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Dieter Perry: press photographer

17 Oct

Everyone on Islington Faces Blog has a story.  Dieter Perry, 46, knows exactly what makes a good news photo – but then with 15 years’ experience snapping for the Argent group’s North London newspapers including Islington Gazette (now the Islington & Hackney Gazette) and Hampstead & Highgate Express that should be no surprise. Interview by Nicola Baird

Press photographer Dieter Perry suggested this would be a better pic if I made him (the subject) centrally cropped. He's definitely right.

When I started taking photos for Dieter Perry’s interview, the press photographer suggested it’s better to make the subject centrally cropped. He’s definitely right. Photo credit Nicola Baird.

Dieter’s job as a busy photographer for North London newspapers isn’t the only reason he recognises and is recognised by so many people.

“Islington feels like home,” says Dieter, camera equipment in one hand, white coffee in the other, at Assiette Anglaise, a café off Liverpool Road, while he waits for the action to start at nearby Paradise Park Fun Day.  His fold-up bike is parked nearby, ready to head to the next job. “I keep my equipment light so I can cycle everywhere around north London – all around Islington and up to Hampstead, St John’s Wood, Maida Vale and Paddington,” he says. “But I’m not really fit! I just walk up the big hills like Hornsey Rise, Muswell Hill, Crouch Hill and Highgate West. I prefer to conserve my energy and the hills only take eight minutes to walk.”

Armed with a camera Dieter’s great at getting the best shots, and for local papers this can often mean being willing to work with children and animals, at the same time.  “A couple of years ago I did some photos of a young child with newborn lambs at Freightliners Farm – that was a great shot,” he says before showing me some of his recent photos on his ipad.

image2.dieterperry

Michael Ball: musicals genius. Photo credit Dieter Perry.

The photos seem to be a record of the area’s celebrities, mixed with people enjoying all that north London has to offer. “I’ve just been to the Kenwood Classical Concerts,” says Dieter as he scrolls. “Classical is not my type of music, but the performances were very good so I enjoyed it. And it’s outside and live.” At this point he stops and shows me Michael Ball, the famous musical singer, performing with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

Having a press pass may get you to the front of the audience, but typically there are restrictions even on what official photographers can do. “At Kenwood I could mostly take photos for the first three songs. But a few Saturdays ago it was atrocious weather – like a monsoon. I was holding up an umbrella trying to take pictures…” explains Dieter laughing at the memory. The pictures worked though and were duly published.

Although an all-Islington lad, Dieter* was given a German first name by his German-born mum, Dorothy, now 77. “She’s lived in England for so long – she was a school cook all over Islington,” he says. Perhaps that’s why he adds: “I find it fascinating watching the cooks on TV, but I’m a terrible cook… I can only do pasta, beans on toast and fish fingers!”

Assiete Anglaise offers a fantastic escape to France inside. Coffees come with jugs of water and brown and white sugar lumps.

Assiete Anglaise offers a fantastic escape to France inside. Coffees come with jugs of water and brown and white sugar lumps.

Dieter lives in Holloway, near where he grew up. He started at Poole Park School, N4 opposite the Six Acres estate and next to Andover estate, then went to the all boys Sir Philip Magnus (the King’s Cross site is now used by Kingsway College) which famously campaigned hard to avoid being amalgamated with Highbury Grove School in the 1980s.

Dieter admits to being, “terrible at school. I had a tough time at home so found it difficult to concentrate. I studied engineering in Hackney, but got into photography from my father, Arthur who was a very keen photographer.”

Tragically earlier this year (2013) Arthur, then 83, was run over while using his electric wheelchair in a hit and run incident on Hanley Road and went on to die from his injuries. A memorial is to be held soon.

Tips for photographers
Dieter’s done work for the Press Association (PA), National News Agency, which is based in Hoxton, and the Independent on Sunday. “I started with work experience at a youth magazine called Exposure which is still based at Muswell Hill Centre, at the back of M&S on Broadway. For anyone who wants to get into journalism it’s good if you can take photographs and write, you have better career choices then.”

Boxing match. Photo credit Dieter Perry.

“Sports photos have to be pin sharp,” says Dieter who took this photo of women boxers at the Islington Boxing club. Dieter is on the committee of the Islington Boxing Club in Hazelville Road, N19. He’s also their club photographer.  Photo credit Dieter Perry.

And he has no plans to move from the area. “It’s the people that make Islington what it is. There are lots of people from other countries who come here and bring their way of living. For example there’s a Turkish supermarket round the corner from me which bakes flat breads on its premises, I really like that.”

Thanks to the geographical range of his work Dieter’s familiar with some fantastic parts of north London. Most of the times I spot Dieter he’s on a work mission, but occasionally he hangs out locally, just for fun. “My favourite place in the area is Crouch End. I also enjoy Upper Street, especially the Angel and around Camden Passage.”

You can see Dieter’s photos in the Islington Gazette. http://www.islingtongazette.co.uk/home

WORDS*

Over to you

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).

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

If you enjoyed this post you might enjoy the most popular of all islingtonfacesblog posts, Nina Marcangelo from Alfredo’s Cafe on Essex Road which had 800 viewers in a week, 187 views on its 2nd day up and 97 facebook shares.

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A Abu Kalbin: newspaper seller

10 Oct

Everyone on Islington Faces Blog has a story. Mostly it’ s just  A Abu Kalbin’s head and shoulders that customers see behind the huge newspaper and magazine kiosk at Angel. But that doesn’t stop people asking him questions as if he’s a talking A-Z. And after three years in this job, plus a short spell living near Paradise Park, N7 he’s a good source of local information. Interview by Nicola Baird

What we ask the guy on the newspaper stall
Q: Is this the way to King’s Cross?
Take the 2nd right

Q: Where’s Highbury and Islington station?
That way

Q: Is there an internet café nearby?
There’s one up Chapel Market on the left.

