Duramaney Kamara: actor in Boy

4 May

‘Boy’ at the Almeida is a ground-breaking show about what it feels like coming of age in austerity Britain. The play, written by Leo Butler, has a 27-strong cast of which 16 are making their stage debut, including an 18-year-old student from Islington, Duramaney Kamara. Interview by Nicola Baird

Duramaney Kamara - debut performance in Boy at the Almeida Theatre (c) Kwame Lestrade

Duramaney Kamara – debut performance in Boy at the Almeida Theatre. Whether you’ve seen the show or not you can join a young people’s free panel discussion this Thursday (5 May) with the writer. See how at the end of this interview.  (c) Kwame Lestrade

Duramaney Kamara is very different from Boy’s lost central character, Liam – and perhaps that’s no surprise when he admits that his mum was on stage when she was nine months pregnant, making him able to say “he was on stage before he was born!”. In fact it’s Duramaney, playing Lamari, who has just enough interest in track suited-Liam to give him a proper telling off (no one else seems to notice Liam). But as Duramaney wisely points out, “everything Lamari tells Liam he is saying to himself…”

The play has a host of characters Londoners will recognise – from mobile-addicted schoolgirls waiting for the bus home to non-English speaking road workers – so in his debut Duramaney also plays a teenage son in the doctor’s reception, toilet attendant, person in the crowd and Sainsbury’s worker.

It’s clear he’s chuffed to be on stage in his home borough, Islington. “Because it’s my first time on stage I thought doing the same thing every night I’d find boring. But it’s not! It’s new every night. It’s like life – you can’t get bored of life because you are living it,” he explains.

NEVER MISS AN ISLINGTON FACES: if you enjoy reading about people who live or work in Islington please follow this blog by email (see how on right hand panel). Fresh interviews are published once a week.

“We had 13 hour rehearsals,” says Duramaney explaining why it’s been so hard organise this interview when we meet on a Thursday lunchtime over an orange juice in the Almeida Café. For him life could be considered a bit less busy now that he is just doing a show every night at the same time as finishing off his final A level year studying Drama & Theatre Studies, Music and Music Tech at City and Islington College…

Clerkenwell Primary.

Clerkenwell Primary.

Duramaney lives with his mum and dad, both professional singers/musicians, just off Essex Road. He’s born and bred Islington: his early years were spent at Clerkenwell where he went to Clerkenwell Parochial Primary School on Amwell Street. “In year 3 or 4 we done a play at Little Angel,” says Duramaney. “We all had puppets and then my dad said I should do some drumming. I was shy but I did it…”

In fact Duramaney was only four years old when a bloke in a pub predicted he’d make a great trumpet player. “I was sitting in the Three Kings Pub, opposite St James’ Church, when someone gave me a cornet (a very basic trumpet) to hold. I started playing around with it and getting a sound,” he says, “so they got me a trumpet.”

Duramaney really likes to sing and MC, and as with all the instruments Duramaney plays – trumpet, piano, keyboard, guitar and percussion – he’s self-taught. “I tend to use my ears and then see if I can play it back,” he explains. His mum Basha Letsididi, a singer, originally from Botswana, taught him how to read music, but “I only recently started doing grades – I got a distinction in Grade 3 trumpet,” says Duramaney understandably proudly. He’s also had support from Richard Frostick from Islington Music Centre and his music teachers James Hunter at Bishop Douglass in Barnet, where he went to secondary school, and Jack Davis at City & Islington College, praising them both for “building my confidence.”

Music is a huge part of Duramaney’s life – after the show, and after his summer exams he hopes to spend a gap year doing “voice acting as well as other acting jobs” and working on his music projects. For now he has to be content with, “Our house being full of music. It’s either me playing my stuff – I listen to a lot of jazz, John Coltrane, Fela Kuti (from Nigeria) and I also play a lot of Bob Marley, Curtis Mayfield and perhaps oddly for a teenager I like classical music. Mum will be singing or rehearsing and Dad is either fixing or playing drums…”

The company of Boy at an Essex Road bus stop. (c) Kwame Lestrade

The company of Almeida Theatre’s Boy at an Essex Road bus stop. Duramaney Kamara is in a grey hoodie. (c) Kwame Lestrade

The play’s the thing
Boy is a bleak play, it’s had 4* and 5* reviews, but it is an uncompromising view of the struggles many poorly educated white British teenage boys find themselves in, and is as relevant to Islington as to Crystal Palace where the writer Leo Butler lives. Most of the play revolves around life at a bus stop using an ingenious moving travelator (like they have in Yo Sushi and airports). There are moments – especially the start – which are very funny, but the overall impression is that Liam hasn’t a chance. So Islington Faces was curious if Duramaney knew any Liams, and what he thought of the show’s Liam…

“I do like Liam. At a point in life everyone can be a Liam. There’s a lot of pressure and you have to hide it. Some people grow up without a healthy household and they have to grow up fast. With teenagers it’s all down to peer pressure. People need to prove something to someone to get a thumbs up from their peer group. If you look at gang culture, there’s pressure from someone older to do something for that thumbs up. Other people get that thumbs up for getting an A grade,” he says.

“For Liam he’s got no guidance. Even his vocabulary is really diminished – he repeats what other people say. It’s heart-breaking the way he looks to other people,” explains Duramaney.

Liam is the teenage boy who has fallen through every safety net. Even if most of the audience longs to help him find the resilience to clamber back up, Cameron’s Britain is unforgiving. You’ve got to get on and make it when the odds are so stacked against you – with minimal support from parents who may well be separated, working Zero Hour contracts, dealing with mental health issues or completely distracted by money and housing problems.

The Union Chapel has been called a Tardis. Here is one of the upstairs rooms used as the bar for shows. CAPTION It was built in 1877 (on the site of the too-small chapel erected in 1806). Impressive past worshipers include Asquith (Liberal PM, 1908-1916) and the poet John Betjeman’s mother. Betjeman’s involvement helped save it from demolition in 1982. Many worshippers came from both right and left.

The Union Chapel’s bar.

Places Duramaney Kamara likes in Islington
“Islington is supposed to be a prestigious borough, but the crime rate shows otherwise.”

  • Angel is a big hub for me. Everything is there and it’s a nice place to go. We eat at Bombay Burrito on 357 Goswell Road and Nandos at 324 Upper Street. Five Guys, 71 Upper Street, is expensive but there are some nice pizza shops.
  • Rosemary Gardens on the Islington-Hackney border is a nice place.
  • I like Union Chapel. I sang there with the Islington Music Centre choir. Great acoustics!
  • The Almeida is nice. I did a workshop last year with the college at the Almeida, during Oresteia, which was really brilliant.
  • You can go anywhere from Essex Road – I found this out on the day before my 18th party day and I realised there were buses for everyone. There’s the 38 to Victoria, 73 to Oxford Street, 56 to Leytonstone, 476 to Tottenham, 21 to Lewisham and the 76 to London Bridge…

Confidence
Duramaney has a very different energy to Liam or the characters he plays in Boy, and he’s clear that’s because: ‘I’ve been taught by my parents to be independent and not to rely on anyone else.” But he admits he felt undermined by not getting a place at the Brit School, the Guildhall or the Royal Academy of Music. Thankfully he’s also finding that overcoming adversity can make you stronger – “I’ve learnt that there’s always a way,” he says with a big smile explaining how he hopes to study at Leeds College of Music… and, just for the record, a class of Brit School students (who would have been in his year) have come to see Boy at the Almeida.

