Charles Williams: made in Islington

21 Feb

Everyone has a story on the Islington Faces Blog.  So what’s it like growing up in Islington these days? On ITV’s Girlfri3nds Charles Williams, the fourth generation in his family from Islington, was billed as the bad boy – but these days he’d rather be at the gym, the footie or his job… Interview by Nicola Baird.


Charles Williams: “Being on TV was very surreal. People kept asking for my photo.”

“I might sound old-fashioned,” says Charles Williams, over a big mug of tea in the Ecuadorean El Rinca Quiteno Café off Holloway Road, “but kids are always indoors now and I blame consoles. When I grew up I’d knock for my friends and then go and do something outside. I was a dare-devil child – and loved to play Runouts* where we lived. I was 12 or 13 and my big brother was with the older kids on the other team. We’d jump from roof to roof! I look back and think what was I thinking?”

“One game, Letterbeats, was a bit rough,” he admits with a laugh. “There were two teams who both picked a random word, like the name of a football team, and then each team member had a letter. Then you had to run away. If you got caught the letter was beaten out of you – it wasn’t real beating just dead arms and twisted nipples.”

“If we weren’t playing these games we were always out playing football in the park, or kicking a ball against walls or garage doors or playing football tennis. The swings and slides where I grew up have gone now. Still older people prefer it – it’s a lot quieter!”

In some ways Charles, 22, is old for his age. He may have a lip and nose piercing but he’s had a job since he left St Aloysius School at 16 years, first working as a scaffolder – which left him with a good head for heights – and then in retail at the Angel.

And he’s been on TV as potential love interest in ITV2’s Girlfri3nds – a show with three girls trying to find love. “100 guys met the three girls in their house, and they all picked six different lads to date. The story about my girl Amy was she was looking for a bad boy. It was quite nerve wracking but after a while you forget the cameras are there. And they edit it too.”  You can see a video clip here.

As a result TV viewers found out that Charles from 17-19 years had a gambling problem, rather than finding out about his gift with jokes and being lovely company.  “The thing was when I started scaffolding I had no outgoings so I started going to the bookies for electric roulette and then the casino. When you are winning it is a brilliant buzz, but when you lose you just want to win it back. But bookies are quite droll places, it’s where alcoholics go. I eventually decided I can’t be in this environment. I’ve got to stop. I confided in my mum and she helped me – she’s been through a lot herself so she can relate to things.”

His confession seemed to work for Amy too – who picked him.  “And then I had to pick a date she’d like so we went to the pedalo boats in Regents Park.”

“I got very popular on twitter” says Charles amused by the effect TV has on women. “When the programme first aired I had about 100 twitter followers. I had a £50 bet with my brother that I’d get to 1,000 but I ended up with 9,000 followers. Girls beg me to follow them! Being on TV was very surreal, but I got through to the last two guys until Amy let me down gently. But it was good for me, I got quite a lot of attention from girls after it! When I go out people still ask me for pictures.”

“I was proper naughty growing up but I had a really fun childhood. I’m not going to lie – people used to steal mopeds, and though I didn’t steal any I did have a go on them. A lot of people I grew up with have done prison sentences  – they’re still nice fellas, it’s just they path they lead and I don’t look down on them, they’re the background where I came from. I feel safe in Islington. I couldn’t see myself living anywhere else. And even if I did move out I’d be back to see my family.”

Charles’ family may be one big draw for him to this area, but there’s also his passion for Arsenal. “I’m a club member and go to every home game with my brother, Ricky, 26, and two friends. We’ve got really good seats right next to the away fans,” he says happily.  He doesn’t just watch the football, he also plays whenever he can – and to do that he stays in training. So if you don’t pass Charles Williams heading for a meal with his family, or to work in Angel, then you may find yourself meeting him in the gym. Which is where he is probably now.


Follow Charles on twitter @chigg_will

El Rinca Quiteno Café, 235 Holloway Road, N7 8HG (close to Holloway Road tube)


  • A very tame version of how to play Runouts is explained in this video here (also has the rules if you want to try it in the playground!).
  • Video game console
  • The Girlfri3nds website offers plenty of tips on how to date

Over to you
What’s your life like in Islington?  Please share a few of the games you used to play as a kid or what you like doing best here (whatever your age). If you’d like to feature on this blog, or make a suggestion about anyone who grew up, lives or works in Islington please let me know, via Thank you. And yes, this blog is inspired by Spitalfields Life written by the Gentle Author.


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