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Photograph: Orlando Gili

The story of this Harlesden record shop shows why local businesses matter more than ever

Independent stores are facing hard times – and right now, they need your support

By Marcus Barnes

The greengrocer that puts your local supermarket to shame. The bookshop with the owner who talks your ear off. The record shop where no request is too niche. London’s independent shops make the city what it is – and right now, they need support.

Hawkeye Records in Harlesden (above) is a prime example of how shops support and sustain local communities. Harlesden and the surrounding areas were once a hub for Black music, with the mighty Trojan Records, Planetone recording studio and Jet Star Records located there. Now, Hawkeye and Starlight Records across the road are the only two record shops left.

Local reggae artist Bobby Davis (pictured) is a regular at Hawkeye. He’s been a customer for decades and still pops in at least once a week. Davis was a member of The Sensations, a vocal harmony group that played with a host of reggae legends in the ’70s and ’80s. ‘Hawkeye [co-owner Roy Forbes Allen] played football with us and that’s how I got to know him and started going to the shop,’ he says.

Gerry Anderson, the straight-talking other co-owner, who works behind the counter, is regarded as a reggae guru, using his connections to track down hard-to-find records for his loyal customers. ‘When it comes to reggae music, Gerry knows a lot. I can go to him and say: “Gerry, I need this particular single” and he will get it,’ says Davis.

The shop was once a meeting place for the reggae community, with famous faces passing through. ‘People like [reggae producer] Bunny Lee would come in. Everyone would drop by – it was one of the main record shops at the time,’ explains Davis. ‘You could hang out and chat music.’

The photo shows a space that still packs a punch, in spite of the challenges the pandemic has brought: Anderson slashed his prices by 20 percent after the first lockdown.

‘If we don’t support the record shops, they’ll go out of business,’ says Davis. He’s hopeful that this isn’t the end, though. ‘They’ll get through, they’ll survive. Music is trickling, rather than selling, at record shops. Some of them are still there, though, purely for the love of the music.’

This photo is from ‘Bass Borough’ by Orlando Gili, part of Brent Biennial. It launches online on Nov 27. 

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