Q: Do you have Time Out?
No, it’s free and comes out on Tuesday, but you can see what’s on in the Evening Standard at Angel tube or tomorrow (Saturday) in the Guardian. (To help the pensioner couple clearly out in town on a Friday date who’d clearly been banking on Time Out to help them decide what to do.)

Abu Kalbin at the newspaper and magazine kiosk on the corner of Islington High Street and Liverpool Road.

Abu Kalbin at the newspaper and magazine kiosk on the corner of Islington High Street
and Liverpool Road.

“I like to help people! I can look at the map or I’ll check their area postcode. EC1 is this side,” says Abu (his friends call him Alex) with a grin, pointing first left and then the other way towards Upper Street as he adds, “and N1 that side.”

Rayden Newsagents, to give the kiosk its correct name, is an Islington institution. It stocks every known newspaper and magazine and is open from 7am seven days a week. Abu isn’t the only person working there, but he’s the one who does a good job helping people find their way around while serving a stream of customers. “We mostly sell the Guardian, Times and Indy, and a few foreign magazines too, mostly Spanish or French. People know we’ve got a really good collection of magazines that they don’t see in WH Smith, Waitrose or Sainsbury’s.”

Read all about it
As the photo above shows Abu is surrounded by a sea of magazines including some fabulous titles such as Garage, The Gentlewoman, Hope Street as well as the more conventional exotic titles like Wallpaper* and i-D.  No wonder there’s a steady stream of fashion and design folk queuing up. As a joke – because I’m wearing a luminous yellow bike jacket – I ask whether I look like the sort of person who might buy a fashion mag. Abu laughs and has a quick retort. “You’re not going to pay £6 or £10 are you? Normal people, who are not too much into fashion, they get the weekly magazines like Grazia and Hello. Most of the fashion people are models or putting the seasonal clothes together. It’s their work.”

Football fan
Abu, 40, is from Jordan, and speaks Arabic and Hebrew fluently. But he’s good at English and fashion too – the magazine that most tempts him is GQ – so when he can he chats to the customers. “You know England,” he says laughing again, “if people are old it’s the weather, if they are young it’s football.”  Luckily he loves football and used to follow the fortunes of Bayern Munich (European Champions’ League winners and winners of the Bundesliga) and Liverpool. Now he “just likes to watch football at friends’ houses, and every two weeks we go to a pub to watch.”

In summer time it’s a really nice job. There are more people outside, they are happy and like to talk. But in winter it can get really cold [even with his small heater] and people don’t talk, they just like to go to work.”

Not surprisingly the kiosk has attracted a fair share of celebrities and crazies.

“I’ve met the Mayor, Boris Johnson. He’s a nice guy and he does normal talk – said ‘good morning, how are you, how is business’. What surprised me was he bought Private Eye! He’s a funny guy and relaxed, not like the MPs that take themselves so seriously,” says Abu.

“You meet a lot of people working here. I remember one woman, who was about 35, just picking up boxes of magazines and throwing them into the street. She didn’t speak but I could see something was wrong with her. I tried to calm her down and get the magazines out of the road.”

There’s always a few troublemakers to contend with too: “People do try to take the piss and make me angry but I just try to keep cool, and show I don’t care too much, so that they just walk away. If people try to nick magazines I just try to speak to them – if I can sort things out I’ll do it. If I can’t, or there’s fighting, then I call the police.”

Thanks to Abu’s way with people it rarely comes to that.

Rayden Newsagents,  Kiosk 2, Islington High Street, London N1 9LH

Over to you

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).

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

If you enjoyed this post you might enjoy the most popular of all islingtonfacesblog posts, Nina Marcangelo from Alfredo’s Cafe on Essex Road which had 800 viewers in a week, 187 views on its 2nd day up and 97 facebook shares.

Corinna Snashall: planning a gap year

25 Sep

Everyone on Islington Faces Blog has a story.  It’s only two weeks since the summer holidays ended but Year 13 student at Camden Girls’ School, Corinna Snashall, is not just busy studying for A levels, she’s also pulling together a hectic round of fundraising events including a November Bonfire party. Interview by Nicola Baird

Corinna Snashall: fundraising during A levels so she can volunteer as a teacher in rural Namibia before going to university.

Corinna Snashall: fundraising during A levels so she can volunteer as a teacher in rural Namibia before going to university in 2015.

“I’ll invite a few friends, and have a few fireworks. It’ll be the same as always – fireworks in the garden, then pumpkin soup, baked potatoes and cake, but people will give a donation,” says Corinna, 17. The reason Corinna’s got to charge her friends to come to her family’s back garden Firework Party is pretty exciting. If she can raise £5,600+ by summer 2014 she’ll be able to spend the time between sixth form and university volunteering as a teacher for young children in a remote part of Namibia. It should be a life-enhancing experience for her, and a huge benefit to the kids who get to learn English from an English first-language speaker.

It’s also a long way from the Gap Year of crazy holiday partying so wittily satorised in the YouTube clip Gap Yah, see here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eKFjWR7X5dU

Corinna’s the first to admit that the fundraising for a year of living expenses, support for the organising charity, Project Trust, and a return flight, is a challenge. “I’m planning the Bonfire party, a ceilidh* and a Christmas party,” she says.  “I raised £40 at my first cake sale and plan to do many more. I needed ideas, so my mum said, ‘why not get sponsored to walk backwards to school?’ And then I wondered if I could walk backwards to somewhere Namibian. I did some research and saw that the Embassy is in Marylebone.* So I’ll walk backwards to it from Islington on the day after 21 March, Namibian independence day (ie, Saturday 22 March 2014). Hopefully I’ll get a few friends to help me. They can say ‘move left’, or ‘someone’s there’, or ‘watch the dog poo’, and I can have collecting buckets for donations and hand out leaflets.”