It’s an interesting irony that such a bleak play should be giving Duramaney Kamara – and so many talented young actors including Frankie Fox who plays the lead, Liam – such a great opportunity to perform on as famous a stage as the Almeida. And you can join in too by coming to the young people’s panel event on Thursday 5 May, from 6pm, to discuss the ideas raised in Boy.

Find out more about Duramaney Kamara via soundcloud
https://soundcloud.com/dlk_the-genius/sets/new-garden or @DLKtheGenius

Thursday 5 May, 6pm come to a panel for young people exploring the ideas raised in Boy. It’s free and can be booked online – http://www.almeida.co.uk/whats-on/answers-back/5-may-2016
• Facebook /almeidatheatre Twitter @AlmeidaTheatre
Boy by Leo Butler is at Almedia Theatre until 28 May. Sign up to the email list at almeida.co.uk

Over to you
If you’d like to nominate someone to be interviewed who grew up, lives or works in Islington, or suggest yourself, please let me know, via nicolabaird.green at gmail.com. Thank you.

If you liked this interview please SHARE on twitter or Facebook or join the Facebook group. Even better follow islingtonfacesblog.com (see menu top right) or follow me on twitter @nicolabairduk

This blog is inspired by Spitalfields Life written by the Gentle Author.

If you enjoyed this post you might like to look at the A-Z  index, or search by interviewee’s roles or Meet Islingtonians to find friends, neighbours and inspiration. Thanks for stopping by. Nicola

Anna Scher MBE: drama teacher

27 Apr

Everyone has a story. Drama teacher Anna Scher has helped thousands of Islington kids develop their acting skills and confidence. An astonishing number of her students have gone on to become famous actors, with many taking key roles in Eastenders. So how does Anna nurture hard work and talent by running acting classes inspired by her catchphrase “integration through improvisation”? Interview by Nicola Baird.

Anna Scher, MBE

Anna Scher, MBE – who hass helped so many young Islington hopefuls make it big on stage, screen and TV.

Anna Scher’s reputation is formidable. She’s the drama teacher who set up an acting theatre for children that started the careers of Pauline Quirke, Linda Robson, Kathy Burke, Gary & Martin Kemp, Patsy Palmer, Susan Tully, Nathalie Cassidy and Gillian Taylforth. She’s also hosted TV shows in Denmark, won awards for peace work in Northern Ireland (1999) and been given the Freedom of the London Borough of Islington (2003). See Anna’s full c/v here

NEVER MISS AN ISLINGTON FACES: if you enjoy reading about people who live or work in Islington please follow this blog by email (see how on right hand panel). Fresh interviews are published once a week.

Despite knowing so many stars Anna is no prima donna, during Islington Faces lunch she comes across as the nicest person. We meet at Kigi Café on Caledonian Road, which Anna’s been using for the past 10-15 years.

A newspaper cutting showing Anna Sher meeting the Queen is on the wall at Kigi Cafe.

A newspaper cutting showing Anna Sher meeting the Queen is on the wall at Kigi Cafe.

Kigi Cafe is clearly a home-from-home as owner-waitress Guler serves homemade stuffed aubergine and then organises for Anna to take home roast chicken for dinner. On the wall nearest the counter is a framed newspaper cutting showing Anna collecting her MBE from the Queen in 2013 and a photo of Guler’s godson’s favourite boxer.

Anna, 71, has been in the acting business for a long time. “It’s been more than 40 years but I still get excited about teaching,” she says, admitting she’s already “gearing up for the 50th celebration in January 2018”.

Since 2009 her Islington drama classes for adults and children have been held at St Silas church at the top of Chapel Street market. This is also where she met her PA Cassie, and where Cassie met her boyfriend.

Kigi Cafe is a family run cafe on Caledonian Road serving delicious homecooked food.

Kigi Cafe is a family run cafe at 322 Caledonian Road serving delicious homecooked food and good coffeee.

Places Anna Scher loves in Islington

  • Kigi Café is a lovely family owned restaurant run by Mehmet, Umjet and his wife Guler. I practically always have the wonderful stuffed aubergine.
  • Fredericks in Camden Passage will be holding a breakfast event for local businesses on 10 June, and several football receptions on 12 June when the World Cup starts, during Islington Giving Week 2014.

    Fredericks in Camden Passage.

    I love Frederick’s in Camden Passage – I go once a month with my dear friend Alan Blaikley (songwriter who famously wrote Have I The Right and Xanadu, 1960s pop hits). It’s also where she celebrated with her husband Charles and son John after receiving an MBE in 2013.

  • The Little Angel Theatre is a joy for children and adults. It’s just lovely. You must interview Lynde Wright (who set it up with her husband in 1961), she’s one of the nicest people in the world. https://littleangeltheatre.com/
  • I like to do a big shop once a week at M&S with my dear friend Cassie.
  • The Almedia’s my fifth! Pierre Audin (the first director) came for a chat when he was setting it up in 1979 – a very nice man.

Life story
Anna began her career as a child actress in Cork. But when she was 14 her dentist father (who was born in Ireland but had Lithuanian roots) decided to move his family to Hove (Anna’s the eldest of four girls and a boy).

“I wanted to stay in Cork. I was the only Jewish girl in the convent but they made me feel very special. On the day we left all the students from St Angela’s College came to the harbour and waved me off. I was in tears knowing I wouldn’t see them again,” she says. “My father thought that being Jewish we would have more opportunity in England.”

After finishing grammar school at Hove, or “Hove Actually” as Anna mockingly calls it, her father made it clear that she could only train to be an actress “over his dead body. We drew a compromise whereby I went to Trent Park, Middlesex for a General Teacher’s Certificate specialising in drama. But then a funny thing happened; I found that I loved teaching. I had a great time at Trent Park. We walked from Oakwood tube. I made a wonderful friend, Hazel, who was on the music course and we then lived together in the second year. It was the 1960s and it was fun – I had mini skirts!”

When Anna moved to Islington to teach English and Drama at Ecclesbourne Junior School she found, “In 1968 Islington was a very rough and tumble area. The playground behaviour was not good. I tried to see the funny side of things. I remember one girl said to another student, ‘I’ll smash your face in’. I said ‘that’s not nice’ and the students got the funny side of it – humour is a great diffuser.”

“I asked the headmaster if I could run a lunch time drama club in the top art room of the school. He said yes. At the first class 70 children turned up including Pauline Quirke, then nine, and Linda Robson, 10.”*

“Seventy was the equivalent of two school classes and as a lot of the children were non readers improvisation was the method I used. I did a lot based on the number five. And I use that to this day, saying something like “Why are you always late?”. Script work can be very stilted.

