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Duramaney Kamara: actor in Boy

4 May

‘Boy’ at the Almeida is a ground-breaking show about what it feels like coming of age in austerity Britain. The play, written by Leo Butler, has a 27-strong cast of which 16 are making their stage debut, including an 18-year-old student from Islington, Duramaney Kamara. Interview by Nicola Baird

Duramaney Kamara - debut performance in Boy at the Almeida Theatre (c) Kwame Lestrade

Duramaney Kamara – debut performance in Boy at the Almeida Theatre. Whether you’ve seen the show or not you can join a young people’s free panel discussion this Thursday (5 May) with the writer. See how at the end of this interview.  (c) Kwame Lestrade

Duramaney Kamara is very different from Boy’s lost central character, Liam – and perhaps that’s no surprise when he admits that his mum was on stage when she was nine months pregnant, making him able to say “he was on stage before he was born!”. In fact it’s Duramaney, playing Lamari, who has just enough interest in track suited-Liam to give him a proper telling off (no one else seems to notice Liam). But as Duramaney wisely points out, “everything Lamari tells Liam he is saying to himself…”

The play has a host of characters Londoners will recognise – from mobile-addicted schoolgirls waiting for the bus home to non-English speaking road workers – so in his debut Duramaney also plays a teenage son in the doctor’s reception, toilet attendant, person in the crowd and Sainsbury’s worker.

It’s clear he’s chuffed to be on stage in his home borough, Islington. “Because it’s my first time on stage I thought doing the same thing every night I’d find boring. But it’s not! It’s new every night. It’s like life – you can’t get bored of life because you are living it,” he explains.

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.

“We had 13 hour rehearsals,” says Duramaney explaining why it’s been so hard organise this interview when we meet on a Thursday lunchtime over an orange juice in the Almeida Café. For him life could be considered a bit less busy now that he is just doing a show every night at the same time as finishing off his final A level year studying Drama & Theatre Studies, Music and Music Tech at City and Islington College…

Clerkenwell Primary.

Clerkenwell Primary.

Duramaney lives with his mum and dad, both professional singers/musicians, just off Essex Road. He’s born and bred Islington: his early years were spent at Clerkenwell where he went to Clerkenwell Parochial Primary School on Amwell Street. “In year 3 or 4 we done a play at Little Angel,” says Duramaney. “We all had puppets and then my dad said I should do some drumming. I was shy but I did it…”

In fact Duramaney was only four years old when a bloke in a pub predicted he’d make a great trumpet player. “I was sitting in the Three Kings Pub, opposite St James’ Church, when someone gave me a cornet (a very basic trumpet) to hold. I started playing around with it and getting a sound,” he says, “so they got me a trumpet.”

Duramaney really likes to sing and MC, and as with all the instruments Duramaney plays – trumpet, piano, keyboard, guitar and percussion – he’s self-taught. “I tend to use my ears and then see if I can play it back,” he explains. His mum Basha Letsididi, a singer, originally from Botswana, taught him how to read music, but “I only recently started doing grades – I got a distinction in Grade 3 trumpet,” says Duramaney understandably proudly. He’s also had support from Richard Frostick from Islington Music Centre and his music teachers James Hunter at Bishop Douglass in Barnet, where he went to secondary school, and Jack Davis at City & Islington College, praising them both for “building my confidence.”

Music is a huge part of Duramaney’s life – after the show, and after his summer exams he hopes to spend a gap year doing “voice acting as well as other acting jobs” and working on his music projects. For now he has to be content with, “Our house being full of music. It’s either me playing my stuff – I listen to a lot of jazz, John Coltrane, Fela Kuti (from Nigeria) and I also play a lot of Bob Marley, Curtis Mayfield and perhaps oddly for a teenager I like classical music. Mum will be singing or rehearsing and Dad is either fixing or playing drums…”

The company of Boy at an Essex Road bus stop. (c) Kwame Lestrade

The company of Almeida Theatre’s Boy at an Essex Road bus stop. Duramaney Kamara is in a grey hoodie. (c) Kwame Lestrade

