An enthusiastic new father who relocated from the city that's defined him Archy Marshall is traversing a new life, but some passions will never change
On a bright Sunday afternoon, Crystal Palace Park provides a pretty comprehensive cross section of life in south east London. Young families, dog walkers, joggers, elderly couples, teenage skaters, party casualties: they’re all here, mingling beneath the clear blue sky, as brilliant sunshine medicates the harsh January chill.
Strolling south for today’s photo shoot, past the towering BBC transmitter and between two terracotta-pink sphinxes, Archy Marshall is in his element, sharing information on the area over the squawk of stray parakeets. “This would have been inside the original palace,” he explains in his gruff drawl, gesturing to the stone steps beneath our feet. “And the plinths over there would have supported the palace’s columns.” To the north of us, by the park entrance, is a compact museum, which the 25-year-old earlier praised as “low key”. To the east is the Concert Bowl, where Archy’s mother once saw Ian Dury and the Blockheads play, back in the early ’80s.
We push on towards the athletics stadium and the sprawling, brutalist complex that make up the National Sports Centre, past amusingly incongruous beach volleyball courts and a miniature racing track currently occupied by one man furiously revving his radio-controlled car. Archy laughs as he recalls the displeasure of regulars, when he would turn up at the same track with his toy car as a child. He reminisces too of breaking into the gated tunnels of Crystal Palace subway as a teenager, and of his disappointment when it was subsequently opened to the public as a tourist attraction.
Everywhere we go today seems to strike a cord with Archy, having had close friends here when he was 15. Indeed, he’s actively seeking memories out, persuading us to take detours to former haunts. Disappointingly, the Collector’s Market is closed today, but the Royal Albert is open and Archy subtly manoeuvres us away from the busy, soulless gastro pub we’ve booked a table at, to conduct our interview there.
It’s a strange place, half-empty and seemingly only semi-refurbished, with the more recent additions of polished, pine-style flooring and faux-leather chairs clashing horribly with the pub’s original dark wood features. “It’s a long time since I’ve been round here, actually, so it brings back quite a lot [of memories],” he says, settling down to a coke. “Those were really important moments in my life,” he adds with – what transpires to be – quite rare transparency. “It’s a really influential age.”