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Cate Mackenzie: love coach

13 Apr

Flame-haired Cate Mackenzie makes finding love a lot of fun. From May she’s running more How To Flirt workshops at a pub near Angel. Or you can be a bit more daring and join a session with her to learn how to love better. Like the best of stories it all starts with just one look… Nicola Baird finds out more.

Cate Mackenzie: xx

Cate Mackenzie: international love coach, sex therapist and couples counsellor is in Islington (c) c mackenzie

“Some people say I haven’t produced a boyfriend for them yet. I say ‘I don’t have them in the cupboard!’ A boyfriend will show up when you are ready,” says Cate Mackenzie cheerfully. She’s the most empathetic woman, beautiful, curvy and with a very warm smile who clearly knows how to make flirting a lot of fun. We meet at the picture-filled bohemian Chelsea Arts Club not too far from Sloane Square, an area Islington Faces doesn’t visit much. The good news is that Cate doesn’t rate Chelsea* for flirting. Instead she recommends a trip to… Islington.

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.

“Go and take an adventure. Dress up and go to Brighton or St Paul’s Cathedral area. I recommend people flirt in Islington – with all its quirky pavement cafes and outdoor places you can relax. It’s rather like Italy. “ This might be stretching anyone’s imagination on a chilly day, even if you know Islington’s long connection with Italy (in Clerkenwell there’s even a Little Italy), but as Cate says: “A lot of what I’m teaching is how to get to be a bit more friendly.” 

The Joker pub on 58 Penton Street, N1 has just been refurbished. If you join Cate Mackenzie's flirting workshop there in May (and once a month after that) you can also try a beer from the new tap wall.

The Joker pub on 58 Penton Street, N1 has just been refurbished. If you join Cate Mackenzie’s flirting workshop there in May (and once a month after that) you can also try a beer from the new tap wall.

Fun things to do in Islington picked by Cate Mackenzie

Upside down ceiling lights at the new Bella Italia in Angel Central.

Search for the quirky: upside down ceiling lights at Bella Italia in Angel Central.

  • “I’ve gone to 5 rhythms dancing held at the Old Finsbury Town Hall on Monday nights.”
  • “I’ve done stand up comedy at the Camden Head, 2 Camden Walk off Camden Passage.”
  • “Islington has some great cafes. Find the little, quirky places! I liked Tinderbox (which was at Angel Central and closed last year). Do you know Candid Cafe? So romantic!”
  • If I have a day off I like to wander around with no agenda and have an adventure just like I wandered the streets when I was a child.”

Cate recommends warming up by laughing. “I started doing comedy partly to help me do talks. I try and make the flirting talks funny. I tell a lot of stories and try to get people relaxed and laughing. Belly laughing and having an orgasm is similar, and that’s when you feel most open,” she says and then starts to explain the power of dance and story telling.

“When you are stressed you can’t take in too much. People are tense. Flirting is about being open, so once you are laughing and feeling relaxed in your belly it’s easier to take new information on board and I can go ahead with teaching.”

Screenshot 2016-04-12 14.57.05If this sounds complicated it really isn’t. A group of ticket holders get tips from an international psychosexual therapist, who also has a love column in Spirit & Destiny magazine and is as happy teaching seduction tips to groups as she is helping people with relationship stress. There’s no problem who turns up as Cate’s session is non gender specific and non binary – she doesn’t say men do this, women do that (though any couples will work together). What she does is help people connect and be willing to take a risk that allows them to get connected. That may just be saying hello, a lingering second look, the exchange of a phone number, or the confidence to up your flirting game.

“There’s an assumption that there’s this perfect way and there isn’t,” says Cate reassuringly.

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Go exploring at an Islington cafe – it may be a chance to flirt, or just have a fine cup of hot chocolate. (c) islington faces

Take a love coach’s tips on how to flirt
From May, every 2nd Tuesday of the month, you can join Cate Mackenzie’s flirting workshops to learn the subtle power of look-smile-connect. But here are some extra pointers:

  • F for fun – stop looking for the one and have fun. Make a list of all the things you would like to do and start to do them. You’ll be surprised who turns up when you start to become more present.
  • R for release – find the gold in every heartbreak. Even if you’ve had a bullying boyfriend recognise the gift that will make sure you never have that again. And if you do meet someone and it goes wrong you need to learn to release the past. Once you have found the learning in the situation say thank you and let go.
  • C for commitment – most people want a signed contract that it is all going to work out without them taking a risk, but it doesn’t work like that. If you really want it, then you also have to be willing to give love a go without expectations. You have to go beyond your own ambivalence. That’s the commitment.

How do you get to be a love coach?
“I grew up in a community street in Battersea,” she says. “I was happy and I’d say hello to anyone. I was allowed to wander the streets from four-seven years old. After school I popped round to my neighbour, Esther, and danced with her to reggae. It was a very mixed culture. My mother was an amateur social worker and our house was often home to pregnant girls, and refugees. It was also a party house. I thought life was like this, happy.”