Some of the students on the selection course with Corinna, here seen after climbing the highest point on Coll.

Some of the students on the selection course with Corinna, here seen after climbing the highest point on Coll.

Project Trust is a gap year charity http://www.projecttrust.org.uk  that sends young people for 12 (or eight) months to work on community projects worldwide.  Corinna went to a talk at her school, and then decided to apply. To do this she had to make her way to the remote island of Coll, western Scotland – taking a train from Euston to Glasgow, then Glasgow to Oban, and then a ferry.

“It was really fun in Coll,” says Corinna who is studying Music as one of her A levels (she’s also doing Biology and Chemistry) and plays the piano and trumpet well – she’s working on Grade 6 for both. “I had to teach a lesson to our group. I did it on basic note value for crochets, quavers and minims. I got people lying on the floor to make minims,” she says laughing.

“We also learnt about every aspect of life on Coll, dug a vegetable garden and climbed the island’s highest hill. We all had individual tasks to help members of the community. I did stock taking, but others were sheep herding!”

Corinna was selected and offered a volunteer teaching opportunity with primary school aged children, or younger, in Namibia.

“I’m lucky as I’ve been to Namibia before,” she says. “My dad’s a doctor and he was invited in 2009 to do some work with a Namibian doctor working on the uranium mines. The doctor said he should bring his family along. I was 13 and what I remember most is the smell you get as you step off the plane. It’s kind of earthy, sunburned, gamey smell. That time we didn’t really interact with the community but we saw a leopard sanctuary, walked up amazing red sand dunes and saw very old cave paintings. I even saw two giraffes mating – I held up my video camera to film one giraffe and suddenly another giraffe jumped on the other! We also got a CD of a Namibian children’s choir. It’s a capello (no instruments) but they use a lot of clapping and stamping. A lot is sung in Xhosa which I’d love to learn. There are three types of clicks  – it’s really impressive to someone who doesn’t speak with clicks.”

Although Corinna enjoyed her time as a tourist, she also knows that living in a rural village will be challenging. “I’m dreading the spiders, snakes, insects and the vaccinations,” she says with a clear shudder. “I’m a total wimp when it comes to injections. I don’t even have my ears pierced…”

Namibia in a nutshell
Namibia only became independent (from South Africa) in 1990. Although it’s a sparsely populated country of 2.1million people – and some of the biggest uranium and diamond mines in the world – Namibia looks unlikely to meet key Millennium Development Goals. Child and maternal deaths remain high. Every month many women die after giving birth.

Corinna: xx

Corinna: “It’s not just money I need to get to teach in Namibia. It’s donations of prizes for raffles or a free venue or publicity.”

Learning to plan
Moving into the final year of sixth form is a long way from child-maternal deaths, but it’s still a tough time for most students. Not only do 17 and 18 year olds have to cope with more rigorous learning, they may also have to find jobs and a university place. Corinna’s timetable is definitely tight. “The idea is to apply for bio-medical science on a deferred place. But I’m still thinking about studying medicine, ” she explains.

 

Where do teens go locally? Corinna’s time out in Islington
What I like about Islington
It’s easy to get everywhere – shopping in Angel is only a bus ride away and it doesn’t take long to get into central London on the tube. Transport is good in general – regular buses and tubes. Lots of parks around – Clissold, Highbury, Gillespie and Finsbury all within about 10mins. Most of my friends live around here, which means it’s easy to meet up at weekends, and for the people living further away it’s still not too difficult.

What I do in Islington
I like to go up to Angel with friends – can easily spend a whole afternoon looking around shops – H&M, Butlers, Paperchase, Book Warehouse (great for Dad’s birthday!), Cybercandy, Samba Swirl, Waterstone’s etc… Lots of places to eat as well – both locally to go out with family and cheapish places in Angel to go with friends (Nando’s Crew!). Handy to have a cinema close, also making good use of the Fieldway Crescent library (off Holloway Road) now, both for homework and looking up charitable trusts to hassle for grants.

What she is certain about is that the university she picks won’t be in London. “I was born in central London and then when I was tiny my mum and dad moved to Islington.” She’s been to schools in the borough – St John’s Primary School and Highbury Fields Secondary, both in  N5, and is an Islington fan.

It’s not about disliking London. It’s about wanting a change and experiencing life in a new place,” she says before quickly focusing again on her fundraising efforts.  “It’s not just money I need to get to teach in Namibia, it’s donations of prizes for raffles, or a free venue or publicity.  I need to get the message out to everyone because someone may be able to help me, especially organising a venue for a ceilidh. I only got my fundraising pack two days ago, but I’ve already made a flyer and done a cake sale!”

Here’s wishing Corinna very good luck with her fundraising efforts and a safe time volunteering in Namibia.

To make a donation go to www.virginmoneygiving.com/corinnasnashall or to suggest a fundraising idea, offer a venue or donate a raffle/auction gift please email Corinna at latitudegirl@btinternet.com

Corinna has also started a blog, see here.

More info about Project Trust here http://www.projecttrust.org.uk

Words*

Namibian High Commission, Marylebone – see http://www.namibiahc.org.uk  Walking backwards the 4km (3miles) from Highbury, N5, where Corinna lives, to Marylebone, E4 sounds like a challenge, but the real distance between London and Windhoek, the capital of Namibia is vast – around 8,965km (5,571 miles) see here http://www.distancefromto.net/distance-from/UK/to/Namibia

Celidh – Scottish dancing party, ideal for mixed ages and usually a lot of fun. You don’t have to know the dancers as a Celidh caller can shout out the moves.

Over to you

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).

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

If you enjoyed this post you might enjoy the most popular of all islingtonfacesblog posts, Nina Marcangelo from Alfredo’s Cafe on Essex Road which had 800 viewers in a week, 187 views on its 2nd day up and 97 facebook shares.

