London Lives: 24 iconic people and places around the clock by Danny Rosenbaum and Rupert Vandervell, foreword by Andrew Marr

Danny Rosenbaum is a lifelong Londoner and resident of Primrose Hill for some thirty years. Previously a documentary-maker, the idea for ‘London Lives’ sprang from an evening two years ago in the Lansdowne, Primrose Hill, with photographer Rupert Vandervell, a former colleague. With Danny’s passion for writing and Rupert’s skill behind the lens, not to mention a shared love of London, the concept of London Lives was born. Twenty-four people, each working for an iconic London institution and each representing one hour of the day or night.

As Andrew Marr puts it in the foreword he provided,

‘A great city isn’t the buildings, though they help, or the parks, boulevards, grand squares, or even the cycle of weather. A great city is first and foremost its people, the characters whose hard work and zest brings those streets to like, and make life worth living in the middle of the thrum, chaos and noise for the rest of us. A great city is built up not from stones or glass, but from jokes, smiles and acts of random helpfulness. It derives its life from the sweat, persistence and professionalism of millions of people who the historians barely bother to notice.’


This book is a testament to those people. The twenty-four chosen for the book bring to their respective roles a joy and commitment that shines forth through Danny’s insightful words and Rupert’s exceptional photographic portraits. The institutions represented are iconic in very different ways – from the Reform Club in Pall Mall to UCH, via Fortnums, Battersea Dogs Home, Madame Tussauds and the Natural History Museum department of human remains, as well as many more unexpected stops along the way; meanwhile, the stories told by the individuals – Zandra Rhodes, star of the front cover included – are just as fascinating and diverse.

Sitting at the Princess of Wales on Chalcot Road, Danny reflected on what he had learned through writing the book.

“Above all,” he explained, “it’s the power of passion. None of these people were born with a silver spoon but each one made it to the top because they found their passion. London gave them the opportunity. Each one of them has passion for London, passion for their jobs and found that passion early in life.”

Take, for example, Karl Standley, Head Groundsman of Wembley Stadium. For his IT GCSE, he designed a computer programme which was a resource for football stadiums around the world. Or Giuliano Morandin, Bar Manager of the Dorchester, who worked front of house in restaurants and bars from the age of fourteen. Or Beigel Bake’s Sammy Minzly, who has worked in the bakery trade since 1958 and founded Beigel Bake in Brick Lane in the mid-1970s. All twenty-four have a fascinating story to tell and open a fascinating window onto not only their institutions but also onto their lives as Londoners.

Each subject was completed in an hour: forty minutes for Danny to interview and then twenty for Rupert to take the photos, which I found extraordinary, considering the rapport which shines through both the words and the photography.

Just as he appreciates London in general, Danny is very happy to be a long-standing resident of Primrose Hill. He particularly cherishes its village-like quality, “close to the action but peaceful.”

He enjoys Anthony’s Deli for coffee, the Primrose Hill Bookshop and the Greenberry; he also points out that he is a ‘rare male beast’ at the Cowshed, where he finds the food to be excellent. Although, he adds, “I could list all the restaurants on Regents Park Road.”

I can thoroughly recommend the book to anyone who loves London and people – and isn’t that all of us? This is a book to dive into and to lose yourself in. Hop over onto the London Lives website here to find out more and also to buy signed copies. Christmas is a-coming, after all…

© 2019 Joanna Reeves for iLPH, all rights reserved.

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