The drama club’s success meant that students who’d left the school were coming back to it for classes, incurring the wrath of caretaker Mr Overington. “The head teacher said ‘Your drama club has got too big for this school, so I’m giving you a friendly ultimatum to have it for my kids only, or run it across the road.”

Q&A with Anna Scher

Q: Are all actors insecure?
Anna Scher: “Most actors are out of work for most of the time, so that has a negative effect on them…”

Q: Which actor do you really rate?
Anna Scher: Kathy Burke, a wonderful actor.

Q: Has your phrase “the smile is stronger than the smile” ever been proved wrong?
Anna Scher: “I was on Gloria Hunnerford’s show and saw Van Morrison in the foyer looking very morose. His songs are absolutely fabulous, I love Moondance and Brown Eyed Girl, but it didn’t work on him. It doesn’t always work – I was big enough to take it… and Gloria said he was in a foul mood.

Q: Should I send my kids to a drama class?
Anna Scher: “Drama classes are good for confidence.

Q: What helps you stay happy?
Anna Scher: “I used to be much more feisty and sharp. I try not to let anger get to me. One of my favourites quotations is ‘The soft answer turneth away wrath but grievous words stir up anger.’ (Book of Proverbs) It’s changed my life.

It was the push that got the Anna Scher Theatre School going, with its first independent home at Bentham Hall. By 1975 she had 1,000 pupils, and 5,000 on the waiting list – which gave her the impetus in 1976 to set up a charity and move to Bethany Hall – another old Methodist church – on Barnsbury Road. The next 20+ years saw the Anna Scher Theatre School’s influence spread

20160414_123722 (1)In 2000 Anna suffered from depression and stepped down from her role running the theatre school. Fully recovered two years later she wasn’t welcome back at the building – it is now known as the Young Actors Theatre. It was an unpleasant public fight covered by the local and national press, but many people rallied to Anna’s support at that time and even wanted to build her a new theatre. In the end that’s exactly what she got. Which is why you can now join an acting class at today’s Anna Scher Theatre school, run at St Silas’s, here.

Peace work
“I’ve done quite a lot of workshops abroad under the banner of integration through improvisation,” says Anna who has run sessions in Rwanda, Zimbabawe, South Africa, India, Northern Ireland, Lithuania (of which I am a quarter), Bosnia at Sarajevo, integrating Serb Croats and Muslims, and also Israel.”

“In Israel the peace village called Neve Sahlom Wahat Al Saldam (a mix of Hebrew and Arabic) invited me do some work with Jews and Muslims. In India I particularly wanted to work with Gandhi’s children – the untouchables – and I went to Northern Ireland seven times. Sometimes if there wasn’t a sponsor I’d go to a country’s Embassy in London and ask for contacts. Essentially it’s easy – you just go there and integrate,” says Anna quietly with her beaming smile.

There’s something about Anna Scher that makes anything seem possible.

In Islington it is easy to see how her influence has inspired so many kids to follow their dreams of making it big on the stage. It’s a bigger leap to understand how Anna had the energy and audacity to use improvisation in post-conflict zones to help Hindus and Muslims in India or Jews and Arabs in Israel heal bitter wounds by understanding each other better on a shared project.

“I’d bring a light suitcase of props,” says Anna brushing aside any idea that this might be a complicated – or dangerous – project. She even claims she kept control with a tambourine or a football rattle!

“I try to make everyone feel special. It was Archbishop Desmond Tutu who said everyone’s a VSP (very special person) and that’s how I feel/ There’s a wonderful philosophy that all Africans have, summed up in the word Ubuntu. It means my connectedness is connected to your connectedness and kindness is paramount. I love that.”

At times of election, budget cuts and what sometimes seems like a very unsafe world it is truly heartening to know that kindness doesn’t just have a place, it can have a massive and beneficial impact. Now in Anna Scher style let’s try some improvisation: “What could you do to make yourself feel proud?”*

Words*
Also in that first drama club was Ray Burdiss, then 11, who became a professional actor/writer-director. In 2013 he wrote and directed the award-winning Wee Man, a Scottish gangster movie which featured The Auld Triangle on St Thomas’ Road, N4.

Also borrowing singer Heather Small’s song title, What have you done today to make you feel proud?

Over to you
If you’d like to nominate someone to be interviewed who grew up, lives or works in Islington, or suggest yourself, please let me know, via nicolabaird.green at gmail.com. Thank you.

If you liked this interview please SHARE on twitter or Facebook or join the Facebook group. Even better follow islingtonfacesblog.com (see menu top right) or follow me on twitter @nicolabairduk

This blog is inspired by Spitalfields Life written by the Gentle Author.

If you enjoyed this post you might like to look at the A-Z  index, or search by interviewee’s roles or Meet Islingtonians to find friends, neighbours and inspiration. Thanks for stopping by. Nicola

 

 

 

Alicia Montplaisir: fairy spirit and singer-songwriter

20 Apr

Everyone has a story. Canadian Alicia Montplaisir is able to perform her one-woman show, Walking My Heart Home – a mix of songs, poems and dance – at St Luke’s, West Holloway thanks to crowd funding, friends’ generosity and www.patreon.com fans. Interview by Nicola Baird.

Alicia Montplaisir performing. (c) alicia montplaisir

Alicia Montplaisir performing in February. (c) alicia montplaisir

To be honest Alicia Montplaisir’s c/v is slightly confusing. She’s a fairy from St Joseph de Sorel, a French-speaking part of Canada, who has been based in Islington since 2014. She’s also a licenced desire map facilitator (enabling her to help you find work and a purpose to your life in a manner prescribed by Danielle La Porte in the Desire Map). She’s also a singer song-songwriter based in N7.

No surprise then that when Islington Faces waited to meet Alicia at the new Barn café on Holloway Road I had no idea what to expect. Turns out that Alicia is a lovely woman. She’s wearing arty get-up, but that’s normal for London – and there’s not a hint of wings or wands.

But she’s clearly finding 10am a bit early for an interview.

“I’m not a morning person,” says Alicia sipping a freshly-squeezed orange juice (it’s Islington Faces who is mainlining black coffee). But there are several reasons for this. Often it’s because she is dealing with the severe pain caused by a chronic condition that can steal her energy. But it’s also because she sometimes works on songs at the very dead of night. Last May while rehearsing at 2am (2am!) on the public piano at St Pancras International station Alicia was recorded by a passer-by who popped it on to Time Out’s Facebook page. That clip went viral and has now been shared 172,000 times… “I was learning the Edge of Glory by Lady Gaga. It’s really hard to sing,” says Alicia who absolutely nails it in the video and is rewarded with spontaneous applause from two random passers-by and a couple of high-vis clad cleaners.

https://www.facebook.com/TimeOutLondon/videos/10152867962172405/ (May 2015)

NEVER MISS AN ISLINGTON FACES: if you enjoy reading about people who live or work in Islington please follow this blog by email (see how on right hand panel). Fresh interviews are published once a week.