But when Cate was 12, Esther died suddenly; her parents split and she moved with her mum and her two sisters to a much smaller place in South Kensington in a street which lacked that community spirit.

“I was only a kid so I closed down,” says Cate who was clearly traumatised by the loss of the life she loved. It was only when she went to study sociology in Manchester that she found a new niche as a community artist, teaching dance and drama – what she calls embodiment skills. “I could feel my heart opening again. All my work has helped me become the person I was,” she says.

Considering how much our childhood experiences shape our confidence and relationships as adults, Cate’s experience has undoubtedly helped her better understand, empathise and respond to her clients’ experiences and then find ways to get them to flourish.

Are sex therapists a bit scary?
Cate’s husband, Paul Wogan, is now also training to be a counsellor. “We’ve done stand up together,” she says recalling two shows at the Edinburgh Fringe “but I really appreciate our conversations now. His learning and exploring means we can talk about anything now.”

“As a sex therapist I’m teaching embodiment. It’s where we find our presence and magic and are able to calm down and relax because we’re not in our heads. Each person is different. I dance every day, but for some it is comedy – my husband is really passionate about it – others play golf, or yoga… or even do the ironing,” she says with her characteristic warm smile. Despite her reassurance it is hard to imagine that a spot of ironing could get anyone in the mood for sex.

What interviewing a sex therapist has shown is that it’s not all about sex.

Cate is brilliant at sharing tips on how life can be better if you can find out what helps you forget your daily cares and allows you to be absolutely in the moment. Once you can do that, then you’ll have no trouble saying hello to strangers – even the ones you think might be worth that lingering second look.

Words*

  • It’s official, Islington is the singles capital of England and Wales, see the story here.
  • If you plan to flirt in Chelsea Cate suggests a trip to the V&A, cafes in South Ken, the Saatchi Gallery or the Serpentine Gallery.

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 nicolabaird.green at gmail.com. Thank you.

If you liked this interview please SHARE on twitter or Facebook or join the Facebook group. Even better follow islingtonfacesblog.com (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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Mathy Lisika-Minsende: creative mentor

16 Mar

Everyone has a story. Multi-lingual extrovert Mathy Lisika-Minsende is a master of confidence boosting storytelling – she uses this and practical skills to help people unhappy in their jobs develop the courage to do something they really want. Nicola Baird finds out more

Mathy Liskika-Minsende: “I help creative minds build the confidence to go through the transition process of moving jobs.”

Mathy Lisika-Minsende: “I help creative minds build the confidence to go through the transition process of moving jobs.”

Mathy Lisika-Minsende was living off Holloway Road getting her new business as a creative mentor established when she got the chance to do a TEDx talk. The TEDx talks are an internationally renowned way of introducing new ideas to the world, designed to spark deep conversations about what we do and how we do it.

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. 

Mathy, 35, is an experienced public speaker, as you can see from her website, but it was when she was giving a talk about inspiration at the Excel Graduates Fair 2012 in front of 3,000 that she realised she wanted to share her ideas on TEDx – in a few years time.

“I felt such energy from the conference after my 10 minute speech so my business colleague said I should consider. I wasn’t sure but I put out a tweet saying ‘I’m ready to do my TEDx’. Within three days a follower sent me a link for a TEDx Squaremile competition organised by Junior Chamber International (JCI), being held at an office in Old Street. I entered, but didn’t win. It was such a rollercoaster. But afterwards we all went for a drink and the judges said they couldn’t make up their minds. They’d been really intrigued by me and they took my details. Near the end of the week I got a call asking if I wanted to do that TEDx talk at the Mermaid Theatre, near Blackfriars. I said ‘I’d love to’ but I had to compose myself I was so excited.”

Her TEDx went well – here’s the clip from her talk on The future of work is child’s play, which has been seen by 19,000 people and immortalises the phrase “pancake burgers”.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dCndxUoWpG8

“It was scary all the way – from the time I sent that first tweet, then doing the comp, then losing… and then being told they had a spot for me. An amazing experience,” says Mathy in the Diner at Dalston Junction where she’s drinking Moroccan mint tea. In many ways the TEDx experience mirrors her ability to coach creative individuals to plan, use their networks and give yourself an ultimatum “to put yourself out there” so you can turn an abandoned or neglected artistic skill or a hobby into a professional priority.

Places Mathy likes in Islington

  • I always used the 271 and 41 buses when I lived in Holloway.
  • Upper Holloway is such a convenient place. I did a lot of co-work at The Spoke, 710 Holloway Road, and still go back there sometimes on a Sunday for the spicy Mergues sausage in thick bread or a burger.
  • I like the Greek place after the £1 shop. Every time I go to Archway I get a wrap from them. They are nice and really good value and the guys who work there are so funny. We have a continuous argument over when they are going to get a card machine.”
  • There’s a good community business centre by Caledonian Road tube.

