Small Wonder exhibition, Hoe Street

In Events, music on September 11, 2016 at 2:54 pm

I love me some music history. Not classical or jazz, but I’m an old rock and metal fan and that takes in punk too. So I really enjoyed reading in the E-List about how Pete and Mari Stennett started Small Wonder Records on Hoe street in the late 1970’s. So today after a slap up Sunday lunch at Chequers my partner and I headed 0ver to the small shop along from Central Parade which the council formerly used for pop up businesses but it now an exhibition dedicated to the ‘Stow’s most famous record shop.

They even have a recreation of the shop sign!

They even have a recreation of the shop sign!

The exhibition covers the walls and is wonderfully curated chronologically, with years stencilled on the walls. There is loads of ephemera which I assume was collected from many of the shop’s old customers (the exhibition’s thank you list is long). There are record covers, clips from music magazines and fanzine covers. Interspersed are recollections of customers, both local and those who bought mail order. As well as launcing the careers of Bahaus, The Cure and giving a boost to many others Small Wonder also sold records around the world.

The center piece of the exhibition is a recreation of the shop itself. This was way before my time but I have to wonder if the smell of cigarettes is missing! But it did take me back to similar shops I went to in my teenage years.

The exhibition is on to the 18th September and is a wonderful telling of a beautiful, creative story from the Stow’s history.

  1. Thanks for the glowing review and glad you enjoyed my elist interview (and the article Mark Hart wrote using my research and pictures).
    We’re actually open until the 24th September (the other date is just because Facebook won’t let you create events longer than 2 weeks).

    We have the ash tray full of cigarette butts on the counter but we didn’t go the full hog and smoke cigarettes too. We have got the joss stick smell that covered up the smell of the ‘smoke’

    The items on display were loaned from about a dozen former customers, band members and Pete himself as well as a few ebay purchases. All in all a labour of love but one that’s hopefully been worth it and all donated items will go to the Vestry House museum.
    We should have a video featuring interviews with bands from the label along with customers and mr Stennett. I’ve been a bit delayed with that but a very rough version should be playing in store in the next day or so



    • Hi Neil,

      Thanks for your wonderful comment. I remember there used to be a room at Vestury house which was all about the early cinema history of the borough before it was replaced by a quite boring, generic display about the Tudors. I wish something like your exhibition could be permanently displayed somewhere locally preserving this history. Have you considered compiling it all onto one website for the future?

      Regardless it is a wonderful display. Very well done to you and your team.

      Best regards,


      • Thanks Jonathan – there was indeed an amazing team involved and it wouldn’t have happened without Emma Betts from Beatroots (organising/recruiting/smoothing machine), Julia Spicer (curatorial nouse and graft) and Andrea from Damage Studios, Matt Tully, and Tony Buzzcock who created the replica shop.

        We offered Vestry House the replica of the shop but sadly they don’t have room to take it. They will however have quite a few Small Wonder records in their collection and a copy of a Walthamstow fanzine after all this. I also need to take photos of it all for them.

        If I ever do compile it all it’ll be on the Small Wonder section of my blog (which has become massively neglected as I was consumed by small and wonderful things of late).

  2. […] what resources. Starting from the Small Wonder exhibition (which I wrote about last week) we went on to the EMD/Granada (I’m not using it’s silly new name) to learn how it […]

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