A Dundee street that was once Britain’s ‘worst slum’ could soon appear in the Guinness Book of World Records thanks to a unique little event.
Johnston’s Lane in Westport is one of the smallest streets in the city, its cobbled road is wide enough to accommodate only one car, there are no streetlights overhead and there is but one shop, two small housing blocks and a small car park that call it home.
And yet according to Richard Cook, who is the owner of that single Johston’s Lane shop; Spex Pistols, its size is not only part of its unique charm but also makes it ideally suited to hosting the world’s smallest street market.
Richard is part of a creative group of people who are hoping to organise the ‘best ever Dundonian street fair’ to raise money for charity and, excitingly, to hopefully earn the little street a place in the world record books too.
Today, Johnston's Lane is a picturesque and distinctive street, hidden away in a thriving part of town. But Richard says that not too long ago it housed 1500 people, overly-crowded tenement buildings, a slaughter house, an animal run and a dumping ground.
"It’s got an amazing, rich history - which is why I wanted my shop here actually - and it's been here since before Westport was even part of Dundee," explains Richard.
"But back then the tiny street was incredibly busy and incredibly filthy.
"It was also Britain’s worst slum - it was so bad that even the Prime Minister was brought down to have a look at.
"He was brought to Dundee by Robert Fleming, the grandfather of Ian Fleming, who wrote the James Bond novels. Robert had become one of the world’s biggest bankers and on the way to Fleming Gardens he stopped off to show the Prime Minster Johnston's Lane."
"When the Prime Minister saw it things did start to change, but it's still a completely forgotten part of Dundee."
The fair, which is the brainchild of Jennie Patterson, has partly been set up in an effort to change this, as well as to raise money for charity. It is being organised by Sooz Gordon, Kristen Neillie, Kara Morroll-Irvine and of course Richard and Jennie too.
Although no official charity has been chosen yet, Dundee City Council have already given the project the thumbs up and, following a meeting yesterday, Richard said that councillors 'could not have been more helpful'.
Although it is still in its planning stages, it is hoped that up six or seven unique and Dundee based stalls will line the small street on Sunday, 20 July.
So far Spex Pistols, Benjamin Barker(see below), the Parlour Cafe, Groucho's, Fraser’s Fruit and Veg and Cabar & Fiodh have all signed up to get involved and Richard says the reception so far has been overwhelmingly positive.
"It would look silly if it was just one or two stalls so I targeted six people, that way it can be kept small," he said.
"We think that six or seven stalls would fill out the street really nicely and make it look really busy but by keeping it small we keep the variety undiluted.
"Absolutely everybody who I've asked so far has jumped at the idea and thought it was phenomenal. Nobody has said that they don’t want to be part of it and I think we probably could get up to almost 35 stalls if we wanted.
"But we’re keeping it small as we’re hoping to have not just the world’s smallest street market but possibly Dundee's best street market too.
"Quite often we'll have events like the European farmer’s market and things like that which do appeal to a lot of people but we want to sell the kind of things that we would actually like to see at a street market."
Organisers are hoping the market will offer shoppers a little taste of everything and collectibles (like the restored speakers above), vintage books, textiles, music, and various local produce will all be up for grabs on Johnston's Lane come next month.
And, almost as exciting as the market itself, is the fact that Richard confirmed to STV that the team would be trying to set a new Guinness World Record.
He said: "When I researched it there is no Guinness World Record for the world’s smallest street fair," he explained.
"So yes, I can confirm that we are going to try and set a new one!"
Oh, and just in case you're wondering, research tells us that Dundee hasn't broken a world record since 2004 when Dundee University put on a musical production after less than 24 hours to prepare - which we think is pretty cool too.