The play’s the thing
Boy is a bleak play, it’s had 4* and 5* reviews, but it is an uncompromising view of the struggles many poorly educated white British teenage boys find themselves in, and is as relevant to Islington as to Crystal Palace where the writer Leo Butler lives. Most of the play revolves around life at a bus stop using an ingenious moving travelator (like they have in Yo Sushi and airports). There are moments – especially the start – which are very funny, but the overall impression is that Liam hasn’t a chance. So Islington Faces was curious if Duramaney knew any Liams, and what he thought of the show’s Liam…

“I do like Liam. At a point in life everyone can be a Liam. There’s a lot of pressure and you have to hide it. Some people grow up without a healthy household and they have to grow up fast. With teenagers it’s all down to peer pressure. People need to prove something to someone to get a thumbs up from their peer group. If you look at gang culture, there’s pressure from someone older to do something for that thumbs up. Other people get that thumbs up for getting an A grade,” he says.

“For Liam he’s got no guidance. Even his vocabulary is really diminished – he repeats what other people say. It’s heart-breaking the way he looks to other people,” explains Duramaney.

Liam is the teenage boy who has fallen through every safety net. Even if most of the audience longs to help him find the resilience to clamber back up, Cameron’s Britain is unforgiving. You’ve got to get on and make it when the odds are so stacked against you – with minimal support from parents who may well be separated, working Zero Hour contracts, dealing with mental health issues or completely distracted by money and housing problems.

The Union Chapel has been called a Tardis. Here is one of the upstairs rooms used as the bar for shows. CAPTION It was built in 1877 (on the site of the too-small chapel erected in 1806). Impressive past worshipers include Asquith (Liberal PM, 1908-1916) and the poet John Betjeman’s mother. Betjeman’s involvement helped save it from demolition in 1982. Many worshippers came from both right and left.

The Union Chapel’s bar.

Places Duramaney Kamara likes in Islington
“Islington is supposed to be a prestigious borough, but the crime rate shows otherwise.”

  • Angel is a big hub for me. Everything is there and it’s a nice place to go. We eat at Bombay Burrito on 357 Goswell Road and Nandos at 324 Upper Street. Five Guys, 71 Upper Street, is expensive but there are some nice pizza shops.
  • Rosemary Gardens on the Islington-Hackney border is a nice place.
  • I like Union Chapel. I sang there with the Islington Music Centre choir. Great acoustics!
  • The Almeida is nice. I did a workshop last year with the college at the Almeida, during Oresteia, which was really brilliant.
  • You can go anywhere from Essex Road – I found this out on the day before my 18th party day and I realised there were buses for everyone. There’s the 38 to Victoria, 73 to Oxford Street, 56 to Leytonstone, 476 to Tottenham, 21 to Lewisham and the 76 to London Bridge…

Confidence
Duramaney has a very different energy to Liam or the characters he plays in Boy, and he’s clear that’s because: ‘I’ve been taught by my parents to be independent and not to rely on anyone else.” But he admits he felt undermined by not getting a place at the Brit School, the Guildhall or the Royal Academy of Music. Thankfully he’s also finding that overcoming adversity can make you stronger – “I’ve learnt that there’s always a way,” he says with a big smile explaining how he hopes to study at Leeds College of Music… and, just for the record, a class of Brit School students (who would have been in his year) have come to see Boy at the Almeida.

It’s an interesting irony that such a bleak play should be giving Duramaney Kamara – and so many talented young actors including Frankie Fox who plays the lead, Liam – such a great opportunity to perform on as famous a stage as the Almeida. And you can join in too by coming to the young people’s panel event on Thursday 5 May, from 6pm, to discuss the ideas raised in Boy.

Find out more about Duramaney Kamara via soundcloud
https://soundcloud.com/dlk_the-genius/sets/new-garden or @DLKtheGenius

Thursday 5 May, 6pm come to a panel for young people exploring the ideas raised in Boy. It’s free and can be booked online – http://www.almeida.co.uk/whats-on/answers-back/5-may-2016
• Facebook /almeidatheatre Twitter @AlmeidaTheatre
Boy by Leo Butler is at Almedia Theatre until 28 May. Sign up to the email list at almeida.co.uk

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

Michael & Sam Smith: dad and son at Parkrun

4 Nov

Everyone has a story. Hackney’s Pressure Drop brewer Sam Smith and his oldest son, 10-year-old Michael, have just completed a running milestone – their 30th Parkrun round Highbury Fields. Parkrun is a British idea – regular free timed runs – which has spread around the world. So what’s motivating this dad and son to get up early every Saturday? And what else do they do together in Islington?