Steve Hatt: fishmonger

18 Sep
Everyone on Islington Faces Blog has a story.  In 1895 Steve Hatt’s great grandfather, Mr William Morris, opened a fish shop on Essex Road, which he ran until 1920. Amazingly four generations of the same family have now run this famously good fishmongers. Meet the man at the helm today, Mr Hatt.  Interview by Nicola Baird
Steve Hatt: xx

Steve Hatt: the fourth generation in the same family, dating back to 1895) to run a  fishmongers on Essex Road, N1.

TIMELINE by Steve Hatt

1895-1920 my great grandfather ran this fish shop (he died in the flu epidemic)

1920-1951 Between the wars my mother Pamela Morris lived upstairs with her mother, father and grandparents. During the war the top of the building was hit by an incendiary (bomb) and they had to move out.

1951- 1970 Pamela’s husband, Steve Hatt, ran the business.

1970 – present Their son, our Steve Hatt, modernises. The smoker has gone but there’s now super-efficient ice-making machinery and three flats above the shop.

“I’ve seen a lot of changes in Islington and the industry,” says Steve Hatt, now 61, contemplatively from the centre of his office. The office is tucked behind the shop, allowing him to keep an eye on his fast-talking white wellie booted-staff -serving lobster, octopus, hake, Dover sole, farmed and fresh salmon or trout, mullet, etc, etc – and to greet the regulars. Mr Hatt, as he’s known in the shop, is a master of juggling: between my questions orders are noted down for tigers (prawns) and haddock plus phones answered. Turns out he’s expert at sorting out bricks and mortar too – essential given the way retailing has changed.

“There used to be two individual cottages at the back on Elder Walk. Number 90 was used as a stable for the horse that drew the cart to market,” says Steve, “then as refrigeration became prominent my great-grandfather acquired #89 to expand the ground floor. We used to smoke lots of haddock, mackerel, cod and trout on the premises, and it was a great asset because we could smoke the fish exactly how we wanted it.” These home-smoked products were popular, indeed the chimney for smoking was so large Steve could probably have hidden his staff in it.

Tiles with an old fashioned feel, put in during the early 1990s.

Tiles with an old fashioned feel, put in during the early 1990s.

The drawback was that traditional fish smoking emits a lot of smoke which is “unacceptable to the modern environment,” admits Steve, “but because our smokery was in a separate building, that had been there before 1920, it beat the regulations.”

Then in September 2007 the smoker caught fire*. “I could have walked away and retired if I didn’t own this building,” says Steve. “I eventually managed to rebuild the ground floor and keep the business running at the same time.This was a most stressful two year period. Total commitment to handling the best fresh fish in the best facilities was my main priority at all costs. Now we have the best plant and machinery on the market for storage, loading and unloading, but we’ve maintained the old-fashioned part, with the wet fish counter which the customers like, at the very front of the building.”

The fire was the second time Steve had fought hard to run this fishmongers. “I always enjoyed the outdoors when I was at school. We lived at Southgate and my mother, Pamela Morris, had the shop but my father [also called Steve] ran it. My father wanted me to go into a profession – be an accountant or a solicitor. But once I’d decided, that was it.”

20130910_100513All change
The fishing industry had changed as much as retail.

Over the years about the only thing that hasn’t changed is the crazily early time Steve gets up – 3.20am. “It’s so I can collate overnight orders and source anything particularly hard to get.”  He then drives from his home in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire to New Billingsgate Fish Market* now sited near Canary Wharf.

“I have tried fishing on boats but found it an intolerable way of earning a living. It’s extremely hard: 25 years ago fishing was statistically the most dangerous occupation – you couldn’t get life insurance.” Even working on land the trade is tough, characterised by heavy weights, inhospitable conditions (especially in winter) and a lot of contact with ice. Perhaps for these reasons very few women choose to be fishermen.

“The retail industry has changed dramatically in 20 years mainly due to modern food handling regulations, which have done away with many old traditions, or made them no longer viable. Is that good or bad, question mark?” asks Steve leaning back in his chair.

Steve Hatt fishmongers: a rare view without a queue emerging on to Essex Road.

Steve Hatt fishmongers: a rare view without a queue emerging on to Essex Road.

Supermarkets
And then there’s the way we all shop: at supermarkets.

“I don’t regard supermarkets as competition,” says Steve. “They can provide parking and late night shopping, but they cannot provide the same quality fresh fish, 24 hours out of the water. All fresh fish caught locally around our coast is sold at auction. Auctions are held on Monday to Friday. The last fish to come to London each week arrives on Saturday morning, having been auctioned on Friday. So any fish sold on Sunday or Monday is one day older… how can a supermarket do that?

Plenty of fish in the sea?
Critical fish stocks and how to fish sustainably has been a huge part of the modern food debate. In supermarkets or any shop that sells packaged fish customers can opt for the MSC – Marine Stewardship Council label, a system that promotes sustainable fishing practices. http://www.msc.org/about-us/what-we-do

However pre-packaged fish isn’t sold at Steve Hatt’s shop.

“The best quality product is all I’m interested in. The MSC approved label is for the segment of fish that ends up in boxes. This is where I think fish auctions are critical, because all fish sold at auction is graded and the sea area in which the fish was caught identified. In the old days you would have the name of the boat and the port where it was registered. Now with modern satellite tracking devices and fish logs the fish is traceable not only to the boat but to the sea area, and has to be within the quota system.  If everyone sticks to the rules laid out by the scientists then fish stocks should slowly recover. A Spanish trawler can’t suddenly slip in and hive off 50 tonnes of mackerel, then slide off again.”

The fishmonger’s secrets

Q: What’s your best selling fish?

Farmed salmon. Be clear, there’s a world of difference between farmed salmon in the supermarket and from a top class fishmonger. Just consider the time passed from the moment the fish is killed.  We also sell a lot of mackrel and sardines.

Q: Can you cook?