Mathy lives in Clapton now but claims she’s “lived all over” with good reason. She was born in Kinshasha, Congo but moved when she was three years old so has now lived in Paris, Belgium, South Africa, the UK and Ireland. Her first language is French, her third is English – though she’s so fluent you wouldn’t guess.

“My father was a diplomat and businessman,” says Mathy who has nine half siblings. Sadly her mum was 52 “when she passed from malaria in Congo”. Her father, 56, sadly died from cancer the following year.

“He didn’t go to university so he wanted his children to go. He saw me as a lawyer or a politician,” says Mathy, “but I didn’t aspire to those careers. As a child it was like living with a dictator but I got to know him in his last 10 years and he was a totally different person to the yes sir, no sir father.” But it was her father’s strong personality that helped Mathy move into a field of work she loves, creative mentoring. Last year (2015) she published Quit! Or embrace your job crisis: how the loss of my dad and job helped me change direction a book designed to help others move out of the 9-5 into a job they love.

Mathy has lived in Congo – her family had to leave again in 1996 for their own safety – but she’s interested in going back there to “help young Congo entrepreneurs,” although worries about the tales of corruption her cousins share.

 

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 nicolabaird.green at gmail.com. Thank you.

If you liked this interview please SHARE on twitter or Facebook or join the Facebook group. Even better follow islingtonfacesblog.com (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

 

Costa Violaris: C&A Drycleaners

9 Mar

Everyone has a story. Estate agent Anthony Pepe celebrated the opening of its new office in Highbury with a glossy magazine, ‘Peptalk’, which is full of locals’ tips about where they live. Here’s one of the interviews – a Q&A with Costa Violaris from C&A Drycleaners on Highbury Park. Edited by Nicola Baird.

Costa from C&A Drycleaning at XX Highbury Park. (c) Anthony Pepe

Costa Violaris from C&A Drycleaners at 115 Highbury Park. (c) Anthony Pepe

Why being friendly has been the key to success at C&A Drycleaners
Born in Cyprus, Costa Violaris moved to the Highbury area in 1962 as a young boy and hasn’t left. What you may not know is that he used to be a resident musician. After he married and had children, the long nights and subsequently not seeing his children enough led to the decision to leave his musical life. His father owned a shop and Costa decided to take it over – but what to do with it?

“I was just looking out of the window one day and I saw this guy walking all the way down to the end of the road for dry cleaning. He was holding the clothes. And then he was coming back without the clothes, and I thought ‘Ah, that’s not a bad idea, let’s do this’. So we did it.”

Q: Has the business changed over the past 36 years?
“The industry norm is to use harsh solvents but about eight years ago we changed over to the environmentally friendly, Eco-Solve. It has been a huge success and we have people travelling from all over for their dry cleaning, as they want an environmentally friendly solution. We are greener and cleaner.”

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. 

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C&A Drycleaners are specialist eco cleaners – just by the bus stop.

Q: How important is the local community to you?
“Very important. I know them all almost by name, and sometimes they just come in to put their clothes on the counter and leave and I know who they belong to! It’s a very trusting area here. My customers are not just customers but friends.”

Q: What makes a successful local business?
“It’s got to be the service. At the end of the day you have to pay attention to detail and keep doing a good job. People have to trust and know that you are genuine; this is the most important thing.”

This interview was originally published in Peptalk (issue 03, 2015) and reprinted by kind permission of Anthony Pepe estate agents.

  • C&A Drycleaners is at 115 Highbury Park. Tel: 020 7226 0432
  • Anthony Pepe’s new Highbury Branch is opposite C&A Drycleaners at 100 Highbury Park, N5 2XE. Tel: 020 7704 2100
    e: highbury@anthonypepe.com www.anthonypepe.com
  • Anthony Pepe sell and rent homes but also have a meeting room they plan to let local groups use.

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 nicolabaird.green at gmail.com. Thank you.

If you liked this interview please SHARE on twitter or Facebook or join the Facebook group. Even better follow islingtonfacesblog.com (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 Meet Islingtonians to find friends, neighbours and inspiration. Thanks for stopping by. Nicola

Maxence Masurier: French wine seller

10 Feb

Maxence Masurier moved to London with his girlfriend and their two month old baby in 2013. After years working all hours in his family’s Paris restaurant he’s now thoroughly enjoying selling French wine at his newly opened shop, Made In Little France on St John Street, near Angel. Interview by Nicola Baird

Maxence Masurier in his new French wine shop Made In Little France: “It’s my dream to be here. I love London and I love Islington where I now live.”

Maxence Masurier in his new French wine shop Made In Little France: “It’s my dream to be here. I love London and I love Islington where I now live.” (c) Made in Little France

“I was born in a restaurant,” jokes born and bred Parisian Maxence Masurier, 36, who now lives and works in Islington, “and I started working in one the summer I was 14.”

