Thursday, 31 December 2009

Elliot Smith barbers: A new shrine for Brighton's boutique zone

My page three feature in the Argus December 29, 2009. The story started as a brief email, handed to me by the charismatic Asst. News Ed during my week of work experience on the Argus news desk. I made the story below. He artfully created the layout to left.

A barber shop dedicated to tragic musician Elliott Smith has opened in Brighton's North Laine. Owner Ali Campbell hopes it will become one of the landmarks in the city's individualistic boutique zone.

The new shop features a wavy red, white and black graphic from the cover of Smith's 2000 album Figure Eight.

“I wanted the shop to reflect the the things I like. Hopefully, it will become a Brighton feature,” Mr Campbell said.

The quirky individualism of North Laine shops has become one of Brighton's main tourist attractions, with 300 shops, 37 cafes, 22 pubs, 4 theatres, 2 museums, and an award winning library, but little sign of the retail chains that dominate Britain's high streets.

Dirty Harry, Mods, Punk, Goth, Buddha were early themes in the North Laine. They have been joined by animal themed and eco-friendly gifts, and animal-free footwear. Specialist shops offer beads, bonsai, tattoo and piercing, guitars, frozen yoghurt and herbal supplements. Several hairdressers already serve the area, including pop-art styled The Bomb.

Mr Campbell, 27, was originally from Brighton and lives in Foundry Road, but trained as a barber in Tunbridge Wells barber shop Camden Road Barbers which has a 1950's theme. After four years experience cutting hair, he opened his shop in Brighton, Gloucester Road Barbers, on 18 September 2009. He has been a fan of Smith since 1998, and made his shop into a tribute to the man and his music.

Elliott Smith was a talented musician who had problems, and died of stab wounds in 2003 in an apparent suicide. The Figure Eight graphic originally appeared on a wall on Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles. The Los Angeles wall has been turned into a memorial.

Mr Campbell said he recently found a ticket tied to his own shop sign, saying: “We miss you Elliott Smith. While Elliott Smith was quite an alcoholic, six months before the end, he cleaned himself up. It is said that his depression stemmed from child abuse.”

Inside the shop an original promotional print for the Figure Eight album is on display. The large double sided display board was printed in the USA in a run of 2,000 copies. On the reverse there is a photograph of Elliott Smith and tour dates. Mr Campbell said he was offered £400 for the print.

Elliot Smith played Brighton Concorde II as part of his 2001 tour.

Ali Campbell's top tunes from Elliott Smith:
1. No Name #2
2. Roman Candle
3. No Name #3

Gloucester Road Barbers, 98 Gloucester Road, BN14AP. Phone 01273 675956

ENDS 431 words

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