Katherine Horsham: community mobiliser

22 Jan

Everyone on Islington Faces Blog has a story. Katherine Horsham, manager of the Islington council-funded Here To project designed to encourage helping out in the borough, is a huge fan of living in Islington, and one day hopes to live by Regent’s CanalInterview by Nicola Baird

Katherine Horsham is manager at How To Islington, an organisation which helps match volunteers with tasks locally.

Katherine Horsham is manager of How To Islington, an organisation which helps match volunteers with tasks to be done locally. The dish is risotto served at Sunday, a fabulous cafe on 169 Hemingford Road, N1.

“It’s a real privilege to live and work in Islington,” explains Katherine, 26, who moved to Islington about a year ago. “I grew up in Chingford, near Epping Forest. It has quite a different feel from Islington; it’s a bit suburban. Now I live in a place of such history  – the former swimming baths on Hornsey Road – and wake up to the lovely view of a Victorian school [Montem Primary].”

IMG_1118“Islington was central and closer to everything, but it was only when I moved in that I realised how awesome it is,” she explains at the packed Sunday café on Hemingford Road, N1 not far from her office.

“I’d studied History at Durham University – which has a lovely community feel – and then a Masters in International Management at King’s and had to move back home. Chingford doesn’t even have a tube, it felt so far away from everything.”

Here To snaps

Your interviewer tries out the How To photo booth at Gillespie Festival 2012.

Your interviewer tries out the How To Photomatic Machine at Gillespie Festival 2012, offering to “listen to your life story.”         Apart from changing the blog name that’s exactly              what I’ve done!

Here To started life near Katherine’s flat, but is now based at the Isledon Head Office on Caledonian Road. Although Here To is still relatively new and only has a small team behind it, you might have come across the Photomatic Machine at summer festivals around Islington (see photo, left).

The key goal of Here To is to connect local people to local projects in fun, flexible ways. The idea is to first get people thinking about their personal goals and the perks they want to get out of helping out, and then the ‘secret skills’ they have to offer Islington. Here To can then match proactive people who can do stuff with project and community groups who need stuff doing. This can range from sorting out Oxfam Islington’s shop window and befriending older residents to story telling and even teaching scuba diving.

Over the past year since Here To first launched, hundreds of people have gained perks like learning to cook, watching free theatrical performances, developed skills for their CV and had a lot of fun too. On the Here To website this is more elegantly put: “We’re Here To start a movement in Islington. We’re helping local people do great things, helping new ideas get off the ground, and helping local organisations get the right people with the right skills to help them with their projects.”

Here To 1st Birthday invitationBirthday party
More than 170 people will be at Islington Town Hall to celebrate Here To’s 1st birthday, including the Islington Mayor and Young Mayor on Thursday 30 January 2014.

“We wanted to recognise everyone who’d been involved in Here To so far – they’re part of a really special group of people and projects pioneering a new way of helping out locally. Here To is evolving daily as a result of feedback we get from our users, but the long term vision is to get to a point where every person who lives, works and plays in the borough uses Here To at least once a year…”  explains Katherine.

It’s an ambitious dream, but Katherine, with her red hair and pinky purple wellies, is unfazed. “I’d always volunteered as a child but after doing that Masters, which was the worst and best experience ever because it saved me jumping into the wrong job in the City, I made a conscious decision to work in social change and have a job that mattered,” explains Katherine.

Things to love about Islington

  • Parkland Walk at the Highgate end. It's a 2.5 mile foot and cycle path, with a lot of joggers, made from a disused train line.

    Parkland Walk at the Highgate end. It’s a 2.5 mile foot and cycle path, with a lot of joggers, made from a disused train line.

    Because of my job I’m always popping into Islington’s two youth hubs: Lift, in White Cross Street, and Platform, off Hornsey Road. There’s usually a hot chocolate involved.

  • I love the Sobell – it’s laid back and everything I could ever possibly want to do is there. Plus as a member I can go gyms all over the borough – yoga at Highbury or swimming at Archway.

  • I buy fresh fruit and veg from Michael’s Fruiterers, 56-58 Seven Sisters Road, N7.

  • My new favourite place to go is the Breakfast Club, 31 Camden Passage, N1. Their smoked salmon, scrambled eggs and avocado is amazing.

  • I went on a canal boat holiday from London to Windsor and back, so now I can do locks and drive canal boats. I therefore really love Regent’s Canal and hope to live there one day.

  • I like the tube stations and local buses – the 91, 43 and 271 seem to take you anywhere you could want to go. People complain about transport in London, but I don’t drive and have always travelled a lot in the UK… it seems more than fine to me.

  • I’m a massive sushi fan: the Japanese restaurant Hana Sushi at 150A Seven Sisters Road is an undiscovered gem.

  • I can’t believe Parkland Walk even exists! You feel like you’re in the countryside.

As she suspected working in a social enterprise environment like How To is personally fulfilling, but the work is tough and the hours are long – she does extra work most weekends. “But I don’t need to be doing something relaxing to be relaxed,” claims Katherine with a huge smile.

Project TILT
This perhaps explains why in the midst of start-up mayhem at How To she still found the energy to help the 200 plus householders where she lives get to know each other better.

“The only drawback to my block of flats is no one sees each other. There are all these people with loads of secret talents, and I have always wondered what they were, so I got £300 seed funding to try and get my neighbours to talk to each other more.”

Project TILT postboxAfter letterbox surveys (using a special post box in the block’s reception) and a focus group, Project TILT kicked off at the end of 2013. Residents have already had a Great Christmas Share Off (pot luck lunch) and there are plans to run specialist clubs – such as running, knitting and yoga – as well as larger supper events such as a Big Lunch in June 2014.

It’s rare to meet a person who can bring out the best in a stranger, but Katherine’s positive energy and charm does exactly that. The moment I’d finished this interview I had a good look at the website and plan to help out too and offer a rewarding task for anyone who’d like to interview a friend or neighbour with stories to tell about living or working in Islington. So a big thank you to the positive force-field that is Katherine Horsham and a big up to Here To Islington… do go and see what the fuss is about.

  • Here To… see http://islington.hereto.org, hello@hereto.org, @heretoislington, facebook.com/heretoislingoton, Islington.com/heretoislington, tel: 020 3475 3825
  • To get free tickets to Here To’s 1st Birthday Party, visit www.heretoparty.eventbrite.co.uk and follow what’s happening using #HereToParty on Twitter
  • Sunday, 169 Hemingford Road, Barnsbury, N1, tel: 020 7607 3868 is open every day for brunch, lunch and cake. It is also serves evening meals on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Over to you

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 nicolabaird.green@gmail.com. Thank you. 

If you liked this interview please SHARE on twitter or Facebook. Even better follow islingtonfacesblog.com (see menu top right), @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 list of posts, or the A-Z of jobs to find friends, neighbours and inspiration. Thanks for stopping by. Nicola

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