Yes – I love cooking fish. Last stime I cooked was salmon in the oven with a honey and mustard glaze. In 15 minutes it was done.

Q: Can you recommend a cook book?

Susan Campbell’s Poor Cook (1976, co-written with Shirley Conran) and Family Cook (1974) have the best descriptions and hand drawn pictures of how to clean and fillet a fish. It’s a painstaking delight.

Q: Where do you go in Islington?

I don’t normally have lunch. In the late ‘80s and ‘90s there were some small, character restaurants in Islington – Monsieur Frog (now a showroom), Anna’s Place, off Liverpool Road, and the Camden Passage heydays with Robert Carrier (the founding father of modern food photography, especially fish), although there is still Fredericks. I feel the quality of food in the area has been sacrificed for volume and alcohol consumption – alcohol helps make the figures add up.”

Q: What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
I used to shoot, partridge and pheasant mostly, but I’ve got arthritis in my  shoulder so my main hobby now is skiing.

Eel trouble
Islington – renowned for its foodies but miles from the sea – has struck lucky with Steve Hatt’s shop. On Saturdays there is invariably a queue snaking out of the door as people who want the freshest fish, wait patiently to be served, often chatting in a range of languages. Once you’ve chosen your fish the staff always offer to clean or even fillet it for you.

Occasionally there are mishaps to enjoy… “I was serving an old lady with live eels one day,” says Steve, “when one of the eels slipped out of my hand and shot up in the air like a missile.  Very near the front of the queue there was an extremely tough looking 6 foot 3 inch American gentleman who was absolutely terrified and nearly fainted! The old lady thought it was hilarious.”

The queue is typically customers picking out the fish they want to cook at home. “We don’t serve many restaurants,” continues Steve. “The key change is the amount of pre-processed fish that restaurants buy. The modern restaurant kitchen has shed staff so no longer buys whole salmon or whole fish, or even slices. They don’t fillet or clean themselves.  It still amazes me how little people know about fish and the actual simple cooking processes. The British have a very low consumption of fish – the Spanish eat over five times more.”

People often say that fishing and fishmongers are a dying trade, but the facts don’t always add up. Not only do we have Steve Hatt offering the freshest fish around, two new fish shops have opened in the past year in Islington – Meek and Wild at Highbury Barn and the Prawn on the Lawn on the corner of St Paul’s Road and Highbury Grove.  Perhaps best of all Steve Hatt’s business is now fully-modernised, making it possible to run an old-fashioned counter-serving fish shop for many years to come.

As for who will run it, Steve’s on the case: “Both my children will almost certainly not actually work in the shop. However, like myself, they both want to see the name of Steve Hatt over the door in the future. Staff committed to the business will be the key. Ruthless discipline in work practices and judgment of quality product will need to remain solid… but for the foreseeable future I remain doing what I enjoy, here in Islington.”

Steve Hatt fishmongers is open Tuesday – Saturday from 8am-5pm. Find it at 88-90 Essex Road, N1 8LU.

Read an interesting piece about Steve in the Independent (18/9/1995)  here.

Words*

Fire in the smokery – see the news coverage in the Islington Tribune, here

New Billingsgate Fish Market, is open Tuesday-Saturday, 5.30-8.30am. Short video here http://www.theguardian.com/travel/video/2011/oct/18/billingsgate-fish-market-london-video

Over to you

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).

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

If you enjoyed this post you might enjoy the most popular of all islingtonfacesblog posts, Nina Marcangelo from Alfredo’s Cafe on Essex Road which had 800 viewers in a week, 187 views on its 2nd day up and 97 facebook shares.

Pat Tuson: urban nature photographer

29 Aug

Everyone on Islington Faces Blog has a story.  Pat Tuson, 68, best known locally as leading the Gillespie Festival team, grew up in the East End but it’s Islington birds and blooms that feature most in her urban and plant photographs.  Interview by Nicola Baird

Pat Tuson: xxx

Pat Tuson: “I’ve always been a bit of a whiz with family history, but I was amazed to find out recently that my grandmother was born in the Paradise Cafe, 129 Holloway Road, N7 (near St Mary Magdalene Church) where my great grandfather was a coffee house keeper. It’s my only Islington connection but one until recently I knew nothing about.”

“I was accidentally born in Somerset, but we came from Bow* in East London, near where the terrible cycling accidents happen opposite where McDonald’s is now,” explains Pat when I track her down at the Ecology Centre off Drayton Park. She’s armed with her Nikon D300 camera waiting for the wind to die down so she can take photos of summer plants.

Pat was a war baby – born in January 1945, and her dad, known as Jack (“actually Denis Archibald – he was the seventh son so they’d run out of names,” says Pat joking). “My grandfather was a scrap metal dealer, and so was my father. There was no stigma to being a scrap metal dealer then, as there is now, and my father was a respected member of the local comunity and the Catholic Church. He was oftern referred to as ‘one of nature’s gentlemen’.”

Life in Bow
“My father was married in 1940, but he’d fallen off a roof a few years before and then rolled under a lorry. He was there concussed for two hours before anyone found him. He was in hospital for two years and nearly didn’t make it. It affected him always – he needed a stick and he was very nervous about my mother and I.”

“We lived in a little row of terrace cottages (not as grand as Whistler Street off Drayton Park, N5) that were in very bad condition. They were held up with wooden supports and our house had a corrugated roof. My uncle lived next door – he was a Labour councillor in Poplar, and became Mayor too.”

“In 1944 doodlebugs* had been dropped a few streets away – seven or eight people were killed, and my father was very nervous, so we went to Minehead. I was actually born in Bridgewater. A note was sent to my father saying he’d had a daughter and then he had to walk to the hospital [21 miles/33km] as there was no public transport due to the bad weather.”

