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Mick Jones' Rock'n'Roll Library

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Steve Bowbrick Steve Bowbrick | 09:54 UK time, Friday, 31 July 2009

For most of my life the kind of people who made Radio 4 programmes were all self-evidently much older than me. They were people of my parents' generation, people who smoked pipes.

Of course, this is no longer true. While they've been busy getting younger, I've been going in the opposite direction. And the evidence is all around me. On Today, for instance, they now routinely run items about musicians and entertainers that I liked when I was young. They're doing this because they liked the same artists when they were young. On Wednesday morning's show, for example, Nicola Stanbridge, the programme's arts correspondent, schlepped over to the top of Portobello Road to visit an idol of my teenage years, Mick Jones, and his newly-opened Rock 'n' Roll Public Library.

Jones was guitarist and joint frontman in The Clash (I don't need to tell you that, of course, since you too are probably old enough to have stood in a puddle of beer at the back of the Hammersmith Palais on a school night). And I was a huge fan of The Clash so I grabbed at this frankly quite flimsy excuse for a tube ride over to W11 to see the library for myself and to take some photographs.

I haven't quite got over the fact that I apparently just missed Mick Jones himself as I arrived (he must have been the man in the trilby on the stairs) but the library itself is a joyous pop-cultural mess, an eclectic horde of the kind of stuff you've probably got in your spare room - only more of it. Hundreds of pulp novels, thousands of pop and film magazines, an awesome collection of VHS movies, posters, musical instruments, trashy ornaments, gold discs and, of course, loads of Clash and BAD merchandise and backstage stuff. There's a little screening room showing Clash movies.

And it's called a library because you're allowed to take the stuff away - at least a digital copy of it. In a corner of the library there's a big scanner and you're encouraged to scan anything that's on display and take it home on a USB stick (although there's no obvious way to copy the music or the movies). It's a kind of open source museum. It's slapdash (did anyone think to ask the original rights owners if they'd mind having their stuff copied? Of course not) and a bit self-indulgent but there's something big-hearted about it too. It's generous and open and (obviously) quite punk. A huge treat, especially if you're old enough to be a Today producer.

The Today item:

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Steve Bowbrick is the editor of the Radio 4 Blog.

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