Sam and Michael Smith after Michael's 30th Parkrun.

Sam Smith (who moved to Islington when he was 11) and his son Michael celebrate after Michael’s 30th Parkrun on Highbury Fields.

It’s just after 9am on a crisp autumnal Saturday on Highbury Fields. It’s too early for picnickers but the tarmac path circling the fields is bristling with runners as they tackle the 5km course for today’s Parkrun.

The Highbury Fields Parkrun has been going since 2011, attracting more than 100 runners each week. Most runners are locals, but Parkruns are such a habit that there’s always a few people away from home who turn up for their Saturday running fix. It’s all very friendly too. There are a few officials in high viz jackets guarding bags and bikes. They also deal with first aid, cheer runners on, log times at the finish funnel and encourage people to join the post Parkrun breakfast at The White Swan on Highbury Corner. “It’s a run not a race,” explains one of the volunteers, Tom, who is only on the sidelines because of a running injury. Most of the people at Parkrun seem to love the challenge of competing against their own personal best (or PB as Parkrun runners call it), and many have the joy of being named as the winner in their section (eg, veteran men 40-44).

The runners are evenly split between men and women – and cover all ages. One brave man is running the 5km without shoes.

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. 

A few entrants are running with their children including Islington-based Hackney brewer, Sam Smith, 44, and his Year 6 son, Michael. The pair usually finish in under 27 minutes, as they did today. “My best time is 26.03,” says Michael who is quite laid back about running but has plenty of technical understanding. “Today we started fast because it’s down hill and improves my stride,” he explains.

Dad Sam (PB 22.35) admits that, “I try and set a pace. Normally we run alongside each other. But I don’t want to come across as an awful competitive dad, but Michael says he wants me to say ‘come on’ if he falls behind.”

Parkrun finishers on Highbury Fields. The finishing funnel is on the left.

Parkrun finishers on Highbury Fields. The finishing funnel is on the left.

A Parkrun morning starts with a light breakfast of a coffee for Sam and smoothie for Michael. “We walk most of the way to Highbury Fields but then do a warm up jog. The race starts fast,” explains Michael tucking into a post match juice and almond croissant at Little Gem Coffee shop at 15 Corsica Street.

Byron in Upper Street, near the Angel, is a favourite outing for the Smith family.

Byron in Upper Street, near the Angel, is a favourite outing for the Smith family.

Places Dad Sam & Michael like
to go in Islington

Michael: We go ice skating at the Sobell, it’s like running but less effort. Dad: As a child I used to live in Norway so skate relatively well. I used to play a lot of ice hockey.

Michael: After the kids Park Run on Sunday my friends sometimes go to the playground. Dad: Over the years we’ve spent a lot of time in Highbury Fields and Gillespie Park. We went there when the boys were babies and now to kick a ball.

Sam: We ride bikes round the Emirates. Son: I’ve been on a stadium tour twice – it was interesting that they dye the flowers for different teams, so when Newcastle played they had black and white flowers in the Directors’ Lounge.

Michael: Byron is my favourite. I always get the special burger and an oreo milk shake (at 341 Upper Street). Dad: We quite often go for a cheeky lunch on the other side of the Emirates at X’ian Impression at 117 Benwell Road. Michael doesn’t normally like tofu or cucumber but the cold rice noodles are so good he likes them.

After five laps the pair cross the finishing line with times of 26.50 minutes (Michael) and 26.54 minutes (Sam) but are still fit enough to be able to chat to Islington Faces. What’s more Michael plans to enter the 2km Junior Parkrun the next day (and every Sunday morning). “Today on the run I was thinking about my breathing because my Dad said it helps,” says Michael. “The adult Parkrun is more of a run, but people treat the kids one as more of a race – my brother (Alex, 8) is really determined to win!”

