At the Illumini Talk last week I was approached by Francesca Panetta from the Hackney Podcast, which I have to say I had never previously heard of, but then again, as I haven't lived in London for 6 years now, there's a huge amount I'm not aware of. Anyway I had a chance to listen to some of the podcasts today and they are mostly interesting and very well put together: the water and coffee are particularly good .
One of my blind spots - and this is not particularly directed at these podcasts - is that I find it difficult to get really fascinated by much of the subjective 'micro-history' aspects pursued nowadays by some local historians of a particular area; my books tend to concentrate on the bigger picture of London as a whole, or at least the central part. Having said that there are some excellent studies out there of particular buildings or of some minor aspect of social history, but life is short and there is a lot of other stuff to try to investigate. That's the reason I stopped buying that admirable venture Smoke magazine after a few issues, I just couldn't summon up the enthusiasm any more for articles on bus journeys. I even get bored with some of Iain Sinclair's more recent psychogeographical obsessions - I found Edge of the Orison especially tough to negotiate in this respect, although the much longer Hackney book I mostly found engrossing.
In the latest podcast on coffee I was alerted to the presence of a new trendy coffee house in (where else?) Shoreditch called Penny University, which is a great name, based as it is on one of the original terms for a coffee house. Sadly it seems that the only resemblance to an 18c institution is the seating arrangement at a large wooden table, otherwise discussion appears to be limited to an assessment of the gourmet coffees on offer. Obviously a reading of my London Coffee Houses book would make a suitable accompaniment to this broadcast; I would dispute, by the way, that Hackney led the way in introducing coffee houses - the earliest in London were in the City and around Fleet St and Covent Garden. A listen to some of these podcasts is definitely recommended.