It’s not just Max’s immediate family who were in the food and wine trade, so were his grandparents who ran a fish shop before running night clubs – during the 1950s it was Le Cabano in the Ile Saint Louis and during the 1980s the restaurant, La Grosse Horloge, in Saint Germain des Pres.

Maxence Masurier’s family at their fish shop, Les Rougets de in the centre of Paris. From left to right it’s his grandfather Roger, great grandfather Henri, great grandmother Natacha, employee Fernand and great uncle Pierre.

Maxence Masurier’s family at their fish shop, Les Rougets de L’isle in the centre of Paris. From left to right it’s his grandfather Roger, great grandfather Henri, great grandmother Natacha, employee Fernand and great uncle Pierre.

After eight busy years it looked as if restaurant work would be Maxence’s business forever, but then in 2013 his family’s bistro close to Palais Royal was sold.

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. READERS ARE INVITED TO MEET UP on Monday 29 February at Blighty Cafe, 10-11.30am

“For the next two years I went with my father all around France’s wine growing regions. We’d spent eight years working together in the restaurant, and because it’s family you can’t say no, so this was a big change.” Clearly Maxence is very close to his father, Philippe, who like Maxence’s grandfather is a wine collector, but their adventures became more of a research phase than a road trip. Together they explored France’s wine growing regions to find the producers that would supply the wine Maxence now sells as his French wine shop on St John Street next to the butcher between Sadler’s Wells and Angel tube.

The Albion in winter. In summer it's covered in green.

The Albion in winter. In summer the pub is covered in green.

What’s Maxence Masurier like about Islington?

  • London and Paris both have their charms, but I don’t miss Paris, maybe I spent too much time there! I wanted to do something different and not be in a French community in west London. At Made in Little France I can bring my French culture to British people – it’s why I’m here in Islington.”
  • I really like the Albion Pub near Thornhill Square. It’s beautiful. http://www.the-albion.co.uk/
  • I love Upper Street and also Clerkenwell.
Wine sold at Made in Little France. You can also refill bottles of white, red (and rosé in the summer) from the vat for £7.50.

Wine sold at Made in Little France. You can also refill bottles of white, red (and rosé in the summer) from the vat for £7.50.

Touring France
“It was like hunting for treasure. You’d speak to people and they’d say ‘go there and try it” and sometimes the wine we’d find would be gold. We’d go to a small restaurant and share a glass of the wine the local people drink. I remember one in Saint Frichoux, not far from Carcasson, in the south of France that was around Euro2 for a glass, and it was incredible. The manager of the restaurant said ‘go down the road to their vineyard’. We went, and this is their Domaine Pujol Izard, a Coteaux du Peyriac – for the price it’s wow, so easy to drink and spicy.”

After another meal at a local bistro Maxence discovered a Muscadet he sells for £10. “This was found at a place where the farmer had cows but 30 years ago his daughter decided to make wine, and it’s really good – dry and crisp, with an amazing minerality,” he explains.

“Many of the vineyard owners are too small or don’t have enough time to go to a wine fair or don’t want to put on business suits – they prefer to be on their vineyard,” adds Maxence who loves to talk about where he sources the wine you buy from him. “These wines are exclusive – I know all the producers of the bottles. I know the grapes, the regions, his wife and family. I can speak about my wines for a week,” he says before telling me another story about an amazing 70-year-old, who makes red and sweet wine at Lunel, who spent a passionate four hours showing Maxence and his Dad around the vines explaining that he would prune the grapes back so that there’d only be two ripening. “He said he doesn’t want to do quantity, he wants quality grapes because ‘at my age, I don’t need more money, I just need to drink well,’ and then he smiled.”

Maxence Masurier: “It’s a mermaid crossing the |Channel to bring French wines to the UK. My friend Rob Banks did it – he works in a New York tattoo shop.”

Maxence Masurier: “The logo shows a mermaid crossing the Channel to bring French wines to the UK. My friend Rob Banks did it – he works in a New York tattoo shop.”

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Made in Little France for French wines. It’s in St John Street, in the former cafe just by the butcher. (c) Made In Little France

And it’s that philosophy that born and bred Parisian Maxence has now brought to Islington. Go and visit his shop, with its huge cherry wood shelves, central wood bench and hand written labels, and ask Maxence to pick a wine you’ll enjoy. And then let him know what you thought of it…

“The best part of the job is hearing feedback from the customers about the different wines they’ve tried and enjoyed. British people are so open-minded about wine,” says Maxence pulling up the shutters ready for another day at Made In Little France.

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 nicolabaird.green at gmail.com. Thank you.

If you liked this interview please SHARE on twitter or Facebook or join the Facebook group. Even better follow islingtonfacesblog.com (see menu top right) or follow me on twitter @nicolabairduk

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peter Theoklitou: owner Coffee Works Project

30 Dec

Everyone has a story. “Islington was the only place I wanted to set up a business. It was like coming home,” says Coffee Works Project owner Peter Theoklitou, whose family have long worked in the borough. Interview by Nicola Baird 

Peter Theokliou: “I’d grown up in an Islington family business so wasn’t daunted about opening Coffee Works Project up. The most exciting thing was putting my own stamp on things.”