Michael knows about game tactics because he’s also a huge Minecraft fan, often watching You Tuber commentaries from players such as Stampylongnose. Other hobbies include messing about with footballs, the school athletics club held at the Emirates Stadium and playing guitar. “I’m doing my Grade 2 soon,” he adds.

Pressure Drop on sale.

Pressure Drop on sale.

Islington family
Sam, who now runs the Pressure Drop brewery in Hackney Central had a peripatetic childhood until he moved to Islington when he was 11. As many local football fans have found, Arsenal has become a family glue. “I go to football with my Dad, who is Australian but lives near Angel now, and sometimes my sons too,” says Sam, who went to George Orwell School for two years, then to Islington Green and then Islington Sixth Form. He still meets up at the Emirates with friends he made at school – one, Graham O’Brien, is a partner in Pressure Drop.

It’s clear sport plays a big part in the Smith family’s life, which is why they’re also often to be found at the Highbury Fields Parkrun. Even so occasionally Michael won’t make a run – and for this he blames his parents. “If I don’t wake up in time Mum and Dad think I’m tired,” he says looking at his Dad in a puzzled sort of a way. Fortunately this autumn morning all went to plan. And with the run out of the way by 9.30am there’s a lot of day left to enjoy.

  • It’s free to join a Parkrun, but you do need to register and bring your paper barcode along. Entrants can be any age, and are allowed to run with a dog or buggy, although all runners are asked to make way for other path users. See all the info here. Parkruns are held all round the country, including Finsbury Park, Hackney Marshes, Hampstead Heath and Ally Pally. @highburyparkrun 
  • Pressure Drop Brewery was set up by Sam and friends in 2012. Info on the website, or see @PressureDropBrw 
  • Pressure Drop beers are stocked in Islington at Highbury Vintners, 71 Highbury Park, N1; Kris Wines, 394 York Way, N7; The Taproom, 163 Upper Street, N1; Craft Beer Co Islington, 55 White Lion Street, N1; and the Earl of Essex, 25 Danbury Street, N1.

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

Abu Mensah: Deputy Young Mayor of Islington

24 Jun

Everyone has a story. Islington has 48 councillors elected by the people of Islington. In addition Islington’s young people are represented by an elected youth council, who serve a two-year term in office. All the youth councillors are aged 13-17. The youth councillors elect amongst themselves the Young Mayor and Deputy Young Mayor. Abu Mensah, who is Deputy Young Mayor for 2015-16, explains what the job involves. Interview by Nicola Baird

Abu Mensah (c) Islington Council

Abu Mensah (c) Islington Council

Not only has Abu Mensah just finished his first year at sixth form college, studying at STEM Academy on City Road, he’s also just completed four months as Deputy Young Mayor of Islington.

“Based upon our manifestos and election campaigns, the youth councillors identified and agreed four priorities – ayouth provision, career and education planning, youth employment, and health and wellbeing – which they work on for the benefit of all young people in Islington.

Abu, 17, has lived in Islington for seven years – before that he was based in Hackney. The move to Islington made him a “default Arsenal fan” but it also introduced him to the possibility of having a bigger voice.

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. 

“Raj, the Commissioning and Engagement Officer supporting the Youth Council, came into my school and gave a talk about the Youth Council. I was feeling that being a young person in this country had a bad reputation – there were all the reports about knife crime and youth crime. So I thought if people aren’t going to make a change then I should try helping myself,” says Abu.

The elections are competitively fought – just like a real election. The 12 candidates who get the most votes are elected as youth councillors and are provided with a comprehensive induction in order to support them in their new roles as youth councillors.

They also join other youth councillors from London boroughs to go on residentials organised by the British Youth Council – giving them a chance to meet other Young Mayors and Young Councillors.

Abu, who lives in the Tollington Ward, enjoyed this: “Now I’m a Young Deputy Mayor I’ve learnt all kinds of things. How to plan, organise and arrange events. Before I joined the Youth Council I was a very shy person, and rarely used to speak to anyone. This role has helped me gain confidence – and I’ve networked a lot too.”

  • Abu Mensah: Deputy Young Mayor Islington does a quick photo shoot for Islington Faces during an Islington Giving event at nearby Islington Assembly Hall on Upper Street.

