Stephanie Smith: Archway Market

23 Apr

Everyone on Islington Faces Blog has a story.  Archway resident Stephanie Smith explains why her search for fresh veg and a good book on her doorstep, helped inspire her to set up the Archway Market and the ArchWay With Words Festival (first held in 2013). Interview from guest blogger Joanna Bevan.
(edited by Nicola Baird)


Stephanie Smith: founder and manager of Archway Market - held every Saturday at the top of Holloway Road.

Stephanie Smith: founder and manager of Archway Market – held every Saturday at the top of Holloway Road.

It’s midday on Saturday and the Archway Market at the top of Holloway Road is in full flow as Stephanie Smith – who has lived in the area for 15 years and also as a teenager – takes a rare break from her own Curious House stall selling “interesting and unusual home and glassware”. She’s clearly a familiar face, recognised and greeted by passing regulars as she keeps one eye on the action. She’s famed for pointing out and shaming thieves and would be trouble-makers…

Stephanie Smith’s best of Islington (besides Archway Market!)

The Hideaway Bar “A lovely place with a pretty garden and regular comedy, music and arts nights.”

The Almeida Theatre  “We are so lucky to have this world class theatre just up the road.”

The Union Chapel “A fantastic venue that attracts some real superstars; but maybe bring a cushion…’ Stephanie returned to performing there last year with Songlines Choir.”

The Hemingford Arms “Just off the Cally – it’s the one with all sorts of weird and wonderful objects hanging from the ceiling. A lovely pub with a great atmosphere and music nights.’ Stephanie has sung many times down the Hemmy.”

Talking News Islington “Islington news in a spoken newspaper set up by Islington resident Elizabeth Jones who is an actual angel. She’s in her 80s, registered blind and does more work to help people in the borough than practically anyone. It’s impossible to have any self pity for trivial things when you know someone like Elizabeth.”

The Word on the Street Bookstall is run by the Pavement Professor (Stephanie's friend Jon). “He’s not just a seller, he's a reader, an expert - it's a really good idea to come and meet him and ask for recommendations,'' says Stephanie Smith.

The Word on the Street Bookstall at Archway Market is run by the Pavement Professor (Stephanie’s friend Jon). “He’s not just a seller, he’s a reader, an expert – it’s a really good idea to come and meet him and ask for recommendations,” says Stephanie Smith. Photo Joanna Bevan.

Archway Market, held on Saturdays, is a collection of speciality traders selling produce, staples and ingredients as well as a variety of street food. There is also a massive bookstall, which Time Out calls the best in North London (see photo),

”Having books in Archway was the first thing I wanted. I’m not a fan of gentrification. I just think why should you have to live somewhere posh to have nice things like a good bookstall or fresh proper vegetables? The whole world walks by in Archway and a really good number of all sorts of people want fabulous potatoes or decent bread and a good book.”

IMG_3837Just behind the busy, friendly market a queue is building in the sanitised aisles of a supermarket chain. Recent self-service checkouts relieved the store of the inconvenient labour costs of walking, talking shop assistants, so now a reduced skeleton team flit between the till and responding to the error beeps of the machines. To Stephanie this is an example of a local economy going wrong. “I often wonder what it would be like if more shops got rid of their staff and put machines everywhere, or if the market wasn’t here.” She pauses, “the main consequence would be an increase in crime.”

Fifteen years ago, debilitating illness left Stephanie depressed and often housebound. The experience inspired her to make the most of opportunities when she began to recover.

”Physical pain every day is exhausting. You forget what it’s like, just to be able to bumble along. Now that medicine’s given me back my able body, I feel lucky most of the time,” says Stephanie who has worked as a performer, singer, theatre-maker and community artist.

Beautiful and useful things on sale at Archway Market - every Saturday.

Beautiful and useful things on sale at Archway Market – every Saturday. Photo: Joanna Bevan.

Running a market stall is a kind of theatre. The traders who are the most successful are always the ones who put on a bit of a performance and engage their audience. At the end of the day the set is all taken down, so the best ones make the most of it while they’re there.”

When a commotion is caused by a local resident sliding her trousers around her ankles and urinating in the middle of the market, Stephanie deals with the it with compassion because of the woman’s poor mental health. She also swiftly and firmly moves her on, and the incident is scrubbed clean from the pavement. ”There you go – always a drama. Classic Archway,” says Stephanie.

Stephanie feels the weekly market tackles isolation, mental health and makes it easier for people to meet up (social integration). ”We’re an alternative family here. I’m very proud of the neighbourly, friendly atmosphere,” she adds.

Actor Bill Paterson at the ArchWay With Words Festival - he's been in The Killing Fields, Truly Madly Deeply and XXx. Pic by

Actor Bill Paterson at the ArchWay With Words Festival 2013. Paterson’s been in The Killing Fields, Truly Madly Deeply and The Singing Detective. Photo by

Birth of ArchWay With Words Festival
In 2013 a few local writers and actors came to the market on the same day, including Charlie Higson, Bill Paterson and Caitlin Davies, inspiring the ArchWay With Words Festival. ”Once I had the name, I knew it would happen,” says Stephanie who is now busy programming a 2014 event which she hopes will be even more successful than last year’s.
In 2013 the ArchWay With Words Festival was in an array of local venues. This time she hopes to help use a former bomb factory  as a new performance space, which is next to the Kogan Academy drama school on Elthorne Road. “I want to programme as many events in there as possible, starting with a free, all-day walk-through creative writing event on Saturday May 10,” says Stephanie.
Ted's tasty veg at Archway Market. Photo by

Ted’s tasty veg at Archway Market. Photo by

Support your local economy
Despite the excitement of the ArchWay With Words Festival 2014 the market is Stephanie’s main focus, and she’s well aware how Islington people can help. Her tip is to: “Start with three or four things you can buy locally, and be loyal to those businesses. That’s better than getting overwhelmed by trying to overhaul your spending habits and ending up online.”

Stephanie’s energy helps turn consumer purse power into a powerful weapon. When wielded wisely it can transform a community – you can literally buy the change you want to see in the world. After all a thriving neighbourhood is still something you can’t get delivered from Amazon.

 Useful info:
ARCHWAY MARKET every Saturday, 10am-5pm top of Holloway Road on the corner of St John’s Grove, N19


ARCHWAY WITH WORDS FESTIVAL 2014 Download here. Archway With Words Festival is on Saturday 10 May.


About our guest post writer


L1000559This guest post was written by Joanna Bevan (photo taken by Evgenia Kharitonova). Joanna has a background in community development and lives in Archway. She researched community resilience at the City University of New York. She speaks five languages and loves writing poetry and running marathons. “The best thing about living in Islington is the huge amount of world cuisine on offer.” Thanks to Here To Islington for linking islingtonfacesblog with Joanna Bevan.


Over to you

If you enjoyed this post you might like to look at the A-Z index of posts, or the A-Z of jobs to find friends, neighbours and inspiration. 

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. 

If you liked this interview please SHARE on twitter or Facebook. Even better follow (see menu top right), @nicolabairduk

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

Thanks for stopping by. Nicola




One Response to “Stephanie Smith: Archway Market”

  1. nicola baird blogs April 30, 2014 at 1:34 pm #

    From Twitter: “I love this week’s blog, I keep telling myself to go to Archway Market! A good reminder!” Sarah

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