Throughout the interview Alicia is unable to resist singing along to the radio, whatever tune comes up from Ed Sherrin to Rock n Roll. “My mother teaches music so I started learning piano when I was five,” she explains. “I never did any grades, but every year we performed. Then I started singing at eight, and around 11 had classical lessons. I just learned every song I could and performed everywhere,” she explains. By the time she was 18 she was able to take over her mum’s students when her mum took a break to look after her unwell mother.

Although Alicia, now 28, can teach and helps finance her shows, and cover her rent, by teaching French conversation to adults and French nursery rhymes to children she is adamant that, “For me creating and performing come before teaching. I do not intend to make a career out of teaching. But who knows?”

To keep her voice in practice she’s joined the choir at St Luke’s, Vox Holloway, which is currently focusing on gospel songs for a concert in June but has recently performed original material about mental health issues at a fundraiser for Islington Mind and performed at the Barbican during the Shakespeare Weekend on 6 March in A hum about mine ears, which was based on The Tempest.

Alicia Montplaisir rehearsing on the grand piano at St Luke's West Holloway.

Alicia Montplaisir rehearsing on the grand piano at St Luke’s West Holloway.

St Luke’s plays a big role in Alicia’s life. “I’m always there,” she says – making it the natural venue for her gigs (next date to be confirmed, see how to buy tickets below). “My concert is a very personal experience. I wrote the songs and there is some poetry and some dancing. I’ve had really positive feedback. After the performance people have said how touched they were and how they related to the material – it can be very healing which I’m glad about because I share very personal stories about pain and depression and one song is about a friend who died from suicide – so I bring up health, mental health and self-care.”

That’s why Alicia asks her audience to be 16+. “It’s a 70 minute solo piece in which I explore the darkness and light of self-discovery, love and growth. I don’t want to think about filtering myself so I may or may not curse during the concert. In my mind there is an age before 18 where those topics become important, 16 seemed reasonable to me and is loosely based on maturity more than age,” she says.

The Barn Cafe at 60 Holloway Road serves breakfast all day. It's got fab rustic decor and free wifi too. Find it just opposite St Mary's Church, close to Central Library.

The Barn Cafe at 60 Holloway Road serves breakfast all day. It’s got fab rustic decor and free wifi. Find it opposite St Mary’s Church, close to Central Library.

What does Alicia Montplaisir like doing in Islington?
Islington has a similar vibe to where I lived in Montreal for eight years, in the north east of the city.

  • Candid Café: A personal favourite when it comes to meeting friends in the afternoon or evenings. It opens at noon which suits me quite well! I love their sandwiches, the decoration and they usually play good music
  • The Barn Café, 60 Holloway Road: A new addition to my regular spots. They serve brunch all day which is an absolute joy when it comes to having breakfast around 3pm
  • St Luke’s church, Hillmarton Road: This is a second home. From dancing 5Rhythms to singing in Vox Holloway, I am also a member of the congregation. I regularly attend the Sunday service and have volunteered for the homeless night shelter during the winter
  • I know it’s just on the other side of the line but St Pancras International will always have a special place in my heart. All nighters playing piano in the station and meeting strangers from all over the world. It’s simply magic.

More about fairies
“Three years ago someone gave me a Tarot deck made of fairies painted by Brian Froud and that’s the way I was introduced,” explains Alicia who, when prompted, describes herself as a lone fairy, rather than a group-joining-fairy. “We have the material world with chairs and tables, but there’s a certain level of magic that you may not feel. So if someone says ‘Do you think fairies are real?’ It makes me laugh…” And then Alicia starts laughing and it is unclear whether she’s pulling my leg or whether it’s blindingly obvious that the room is full of fairies playing hide and seek.

There’s a good chance it might be the latter as Alicia adds cheerfully: “Fairies are just laughing at you. They pop in and out of nowhere. My fairy godmother will appear out of nowhere and then disappear saying ‘I’m off’. And if you ask ‘What kind of fairy are you’ a fairy Is likely to say ‘I’m not telling!’”

Like so many artists making a name for themselves Alicia is having to put up with a lot – she rents a shared house, and to save money lives in a shared room. “We each have a bed,” she says “and work around each other’s schedule in the morning.” She’s also doing all sorts of odd jobs including kids’ parties and French teaching, despite her poor health, to enable her to work on her songs and show. But there’s no hint of irritation at facing these challenges. Instead Alicia says, “ I’m learning the ropes of how to develop patron, thanks to crowd funding supported by her friends’ generosity and www.patreon.com where people pledge to support what I do. But I am very lucky and have got wonderful friends who sometimes give me extra money.”

Alicia Montplaisir may work on a financial shoestring but it’s one clearly brightened by fairy dust and her own amazing voice. Do go and like her Facebook page and, if you can, go along to the next show she holds at St Luke’s.

Over to you
If you’d like to nominate someone to be interviewed who grew up, lives or works in Islington, or suggest yourself, please let me know, via nicolabaird.green at gmail.com. Thank you.

If you liked this interview please SHARE on twitter or Facebook or join the Facebook group. Even better follow islingtonfacesblog.com (see menu top right) or follow me on twitter @nicolabairduk

This blog is inspired by Spitalfields Life written by the Gentle Author.

If you enjoyed this post you might like to look at the A-Z  index, or search by interviewee’s roles or Meet Islingtonians to find friends, neighbours and inspiration. Thanks for stopping by. Nicola

 

Cate Mackenzie: love coach

13 Apr

Flame-haired Cate Mackenzie makes finding love a lot of fun. From May she’s running more How To Flirt workshops at a pub near Angel. Or you can be a bit more daring and join a session with her to learn how to love better. Like the best of stories it all starts with just one look… Nicola Baird finds out more.

Cate Mackenzie: xx

Cate Mackenzie: international love coach, sex therapist and couples counsellor is in Islington (c) c mackenzie

“Some people say I haven’t produced a boyfriend for them yet. I say ‘I don’t have them in the cupboard!’ A boyfriend will show up when you are ready,” says Cate Mackenzie cheerfully. She’s the most empathetic woman, beautiful, curvy and with a very warm smile who clearly knows how to make flirting a lot of fun. We meet at the picture-filled bohemian Chelsea Arts Club not too far from Sloane Square, an area Islington Faces doesn’t visit much. The good news is that Cate doesn’t rate Chelsea* for flirting. Instead she recommends a trip to… Islington.

NEVER MISS AN ISLINGTON FACES: if you enjoy reading about people who live or work in Islington please follow this blog by email (see how on right hand panel). Fresh interviews are published once a week.

“Go and take an adventure. Dress up and go to Brighton or St Paul’s Cathedral area. I recommend people flirt in Islington – with all its quirky pavement cafes and outdoor places you can relax. It’s rather like Italy. “ This might be stretching anyone’s imagination on a chilly day, even if you know Islington’s long connection with Italy (in Clerkenwell there’s even a Little Italy), but as Cate says: “A lot of what I’m teaching is how to get to be a bit more friendly.” 

The Joker pub on 58 Penton Street, N1 has just been refurbished. If you join Cate Mackenzie's flirting workshop there in May (and once a month after that) you can also try a beer from the new tap wall.

The Joker pub on 58 Penton Street, N1 has just been refurbished. If you join Cate Mackenzie’s flirting workshop there in May (and once a month after that) you can also try a beer from the new tap wall.