    Abu Mensah: Deputy Young Mayor Islington does a quick photo shoot for Islington Faces during an Islington Giving event at nearby Islington Assembly Hall on Upper Street.

    Things our deputy young mayor – Abu Mensah – likes about Islington

  • * I like working with Cllr Joe Calouri, Cllr Richard Watts the leader of the Council and the Mayor of Islington, Richard Greening.20150601_163553* Islington has really good transport links and lots of tube stations. A borough like Lewisham only has the DLR.

    * There are loads of youth clubs. I go to Platform on Hornsey Road where I’m learning how to make films. The previous youth council helped to set up Lift (a youth hub) and they even cut the ribbons to open the centre! In Newham they don’t have nearly as many youth clubs as Islington has.

    * I like the way Islington is very diverse, there’s a good mix of race, wealth and talents.

    Work experience crunch
    Abu is linked to the Youth Employment priority and is very clear that all Islington school students “need a better quality work experience. Not all schools give students work experience in Year 10. And the ones who do offer work experience often don’t get it right,” he says.

    Abu talks about how he wanted to develop his skills in computer science – a subject he is taking at AS level, and might study at university – but in Year 10 after GCSEs “I was placed in a nursery for two weeks as ‘work experience’. I enjoyed it but it was not really connected to my career interest and I didn’t find it very useful.”

    Abu is impressed by how much the councillors listen to the concerns of young people, and hopes that this will translate into action. This is one reason why his time as a Deputy Young Mayor has helped him decide that the vote should be for 16 and up. “Before I was elected to the Youth Council I thought it didn’t make a difference. Now I think that if you’re not ready to vote at 16, then why would you be ready at 18 or even 30?” he says in a typically thoughtful manner. So if you are an Islington teenager – or know a teen – do get them to find out more about the Youth Council as it is clear that it offers an effective way to become involved in real politics.

  • More about the Youth Council (plus advice, information and services for young people in Islington) at izzy-info.com or @islingtonYC or facebook
  • Lift youth club facebook 45 White Lion Street, N1
  • Platform youth hub facebook Hornsey Road Baths, 2 Tiltman Place, N7

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

Anna Harvey: N1 Centre administrator

6 Nov

Everyone on Islington Faces Blog has a story.   Not so long ago Anna Harvey, 24, moved from Manchester to London. She has spent the past year at the N1 Centre (she’s the Centre Administrator). She’s the one who sorts out the big lawn in the summer and gets to invite Father Christmas over. But she’s also brought us meerkats, photo competitions, pop up shops and even a giant dinosaur… What will shoppers find there next? Interview by Nicola Baird

Anna Harvey: xx

Anna Harvey:  “People in Islington are into their fashion, food and arts. There’s a great offering for those things here – not just in the N1 centre (where I work), but along Essex Road and Upper Street too.”

Q: What is the NI Centre?
The N1 Centre is a shopping centre sandwiched between Liverpool Road and Upper Street, just opposite Angel underground station.  Have you seen the metal halo between Monsoon and Oasis? That’s our entrance!  You can find our angel wings on the Liverpool Road entrance opposite Sainsbury’s.  The N1 Centre is an outdoor shopping centre, so I think that has always made it quite different. We’ve got a great range of fashion retailers including Monsoon, GAP and H&M along with some amazing restaurants such as wagamama and GBK.  For night-time fun we also have the O2 Academy here as well as a VUE cinema.  It’s a good job that we don’t have any doors because I don’t think we’d get the chance to close them for too long! We always say to people that we’re a one-stop destination for shopping, dining and entertainment and I don’t think you can argue with that.  N1 is Islington’s post code, but the N1 Centre is at the heart of Angel, Islington.

Q: What’s happening over Christmas?
My favourite part of this job is organising the events at the centre.  Christmas kicks off early at the N1 Centre this year – on 23 November we’ve got the Christmas light switch-on.  From 2pm we’ll have Father Christmas visiting, a guy dressed as a reindeer and two elves handing out free goodies for the kids.  We ordered the Christmas giveaways in July so I’ve been feeling festive for four months now! For 7-8 December we’ve also booked a giant snow globe that you can climb into and have your photo taken, which should be great fun.  On 20 December we’ll have living, breathing reindeer on site.  We organised the reindeer last year and they were such a hit with everyone.