Peter Theokliou: “I’d grown up in an Islington family business so wasn’t daunted about opening Coffee Works Project up. The most exciting thing was putting my own stamp on things.”

Peter Theoklitou was born in Islington and it’s here that he learnt all about running a business. His parents had a fish and chip shop in Spa Field Street, just off Exmouth Market and his godfather ran another fish and chip shop nearby. Although he began primary school in Islington the family eventually moved out to Goff’s Oak in Hertfordshire.

“My parents are Greek Cypriot. Mum always talks in Greek to me, and I’m teaching my two daughters,” says Peter in the sunny Coffee Works Project garden. His coffee shop, with its state of the art Slayer coffee machine and even a see-through fridge, is a very cool Islington destination with “damn fine coffee” to quote from the cult TV show Twin Peaks.

“My goal at Coffee Works Project has to create a hub for the community and showcase fantastic coffee,” says Peter. “Part of that is to only have really fresh produce, a throwback to the way we used to eat. As a child I was dragged round to greengrocers and butchers. North London has a big Greek Cypriot community so we went to speciality delis and I remember how they all had this amazing smell of fresh fruit and bread.”

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. 

The secret garden at Coffee Works. “Our filter coffee is very delicate – like a tea. We serve it in a glass. But when I’m espressoed out my afternoon drink is flat white,” says Peter Theoklitou owner of Coffee Works Project sharing his afternoon drink of choice for an Islington Faces interview.

The secret garden at Coffee Works Project. “Our filter coffee is very delicate – like a tea. We serve it in a glass. But when I’m espresso-ed out my afternoon drink is flat white,” says Peter Theoklitou owner of Coffee Works Project sharing his afternoon drink of choice for an Islington Faces interview.

Although he studied business at the University of Hertfordshire his parents’ advice was don’t go it alone in hospitality. “I spent my formative years working in the family businesses with my family saying ‘go and work for someone else, it’s less of a headache’. I did that at first, but found I hated it because I love talking to people.”

For several years Peter worked in wedding planning. “We were on one job that lasted four days and on the last day I needed a coffee to keep me going for the last two hours. I helped myself to what the guests were having and it was diabolical! I couldn’t believe that they were serving guests this. The last flavour the guests were left with was a sub-standard cup of coffee. When I asked the chefs why, they said they had too much to worry about. We had a heated discussion and they said well ‘go and do something yourself’. That’s why I climbed into this rabbit hole,” he says with a huge grin referencing Alice In Wonderland.

Mirror at Coffee Works.

Mirror at Coffee Works Project.

It’s an appropriate metaphor. The building at the top end of Camden Passage has a magical quality. It’s on several levels, open plan and stripped back to the brickwork. On the rear ground floor level there is a grotto, although this is now doubling as a bike garage for staff. There are cushions made from coffee bean sacks, reclaimed furniture, lots of wood and an atmosphere of creativity that really isn’t matched anywhere else in Islington.

“I wanted to create the sort of hub of the community you get in Cyprus where the old boys are playing backgammon and the women on the other side will be tutting about their language. Here in London this is a place to socialise and to work – where people can meet others, enjoy coffee and talk to the baristas,” says Peter.

Chapel Market has been a part of Peter's life since his Granny first took him shopping there. (c) Isabel Vandergert-Wilson.

Chapel Market has been a part of Peter Theoklitou’s life since his grandparents first took him shopping there. (c) Isabel VanderGert-Wilson.

Places Peter Theoklitou likes in Islington

  • It goes without saying that I love Camden Passage. Everyone knows each other – it’s more of a social exercise when I wander through it. You really get to know your neighbours.
  • 20150731_095438 (1)

    Moxon’s specialises in British fish.

    Chapel Market for nostalgia. When I was a child my grandparents took me through it and as a treat we’d have fresh doughnuts.

  • I still like to go for a walk along the top end of Regent’s Canal. When my godfather had a business on St Peter Street I’d go here with my godbrothers and explore.
  • I buy fish from Moxon’s, 110 Islington High Street. My youngest, Evangelia, loves trying to crack the claws of cooked crab. My other daughter, Alexandra, likes chunky fish like monkfish.
  • Smokehouse is nice in Canonbury. The food is great and the service amazing – it’s a combination between a neighbourhood pub and an eatery. 63-69 Canonbury Road.

Two days a week Peter’s wife Joanna “the girl next door who I used to walk to school with” comes to Coffee Works Project and does the accounts. “We’re very lucky as my in laws and mum look after our daughters,” adds Peter.

It turns out that romance is a large part of Coffee Works Project – there’s the idea that customers can get creative or just socialise. But it’s a bit deeper. “One of our first customers met his now wife here – and they held their engagement party here!” says Peter looking very happy. But he is equally excited about the choices of coffee that are offered and where they are sourced.