Fun things to do in Islington picked by Cate Mackenzie

Upside down ceiling lights at the new Bella Italia in Angel Central.

Search for the quirky: upside down ceiling lights at Bella Italia in Angel Central.

  • “I’ve gone to 5 rhythms dancing held at the Old Finsbury Town Hall on Monday nights.”
  • “I’ve done stand up comedy at the Camden Head, 2 Camden Walk off Camden Passage.”
  • “Islington has some great cafes. Find the little, quirky places! I liked Tinderbox (which was at Angel Central and closed last year). Do you know Candid Cafe? So romantic!”
  • If I have a day off I like to wander around with no agenda and have an adventure just like I wandered the streets when I was a child.”

Cate recommends warming up by laughing. “I started doing comedy partly to help me do talks. I try and make the flirting talks funny. I tell a lot of stories and try to get people relaxed and laughing. Belly laughing and having an orgasm is similar, and that’s when you feel most open,” she says and then starts to explain the power of dance and story telling.

“When you are stressed you can’t take in too much. People are tense. Flirting is about being open, so once you are laughing and feeling relaxed in your belly it’s easier to take new information on board and I can go ahead with teaching.”

Screenshot 2016-04-12 14.57.05If this sounds complicated it really isn’t. A group of ticket holders get tips from an international psychosexual therapist, who also has a love column in Spirit & Destiny magazine and is as happy teaching seduction tips to groups as she is helping people with relationship stress. There’s no problem who turns up as Cate’s session is non gender specific and non binary – she doesn’t say men do this, women do that (though any couples will work together). What she does is help people connect and be willing to take a risk that allows them to get connected. That may just be saying hello, a lingering second look, the exchange of a phone number, or the confidence to up your flirting game.

“There’s an assumption that there’s this perfect way and there isn’t,” says Cate reassuringly.

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Go exploring at an Islington cafe – it may be a chance to flirt, or just have a fine cup of hot chocolate. (c) islington faces

Take a love coach’s tips on how to flirt
From May, every 2nd Tuesday of the month, you can join Cate Mackenzie’s flirting workshops to learn the subtle power of look-smile-connect. But here are some extra pointers:

  • F for fun – stop looking for the one and have fun. Make a list of all the things you would like to do and start to do them. You’ll be surprised who turns up when you start to become more present.
  • R for release – find the gold in every heartbreak. Even if you’ve had a bullying boyfriend recognise the gift that will make sure you never have that again. And if you do meet someone and it goes wrong you need to learn to release the past. Once you have found the learning in the situation say thank you and let go.
  • C for commitment – most people want a signed contract that it is all going to work out without them taking a risk, but it doesn’t work like that. If you really want it, then you also have to be willing to give love a go without expectations. You have to go beyond your own ambivalence. That’s the commitment.

How do you get to be a love coach?
“I grew up in a community street in Battersea,” she says. “I was happy and I’d say hello to anyone. I was allowed to wander the streets from four-seven years old. After school I popped round to my neighbour, Esther, and danced with her to reggae. It was a very mixed culture. My mother was an amateur social worker and our house was often home to pregnant girls, and refugees. It was also a party house. I thought life was like this, happy.”

But when Cate was 12, Esther died suddenly; her parents split and she moved with her mum and her two sisters to a much smaller place in South Kensington in a street which lacked that community spirit.

“I was only a kid so I closed down,” says Cate who was clearly traumatised by the loss of the life she loved. It was only when she went to study sociology in Manchester that she found a new niche as a community artist, teaching dance and drama – what she calls embodiment skills. “I could feel my heart opening again. All my work has helped me become the person I was,” she says.

Considering how much our childhood experiences shape our confidence and relationships as adults, Cate’s experience has undoubtedly helped her better understand, empathise and respond to her clients’ experiences and then find ways to get them to flourish.

Are sex therapists a bit scary?
Cate’s husband, Paul Wogan, is now also training to be a counsellor. “We’ve done stand up together,” she says recalling two shows at the Edinburgh Fringe “but I really appreciate our conversations now. His learning and exploring means we can talk about anything now.”

“As a sex therapist I’m teaching embodiment. It’s where we find our presence and magic and are able to calm down and relax because we’re not in our heads. Each person is different. I dance every day, but for some it is comedy – my husband is really passionate about it – others play golf, or yoga… or even do the ironing,” she says with her characteristic warm smile. Despite her reassurance it is hard to imagine that a spot of ironing could get anyone in the mood for sex.

What interviewing a sex therapist has shown is that it’s not all about sex.

Cate is brilliant at sharing tips on how life can be better if you can find out what helps you forget your daily cares and allows you to be absolutely in the moment. Once you can do that, then you’ll have no trouble saying hello to strangers – even the ones you think might be worth that lingering second look.

Words*

  • It’s official, Islington is the singles capital of England and Wales, see the story here.
  • If you plan to flirt in Chelsea Cate suggests a trip to the V&A, cafes in South Ken, the Saatchi Gallery or the Serpentine Gallery.

Over to you
If you’d like to nominate someone to be interviewed who grew up, lives or works in Islington, or suggest yourself, please let me know, via nicolabaird.green at gmail.com. Thank you.

If you liked this interview please SHARE on twitter or Facebook or join the Facebook group. Even better follow islingtonfacesblog.com (see menu top right) or follow me on twitter @nicolabairduk

This blog is inspired by Spitalfields Life written by the Gentle Author.

If you enjoyed this post you might like to look at the A-Z  index, or search by interviewee’s roles or Meet Islingtonians to find friends, neighbours and inspiration. Thanks for stopping by. Nicola

Jane Tuely: landscape architect

6 Apr

Everyone has a story. Jane Tuely has lived in Islington since the early 1960s, when she first rented a room at 22 Packington Street, but she was brought up a long way from the city, in a very isolated part of rural Kent “at the bottom of a hill on the edge of Romney Marsh.” So how did she end up working on the development of Harlow New Town and later living in Highbury? Interview by Nicola Baird  

Jane Howell: xx

Jane Tuely: a life of art and plants.

“I always wanted friends,” explains Jane Tuely but for some years good friends were elusive thanks to the culture shock of being moved from a boarding prep school she loved and then sent to the local grammar school in Rye. “I didn’t like anyone and didn’t listen to radio or pop,” she says with her now very friendly smile. At 17 she went to Canterbury Art School which she also remembers “wasn’t fun. I shared a flat with a nice person but she was 12 years older than me. I was very shy and gauche and lots of the students lived miles away at the coastal towns of Whitstable, Margate and Sandwich so I never really saw them.”

NEVER MISS AN ISLINGTON FACES: if you enjoy reading about people who live or work in Islington please follow this blog by email (see how on right hand panel). Fresh interviews are published once a week. 

Life improved when she moved to London and the Central School of Arts & Crafts at Holborn (now Central Saint Martins) where Jane studied graphic design and thrived in a more multicultural world. “I was such a country bumpkin it was wonderful to meet people who wore a sari,” she says.