Being an outdoor shopping centre is definitely a bonus when it comes to having animal visits. In April we had Zoofari come along with a range of animals to teach the kids about meerkats, tortoises and raccoon dogs. Getting the chance to hold a meerkat was a pretty rare opportunity.

Q: Why does the N1 centre run events?
We like to offer our customers free events and competitions throughout the year to promote our retailers and give customers added value. In the summer we always put down a fake lawn and deck chairs for people to relax on. We’re quite well-known for this! We like to offer something extra now and again as it entices customers in, and gets people talking about the N1 Centre.

Fotor1104134116Q: How do you choose the events?
We have our regular events that prove popular with everyone, such as Zoofari, which was held in April this year. We’re always up for trying something new to entertain all types of customers.  In August we had a Stegosaurus pay us a visit, which was great fun. The sight of a dinosaur stomping around the centre stopped everyone in their tracks. Last Friday we had a 50ft inflatable sperm whale in the centre. Kids could crawl inside it and watch a mermaid and pirate put on a show.  I was helping set up the event that morning and a man walking past said quite calmly, ‘Oh, a whale this time?’ It makes me smile to know that the people of Islington are used to our antics.  Most of our customers are local and they know what to expect – they know that we’re different and like putting on new and fun events.

Q: What do you like doing in the N1 area? 
There’s an infinite combination of things to do during the day or on a night out. I love going to The Little Angel Theatre just off Essex Road; the children’s puppet theatre. I went to see Macbeth the other week and it was mesmerising.  If I fancy a drink without breaking the bank you might see me in The Glass Works.  There’s Chapel Market for fresh fruit at a bargain and then there’s the vintage fair round the back of Camden Passage each Sunday, which is brilliant for bric-a-brac and antiques. Slim Jims has to get a mention too – it’s great entertainment to take in a new friend and see their reaction when they notice the hundreds of bras pinned to the ceiling.  The cocktails are great too. wagamama is one of my favourite restaurants to grab a quick bite to eat, and luckily we have one here at the N1 Centre. I also love the newly opened Naamyaa, which is owned by the founder of wagamama. It offers great flavoursome food at affordable prices.

Q: Do you live in Islington?
I used to have an N1 postcode until last week. I moved a little bit further North a couple of weeks ago. Islington is very lovely and the price reflects that. However, I’m really glad I still get to work here – I think I’d miss it if I didn’t! I think I’ll move back one day, until then I’m only a bus ride away.

Q: What so you like about Islington?
There’s a sense of community here, which is quite special for an area so close to central London. It’s a place that has so much to offer – you can catch a gig or film within a few steps of each other and in terms of dining, you’re spoilt for choice. Working here is a lot of fun as well, I have a unique job at the N1 Centre and dealing with the public is often a highlight. We’ve always got something different going on, whether it is a performance from local drama academy, True Stars, or a pop-up shop opening like John Lewis’ Open House, which is currently located on the ground floor. No day is ever the same both at the N1 Centre and in Islington as a whole.

Q: Is there anything you’d like to change in Islington?
Rent prices can be a little steep and it would be great to see more cycle paths in the area.

N1 Centre info (including newsletter sign up plus info about all events) http://n1islington.com/

2013 calendar

23 November – Christmas lights switch on, plus afternoon visit from Father Christmas.

7-8 December – enjoy the giant snow globe

20 December – real reindeer visit.

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.

James Olivo: dancer

26 Jun

Everyone on Islington Faces Blog has a story. Self-taught dancer James Olivo, 17, took a chance enrolling for a Dance BTech at City & Islington College’s Angel campus but already he’s won a place in the prestigious National Youth Dance Company based just over the road at the famous contemporary dance venue, Sadler’s Wells.  Interview by Nicola Baird

James Olivo

James Olivo:  just 17 but already dancing at Sadler’s Wells.