Staff still busy at 5pm at Coffee Works on a summer afternoon.

Staff still busy at Coffee Works Project on a summer afternoon.

“People are so used to seeing coffee on the shelves in a supermarket that they don’t realise that coffee growing regions harvest beans at different times fo the year. That’s the reason we rotate our coffees every four to six weeks. Recently we bought an entire farm’s crop run by a Bolivian woman who our roaster recommended. The coffee was amazing, and it’s an amazing story – not many women run their own farms in Bolivia.”

Over the past few years coffee shops have sprung up around Islington – both as work spaces for freelancers and nice places to meet when you are out and about. But some you just keep coming back to – and that’s what Coffee Works Project seems to do to its customers. It’s good news for the 10 staff too, including the manager who has just completed an NVQ in leadership.

Peter says: “When I opened this place I thought that would be it for me, but Coffee Works Project is much more than just about me. The people who work here become an extension of our family and that’s why we want to develop a business that facilitates career opportunities for our staff. If that means opening another site, good. It would still have to deliver the ethos we have here…”

If you haven’t yet been for a cup of coffee with Islington’s cool community-spirited crowd then do go. And if you get there early you might see the croissants and cakes being delivered, sometimes still warm, by bike from Borough. “It’s just like that old Hovis ad,” says Peter with another big smile. Just with a modern twist, because you do need to take along your MacBook Air.

Happy new year!

  • Coffee Works Project, 96-98 Islington High Street, N1 (top end of Camden Passage). Open Mon-Fri from 7.30am, Sat from 9am, Sun from 10am

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 nicolabaird.green at gmail.com. Thank you.

If you liked this interview please SHARE on twitter or Facebook or join the Facebook group. Even better follow islingtonfacesblog.com (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

Peter Gruner: 11 years on the Islington Tribune

23 Dec

Everyone has a story. Journalist Peter Gruner knows Islington better than most of us despite never having lived here. After 11 years on the Islington Tribune (the Trib) he retired in May. Now he’s enjoying visits back to the borough as well as trips around the UK with his wife Maggie (“Mrs Gee”). Interview by Nicola Baird

Peter Gruner, journalist: “I always finds there’s a moment when an interviewee says something really interesting or inspirational.”

Peter Gruner, journalist: “I find there’s a moment in an interview when someone says something really interesting or inspirational. That’s usually the story.”

Peter Gruner is a real Islington character, despite living in Barnet. For the past 11 years he’s covered so many local events, kept us up to date on Islington politics and people. He even took the Ice Bucket challenge, after nomination from Cllr James Murray (Barnsbury ward).

Peter’s granddad was a features sub on the Evening Standard, and his Dad started on the Ham & High before moving into TV. He reckons “journalism was in the blood” – though he’s relieved that his three adult children, Olly, Jennie and Briony have chosen different career paths.

Peter spent 20 years at the Evening Standard covering mainly environmental issues, including the debate about the health impacts of using diesel fuel. He then moved to the Islington Tribune around 2004. “It’s incredible to believe that we knew about the dangers of diesel exhaust more than 20 years ago. But experts kept saying that as long as there are proper exhaust controls on vehicles there’s no problem. We now know that diesel fumes are extremely dangerous particularly for children. And look how many schools in the borough are built next to main roads.”

Peter liked ‘The Trib”, as he calls it affectionately, from day one. “It was wonderful to still be working in London and to have a small area like Islington gave me more focus. There’s so much going on, such interesting people and I had a soft spot for some of the hard working councillors.

Former council leader Catherine West [now MP for neighbouring Hornsey & Wood Green] and new council leader Cllr Richard Watts were good contacts. I also enjoyed meeting former Lib Dem leader Steve Hitchins, the leader of the Lib Dems who was always being criticised by the opposition, but was responsible for Arsenal’s move from Highbury.

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. 

Now 68, Peter retired in May 2015. His farewell party was held at an Irish pub close to the newspaper offices in Camden Town and attended by friends, colleagues, contacts, councillors and even Jeremy Corbyn, MP. “By the end of the night we were all singing Wild Rover. So I know Jeremy can sing,” says Peter with a characteristic twinkle in his eye.

Lara's Cafe, 16 Blackstock Road, N4. See www.larascaffetteria.com

Lara’s Cafe, 16 Blackstock Road, N4. See www.larascaffetteria.com “A good place to interview,” says Peter Gruner who retired from Islington Tribune in 2015.

As Peter Gruner sips his coffee, sitting in the sunshine at the garden behind Lara’s Café on Blackstock Road, his conversation is filled with humour. He’s very good company.

“Someone said that most people don’t read further than the third paragraph, so the ‘intro’ to a story is really important.