After graduating she found work designing easy-to-read leaflets for the scientific instrument makers Hilger and Watts. “I was saving up to go to India. I earned £8 a week and I’d only saved £19,” she says “so when two friends told me they were in Athens and had discovered they could earn a living teaching I gave in my notice. A month later I was in Greece after trundling through Europe by train. It was the best thing I’ve ever done.”

A lithograph by Jane. It's signed Jane Tuely "I was so proud of my name until my husband did some research and found it was a 17th century spelling mistake."

A lithograph by Jane. It’s signed Jane Tuely (Jane’s original surname): “I was so proud of my name until my husband did some research and found it was a 17th century spelling mistake.”

In Athens, the friends taught English and learnt Greek from boyfriends but were “incredibly hard up. I never went to Crete, even though it would have cost only 80 drachmas (about £1).”

IMG_0253

From The joy of essex  (c) Pete May

 

New job
After a year Jane came back to England and “stayed with a friend [Louisa Nicholson, niece of the artist, Ben Nicholson] behind Liberty’s.

I didn’t know what to do so I talked my way into being a landscape architect – one of the first – and went to work at Harlow for three years where Freddie Gibberd was building the new town. It was very much a garden city. I was living in Soho and commuting out,” says Jane, adding “I enjoyed my job working in the drawing office and planting trees. We had wonderful conversations and were surrounded by cows, but it would have been dismal living in Harlow – I’d come home and go to the Academy cinema in Oxford Street.”

It may have been Soho, but Jane’s flat was basic. “It had no bathroom so we used the kitchen sink and the public baths. If we went up beyond the fire escape into the attic there was a smelly loo.”

Yehia El-Nemer: "As soon as these Highbury people see the sun they come here."

Oasis Café in Highbury Fields, run by Yehia El-Nemer, is one of Jane’s favourite places for coffee and a flapjack.

What services does Islington have for the partially sighted?

  • “I got good cane training at the sensory disability team at Archway but Islington is lousy for partially-sighted services. The day centre for people with sight loss on Balls Pond Road has closed down,” says Jane Tuely.
  • “I’ve a passion for talking books from RNIB,” says Jane Tuely.
  • Moorfields Eye Hospital is in the borough at 162 City Road, EC1.
  • This is a visual services directory compiled by Islington Council.

Picking roses
“I’m quite good at prickly plants because we used them in Harlow to protect areas from being vandalised,” explains Jane who broadened her plantsman knowledge when she became a woman garden labourer (real job title) for £9 a week in Kew Gardens. “The work was monotonous – I spent three months behind the Palm House deadheading roses,” says Jane demolishing the idyll, “but I picked off sprigs and by drawing them I remembered names and what happens to plants like cotoneaster.”

She also gave bunches of roses to the lavatory attendants. “What an opportunity, but they were terrified of their supervisor finding out!”

Love
“I wanted to settle down and that’s when I met David at a wedding in Oxford. He was a very quiet person. I’d been living with all sorts of people but he was the first I’d ever met who had been to university – all my friends were arty types,” explains Jane. After a few dates David asked Jane to join him on a package holiday to Czechoslovakia with five men and 27 women! By 1967 they were married: David was 40, Jane 30 and they bought a house in Highbury for £7,000.

Here the pair brought up their two children – sending both to William Tyndale Primary school. “No one plays outdoors now, but my children used to. They’d cycle round Highbury Fields,” adds Jane.

20160404_174502

Jane helped set up the Arvon Road allotments.

In the early 1970s and in spite of deteriorating eyesight, Jane made use of her gardening and landscape architecture know-how by offering to chair the new Arvon Road allotments which were owned by the Greater London Council. “We mended the fence and levelled the ground,” says Jane who no longer has an allotment but is happy that the group is going strong.

Although Jane is now registered blind, art is still important to her. “I’ve been unable to draw since about 1995, but I could still do monoprints for some years. I also did many linocuts and lithographs. It was very difficult to adjust sight loss, but the plus side is when people help me across the road – I often have mad conversations as they tell me their life story!”

In 2014, Jane generously donated a watercolour by Eric Ravilious to the Fry Art Gallery in Saffron Walden, Essex, which specialises in 1930s art.

Her mother had bought the painting from the artist for £20 – more than half a century later it was valued at £150,000.

“My daughter Victoria never liked it, and my son Philip did, but he’s living in Germany so I gave it to the people at the Fry Art Gallery in memory of my parents who knew Eric Ravilious. Ravilious’ children were at school with me,” explains Jane. “The painting is of Tea at Furlongs (1939). It’s the artist Peggy Angus’ cottage on the South Downs where I used to stay regularly. It was fairly squalid. I remember once there was a package on the table and when I opened it there was a piece of wedding cake that had been there for years. Peggy said the couple had already got three children!”

Jane Tuely is full of tales about the people she’s met during her life. Though this interview is just scratching the surface of the decades she’s lived here, it still reveals how people who have lived in Islington for years always have much more to say than just hello when you pass on the street.

Notes*
Sir Frederick Gibberd was a modernist architect who acquired the site for Harlow New Town in 1957 (when Jane was 20). You can visit a memorial garden in Harlow, see http://www.thegibberdgarden.co.uk/

Arvon Road allotments – there’s a waiting list for an allotment, but you can look around on Sunday 19 June at Open Garden Squares Weekend. The entrance is on Arvon Road, opposite Drayton Park School. 

Eric Ravilious (1903-1942) died in Iceland as a war artist observing a search and rescue mission – plane lost in a storm. Find out more about the painting Tea at Furlongs here.

Fry Art Gallery is open April-October (check times). Fry Art Gallery, Castle Street, Saffron Walden, Essex.

Over to you
If you’d like to nominate someone to be interviewed who grew up, lives or works in Islington, or suggest yourself, please let me know, via nicolabaird.green at gmail.com. Thank you.

If you liked this interview please SHARE on twitter or Facebook or join the Facebook group. Even better follow islingtonfacesblog.com (see menu top right) or follow me on twitter @nicolabairduk

This blog is inspired by Spitalfields Life written by the Gentle Author.

If you enjoyed this post you might like to look at the A-Z  index, or search by interviewee’s roles or Meet Islingtonians to find friends, neighbours and inspiration. Thanks for stopping by. Nicola

 

Richard Greening: Mayor of Islington 2015-16

30 Mar

Since 2002 Richard Green, has been one of three councillors representing Highbury West ward. For much of that time he’s also been working in local government. And now he’s also Islington’s Mayor – what’s motivating him? Interview by Nicola Baird

Richard Greening, Islington Mayor 2015-16

Richard Greening, Islington Mayor 2015-16 – back at work in late January after a fall in December forced him to take a month off. “People want to take selfies with me when I’m wearing my Mayoral robes – it’s the role of a minor celeb!” (c) Islington Council

Richard Greening may not play an instrument but music has had a profound impact on his life – from where he was born right up to his choice for the Mayor’s charity. Although he was brought up in Lichfield, Staffordshire, his first years of life were in a tied-cottage in the grounds of Windsor Castle. “My father was the assistant organist at St George’s chapel,” explains Richard who may be Islington’s Mayor but seems like a modest person despite his grand babyhood.

