Griff Rhys Jones, CP Company and TV’s best ever city guides

One of the people who influenced us in the setting up of Umbrella was, somewhat surprisingly, TV comedian and presenter Griff Rhys Jones. Obviously he was known to us for his role as one of the Not The Nine O’ Clock News team, but eagle-eyed viewers of a certain age and disposition noticed something else: his predisposition for wearing CP Company and Stone Island jackets in his programmes.

This was no accident, Jones has a love of the works of Sportswear Company stretching back years, and his red Mille Miglia has followed him in his journeys around the world. As he tells the excellent Proper magazine:

“People are fascinated not so much by the goggles on the hood but by the window on the side of the sleeve and I've had a lot of questions about that and I've had to explain that I assume it’s so you can look at your watch. I wish the goggle was slightly smaller to be honest as it’s a bit too prominent on some of the things I wear.”

Of course, a liking for the works of Signore Osti doesn’t automatically qualify you as a good egg, as anyone who’s been to an away game in the Midlands can testify. Instead, it’s his constant inquisitiveness and the desire to uncover stories that makes his programmes essential viewing for those of with a liking for a secret passage or an underground river. His greatest triumph – and there have been many – is his Greatest Cities of The World series, where over the course of 24 hours, he immerses himself into the lives of citizens in places like London, Rome, Paris (below) and New York.

From exploring secret tunnels under Holborn to working with the graffiti removal team on the banks of the Seine, Griff and his team tell the sort of stories that all of us who are fascinated by big, urban centres love. Speaking of his time in Rome, he says:

“I take part in a ceremony that dates from the Renaissance and a church service that could have taken place in the middle ages. Everywhere I am taught the correct way of doing things – drinking coffee, eating a meal, directing the traffic, going for a walk, carving marble. The Romans love their customs and their city. It feels like a jumble but is in fact a melange of displays and ‘mostra’ or shows. This is the city as theatre. Everybody is playing a role and their life is partly about fulfilling their allotted place in and amongst the beautiful scenery and props, partly about showing that they are above it all and all that stuff is for other people.”

If you have time, take an hour or two out to watch these programmes, all of which are available to watch on YouTube. And next time you see him on the telly, check out his clobber: more than likely it’ll have come from a very reputable source, probably in Italy.

See the rest of the series, including the incredible Rome episode here.


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