“I’m always interested in people. That’s why I love journalism. And everyone has got something interesting to say, even though you may not always agree with them. However, I’m not a foot in the door merchant. I’m not sure I like digging up the dirt.”

Since his retirement he’s been able to swim more often in the Hampstead Heath ponds. “Getting into cold water is tough, but getting out is exhilarating,” he quips.

People in Islington Peter Gruner admires

  • Katie Dawson (l) & Caroline Russell (r). Impressive Islington Green party campaigners. (c) Camden News Journal

    Katie Dawson (l) & Caroline Russell (r) in Gillespie Park. Impressive Islington Green party campaigners. (c) Camden News Journal

    “Over the years I’ve been inspired by many people, but I must mention lone Green councillors Katie Dawson and Caroline Russell. Katie was wonderful. She helped introduce the 20mph speed limit in the borough. When she first arrived on the political scene I was so delighted. It was a breath of fresh air. She had lots of good ideas, and she held the balance working with both Labour and the Lib Dems. I was sad when she got knocked out.

  • Now Green Cllr Caroline Russell is the only elected opposition on Islington council against an often vociferous army of Labour members. I’m sure it’s very tough for her, but she does a brilliant job.
  • I wish Jeremy Corbyn well as new leader of the Labour party. I’ve known him for 40 years since he was a councillior in Haringey and I worked on the Tottenham Weekly Herald. I did an interview with him on his 30th anniversary as an MP a few years ago and he talked about his love of cheese, in particular Stilton. Not a lot of people know that he’s a member of the Parliamentary Cheese Committee. He also enjoys baking his own bread and talked about his beloved allotment.
  • 20150905_161835My story about Bob the cat and busker James Bowen was read by a local literary agent. The rest as they say is history. She got James to write his life story which turned into several best selling books and soon a film. In James’s second book, The World According to Bob, he mentioned me by name – that was nice of him.
  • There are loads of famous people in Islington. I used to see Boris Johnson on his bike before he became London Mayor. He was president of the Islington Tories. Very nice bloke.

Multi-skilled
Peter rarely uses Twitter or Facebook to get stories, unlike a lot of younger hacks, and prefers the face-to-face interview. He’s a reasonable photographer after “buying myself a posh camera”. His tip for budding interviewers is to make friends with Google – “always find out about the people you are planning to interview before meeting them.”

Peter says he’s always fascinated by people’s lifestyle and favourite foods. He’ll often ask an interviewee where are the best specialist shops and where do you get the best coffee? It’s a question that led him to discover that Jeremy Corbyn is a big Stilton cheese fan.

Peter grew up in Hampstead and went to New End School – and now after a lifetime reporting about urban life he’s considering a move out of London. It’s a time of big change – he’s also soon to be a grandfather. Peter admits that he’s unused to sitting still so has been making trips to historic sites such as Chartwell, the family home of Winston Churchill (now run by the National Trust). He’s also looking forward to taking Mrs Gee to see the new movie Suffragette – which has scenes shot in Myddleton Square, Clerkenwell and the Houses of Parliament, see this grainy link here (shot by Hoxton Ferret).

Now he’s not restricted to Islington news, Peter plans to find out more about the Suffragettes including taking a trip to Manchester where Mrs Pankhurst was born. “The greatest thing is my freedom pass,” he says showing it off with a flourish, “it means I can go everywhere and anywhere – and use buses for free all over the UK.”

Street Cat Bob

Big Issue (30 nov-6 Dec, 2015) with a Christmas message from STREET CAT BOB (created from photos passers-by took) that "you're all part of the story". But former Tribune journalist Peter Gruner played rather a key role in Bob's story.

Big Issue (30 nov-6 Dec, 2015) with a Christmas message from STREET CAT BOB (created from photos passers-by took) that “you’re all part of the story”. But former Tribune journalist Peter Gruner played rather a key role in Bob’s story.

And with the news that the life of one-time Big Issue seller James Bowen and his ginger cat Bob is to be made into a film comes the possibility that Peter will be turned into a character in a Hollywood movie. He’s already joked that he’d like the late Sir Laurence Olivier to play him. Despite his modesty, Peter often self-deprecatingly refers to himself as just a “hack”, it’s clear that he’s looking forward to seeing himself on the big screen, for however brief a moment.

Wildlife management volunteer at Gillespie Park Matthew Sherwood: “There’s a good crowd in the office at the Islington Ecology Centre. They are always helpful and if they don’t know the insect or bird I’ve spotted they will look it up.” (c) Islington Council

Islington Ecology Centre where staff help manage the green-flag Gillespie Park. (c) Islington Council

Places Peter Gruner enjoys visiting in Islington

Gillespie Park at Finsbury Park is a gem. Once upon a time about 30 years ago it was railway land threatened with development. But there was a big campaign involving Friends of Gillespie Park and Jeremy Corbyn and the land was saved as a nature reserve.

