciting for Baldock. It was the hit of the summer in Edinburgh, and seems to be building from strength to strength. There are eight twentysomething characters each dealing with modern life in their own particular way. Apparently they are “deliciously cynical yet touching snippets of life that question what it is to be ‘normal’ in a generation where everything has become acceptable. Investigating 2008 from a refreshingly offbeat angle; these eight monologues present obsession in its moral, sexual and religious guises, offering intelligent, politically punchy and incisive writing that rebuffs the definition of contemporary youth as apathetic, drug-munching, no-brainers. ”

Hence its clutch of awards and good reviews from everyone from the Scotsman to the New York Times.

I’m excited. Catch them this weekend before they hit the states.

Eight by Ella Hickson – Sunday 26th October at Baldock Town Hall, Baldock, Hertfordshire.
Get tickets from Clare Heyhoe  on 01462790975,  07962663499 , or email clare@baldocktownhall.co.uk
See more of the schedule at the website