“I saw this dance crew in America, Jabbawockeez, on TV and started liking how they moved. Then I searched them on YouTube and started copying their moves,” says James Olivo who went to a school in Camden where dance wasn’t offered. “I was about 13 or 14 and far too shy to go on stage anyway,” he claims. “But I like dancing because it makes other people happy,” he pauses and then jokingly adds,” I think it makes people happy!”

Joining the newly launched National Youth Dance Company (NYDC) for 16-20-year-olds has certainly made James happy. With just 30 members – picked from a short list of more than 170 talented young dancers – the company will be performing at Sadler’s Wells during the Sampled festival 2013. “With live dance you get immersed into the atmosphere though I’m also thinking what to do next. Choreography has so much detail… I use my peripheral vision to stay in time. Everyone feels the same: we all hope we don’t mess up…” explains James who is due to perform in Jasmin Vardimon’s  theatrical dance called (in between) barefoot. See the programme here.

james_stagedoor

The Garden Court cafe at Sadler’s Wells is open to the public, and is a place you may spot performers, see here.

Let’s dance
James’ days are spent dancing either at Sadler’s Wells or on tour (with dates at Ashford, Leeds, Salford and Bristol). “We wake at 7am and finish dancing at 6pm,” he says during a short break in the cafe at Sadler’s Wells. “Before a performance we do pilates and yoga and a lot of stretching. We do so much yoga you are sweating! Then, just before the performance we do meditation to get focused. After the show, because you’ve used all your muscles, you need to stretch and warm down. If you don’t it can hurt…”

And then it’s home to their lodgings – the Holiday Inn Islington.

It’s almost the fictional character Billy Elliott’s story of obscurity to fame through sheer grit – except James hasn’t seen the film or the musical.

James may seem unphased by his dance career taking off, but he’s definitely impressed by hotel life where the dancers are staying, watched over by NYDC manager Hannah Kirkpatrick. “The hotel cleans everything, every day,” says James with relish. “They change the sheets, and the towels and there’s a buffet breakfast where you can get a hill of food.”

Time off will see James head towards the London Eye at the South Bank or for football in Regent’s Park.

James with mum Imelda. "Let's do a funny one," says James.

James with his mum Imelda Olivo at the Sadler’s Wells cafe behind the Stage Door.

He’s also been to talks by a range of people in the dance business. One by Akram Khan really stood out for James. “Akram Khan is really interesting, he thinks differently, so I asked ‘Is life random or is it all planned?’ Akram Khan replied with a really nice anecdote. My mind was blown – he showed how he believes in patterns (through a chance discovery that the taxi Khan was in was being driven by his father’s best friend, who like his dad had grown up in the same very remote, tiny Bangladeshi village which few people ever left). I now understand the meaning of life.”

And thanks in part to the National Youth Dance Company James also knows how he hopes to spend his waking days too… “I hope dance will be my career.  I want to be a choreographer or a director, and to teach people dance. I want to make them laugh and enjoy what they do.”

It’s a fabulous ambition for a boy who took his first dancing steps in front of YouTube. Be sure to go and support him and the NYDC when they’re performing at Sadler’s Wells.

More info about the Sampled weekend and Sadler’s Wells
Sadler’s Sampled festival is designed to introduce people to dance for the first time and is jam packed full of special events, art, talks, installations and chances to get involved.

Following the launch of Sadler’s Sampled two week London festival offering a bite-sized weekend of world class dance. As part of the festival, this week sees the start of Sampled Weekend (28 & 29 June 2013) offering a huge array of some of the finest dance in the world today – from hip hop to ballet, contemporary dance to tango – all from only £8 (standing tickets) a night!

You may well be able to buy tickets on the door – shows start at 7.30pm.

To celebrate the launch of Sampled Weekend, the record-breaking dance artist Tim Casson features in a new clip in which he brings a flavour of his interactive dance performance to the people of Islington, creating spontaneous and rather amusing dance moves inspired by the people he encountered – so the Hamburger Dance was inspired by the gourmet burger seller in Islington’s Chapel Market. Watch what happened here 

See www.sadlerssampled.com for more details.

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.