I like walking along Islington’s canals but they have become extremely scary due to commuter cyclists. It’s almost a no go for walkers and elderly people who need eyes at the back of their heads. I’m a part time cyclist too. What is the answer? Is it a dedicated cycle lane?

Lara’s the place I like to meet contacts. It’s very central and a place I like to have coffee with a mozzarella, avocado and sundried tomato sandwich.

Local news journalists are today’s Samuel Pepys, covering all the stories that help us Londoners stay excited about life in the big city. Peter Gruner’s tireless news reporting has ensured that Islington locals have been able to follow a wealth of stories about who is getting up to what in Islington – and that’s helped all of us get a better borough. There may be a new recruit at his desk now, but thanks to the Internet we won’t be forgetting Peter.

Islington Tribune is free, find it around the borough on Fridays.

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 nicolabaird.green at gmail.com. Thank you.

If you liked this interview please SHARE on twitter or Facebook or join the Facebook group. Even better follow islingtonfacesblog.com (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

 

Mark Kebble: editor of Angel magazine

16 Dec

Everyone has a story. Mark Kebble was just 23 when he started editing the Angel Resident. Now that he’s in charge of a suite of Archant magazines how much does he love Angel Resident and Islington? Interview by Nicola Baird.

Mark Kebble 2015

Mark Kebble, editor of Angel Resident. (c) Archant, 2015

“Journalists need to be a master of lots of different skills,” says Mark Kebble to a class of attentive University of Arts* first year degree students based at Elephant & Castle’s London College of Communication (once known as London College of Printing) and still a centre for turning out talented journalists.

And Mark knows about talent. Not only is he a whizz at Teeline shorthand, and management, after all he has edited Angel Resident for the past 11 years, he also reckons he was the first magazine editor to put Benedict Cumberbatch on the cover.

Some of the perks of Mark’s job are interviewing celebrities with an Islington link. Benedict Cumberbatch was starring at the Almeida Theatre. “ I saw him in a show and he was superb so I got him on the cover. It’s my claim to fame! I had to fight my case. I’m proud to know that the Angel was the first to put him on the cover… Now he’s everywhere.”

He’s also interviewed impressive James Nesbitt (who starred in the cult show, Cold Feet). Sadly this was an interview that Mark remembers went badly wrong when he insulted Nesbitt’s football team on the day Arsenal had beaten Man Utd.

And he’s interviewed Peter Capaldi – now Dr Who, but at the time famous as the scary, sweary, spin doctor, Malcolm Tucker from the TV show The Thick Of It.

Screenshot 2015-12-16 10.18.14

Mark Kebble,editor of Angel Resident since 2004. (c) Archant

Places Mark Kebble from Angel Resident likes in Islington

  • The Almedia.

  • I’m always blown away by Sadler’s Wells and I don’t even really like dance.

  • Even though I don’t live in Islington I go up there and know everyone!

20151212_123400 (1)“Interviews are best if they are like a conversation – as if you are having a coffee with that person,” advises Mark who also takes a list of questions and always does as much research as he can before meeting his interviewee.

Archant Group Editor Mark Kebble with Year 1 BA students from London College of Communication, University of the Arts.

Archant Group Editor Mark Kebble with Year 1 BA students from London College of Communication, University of the Arts.

“Interviewing feels very natural now, I’ve done so many, and I don’t really think about doing them,” says Mark to the LCC students, but he has tricks. “I like to make everyone feel important. It’s easy now. But in my first year when I was really interested in music and film I’d sometimes feel that I hadn’t spent three years studying to talk to a man who made radiators. Then I interviewed a guy who made radiators and he was a great chap,” admits Mark who is a very friendly person.

Loving North & South
Mark was brought up in south London where he still lives, but he enjoys working in Islington. “I love both areas equally and I will probably stay in South London. But I know Islington so well and like bashing the local drum – there are so many people and places in the area who are doing great things. And I’m never short of a story. There are great theatres, there’s a choice of celebrity interviewees and I get to meet very interesting people – and I’ve made good friends too,” says the unflappable Mark.

Mark’s tip for getting a good story, whether you are on locals or nationals, or are just sending a tweet is to get it right. “I’m devastated if there’s a mistake,” says Mark, “even if it’s just the wrong postcode.”

He also suggests limiting journalists to just one in-depth interview a day. “Then you can do it really properly, and be focussed on that person. When I was younger I was a bit more blasé.”

Now that Mark is a Group Editor of Archant, based at Kensington’s W14 media village interviews aren’t the only perk: there are also free holidays (he’s just off to Dubai for a week), restaurant reviews and travel opportunities. “It’s a very nice job,” he says – and one that he does supremely well.

Words*
The University of the Arts now incorporates several Islington campuses including St Martin’s School of Art at King’s Cross and fabulous new accommodation blocks such as Sketch House at Finsbury Park. 

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 nicolabaird.green at gmail.com. Thank you.

If you liked this interview please SHARE on twitter or Facebook or join the Facebook group. Even better follow islingtonfacesblog.com (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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