In Memoriam : Mike Pentelow

mike p

Among other things, my old mate Mike was founder and Editor-in-Chief of Fitzrovia News, reputedly the longest-running community newspaper in London. Here’s a link to the front page of the June edition, published today :

And some tributes from colleagues and friends :

Tributes paid to Mike Pentelow, editor of Fitzrovia News


The ‘Grauniad’ has also published this obituary (written by our mutual friend Peter Kirker).

My friend Mike Pentelow, who has died aged 73, was a journalist whose work and actions were instrumental in the preservation of the unique character of Fitzrovia, the London district north of Oxford Street from Soho in which he lived for 50 years.

His book Characters of Fitzrovia (2001) – a pantheon of artists, murderers, musicians and revolutionaries who had peopled that bohemian area – came to print after he squeezed his manuscript through the letterbox of a neighbour who was also a multi-millionaire publisher. Felix Dennis had been a defendant in the notorious Oz trial, and may have been persuaded by Mike’s scrawled note: “You’re on page 242.” Dennis’s friend Marsha Rowe wrote an introduction for the book.

Mike had been involved in the revival of the term Fitzrovia to describe the area many years before. In 1973 he and some local friends launched a festival for the then nameless community. They decided to call it the Fitzrovia festival, bringing back a name that had been used whimsically in the 1940s and 50s in the literary coterie around Dylan Thomas’s local, the Wheatsheaf in Rathbone Place, but that had fallen out of use in the 60s. A few years later the community newspaper, the Tower, which Mike went on to edit until his death, was relaunched as the Fitzrovia News.

Other books Mike authored included a walks guide, Freedom Pass London (2014), and A Pub Crawl Through History: The Ultimate Boozers’ Who’s Who (2010). He shared the credit for both with his long-term collaborator the photographer Peter Arkell.

Born in Sheffield but soon to move with his family to Staines, Surrey, and then Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, Mike was the elder son of Joan (nee Topham) and Jack Pentelow, an accountant with Smiths Clocks and Watches.

Bashful about his private schooling at University College school, in Hampstead, Mike initially bypassed university and went straight to work in journalism with the Thurrock Gazette. This was in the late 60s, when the docklands were riven with industrial strife. As always thereafter, Mike’s sympathies were with the workers, but his copy was objective.

In his spare time he helped run a yearly rock festival in Grays, Essex (1969-71), giving amateur bands chances to play to sizeable beach audiences.

He was able to combine his love of football with his socialism when in 1970 he joined the Morning Star as a sports reporter. He took leave to study economics at Central London Polytechnic (now the University of Westminster) and discovered, when he returned with a degree in 1979, that he had assumed the industry brief and alarming political responsibilities. But he was soon a much-loved character in the industrial lobby, and took inspiration, perhaps in more ways than one, from two hard-drinking and erudite NUM leaders, Lawrence Daley  and Mick McGahey. In 1983 he went on to a colourful 20-year stint on T&G and Unite in-house titles, where he was known for his show-stopping dancing at work parties. As Unite’s chief of staff Andrew Murray wrote in the Morning Star: “Mike put the social in Socialism.”

Mike had a wonderfully kind temperament; he applied his journalism to the common good and was renowned for his sparkling repartee. He had no immediate family of his own, but developed wonderfully supportive friendships with the children of his friends.

Mike is survived by his brother, Guy, and a nephew and niece.

mike k and q

At the King and Queen pub, Foley Street, Fitzrovia,  September 2018.

I have lost a friend and colleague on Fitzrovia News

by Clive Jennings

The death of Mike Pentelow is very sad — I still can’t believe he’s gone. I have lost a friend and colleague on Fitzrovia News, and the Fitzrovia community has lost its chronicler, historian, archivist and activist.

The extent of his knowledge of Fitzrovia and its history was encyclopaedic. Mike was a lovely man, always very friendly and open with everyone he met, and he loved to socialise He had so much stored in his head, but was always ready to add more, eagerly showing interest in any new information, whipping out his little notebook and jotting it down, like the old school journalist he was.

He loved nothing more than a pint with friends in a local pub, and the talk would often be about Fitzrovia past and present — particularly poignant at the moment as I walk around the neighbourhood, and see all his favourite watering holes shuttered up.

He was enormously supportive to me when I first started writing for Fitzrovia News and continued to be so. He always thanked me profusely for my copy and was so good-natured when I filed it late, which was nearly always. I remember when I first realised that he was the co-author of Characters of Fitzrovia, which I had originally borrowed from the library. Typically self-effacing, he explained that I could get a cut-price copy from the discount bookshop on Tottenham Court Road.

Mike had assiduously applied himself to the life and times of Fitzrovia, be it a scandal from the 1850s or dodgy building practice in the twenty first century. His forensic and detailed research combined with a fluent inclusive style of writing resulted in many fascinating articles in Fitzrovia News, and he was no slouch when it came to ‘sticking it to the Man’ in his campaigning journalism.

He was a stalwart of The Sohemian Society: the combination of a Club devoted to great stories about Soho and Fitzrovia, books and beer, that actually met in a pub, was just made for him. He met my two younger sons there.

His generosity, and generosity of spirit, always came through. Two examples spring to mind: chipping in to finance having the Fitzrovia News delivered by post and making a large contribution to the cost of Fiona Green’s leaving Fitzrovia party.

I shall miss him very much indeed, and so shall Fitzrovia

DSCF0615 Above :  Mike Pentelow with Lemar and Jean Sveinsson, London, 2010





Above : Mike Pentelow and John Fisher. Bologna 2012


Michael Bond , John Fisher, and Mike Pentelow. London, 2011.

Michael John Pentelow :  26 May 1946 – 1 April 2020

DSCF0459”Well done team”  ~ Mike Pentelow  😊

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