NEVER MISS AN ISLINGTON FACES: if you enjoy reading about people who live or work in Islington please follow this blog by email (see how on right hand panel). Fresh interviews are published once a week. 

“We moved when I was two, so I only have fragments of memories from then,” admits Richard, 58, in the kitchen of the Riversdale Road house where he lives with his wife, Patsy Bradbury – who moved here back in 1969.

Patsy Bradbury and Richard Greening with one of their cats, Roxy. Patsy was Mayor of Islington in the 1970s, while Richard is the current Mayor of Islington. “I’m unusual in having been both Mayor and Mayoress of Islington,” says Patsy.

Patsy Bradbury and Richard Greening with one of their cats, Roxy. Patsy was Mayor of Islington in the 1970s, while Richard is the current Mayor of Islington. “I’m unusual in having been both Mayor and Mayoress of Islington,” says Patsy.

The pair met in Islington in 1982 – and got married at the Town Hall in 2012.

Patsy Bradbury: “This was the builders’ house. The garden was the builders’ yard and Number 2 Wyatt Road was the office/stables.

Patsy Bradbury: “This was the builders’ house. The garden was the builders’ yard and Number 2 Wyatt Road was the office/stables.

They are an unusual power couple in that Patsy has also been Mayor of Islington (from 1972-73).

Where does Richard Greening like going in Islington?
As Councillor Richard Greening, Richard got to know Highbury West extremely well, but as Mayor he is enjoying getting to know many more people all over the borough.

  • Richard: Emirates Stadium is an amazing building and has atmosphere. Arsenal’s community work is good – they do a lot and say not a lot about it. Of course there’s a big campaign with the local Labour party and Citizens UK to get Arsenal to pay the living wage. They are paying their directly employed staff the London Living Wage and the main outstanding issue is with their contractors.
  • Richard: In Gillespie Park you could be almost anywhere – it’s surprisingly quiet and within that small area there is such a variety of nature. It’s a fantastic resource for Islington, and so is the Ecology Centre.
  • Richard & Patsy: We eat out sometimes at Au Lac, 13 Highbury Park
  • Richard: I like Round Square on Seven Sisters Road, opposite where the Red Rose used to be. It’s a really nice Chinese restaurant. They do a nice prawn dish and there are vegetable options. It’s also got a proper disabled loo. So few places have.
  • Mayor Richard Greening and his partner Patsy Bradbury are serious cat fans. They currently have two cats

    Mayor Richard Greening and his partner Patsy Bradbury are serious cat fans. They currently have two cats

    Richard: “We shop locally and use Highbury Butchers on Blackstock Road. There were three butchers when I first moved here. The couple who used to run Highbury Butchers had a hatch where the butcher’s wife took the money and they had the biggest cat…”

  • Patsy: ‘I’ve got MS and use a chair so I haven’t been on the tube for years because there are so few lifts. But I like the 19 bus. You can go on it all the way to Harrods, Cadogan Hall and The Royal Court Theatre (both in Sloane Square). I also use it to go to China Town. The 141 is a good route too which takes you to the Wesley Chapel, 49 City Road and Bunhill Fields, 38 City Road. I can’t always get on the first bus that comes if people with buggies won’t let me.
  • Richard & Patsy: “We’re looking forward to TfL’s step free access at Finsbury Park by 2018. But we may still not use the tube – you need a critical mass of tube stations you can access before most wheelchair users will want to go on the tube.”
Caption/ Despite the Mayor’s busy schedule, councillors continue representing their constituents. The weekend we meet Richard is due to run a ward surgery, and visit a newly established neighbourhood watch group. And that’s all before the Mayor’s Christmas rush.

Despite the Mayor’s busy schedule, councillors continue representing their constituents. The weekend Islington Faces met Richard (Nov 2016) he was due to run a ward surgery, and visit a newly established neighbourhood watch group. And that’s all before the Mayor’s Christmas rush. Unfortunately a fall saw him out of action for most of December/January. But he was back at work by late January, see this newspaper report.

“I never learnt an instrument as my father thought that music was a high risk career!” he says laughing. “That is partly why I chose Music First as my charity while I’m Mayor.”

According to his Islington Mayoral biography, Richard says: “Music First helps children in many ways and not just with music – it influences the other aspects of their lives. Last summer I attended a concert at the Hackney Empire organised by Music First. Children from many Islington schools were involved and both the children and the audience enjoyed the event immensely. I’ve also visited the music hub at Highbury Grove School. The energy and engagement in the rooms was palpable and I want to help many more Islington children enjoy music-making and the benefits that it brings them. So I have chosen Music First as my charity.”

Richard is good with figures – he studied Maths at Durham University. This led to IT, which he started working in back in 1977 before becoming a Highbury West councillor in 2002 while juggling with his work for the Improvement & Development Agency for local government until 2010. “At the IDeA I worked on the beacon council scheme helping councils to innovate and share good practice. I worked with a lot of rural councils and found that inner city Islington with small sites and rural areas had the same problem – unaffordable housing. The excellent work of rural councils in extracting affordable housing contributions from very small sites convinced me that the policy in Islington which at that time ignored sites of less than 10 units needed to change and could change.”

Last year he was Deputy Mayor, working with fellow Highbury West councillor Theresa Debono, who is also Labour. Now as Mayor, Richard hopes to raise £30,000 for the charity, so he’s running a dinner at Round Square on Seven Sisters Road on 11 February 2016. Anyone from Highbury Community Association/Islington Faces is welcome (see below for how to book tickets).

“Mayors have no power, but you do get to meet people who have power,” he says. Welcoming Arsenal FA cup winning team at the town hall steps and hosting the Duchess of Cambridge when she came to visit Chance UK were highlights for Richard. However it’s clear that he’s slightly bemused to find that: “People want to take selfies with me when I’m wearing my Mayoral robes – it’s the role of a minor celeb!”

  • Music First is the Mayor’s charity for 2015/16 – around £2,000 was raised at his fundraiser at the Round Square Café, 132 Seven Sisters Road (delicious Chinese meal, tickets £35pp) celebrating Chinese New Year. Find more info about the Mayor’s charity here.
  • In Islington a new Mayor is chosen annually (a councillor picked by the other councillors). For a full list of our borough’s mayors since 1980-81 see info here, provided by Islington.  Or see this longer list here dating back to 1900 (which includes George Samuel Elliott who was Mayor for a record-breaking 13 terms, nowadays it’s a one year office).
  • See the interview on Islington Faces with previous mayors including Barry Edwards (2013-14). Also on this Islington Faces post you can find a clip when Cllr Theresa Debono was Mayor (2014-15) and spoke at Islington Faces King’s Head event to celebrate the 100th interview.

Over to you
If you’d like to nominate someone to be interviewed who grew up, lives or works in Islington, or suggest yourself, please let me know, via nicolabaird.green at gmail.com. Thank you.

If you liked this interview please SHARE on twitter or Facebook or join the Facebook group. Even better follow islingtonfacesblog.com (see menu top right) or follow me on twitter @nicolabairduk

This blog is inspired by Spitalfields Life written by the Gentle Author.

