Frank Turner: singer-songwriter

9 Dec

Everyone has a story. Singer-songwriter Frank Turner with his tattoos, on-stage energy and clever songs has built up a massive indy following. Frank is based in Holloway but spends a lot of time on tour, recently finishing the UK leg of newest album “Positive Songs For Negative People” with a huge gig at Ally Pally. He tells audiences there are just four simple words “I want to dance” but his fans always know all the words. And some of those words include big love for Islington, especially Angel and Holloway. Q&A with Nicola Baird.

Frank Turner (c)xx

Frank Turner (c) June 2015

Q Where do you live in Islington?
I live in mid-Holloway. I’ve lived around here (or maybe a little further north) for a long while now.

Q Did you mean to move to Islington at 18?
My paternal grandmother lived in Archway and so my father was raised in the area. I have family all over Islington and Camden, it’s familiar territory for me. I was raised in Hampshire, but when I finished school I moved to London as fast as I could (within a day). I’d always known I would.

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Q: How come you’ve stayed around Holloway?
I love it. It’s a great area, it’s varied and lively, and it has a lot of history, both in and of itself, and on a personal level. I used to live in and near Nambucca and that was where I cut my teeth as a solo artist.

…”Tonight I’m playing another Nambucca show
So I’m going through my phone book texting everyone I know – and quite a few I don’t…”
“The Ballad of Me & My Friends” from “Sleep Is For The Week”

Positive Songs for Negative People tour TV on the bloke standing (dancing) in front of me at Frank Turner's Ally Pally .November gig.

Positive Songs for Negative People tour T-shirt on the bloke standing (dancing) in front of Islington Faces at Frank Turner’s Ally Pally November gig.

5 places in Islington Frank Turner really likes

  • I saw my first punk show at the Highbury Garage. Nambucca, 596 Holloway Road gets a mention, for sure.
  • I used to put on shows at the Hope & Anchor, 207 Upper Street when I was younger.
  • Union Chapel is probably my favourite room for acoustic live music in the city.
  • And Slim Jim’s on 112 Upper Street is a late night hangout of choice.
  • The 12-Bar has just moved to 203 Holloway Road. While it’s sad that it had to leave Denmark Street, it’s nice to welcome it to my neighbourhood.
Frank Turner PSFNP (2)

Positive Songs for Negative People by Frank Turner includes The Angel Islington and Mittens. This is the cover artwork, photo of Frank on stage at Masquerade is by Nicole C Kibert

Q At Standon Calling (Hertfordshire festival which Frank played at in 2014) you said you were going on a date. Us Islington people who’d managed to get to Hertfordshire hoped it was with someone who lived at Angel…. Was it? And nosily I’m going to ask how did it go (it’s a few years ago now, sorry!).
It was someone who lived in Dalston actually. If we both set out on foot towards each other we’d meet at Angel. Alas it didn’t work out, though we are friends.

The Angel Islington (Frank Turner)

By the waters of the Thames
I resolve to start again
To wash my feet and cleanse my sins
To lose my cobwebs in the wind
To fix the parts of me I broke
To speak out loud the things I know
I haven’t been myself

Wandering Rosebery Avenue
I could only think of you
Facing Samuel Johnson down
Solved to wear down London town
A glance to take my breath away
And take me south from Holloway
You and no one else

And the king of a kingdom of mistakes
I’ve broken all the things thatI could break
Fuck the fishing, I will abdicate
And meet you on the corner of the upper street and the city road
And you, of course, the Angel Islington
Ah, come on, a boy could hope

By the waters of the Thames
I resolve to start again

Sense of place
Given the years that Frank has now spent around Holloway and Islington, it’s no surprise that a strong sense of  Islington has developed in his music even though he’s popularly known as a Wessex Boy. But perhaps it’s also because Upper Street and Holloway Road have some of the best live music venues in London from the Union Chapel to Nambucca. As part of the Positive Songs For Negative People UK/Europe tour 2015/16 Frank Turner will spend January touring Europe (see that T-shirt pic above) – and as he goes he and his fans are committing random acts of kindness, see more on his website or get tweeting your own @FTRAOK. @frankturner @FTRAOK

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


2 Responses to “Frank Turner: singer-songwriter”

  1. Eva Scarlett March 21, 2016 at 11:16 am #

    Frank Turner is an awesome composer and songwriter.The Angel Islington is one of my favorite song lyrics.

    • nicola baird blogs March 21, 2016 at 11:17 am #

      Me too, but Islington people tend to be biast (in a good way!). Thanks for stopping by. Nicola

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