Charles Williams: made in Islington

21 Feb

Everyone has a story on the Islington Faces Blog.  So what’s it like growing up in Islington these days? On ITV’s Girlfri3nds Charles Williams, the fourth generation in his family from Islington, was billed as the bad boy – but these days he’d rather be at the gym, the footie or his job… Interview by Nicola Baird.

charleswilliams

Charles Williams: “Being on TV was very surreal. People kept asking for my photo.”

“I might sound old-fashioned,” says Charles Williams, over a big mug of tea in the Ecuadorean El Rinca Quiteno Café off Holloway Road, “but kids are always indoors now and I blame consoles. When I grew up I’d knock for my friends and then go and do something outside. I was a dare-devil child – and loved to play Runouts* where we lived. I was 12 or 13 and my big brother was with the older kids on the other team. We’d jump from roof to roof! I look back and think what was I thinking?”

“One game, Letterbeats, was a bit rough,” he admits with a laugh. “There were two teams who both picked a random word, like the name of a football team, and then each team member had a letter. Then you had to run away. If you got caught the letter was beaten out of you – it wasn’t real beating just dead arms and twisted nipples.”

“If we weren’t playing these games we were always out playing football in the park, or kicking a ball against walls or garage doors or playing football tennis. The swings and slides where I grew up have gone now. Still older people prefer it – it’s a lot quieter!”

In some ways Charles, 22, is old for his age. He may have a lip and nose piercing but he’s had a job since he left St Aloysius School at 16 years, first working as a scaffolder – which left him with a good head for heights – and then in retail at the Angel.

And he’s been on TV as potential love interest in ITV2’s Girlfri3nds – a show with three girls trying to find love. “100 guys met the three girls in their house, and they all picked six different lads to date. The story about my girl Amy was she was looking for a bad boy. It was quite nerve wracking but after a while you forget the cameras are there. And they edit it too.”  You can see a video clip here.

As a result TV viewers found out that Charles from 17-19 years had a gambling problem, rather than finding out about his gift with jokes and being lovely company.  “The thing was when I started scaffolding I had no outgoings so I started going to the bookies for electric roulette and then the casino. When you are winning it is a brilliant buzz, but when you lose you just want to win it back. But bookies are quite droll places, it’s where alcoholics go. I eventually decided I can’t be in this environment. I’ve got to stop. I confided in my mum and she helped me – she’s been through a lot herself so she can relate to things.”

His confession seemed to work for Amy too – who picked him.  “And then I had to pick a date she’d like so we went to the pedalo boats in Regents Park.”

“I got very popular on twitter” says Charles amused by the effect TV has on women. “When the programme first aired I had about 100 twitter followers. I had a £50 bet with my brother that I’d get to 1,000 but I ended up with 9,000 followers. Girls beg me to follow them! Being on TV was very surreal, but I got through to the last two guys until Amy let me down gently. But it was good for me, I got quite a lot of attention from girls after it! When I go out people still ask me for pictures.”

“I was proper naughty growing up but I had a really fun childhood. I’m not going to lie – people used to steal mopeds, and though I didn’t steal any I did have a go on them. A lot of people I grew up with have done prison sentences  – they’re still nice fellas, it’s just they path they lead and I don’t look down on them, they’re the background where I came from. I feel safe in Islington. I couldn’t see myself living anywhere else. And even if I did move out I’d be back to see my family.”

Charles’ family may be one big draw for him to this area, but there’s also his passion for Arsenal. “I’m a club member and go to every home game with my brother, Ricky, 26, and two friends. We’ve got really good seats right next to the away fans,” he says happily.  He doesn’t just watch the football, he also plays whenever he can – and to do that he stays in training. So if you don’t pass Charles Williams heading for a meal with his family, or to work in Angel, then you may find yourself meeting him in the gym. Which is where he is probably now.

===

Follow Charles on twitter @chigg_will

El Rinca Quiteno Café, 235 Holloway Road, N7 8HG (close to Holloway Road tube)

Words*

  • A very tame version of how to play Runouts is explained in this video here (also has the rules if you want to try it in the playground!).
  • Video game console
  • The Girlfri3nds website offers plenty of tips on how to date

Over to you
What’s your life like in Islington?  Please share a few of the games you used to play as a kid or what you like doing best here (whatever your age). 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. And yes, this blog is inspired by Spitalfields Life written by the Gentle Author.

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