Molly Gorell Barnes: teaching assistant/Mollypopcards

6 Aug

Everyone on Islington Faces Blog has a story.  Do you find it hard to give a one word answer when someone asks what you do? If so you are probably under 30 years old or a freelance. Molly Gorell Barnes is a skilled greetings card designer, works hard as a special needs teaching assistant and thinks of Holloway as home.  Interview by Nicola Baird

Molly Gorell Barnes on her Mollypop card stall at the Hornsey Street Festival.

Molly Gorell Barnes on her Mollypop card stall at the Hornsey Street Festival.

“I say I’m from Holloway, but there’s a little bit of Bristol in me too,” says Molly Gorell Barnes at the Amici Coffee Deli, 351 Holloway Road. She’s spent the day as a SENTA (special needs teaching assistant) at nearby Hungerford Primary School working mostly with Years 1, 2 and 3 so chooses a latte to pep herself up – laughing at my weakling choice of camomile tea. The popular café is quiet at this time so we both notice Portugal is playing a World Cup match on the giant TV screen.

“I moved to Portugal for a year and built a house with my partner, Chris,” says Molly matter-of-factedly. “He was out there, and I wasn’t enjoying the job I had – I was doing admin, thinking ‘how has that happened’? I’d done a graphics design degree at the London College of Communication (University of the Arts London) and I’m dyslexic.  Writing a letter makes me panic! So I moved to Portugal– it was amazing, but the Portuguese language is really hard. There was delicious food and the neighbours were lovely, but it was really rural so when the house was finished we came back to Holloway.”

In fact Molly “lives in the same flat that she lived in when she was four years old, on and off.

“First I was living with my Dad, but he’s in Kent now,” she explains. She went to Pakeman Primary School until she was six years old when she moved to live with her Mum in Bristol. A few years later she was back in London again for secondary school.  “I dropped my Bristol accent fast,” she remembers. “I’ve still got secondary school friends and bump into Pakeman friends. People say ‘London is so big’, but I think of it as a village of 300 that you know, and then there are all the other people who you don’t know – a sort of city on top of a village.” It’s a good description and it’s clear that Molly is really comfortable in her big village – several times she points out people she knows crossing the busy Holloway Road, though a bit too far away to see us wave.

An independent treasure for coffee and meals on Holloway Road (opposite Argos).

An independent treasure for coffee and meals on Holloway Road (opposite Argos).

Places Molly Gorell Barnes loves

  • I like independent places, so come to Amici Café Deli. It does good latte and Portuguese custard tarts.

  • I love Crystals the kebab place (Crystal Charcoal Restaurant, 522 Holloway Road).  I  always get the halumi kebab with veg stew.

  • I like the fact that Holloway is home and the buses are good. The 29 is always fun (it goes from Wood Green to Trafalgar Square) and there’s usually someone a little bit insane on it…

  • I’ve had my birthday at the Swimmer for the past seven years. I even came back from Portugal to celebrate! I’ve suggested changing the venue but my friends say ‘it’s tradition’ now. The Swimmer is where everyone feels comfortable. It’s not too trendy, and not too old man-ny. My Dad can come here and my friends. Swimmer at Grafton Arms, 13 Eburne Road, N7

  • I do keep forgetting Highbury Fields, then I go there and it’s so nice, and really near too.

Cards on Etsy
“I love Holloway and joke all roads lead to Holloway,” she says with a happy grin.

Turns out that her choice of “jobs are taking me closer and closer to my old primary school. I have even been back to Pakeman to vote – it just felt tiny. I had to ask my dad where the assembly hall was, and he said we were in it!”

Besides a rough plan to stay working in education Molly has been making witty greetings cards for a few years. “I like to make people laugh – with puns or being silly. Because of my dyslexia I quite often get puns five minutes later, so when I do get them I find them extra funny,” she says with a giggle pointing out that effort adds to experience. She likes a bit of left field humour too… “Sometimes I’ll have done loads of twee cup cakes and cups of tea and I just want to make cards with swear words!”

Occasionally Molly runs a card stall at local events, but she also sells them on Etsy at Mollypopcards. Do have a look at her fabulous designs – it’s always a treat to get a card for a birthday or special occasion, but even better when you know it’s been done by a proper local with a nice line in puns.


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

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.

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


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