Kate Calvert: Archway community star

30 Jul

Everyone on Islington Faces Blog has a story.  What makes communities get to know each other better? Kate Calvert, Founder of the Better Archway Forum, travel writer and all round rabble-rouser mixes campaigning with get-togethers to help make her local area a better place to live. Interview by guest blogger Joanna Bevan. Editing by your regular interviewer Nicola Baird

Kate Calvert. Photo by Kate Calvert.

Kate Calvert: “One thing I love about Islington is that people really seem to care about what goes on here.” Photo by Kate Calvert.

Kate Calvert balances precariously on a chair as she attaches one end of the Union Jack bunting to a conveniently placed hook in the wall, as the neighbours from two doors down discuss the potential flag implications if Scotland gains independence.  It’s Saturday afternoon in July and Hargrave Hall is a hive of activity. The community centre is in Archway, north Islington and the local residents are coming together for a bring and share party. There’s already a make shift bar and home baked buffet and an air of expectation – which of the streets residents will respond to the invitation to come along?

Kate has a relaxed but busy demeanour with the air of a BBC foreign Correspondent, she is slim with long hair tied back in a pony tail. She first moved to Archway in 1981 from her native Tyneside to learn shorthand and typing at South Bank University as the first step towards her dream of becoming a journalist – skills in the short term that enabled her to make ends meet working as a Personal Assistant.

 “My first reaction was how unfriendly London was as a city, there just didn’t seem the space for people to bump into and say hello to each other,” remembers Kate.

Kate Calvert’s top Islington places

  • St John’s for either just a drink (their house gin is Sacred, from up the road in Highgate) or something to eat – great bar snacks and lovely full meals, complete with homemade bread.
  • Yildiz mini-supermarket on Junction Road, it’s a family-owned business with a bakers next door and it’s perfect for enormous bunches of fresh herbs at great prices.”
  • The Spoke for burgers – run by the same local people as the Bread and Bean, and a good place to drop by in the day but open most evenings too.”
  • Angel Puppet Theatre for lovely shows for kids – “I’m really glad they are surviving all the arts cuts”.
  • Metropolitan Archives – “a place to find old maps of London so you can trace what happened where. It’s at 40 Northampton Road, just south of Roseberry Ave, EC1R 0HB. For a small fee you can take your own camera and photograph anything you find interesting. Islington’s own archives are nearby at Finsbury Library 245 St John Street London EC1V 4NB but you have to book to visit local.history@islington.gov.uk or 020 7527 7988.”

As time went on Kate travelled the word and became a freelance travel writer. As her two children were born she continued her travels as a family from Morocco to Malaysia and even wrote about a trip to West Africa in the Times.

“Travel is an ideal education, it’s exotic but at the same time the bottom line is the same story wherever you go: people all share the same hopes and fears. If you travel with children you might need to plan ahead a little more and travel light, but above all be pretty relaxed about things. If you’re worried they’re going to break their leg every five minutes, then it’s probably not for you”

Kate formed the Better Archway Forum about 10 years ago in response to Islington council’s plan to redevelop Archway by knocking down the centre to create even taller towers and a large supermarket in the middle of it.

“One thing I love about Islington is that people really seem to care about what goes on here and once you get to meet them, they are full of ideas too,” she says.

Kate Calvert: “We did some interesting research to disprove the view that supermarket shopping is cheaper, we took the Office for National Statistics shopping basket and priced it in local stores and supermarkets, our local Yildez shop came out cheapest!”

Kate Calvert: “Our local Yildez shop came out cheapest!”

“The Better Archway Forum did some interesting research to disprove the view that supermarket shopping is cheaper, we took the Office for National Statistics shopping basket and priced it in local stores and supermarkets, our local Yildez shop came out cheapest!”

xx jazz band playing at Hargrave Hall. Photo by Joanna Bevan.

WTW Jazz Band playing at Hargrave Hall. Photo by Joanna Bevan.

The supermarket plan was eventually thrown out after Kate had rallied the troops. Now the Better Archway Forum focuses on initiatives to help improve Archway such as reducing air and noise pollution and working with groups like Living Streets to make the area more liveable. She points out that according to the World Health Organisation, street noise should be low enough to let you comfortably hold a conversation with a neighbour.

Back in Hargrave Hall the local WTW jazz band are in mid set. They’re playing a freebie as a thank you to the street for “putting up” (In their own words) with their weekly rehearsals. Kate has brought some old photographs of Islington, back when Highgate was literally a gate. A farmer leans nonchalantly on the Archway tollgate in one of the sepia pictures of times gone by.

Kate has done much to awaken the sleeping community spirit in her area. She feels it’s becoming more neighbourly with time and the best recipe to kick-start a bit of civic action is with a street party.

Interviewer Jo Bevan is the founder of Speak Street a pop up language cafe in Islington


Over to you
Would you like to nominate someone to be interviewed? Or would you like to write a guest post for this blog? if the answer is yes for either please email nicolabaird.green@gmail.com

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  index, or search by interviewee’s roles or jobs to find friends, neighbours and inspiration. Thanks for stopping by. Nicola










6 Responses to “Kate Calvert: Archway community star”

  1. Bruce August 5, 2014 at 8:47 am #

    Excellent article about Kate, a true inspiration in our community

  2. Michael August 11, 2014 at 12:54 pm #

    Hi Kate,

    I like the way you think about travelling: “Travel is an ideal education”. I moved from Poland to Islington in 1999. Since than I received few guests visiting me here in London. I always say to them that the best school of life is when you expose yourself to the variety of cultures. I traveled to other continents but still consider life in Islington as the best school of life. Few years ago I set up a local Islington removals company called http://www.removalsislington.com. This allowed me not only to improve my knowlege of the Islington geography but to meet the people of this London borough and see how do they live. I can talk about it endlessly.

    By the way: good luck with your Better Archway Forum.

    Kind regards

  3. Christian Reese February 18, 2015 at 10:03 am #

    Interesting read. I’ve always wondered how one can travel and have income at the same time. I guess freelance work is the only way.
    I too live in Islington and have grown quite fond of the area. The first time I came to London I had the exact same thoughts as Kate. People seemed in such a hurry having no time to say hello or even care. I moved to several different areas until I came to the N1 and felt truly at home. I even found a steady job at a local moving company. Today I help people move house and I always talk to them if I have a chance to. It’s interesting to learn those people’s motives about moving. Some of them even go to a different country to explore and find themselves. So many people and so many opinions. It’s so interesting.

    I wish Kate all the best with her forum.

    Christian of Removals Islington http://www.removalsislingtonn1.co.uk/

    • nicola baird blogs February 18, 2015 at 10:16 am #

      Thanks Christian for your comment. Interestingly I’ve been told by quite a few islington faces readers that this blog helped them decide to move to (or back to) Islington! Let me know if you ever meet someone who tells you whilst they are also super busy moving! Nicola

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