60! Not out!

This week’s blog is a tribute and salute to the writer, The Mumper of SE5, reaching the RIPE old age of 60. As a one off special, Art Gallery Clothing have asked his lifelong friend Dave Sainsbury, to write this week’s blog, as a sort of ‘This Is Your Life’ in written form if you will, which we hope will give those who don’t know him personally, a little insight into (big) lad himself.

All yours Dave…

I was born on the same day as Mark John Baxter in St. Giles Hospital, Camberwell, that day being the Sept 22nd, 1962. Fair to say we’ve been inseparable ever since. Our manor was and still is Camberwell, a small smudge on the map of South East London. We’re surrounded by Peckham, Walworth, The Old Kent Road and Kennington, all areas we explored in time.

Our formative years were spent living on the Glebe Estate, situated on Peckham Road, which had the league of nations in each and every block – African, West Indian, Turkish, Irish, Scots, Indian and Pakistani – and all that heritage mixed with the white working class, such as the likes of us. In truth, growing up, we knew no different with our schools, youth clubs and estate football teams being full of the same people. Then, slowly many of our white mates, gradually disappeared in the ‘white flight’ mania of the early 1970s. But we stayed put, our mums and dads embracing the other cultures and leaving us to make lifelong friends as they did so.

For the purposes of this blog, I’ll join in and call him Bax, but from his early teens to his early twenties, everyone – school mates, friends and immediate family – knew him as ‘Will.’ This was the direct influence of a one-time TV advert for Scotch Porridge Oats and its tag line ‘Och Willy Baxter.’ His younger brother Glen also had the same nickname, so they ended up calling each other ‘Will,’ and still do actually. Confuses the life out of everyone that.

School was never for the boy wonder. Even at junior level, he clearly struggled with the concept of it , though he made one or two mates, who I know have kept in touch on Facebook. Once he hit the comprehensive system of the early ‘70’s though, then it all went very badly. He’d say that by the law of averages, it was odds on that a couple of kids out of the 1,000 who were jammed into his secondary school in Peckham, were not going to fit in. And of course, he was one of them. He lasted three weeks, before being hooked out of there, by his mum and dad, as tales of him being bullied daily and then fighting back, added to his heightened challenging of being told what to do, reached their ears.

His poor old mum then had a very tough time holding off the school authorities, who were demanding he go back, but she refused. Instead, she educated him at a ‘working class university’ – the local library to me and you. He spent hours and hours in there, reading anything and everything.

He then ended up in a holding centre for bad boys who were excluded from school, where he learnt fuck all, apart from being able to play a mean game of badminton and how to make hot chocolate. Eventually, he had to move schools and ended up as ‘fresh meat’ in the second year at Paragon near Tower Bridge Road. Now that school had a fearsome reputation, which it defended on a daily basis. Exams were a waste of time and let’s just say, that our hero run out of there with nothing on his last day and he hasn’t stopped running since.

He left school on a Friday and was working, a four-year French polishing and cabinet making apprenticeship, on the following Monday. In effect, all he learnt really, was how to sweep up, get the bacon rolls in and smoke copious amounts of home-grown puff in the staff canteen, all on £35 a week. Eighteen months into it all, He was made redundant on New Year’s Eve 1981.

Happy New Year to you too.

Redundancy was a situation known to many in the early ‘80s, and one we will revisit again in this story Luckily, through a mate of his dads, found a job in The Print.
On his first day in Fleet Street in 1982, where he was to work as a messenger for a news agency, he turned up with a broken arm. It was busted the day before playing football, in a rigged cup final, where the referee went home with brown envelopes stuffed with used fivers.

(Shit refs, we always get shit refs…)

Anyway, on reporting for duty, he was told to go home, as he was deemed unfit for the work. Not for the first time in his life, or the last as it turned out, he blagged away like crazy and was finally allowed to stay, just to shut him up. He then spent the morning learning the ropes from two old boys, one of whom, Bert, had clearly turned up drunk at 10am, and had pissed his strides by 10.15. Bert called everyone who came anywhere near him ‘my old CUNTry’ very loudly, all morning. The other ‘educator’ that morning, Ray, had combed what was left of his hair on to the top of his head in a bird’s nest formation, held there by what looked like cooking fat and vintage kirby grips. Ray had also painted his eyebrows on that morning and then told Bax, that his nephew was Bobby Crush. Instead of running away, Bax loved it and knew he had found the perfect home for him from that moment on.

He was finally given his SOGAT 82 ‘job for life’ union card three months later, and then found himself fighting the threat of Thatcher, Murdoch, Brenda ‘Deal’ Dean, and the old bill on picket lines down at Wapping. Of course, there was only going to be one winner. And it wasn’t going to be Bax.

