Eel Pie Island

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Frances Lincoln Limited, 2009 - Music - 112 pages
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EEL PIE ISLAND is the only inhabited island on the semi-tidal Thames. Its most famous contemporary resident, Trevor Baylis, OBE, inventor of the clockwork radio, has been heard to describe it (with some exaggeration) as "120 drunks clinging to a mudbank". It is a tiny place, just 600 yards long and barely 150 at its widest, but it has nearly fifty houses, some twenty houseboats, two boatyards and a score of small businesses and craft studios, two boating clubs and a nature reserve at each end, and it is connected to the rest of the world by an elegant footbridge.

Named for the favoured snack of Henry VIII, who was said to stop here on his way to and from Windsor, the island has enjoyed two periods of special fame:

in the nineteenth century it was a resort for Londoners who, like Charles Dickens, came by the newfangled steamboats to spend the day in the grounds of the hotel that dominated the island until 1969; and in the middle of the twentieth it was a venue for jazz and later English R&B groups, where the likes of Chris Barber or George Melly, and then the Rolling Stones or Rod Stewart, performed in the dancehall of the hotel. A surprising number of people all over Britain and beyond remember Eel Pie Island and its gigs - usually with a nostalgic smile.

Dan van der Vat and Michele Whitby tell the story of Eel Pie Island from the Stone Age to The Rolling Stones and beyond, illustrated with a wealth of rare archive images and atmospheric contemporary photography.

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About the author (2009)

DAN VAN DER VAT, author and journalist, was a foreign correspondent on The Times of London for a decade, and later Chief Foreign Leaderwriter on The Guardian until he left to write books on naval history and related subjects.Of his dozen books, three won awards, two were bestsellers and his work has been translated into 14 languages. He still writes occasionally for The Guardian.

MICHELE WHITBY manages the "Par Ici" shop in Twickenham, where the work of local artists and craftspeople, several of them still based on Eel Pie Island, is sold. Before that she spent 12 years running a workshop on the island, where she produced top-quality leather goods. She enjoyed a friendship with Arthur Chisnall, the self-appointed social worker and concert promoter at the heart of Eel Pie Island's 50s and 60s heyday, and he left her a mass of invaluable papers and photographs.

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