If you enjoyed this post you might like to look at the A-Z  index, or search by interviewee’s roles or Meet Islingtonians to find friends, neighbours and inspiration. Thanks for stopping by. Nicola

 

Angela Neustatter: writer

23 Mar

Everyone has a story. Journalist and author Angela Neustatter talks about the joys of sharing a home with her extended family. Interview by Nicola Baird

xxx

Angela Neustatter at home in front of the Hina doll shrine* which her Japanese daughter in law had as a child and put up to celebrate girls – a Japanese custom that coincides with International Women’s Day (in March). Look closely and you can see the things girls might wish for to have a happy life – food, money, music, flowers, tress and transport (though you might wish for an upgrade on the bullock cart).

For years Angela Neustatter has lived in Islington writing talked-about features for newspapers. She ran the Guardian fashion pages while living off Highbury Fields, and has written for most of the broadsheet newspapers. She’s also written numerous books – many drawing on her own experiences including Hyenas in Petticoats which looked at feminism from the 1968 to 1988 and This Is Our Time contemplating the challenges of mid-life in 1996. Then in 2014 out came The Year I Turna quirky a-z of ageing, written in her 70th year.

Angela’s interviewed everyone too, from her own hero, the author William Trevor, to Julie Christie and Helen Mirren. Many of the Islington Faces interviewees have said they know her, and suggested she’d make a great interviewee. And of course Angela does, but it’s off-putting sitting side-by-side on her huge sofa noticing that my expert interviewer subject has clocked my clumsy note taking. So unnerving that within 10 minutes both my biros give up which means she has to lend me one…

NEVER MISS AN ISLINGTON FACES: if you enjoy reading about people who live or work in Islington please follow this blog by email (see how on right hand panel). Fresh interviews are published once a week. 

Screenshot 2016-03-12 18.07.51Now Angela has just completed The Lifestyle Entrepreneur, a readable manual showing how you can turn your interests into money, which she wrote with her youngest son, Cato Hoeben, 35.

“We got the commission but when I showed him my collection of notes he looked at them in horror. On the computer he had a mind map. He hadn’t written a book before but he helped organise me,” explains Angela. Eventually the pair found a good way of working – Angela did the interviews and a first draft. Cato gathered practical material and then took over the text.

Screenshot 2016-03-12 18.10.06

Cato Hoeben.

“By the end we were very much partners,” she says and soon were on to their next double act – running a five week course for students at London College of Communication, down at Elephant & Castle, entitled “I want to be an Entrepreneur”.

“It’s been an interesting life,” says Angela in the vast living space of the converted N1 pub she and her Dutch husband, Olly, bought in 1999 and then spent a year doing up before they could move in. It’s quite different to the Victorian and Georgian terraced houses and has enough space to enable her eldest son move in with his Japanese wife and young family. There’s play space for her grandchildren in the living room, including a rope swing dangling from the staircase which leads to the roof garden and Cato’s music studio. The walls are vibrant with interesting art and over-flowing bookcases. Not all the rooms are huge – Angela creates stained glass panels in a tiny space.

This afternoon the large wooden coffee table has been parked (it’s on wheels) under a long family eating table so that it’s out of the way while Angela and friends did their morning yoga and pilates.

“People say it’s very bohemian,” says Angela sitting on the blue leather sofa that’s positioned to catch the daytime sun and the warmth from the wood burner. She’s dressed in a warm blue cardi but it’s dressed up with four eye-catching necklaces.

xx

Once the Crown and Anchor, now a family home.

Move to Islington
Angela grew up in a suburban part of Surrey, met her husband in 1969 when she was working in Amsterdam and then moved to West London where her first son was born.

“We were living with my father in 1979 when Olly was knocked sideway by this double-fronted Georgian house in Highbury he’d cycled past. He thought we should move in, and my dad did too, but I think the bank thought that I was an arch manipulator like Regan*! Then my dad died, but he left us just enough to buy this wreck in Highbury Place. The kids had a glorious upbringing – they could scribble on the walls because we never got around to painting them!” she said. “It was a beautiful house but it always needed money and was always cold – then someone came along and wanted to buy it!”

After living on Highbury Fields it wasn’t easy to find another place. “Looking at houses depressed me and I was getting despondent. They either weren’t right or had just been done up by bankers with gold faucets which you couldn’t justify ripping out. Then Olly said he’d seen an old pub in Cross Street. It was a filthy stinking mess but we could see the potential. Someone else had bought it – but they were willing to sell it to us.”

So Angela and Olly got to work on their second Islington wreck. With the aid of an architect friend who put them in touch with a good team of builders they were able to turn it into their home – and have now lived there for 16 years.

xx

Fine Italian Delicatessen in Cross Street run – a good place for coffee after pilates.

Places Angela Neustatter likes in Islington

  • I love going to the theatre. I like the Almeida – last show I saw was the Bacchae. I also like the Rosemary Branch theatre, 2 Shepperton Road, N1. But I don’t go out much.
  • I used to live on Highbury Fields and love it. I like to stamp around and get some air.
  • I’ve been going to the Gate Restaurant, the upmarket vegetarian on St John Street for years. But I like Mem and Laz, 8 Theberton Street too.
  • After pilates and yoga my friends and I go to Piero and Rosanna’s deli at 48 Cross Street, N1 to have a cappuccino. It’s an Italian deli with real atmosphere.

“I do value living in such a culturally mixed place as London. I’d hate to feel Britain had become one of those places where we didn’t want that mix because as I see it, it’s essential if the world is to be a happier place,” she says. “When we first came to Islington in the 1970s people said ‘you don’t want to live there’, but Islington is a very fine example of a successful melting pot.”

“We live in an enclave where we know a lot of people and they look out for each other. It’s a community that feels at ease with itself. It doesn’t always of course and I know terrible things happen. Obviously it helps to have a nice family and a nice home – it’s like being in a village,” says Angela who claims she does not need to visit other parts of London much because Islington has it all, before adding, “And I like bumping into people, up to a point.”

Even so it’s a sociable home – in the mornings there’s the pilates class and most afternoons her grandchildren come up for a pre-bedtime play and read filling the house with laughter. “We had a party to celebrate girls on Sunday and there were lots of Japanese children galloping around the room,” says a delighted Angela. “My son and his wife want this to be their family home and the trade off is that they’ll have to look after us!”

Words*
Hina Dolls festival is held on 3 March.
Goneril and Regan are the manipulative daughters in Shakespeare’s King Lear.

Over to you
If you’d like to nominate someone to be interviewed who grew up, lives or works in Islington, or suggest yourself, please let me know, via nicolabaird.green at gmail.com. Thank you.

If you liked this interview please SHARE on twitter or Facebook or join the Facebook group. Even better follow islingtonfacesblog.com (see menu top right) or follow me on twitter @nicolabairduk

This blog is inspired by Spitalfields Life written by the Gentle Author.

If you enjoyed this post you might like to look at the A-Z  index, or search by interviewee’s roles or Meet Islingtonians to find friends, neighbours and inspiration. Thanks for stopping by. Nicola

 

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