Haircuts and Heroes

Who are Prestige Hair Studio?

Shop front of a hairdressers, titled, ‘Prestige Hair Studio’. The lights in the shop are on and hairdressers are at work with customers.
Prestige Hairdressers, 2021. Photograph by Lucy Parker

Prestige Hairdressers at situated at 5 Craven Park in Harlesden. They cater to the local community in Harlesden, particularly specialising hair care for black people.

As part of the Harlesden Trailblazer’s project, Suleqa Warsame interviewed Lenworth, a.k.a ‘Barber Buju’ about his appreciation for Harlesden and his customers, and his experiences working in Harlesden over 11 years.

Suleqa also interviewed a regular customer, Carlos. Carlos said that he comes to Prestige not only to get his haircut, but just to hang out, and talk. He explains the shop had a good atmosphere, which made him come back regularly.

They talk about their hopes for the future in Harlesden, and Carlos expresses concern that things could go ‘either way’.

What happened at 5 Craven Park in the past?

There is a tragic but heroic story at 5 Craven Park.

In 1945, a fire started in the upstairs flat – it is not known how, but two young girls (Avril and Jean Pike) were in the flat, and when Willesden Fire Brigade attended, fireman Frederick Davies made a heroic attempt trying to save them, which sadly cost him his life.

Tragically the girls died as well. Frederick Davies was awarded a George Cross medal, after his death, for his bravery in attempting to save the girls. He is buried in Kensal Green Cemetery.

A painting was made by Reginald Mills of the scene. Photographs of the painting are displayed to remember this event in every fire station in Willesden.

A subsequent painting of the photograph was made by Ernie Monk, which is held in Brent Museum and Archives.

Colour reproduction of a painting depicting a fire in a flat above a shop, with a person with their arms raised at the window, and fire fighters with a ladder below. The shop sign reads, ‘Reidell’s’ and another sign reads, ‘horse meat is cheaper’.
Ernie Monk, The Fire at 5 Craven Park, Harlesden. 22 August 1945. Brent Museum and Archives. Museum Ref: 1987.7

Art analysis by Suleqa and Rahima:

Creative researchers Suleqa Warsame and Rahima Mohamud were fascinated by the painting. Together they developed their own analysis of the painting.

‘The painting shows a flat with a burning flame engulfing the house. It was inhabited by two young girls. Both the girls (Avril and Jean Pike) and the firefighter (Frederick Davies) lost their lives in the fire.

A shop below is called Reidell’s. We found out by looking at the Street Directories in the Archives from this time that Reidell’s was a builder’s merchants.

The painting shows the historical significance of the place and depicts a serious fire that has significance across the fire brigades in Willesden.

We were curious about some of the details in the painting. We know from looking up Reidell’s in the street directories that it was a builder’s merchants. But the artist Ernie Monk shows the shop with a sign, ‘Horse meat is cheaper’ implying it is a butcher’s shop.

We wondered if the artist was intending this as a message to the viewer. Both young girls lost their lives, as well as the fireman.

The builder’s merchant may have had flammable materials. Perhaps the artist is trying to say something about the quality of housing and the value of life, in an historically poor area of London.’

With thanks to Lenworth a.k.a Barber Buju, Carlos, and Suleqa Warsame

Find out more

The painting can be seen on Art.uk

Please also see Brent Museum and Archives webpages for more information on the history of Harlesden and Brent.