The family was back in London by spring 1945, but in addition to post war austerity they had to put up with a lot. In 1951 Pat’s little brother died just four days after he was born, and then Pat was diagnosed with TB (caught from another uncle). “TB is contagious,” she explains. “I was only eight, and I didn’t feel ill, but I was carted off to High Wood, a sanatorium in Brentwood*, Essex for five months. The cure was rest, you had to stay in bed. I couldn’t understand why I had to go to sleep at 6pm in the summer when the light was flowing in from the window. My parents didn’t drive but I saw them on Sunday visiting. I made more friends towards the end – you start getting up for an hour at lunch, but I don’t remember how I spent the time, though I’ve always liked reading. I loved Biggles and adventure stories. At the end you are institutionalized, but I wasn’t happy there. As an adult in hospital I’ve been well-treated but when I came out of High Wood I didn’t like nurses.”

In those days TB was treated with isolation, and then a year off school – Pat had no chance of catching up the lost work and ended leaving school in Poplar before she was 15. Yet getting work at the start of the 1960s was no problem. “I could do clerical work and typing. I got my first job in Holborn,” she says. “Jobs were plentiful then and there was lots of choice.”

1960s London
It was the ‘60s and inevitably the teenage Pat fell in love with fashion. “I’ve still got a collection of very old Vogues, though I did sell some recently. I wore the trendy stuff. I loved short skirts from Biba and Mary Quant; I loved the first Biba shop. But then you grow out of these things and get into fleeces. Now I have an extra small, a medium and a large so I can wear them on top of each other when it’s cold.”

Pat met her life partner, Chris Ashby, at a party in Chelsea when she was 22. He’d grown up in Blackpool and was working as a mechanical engineer so they tried out Edinburgh, Liverpool and Spain. They moved to Islington in 1973, though In the mid-70s the pair spent a winter on the Island of Islay in the Inner Hebrides watching and photographing the wild geese that wintered there. “We arrived home with four kittens which we’d rescued from drowning, which eventually led to me setting up a cat sitting business in 1992,” she says.

“When I was young everyone got married,” explains Pat. “I always said Chris was too mean to pay the 7/-6,’ she says with a gentle grin, “but my parents weren’t smart people and they didn’t mind what I did, as long as I was happy and healthy. We’ve been together for 46 years and still not married… but we may now, for financial reasons!”

The Ecology Centre becomes a jazz stage with a cafe behind during the Gillespie Festival (on the 2nd Sunday of September).

The Ecology Centre becomes a jazz stage with a cafe behind during the Gillespie Festival (on the 2nd Sunday of September).

Islington changes
“In 1973 Islington was already slightly trendy – it started being so in the ‘60s. Then it became more established, lived in by older people. Because there are now lots more flats there are more younger people again, but I feel it’s become very over-crowded. Our house (behind the Emirates Stadium) is now surrounded by people who are new to us. They are packing everyone in and there isn’t enough green space. They build on every tiny little corner: if you can squeeze a house or a flat in, then they’ll do it. In the 1970s Peter Bonsall, parks officer, opened up Barnard Park* http://www.barnardpark.org/history.html, but since then we’ve lost half of Gillespie Park with the Quill Street development.”

One of the many lovely views at Gillespie Park, just behind the Ecology Centre.  Find it seconds away from Arsenal tube, just off Drayton Park in the shadow of Arsenal's old and new ground.

One of the many lovely views at Gillespie Park, just behind the Ecology Centre. Find it seconds away from Arsenal tube, just off Drayton Park in the shadow of Arsenal’s old and new ground.

Keeping it green
In a bid to deal with Islington’s lack of green space Pat and Chris have an allotment, were stalwarts of the Green party for years and also used to run the Islington Wildlife Group (part of the London Wildlife Trust). They also joined the campaign to save Gillespie Park from being built over in the late 1990s.

“The first festival was part of that campaign, 27 years ago,” explains Pat who still helps co-ordinate the annual community festival with a green edge held in this unique ecology park behind Arsenal tube. “You can’t imagine the amount of work involved for everybody. You’ve got to make sure the insurance is in place, the police and fire brigade are informed and that all the stallholders are happy…” Despite the workload, Pat, and her team, will ensure everything’s ready for the 2,000 visitors expected to turn up for the 27th festival on Sunday 8 September from 2-6pm.

(c) Pat Tuson - Gillespie Park Local Nature Reserve under snow with Common reed Phragmites communis in foreground Highbury Islington London England UK.

One of Pat’s beautiful pictures of urban nature, by (c) Pat Tuson – Gillespie Park Local Nature Reserve under snow with Common reed Phragmites communis in foreground near Highbury Islington London England UK.

Why I love cameras
Q Why do you photograph Islington?
A: Because it’s there when I open my front door. It’s a fascinating place and the supply of images is never ending.”

Q: Where’s your favourite place to take photographs in Islington?
A: Well, it should be Gillespie Park, but I rather like just wondering around the streets and looking at people’s front gardens to see what’s growing over their walls or railings. So if anybody sees their front garden in a smart magazine I hope they don’t mind!”
Feeling good
After successful heart surgery in 2012, Pat’s health is good again – “because I’ve got so many bits of metal and wires inside me, and take so many tablets,” she jokes. As a result she is able to add more pictures to her urban and plant photography collection, which is exactly what she heads off to do when our interview finishes. So, if you see a woman (possibly in fleece) photographing overgrown plant signs, allotment produce or a perfect bloom – at the Festival or locally anytime – there’s a strong chance it’ll be super-organised Gillespie Festival co-ordinator, Pat Tuson.

See Pat’s photos here http://www.pattuson.co.uk/. Her photos are also stocked by Gap Photos, Nature Picture Library, Ecoscene and Alamy.

Pat’s partner, Chris Ashby, may be able to feed your cat if you are away, check prices and dates at 020 7609 5093.

It’s free to join Friends of Gillespie Park

Gillespie Festival is on Sunday 8 September 2013 from 1-5pm. It’s a free event – the entrance is close to Arsenal tube.

