tl;dr – don’t send things to the BM Box any more. I’m not renewing it for 2016.
If I’ve sent you anything through the mail in the last 20 years, it’s probably had a rubber stamp imprint on it as in the photo above.
In the 80s and 90s all the cool kids in the UK underground scene had a PO Box with the Royal Mail, or got their post delivered to radical bookshop or similar. British Monomarks was for the proper hardcore though. The company was set up by a William Morris (not the William Morris) in 1925 to operate private mailboxes in Old Gloucester Street in Bloomsbury.
The word on the street was that unlike the Royal Mail, Monomarks wouldn’t hand over your personal details to any Tom, Dick or Harry – they’d need a court order or similar. Plus the central London location meant it was accessible if you lived in London but were moving around a lot. The weirdest (and therefore best) records, zines and political diatribes always came with BM Box to write back to.
I have to say that in my case, the glamour and mystique of having a BM Box far exceeded my need to shield my mail and personal details from the state or people who had taken a dislike to me. I remember a friend from Denmark being baffled about the plethora of mail boxes he had to write to, because everyone in Copenhagen just used their home address for their projects.
When I set up my box in the mid 1990s I was working around Euston and Holborn so I could head down to the Monomarks office and get my post of a lunchtime. There was usually a fair bit of it, which made for some great distractions to an afternoon of office drudgery.
I’d assumed that collecting my mail would be all bohemian and that the clerks and clientele would be crazy freaks. In fact it was simply a well-organised company with cheery staff. Most of the customers were non-descript, although I would occasionally run into people like Stewart Home or meet the guy who produced Progress Report fanzine. Less happily I also once bumped into neo-Nazi Charlie Sargent and a couple of his Combat 18 goons whilst collecting my mail. They had no idea who I was, but still exuded menace – I sidled off, feeling sorry for the staff who had to be civil to them.
I guess it’s an obvious point, but throughout the noughties the need to have mailing addresses was largely curtailed with the rise of email and the internet. These days everyone gets and sends less post – and fanzines, records and CDs are no longer the most effective way to get weird shit out there. I’ve also become much more fussy about how much crap I am prepared to take into my flat. But having said that, if you want to send me a physical object please get in touch and we’ll work something out…