He has said on many drunken afternoons, that for a few golden years, his life in ‘The Print’ was like having a very well-paid job, on a holiday camp. Pubs were ‘lived’ in, and friends were made for life.

Eventually, of course it all came tumbling down and redundancy visited his door once again. This time a mortgage had to be paid, so the pay-out, though poor compared to some, was seen as working capital and put to work as he became self-employed, after failing to land a job in over 5 months of trying. With a totter for a grandad, buying and selling sort of come naturally and those genes were revived and updated.

A market stall near the Camden Stables, was used to sell ‘this and that,’ even rubble dug up from a busted gas main, which was sold off as ‘bona fide bits of the Berlin Wall, especially flown in that morning.’ A couple of wonderful summers were had during that period in time, and life was spent ‘out, out’ with exotic girlfriends, and the boy dressed in Duffer.

He then graduated to a clothes shop, back in SE5, where women’s streetwear, was sold to the female ravers (and a couple of fellas) in the mid 90s. Bax then became an event runner and planner with club nights run in pubs, and even a stint as a DJ followed, though in truth, playing the record at the right speed was a constant battle.

Then the year 2000 hit, and Bax’s beloved dad died of a very quick cancer, and he and his missus Lou, lost the baby they were expecting, a month or two later. To top it all off, the landlord then gave notice he wanted his shop back that same year, so the boy was out of work again, and on his knees with grief. Us, his mates, rallied round as best we could, but he was done, and out of the game for a good while. I have never known him so quiet. A couple of years followed, spent back in the 9-5 world, to pay the bills, as he and Lou, rebuilt their lives.

Then his thoughts turned to writing.

To me and many others he told at the time, this was the maddest idea he had had yet, but by 2002/3 he had convinced the celebrated writer Paolo Hewitt, about an idea for a book, which was eventually called ‘The Fashion of Football.’ The two became firm friends on that journey to explain style within the game in the years from the 1960s to the early noughties, both looking at what the players and the fans were wearing. The book sold well, and Bax got the taste of the book lark. However, the reality of making a living, solely as a writer was stark. So, he once again turned to selling and set up a PR company, selling clothing, singers, bands, books, tailors, CD’s and coffee in Soho, among hundreds of other items over 15 years, as he honed his writing skills.

Out of that homework, came the idea of the book ‘The Mumper’ written as a tribute not only to John Frederick Baxter, Bax’s dad, but also to a pub culture and way of life which was dying locally. No publisher wanted it. Poorly written they said, no market for it they said. They were probably right to be fair. So, he set about tightening up his writing style, and wrote draft after draft. Once happy with that, some three years later, he had self-published and he sold around 900 copies, in pubs, pie and mash shops, and gambling establishments.

Through contacts he had made over the years, the book was optioned by a production company owned by a Millwall fan, and amazingly, it later got turned into a feature film, released through Universal Pictures. His acting heroes Bob Hoskins and Phil Davis appeared in it , alongside Jenny Agutter. Even writing those words, it all sounds ridiculous really.

Now it’s 2022, and it’s been at a book a year since he began twenty years ago. As he himself says, it’s graft first, and everything else follows. Never one to rest on his ‘aris, next up, came Mono Media Films, set up in partnership with the unbelievably talented Lee ‘Coggers’ Cogswell.

They began making films with money initially invested in them by some very fine people, who backed them in 2013. Documentaries on Tubby Hayes, John Simons, Peter Blake, and The Style Council are just some of the many and diverse projects they have completed. Nearly ten years on, they tell there are currently six films in various stages of development. So, much more to come there.

So, he’s now 60 and the old plum badly wants his freedom pass. In fact, he speaks about little else. I reckon if/when he gets one, he’ll travel on a number 12 bus, from Dulwich to Oxford Circus, all day once a week, just because he can…

He also acknowledges daily that by the age he is now, he has only achieved so many things, with the help of many, many good people. Friends old and new, colleagues, old and new, and family of course, including his dear old mum Jeannie, who died in March 2020.

At the centre of it all, is his Lou. He once dedicated ‘God Only Knows’ by the Beach Boys to her on a radio show I heard him on, and he got that spot on.

He was one lucky man with that selection

Anyway, that’s it. Time for me to go. He’ll be back next week, driving poor old Alex, the head honcho at Art Gallery, mad with the never-ending typo count.

I’ll leave you with this. He often says over a red drink, he has no idea how he got to where he is today.
‘Imposter syndrome’ some call it?

Well, all I know is, the harder he works, the luckier he seems to get.


To life. Cheers.
Dave Sainsbury of SE5


Mark ‘Bax’ Baxter

Photography by Tony Briggs



THE SPEAKEASY Volume Two by Mark Baxter (The Mumper)

Illustrations by Lewis Wharton

Foreword by Rhoda Dakar

Available to ORDER here



Further styles added to the SALE



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