Christopher Watson was born on Christmas day in 1941. We met him in his house on Packenham Street, where he has lived for over 40 years. We discovered there a host of characters who have accompanied Christopher through the pubs, clubs and drag balls of King’s Cross and Soho from the 1960s to today.
When Christopher lived in Cavendish Mansions, Clerkenwell Road, Norman came to stay with him as a lodger. Norman was tall and good looking, and done up in his wig, and ‘long flowing dresses’, quite resembled Lily Savage. The pair would often frequent the Prince Albert – now Central Station – which at the time ran gay nights at the weekends. Walking the length of Gray’s Inn Road – from Cavendish Mansions to King’s Cross – in full drag in the 70s, Norman – or Norma – turned quite a few heads. Christopher remembers the ceiling of the Prince Albert shaking over their heads, from the raucous dancing in disco upstairs.
Central Station is now fully out and proud; you can listen to Duncan Irvine, co-founder and manager, talking about the trials and tribulations of getting it up and running.
Christopher and friends. Photos courtesy of Christopher Watson
Another figure that features heavily in Christopher’s life is Gill. Christopher and Gill have been best friends since their school days, and to this day Gill visits Christopher every Wednesday evening for a drink at the Calthorpe Arms. On the night of the King’s Cross Fire, Gill arrived late at Packenham Street. Christopher tells the story of their gradual discovery of the impact of the fire in his own words, below.
The closure of pubs and restaurants in the area has left a hole in the day to day lives of the local residents. In the final story Christopher remembers some local haunts that no longer exist, and pays tribute to his good friend Judy, who – despite an illness which means she can no longer walk far without the aid of crutches or a wheelchair – still braves local council meetings to represent her community on the subject of proposed redevelopments in the area.
Listen out for Billy the budgie, who makes his presence known throughout Christopher’s interview…