The colour, character and charisma of Portobello and Golborne Road Markets are undoubtedly best experienced in person. But if you can’t come for whatever reason, or you’re planning to visit, then you can get a taste of the reality through film.
Undoubtedly the Portobello-Golborne film that is most famous is the Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts romcom Notting Hill (1999). That’s a bit of a Marmite film – either you love the movie or it leaves you cold. But whatever side of the fence you’re on the Portobello Road Market scene, with a soundtrack of the classic Bill Withers song “Ain’t No Sunshine”, is a great piece of cinema:
It’s worth mentioning that Golborne Road also makes an appearance in Notting Hill. There’s a restaurant scene which was actually shot in Portfolio, the gift and card shop at 105 Golborne Road, on the corner with Bevington Road.
Portfolio was transformed into a restaurant in the Notting Hill movie
Going further back in time, Disney’s Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971) has an extraordinary musical dance scene on an imagined Portobello Market from the 1940s. A succession of performers, including Jamaicans, Scots, soldiers and Indians dance to a stirring song, “Portobello Road”:
Portobello Road, Portobello Road!
Street where the riches of ages are stowed
Anything and everything a chap can unload
Is sold off the barrow in Portobello Road.
You’ll find what you want in the Portobello Road.
Another film, rather more obscure although it’s available on Amazon, was released in 1968. Otley, starring a youthful Tom Courtenay, is a comedy thriller with its central character, antiques dealer Otley (Courtenay), getting accidentally mixed up in a murderous spy caper. The opening sequence is a fascinating panning shot of Courtenay walking up a late-60s Portobello Market from Chepstow Villas.
Moving to more recent times, Paddington (2014) sees the marmalade-loving bear hanging out with antiques dealer Mr Gruber in his Portobello Road shop. The actual shop used was the famous Alice’s at 86 Portobello Road.
Alice’s became Mr Gruber’s antiques shop in Paddington
There are two other short films that come highly recommended, with both of them available in their entirety on YouTube. These are distinguished by the fact that they were made by local school children, which gives them a unique perspective on the historic market streets.
Stall Stories (2012) was made by children from Colville Primary School, just of Portobello Road on Lonsdale Road.
The Children of Portobello and Golborne Road (2015), was made with the help of children from Bevington Primary School, just off Golborne Road, and Fox Primary at Notting Hill Gate.