If you’ve enjoyed this piece about a Gillespie Festival committee member you might also like to look at interviews with other committee members – Diane BurridgeStephen Coles, Sue Jandy and ex-committee member Angela Sinclair-Loutit.

Words*

Over to you

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).

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

If you enjoyed this post you might enjoy the most popular of all islingtonfacesblog posts, Nina Marcangelo from Alfredo’s Cafe on Essex Road which had 800 viewers in a week, 187 views on its 2nd day up and 97 facebook shares.

Manuel & Stella Saavedra: puttin’ on the Ritz

22 Aug

Everyone on Islington Faces Blog has a story. London is a big draw for people all round the world. Manuel Saavedra – born in Spain – and his wife Stella – from the Philippines – came here to seek their fortune in the late 1960s. They met in the heart of London in the 1970s and married. Now both retired they talk about their years living in Islington. Interview by Nicola Baird

manuel_portrait

Manuel and Stella are a lovely couple who generously let their back yard be used by the Blackstock Gardeners of N4 for the seed and plant swapping parties that are run two or three times a year. That’s how I found out Manuel is a skilled gardener and expert at saving rainwater, in a collection of rain butts, to use on his thriving plants. This year he is growing blue potatoes, beans, fennel, brussel sprouts, a grape vine and a cucumber. Many of Manuel’s plants were grown from seed given out at one of the Blackstock Gardeners’ Cake Sunday events.*

Manuel: “I was born in Galicia, in the north west of Spain. It’s the next province to Santiago di Compostela. In Galicia it’s green like here. It rains and it snows. We were a farming family, growing wheat, sweet corn, potatoes, beans. It was nice in one way because there was no one to tell you when to wake up or go to bed or get the products ready. In that way were very rich. But to buy a dress we had to sell an animal, or eggs or a cheese. From a very young age my eight brothers and sisters found their way out to a different job. We saw people coming from abroad with the good suit, the good tie and shiny hands. They were so well dressed and had a pile of money. We went out and they said “I’ll pay for him”. That tells me, it tells us all, I must go abroad to Germany, England, or Holland. We never asked how they made their money – they were waiters or washing up…

Stella: “I was born in the Philippines in the city. My mum is from the Philippines and my Dad from China. I’m half and half. I came to London to study nursing at Great Ormond Street Hospital when I was 26. When I got here in 1971 I’d only known hot weather, but I liked the cold. In the beginning I was lonely as there were no Philippino people, now the community is a big one. But I soon made friends and was happy.

Manuel: “From 1969-83 I worked at the Top of the Town (a theatre restaurant, now the Hippodrome) in Leicester Square. I learnt English there. There were three restaurants serving 864 people at two shows a day.  When it closed in 1983 they said it wasn’t profitable, but we were still serving 350-400 customers daily! In 1970 I started working two jobs. Sometimes I only slept three hours. I joined the Ritz Hotel as a commis waiter*. The customers were excellent at the Ritz. Instead of complaining about my English they tried to correct you. I remember Hart to Hart (starring Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers) was filming in London in 1981 and we opened the buffet for 24 hours a day. I also worked in Mayfair at the Bristol Hotel (now the Mayfair Holiday Inn at the back of Aeroflot) and Browns, opposite Green Park.

Stella: “We met in Leicester Square. It was the nurses’ day off and we said let’s go to the discotheque at the Empire Mecca – it’s a casino now.

Manuel: “If you worked hard you got good money and good tips. I rented a room with my wife first. Then I was able to buy a flat, then a house. In my time you worked hard, but you could make good money – not like today when hotel staff get maybe £6 an hour, below the minimum wage.

Stella: “At first I lived in Holloway. The council ended up compulsorily purchasing the house. It was knocked down and now it’s the Argos car park.

Manuel: “I bought this house from Mr Protter. His mummy had died here. He was in the military, living in Essex. The house has five bedrooms now but with Mr Protter it had been two flats and squatters were getting in. Islington Council had given him £18,000 to do the place up, so everything was new, wiring – everything. My neighbour Lily said Mr Protter’s  mother had been here for over 60 years. I don’t think many people have lived in this house.

manuel_plaqueOn Manuel and Stella’s living room mantelpiece is a blue plaque picture provided by neighbour Naomi of a turn of the century census giving information about the 1911 residents of their home – Daniel Taylor, house painter, his wife and eight children (see pic). There are also photographs of the couple’s son Leonardo, now 34, graduating from Derby University. Leonardo lives in Chiswick now, but he went to primary school off Holloway Road and to St Aloysius Secondary School.

Manuel: “I remember my Mummy, before she passed, telling us at the fiestas to ‘Eat properly before you leave the house so you don’t have to spend even 10 pesetas. If you don’t need it, you don’t spend it.’ That’s why I tell my son ‘Don’t spend money’. I never used to go to the pub, and I don’t drink now. It’s because I was in hotels and in charge, so you can’t really drink. You have to behave yourself. But I don’t regret the hard work.”

manuel_stellabooks

Bricks and books for the grandchildren.

manuel_fennel

Manuel’s thriving plants grow along the boundary wall.

Manuel: “I stopped work in 2006. I noticed I couldn’t pick up a tray from the floor because of my back. But I like Gillespie Park and Finsbury Park and sometimes go for a walk with my friends. We go two or three rounds around Arsenal because it’s all level. I’ve never been to a game but my son went a lot of times with his school friend. I saw the stadium at a conference once…”

manuel_water

Ingenious water saving means Manuel never needs to use mains water on his plants, or to wash his son’s car.


Words*

  • Join the Blackstock Gardeners on a Cake Sunday by bringing a cake to share and then catch up on gardening tips and local news over a cup of tea. You can see photos of these events in Naomi Schillinger’s 2013 book Veg Street.  Or follow her blog here.
  • Commis waiter – entry level waiter who sets the cutlery, brings bread/water/condiments to the table, etc. See here.
  • Hart to Hart info here.

