Coffee Music Project in Islington

31 Mar

Everyone has a story – but some have a song about coffee. At least the emerging musicians through to the final at O2 Academy2 in Islington’s N1 Centre do. At a unique taster session held at Camden Passage’s trendy Coffee Works Project Nicola Baird met some of the singer-songwriters hoping to win £1,000 cash and the chance to perform at the London Coffee Festival 2-3 May and the Amsterdam Coffee Festival 15-17 May.


Joseph Lofthouse: Coffee Music Project finalist showcasing his singer-songwriter talent before the April 1 final at the 02 Academy, Islington. Follow him @loftytherogue

Joseph Lofthouse: Coffee Music Project finalist showcasing his singer-songwriter talent before the April 1 final at the 02 Academy, Islington. Follow him @loftytherogue

They were clouds in my coffee, Feeling hot, hot, hot… my husband is trying to make a list of his top 10 coffee songs and already he’s in need of a flat white pick-me-up. The web helps me find J S Bach’s Coffee Cantata* (written in an 18th century coffee shop!), Ella Fitzgerald’s moody Black Coffee and even Frank Sinatra’s Coffee Song. But with the boom in coffee shops there’s surely space for more coffee-infused music…

Cafe culture. Enjoy a specially roasted coffee blend done by Darlingtons from Vauxhall for the Highbury Barn. Around 500 cups of coffee are sold each week.

Cafe culture. “With 500 billion cups of coffee drunk worldwide every year, coffee is the second most tradable commodity after crude oil. 90 per cent of coffee is grown in developing countries, where 60 per cent of people don’t have access to clean water. The Allegra Foundation provides a mechanism for the coffee industry and coffee drinkers to give back to the communities which grow our coffee,” states the Allegra Foundation on its website. See how its Project Waterfall initiative helps remedy this unfair situation.

At any rate that seems to be happening thanks to the organising energy of talent hunters at Cameo Sessions and Allegra Foundation’s Project Waterfall – a charitable initiative which aims to bring clean water and sanitation to coffee-growing communities* in Tanzania and Rwanda. The result is the Coffee Music Project which has its finals on 1 April at the 02 Academy in Islington. Eight talented artists and bands will hope to lift the Coffee Music Project title plus two great gigs in May. Whilst the organisers will bank 32 new coffee songs and an extra dollop to the fundraising chest of Project Waterfall which gets all proceeds from qualifying rounds and the final.

Project Waterfall has already raised more than £230,000 to help deliver clean water to around 11,000 people in Tanzania and Rwanda.

NEVER MISS AN ISLINGTON FACES: if you enjoy reading about people who live or work in Islington please follow this blog by email (see how on right hand panel). Fresh interviews are published once a week. 

At a showcase evening a few days before the final, Islington Faces enjoyed a taster session at Coffee Works Project, off Camden Passage, which was voted the best café in Islington during the Time Out Awards 2014 and has “damn fine coffee” to borrow a quote Twin Peaks’ Agent Dale Cooper.

You can pop along to the final on 1 April in Islington (see info here) or hear the winners perform at the London Coffee Festival 2-3 May at the Old Truman Brewery.

Q: How well do you know Islington?
As an Islington fan girl it seemed obvious to ask four of the singer-songwriters what they knew about Islington. As a bonus I asked Coffee Works Project owner too. Read on…

>Belle & the Busker @belleandbusker
(Clara Rafferty, Daniel Spiller and Arthur Bassingham)
Clara, 28: “I live off Stroud Green Road. Islington is my favourite shopping town. My sisters are 17 and 16 years older than me and they’d always take me to Angel. I worked at Borders, and know every pub and coffee shop. We work as buskers and will be at Angel tube on Saturday 4 April at 4pm.”
Daniel: “Angel tube is a great place for us to busk. Staff are really friendly. It’s got a vibe to it and on Friday and Staurday night it’s a really good pitch. It’s quite a young crowd – not so touristy as other places in London.
Arthur, plays bass guitar: “I’ve worked around Angel as a bar tender. I’d come here when I was at music college in Surrey to play at the Hope & Anchor, 207 Upper Street. Now I like the way I can get the 277 from Highbury Corner straight to Bethnal Green where I live.”

>Cat Maria
Cat, 19: “I love the vibe around here. I like the little coffee shops and I’ve been to some music venues, 02 and the Garage at Highbury Corner. I’m from Willesden Green – playing at the Coffee Works Project was one of my first live performances.”

Rich Stephenson.

Rich Stephenson knows how to work the stage.

>Rich Stephenson @stephensonrich
Rich: “I’m doing a comedy song – it makes me quite nervous. I’m from Hull and now live near Lewisham. When I was living in East Finchley I used to come to Islington quite a lot. The first gig I did was at the Old Queen’s Head on Essex Road. I supported [indie minimalists] The XX – not long after they won the Mercury Prize [2010], so I think of Islington as a place where things happen!”



>Jessica Murae and Ben Colman @jessicamurae @guitarist_ben1
Jessica, 20: “I haven’t been to London much as I live in Watford. I’d never come to Islington before playing here!”
Ben: “I think of Islington as showcasing good arts.”

Peter Theoklitou runs the Coffee works Project.

Peter Theoklitou runs the Coffee works Project.

Peter Theoklitou, Coffee Works Project owner
96-98 Islington High Street, N1
Mon-Fri 7.30am-6pm. Sat, 9am-6pm. Sun 10am-5pm.

“The goal is for this to be a community base. I lived in St Thomas’ Road, N4 Islington when I was growing up as my parents had a business in Exmouth Market. Coffee Works Project is all about the product – the coffee. You can come on your own and relax or work. It’s got an inner city garden oasis, a very natural space. One girl gave me a cuddle and told me she’d met her boyfriend here!”

Signing off
Good luck to all the finalists – and as importantly – to the team behind the Coffee Music Project which is helping some of the poorest communities in the world get the absolute basics, running water and decent sanitation.








  • JS Bach’s birthday is today 31 March, though some say it was 21 March (1685-1750).
  • Coffee can’t grow in the UK – so if you are a coffee lover inspired to help coffee growing communities read the growers’ stories on the coffee packets before you buy. Look for fair trade, organic or something that tells you the grower is getting a fair price for their beans. A moving film to watch is Black Gold (2006), see And if you’re a cafe owner or business leader, get involved with the Allegra Foundation’s Project Waterfall.

Over to you
If you’d like to nominate someone to be interviewed who grew up, lives or works in Islington, or suggest yourself, please let me know, via at Thank you.

If you liked this interview please SHARE on twitter or Facebook or join the Facebook group. Even better follow (see menu top right) or follow me on twitter @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 Meet Islingtonians to find friends, neighbours and inspiration. Thanks for stopping by. Nicola


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