East Londoners on tour: Harvey Gould takes filmmakers Phil Maxwell and for a trip around Soho. Photograph: Phil Maxwell
Harvey Gould in Soho. Photograph: Phil Maxwell

East London filmmaking duo Phil Maxwell and Hazuan Hashim’s latest documentary, to be screened at the East End Film Festival this month, started in the Pride of Spitalfields pub. A friend put them in touch with somebody in Soho, a ‘real character’. One minute they were in the pub, the next, as Hashim puts it, they “were out in Soho interviewing a man called Harvey Gould”. Their documentary takes Maxwell and Hashim away from East London and into the heart of Soho. “It was a challenge because we were out of our comfort zone,” said Hashim. Thankfully they were with a “proper Soho native”. Gould, born in 1927, who grew up in Wardour House, “wants his story out there”. Maxwell adds: “He has an extraordinary memory and really remembers how the place has changed over the years.” Gould took Maxwell and Hashim on a personal tour of his London, weaving his narrative and memory with beautiful shots of Soho. Gould tells how, after the war, he used to run lemonade to Trafalgar Square to sell to the GIs. Hashim and Maxwell also got access to an old prostitute parlour overlooking Berwick Street market, “which still had the red light outside”. Maxwell and Hashim point out that plenty of films have highlighted Soho’s sex trade, but they wanted to show a different side to Soho. Maxwell says: “Harvey says the prostitutes were always very friendly. They were just an integral part of the community. Harvey accepted it. Soho is always changing. It’s a place that has always evolved to the pressures of being in central London.” Hashim adds that Gould used to paint wickets on the walls in the alley ways of Soho. “The traces are still there,” Hashim says. The documentary is not just interested in present narrative, then; it is about the traces of an older London, kept alive by one man’s memories. Hashim and Maxwell had “difficulty keeping up with Harvey”, a man who moved with the energy of a younger man. “He just really wanted to tell his story,” Hashim says, adding that Gould is now “living with cancer”. When asked if this gave the film a sense of urgency, Maxwell said yes, but was keen to point out that Gould “was really relaxed and wasn’t one of these people who felt sorry for himself. He wouldn’t let a disease curtail his enthusiasm for life”. Hashim and Maxwell’s documentary might have been “outside of their comfort zone” but they have found a lot of similarities between the areas. “East London and Soho, they’re villages,” says Maxwell. Their new documentary is a celebration of community, memory and a city that is constantly renewing itself. Harvey’s Soho will be showing at the Rio Cinema on 22 June as part of the East End Film Festival.

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