Over to you

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).

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

If you enjoyed this post you might enjoy the most popular of all islingtonfacesblog posts, Nina Marcangelo from Alfredo’s Cafe on Essex Road which had 800 viewers in a week, 187 views on its 2nd day up and 97 facebook shares.

Roy Griffiths: carpenter artist

15 Aug

Everyone on Islington Faces Blog has a story. If class, career and cancer can make or break a life then the experiences of furniture maker and shop owner Roy Griffiths shows how to turn adversity into advantage. Plus quick detours around the swinging ‘60s, art and Zen Buddhism. Interview by Nicola Baird

roy_griffiths_servants

On Highbury Hill, N5 you can still see the old entrance bell signs used by either visitors or servants.

“I was a war baby, born in 1939. My family were all servants looking after the posh people. They were chauffeurs or chambermaids. My mum was a milliner and my Dad a postman,” says Roy Griffiths, now 73, with matter-of-fact pride sitting on one of a comfy pair of sofas in his massive 9,000 square foot shop at 137-139 Essex Road. It’s been a furniture or kitchen shop for the past 10 years but Roy now has plans to sell bespoke kitchen cabinets at an affordable price (£5,000 instead of £20,000).

There are a couple of show kitchens on the shop floor plus some eccentric furniture (a Pacific island coffee table) and some stylish oil paintings, done by Roy during his art school days.

The building also boasts an art studio, a carpentry shop and a penthouse. Roy offered to do this interview spontaneously (despite never meeting me before) and is clearly busy – his mobile buzzes often and there’s a fitter working on the other side of the shop who needs supervision.

Roy began life in Islington. He was born in St Mary’s Hospital and then went home to 124 Northchurch Road, N1 which the family rented. He was evacuated to Torquay “later my sister bought a hotel there, well more of a boarding house,” but then the family moved back to Wood Green. When Roy was 14 – and at a grammar school -they moved out to Hertfordshire. It’s a slow northerly route that many Islington families follow, even now. In the 1960s Roy was back in London to attend Hornsey Art School, he then taught art for three years in Norfolk, before taking up a place at the Slade (a famous art college). It was a heady time in the art world – think David Hockney, Derek Jarman, Lucien Freud and sculptor Allen Jones. “Look, I’m an artist by trade,” says Roy explaining how he left the Slade at 27 and became an antique dealer. “I didn’t think I could do art and feed my family.”  That’s another fascinating story… Roy “married Mimi, a girl from the circus – well her dad was a high diver. I chased her around Europe!” Successfully chased as the pair have now been married 50 years.

ROY’S TIMELINE 1939 – born in Islington 1960s – art school (and worked as a teacher) 1967-1993 – ran an antique shop in Fulham with many famous customers (eg, Paul McCartney). The shop was closed when Mimi became paraplegic. 1976 – set up Cross Keys Joinery which specialised in painted furniture– Ray sold it in 2007 to retire in France 1996 – bought 137-139 Essex Road building which was run as a furniture shop 2009 – Set up Green & Fay (named after his daughters Polly, 49, and Lucy, 44 who both live in London still) 2011 – Diagnosed with neck cancer, had chemotherapy and also rekindled his interest in Zen Buddhism 2013 – September – plans to run Green & Fay as a kitchen shop which sells furniture.

Seize the moment
So now he’s 72 and retired to France at least once, what is going on? “People say ‘You don’t need money, why do you do it?’ But artists don’t retire. They drop dead in their boots,” explains Roy. “In 2011 I was diagnosed with neck cancer. Cancer’s been the best thing that happened to me. When you get it, you know nothing about it. Then you read up what the Macmillan nurses say and find that something very odd happens – many people disappear and people at work start leaving. They either think cancer is catching or terrifying. They run for it. They can’t talk! It creates tremendous pressure. It nearly broke up my marriage. It made me come out of the closet as a Zen Buddhist – but Zen Buddhism helps you be calm and happy and appreciate nature.”

“Cancer makes you concentrate your mind on the quality of your life – not on your wife or children or employees. You ask ‘What do I want to do?’ And I realised I just love making furniture. I made a fantastic living with carpentry. I went out and bought £5,000, maybe £10,000 of kit and started making furniture again.  I’ve done my tour of duty – and it was a tour of duty. I’ve got a lovely family and over the years I’ve employed 200 to 300 staff and helped them feed their families. Now all of a sudden I’m doing what I love doing, making furniture.”

And he’s doing it back in Islington – a place clearly dear to his heart. “Well my wife doesn’t like suburbia. And Islington has a very mixed alternative society.  There’s something special about Essex Road – Upper Street is incredibly posh, it’s where Blair went for lunch – but Essex Road is full of immigrants who work hard and run their own shops. Essex Road is cosmopolitan. It’s one of the last streets with a butcher, baker and fishmonger.

Supermarkets have taken over the high street with their express and metro stores and killed off small businesses, but not in Essex Road. Here’s a culture that’s very attractive to artists and creative people.”

Roy Griffiths’ story shows how to embrace change and craft them into the life you want to lead. Right now his shop is open from 11.30am-2.30pm on Saturday, so you can go and find out more for yourself. Make sure you ask to see the chocolate joints – Roy’s brand new carpentry technique.

Green & Fay is open on Saturdays from 11.30am-2.30pm – go see Roy’s lovely art works and find out about the cupboards he makes. From September 2013 the hours will be longer. See http://greenandfaykitchens.co.uk/handmade-kitchen-units.php

Over to you

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).

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

If you enjoyed this post you might enjoy the most popular of all islingtonfacesblog posts, Nina Marcangelo from Alfredo’s Cafe on Essex Road which had 800 viewers in a week, 187 views on its 2nd day up and 97 facebook shares.

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