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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.

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“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

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Hannah Kalmanowitz: Stuart Low Trust manager

27 Aug

Everyone on Islington Faces Blog has a story. Does living somewhere for decades give you a better connection with the place? Does it make you want to do more for it, or less? Hannah Kalmanowitz, who has lived in Islington for 37 years says it’s made her want to do as much good as she can where she lives. That’s why she’s so pleased to be running the Islington-based Stuart Low Trust, which provides events and support for Islington people with mental health issues. Interview by Nicola Baird

Hannah Kalmanowitz: xxx. Photo by XX.

Hannah Kalmanowitz: photographed by her partner, Tony. It was taken in June 2014 on holiday in Nice, France. “I’m standing in front of a Marc Chagall* painting. Marc’s family orginated from the same Russian shtetl as my father’s side of the family (now in Belarus), called Vitebsk which I have visited with close family.

Hannah was 17 when she moved to a basement flat in Islington in 1977, rented from her friend, the costume and theatre set designer Alistair Livingstone while he was overseas. “I was really happy living there,” says Hannah thinking back to those teen days of freedom. “I was working in the theatre – after doing a foundation course at St Martin’s school of art – and had his cats to look after.”

Settling in Islington wasn’t a vast geographical move. She’d been born in Stamford Hill and brought up in Southgate, but her family were initially apprehensive about her taking on the Oakley Road, N1 address in “rough” Islington. “The rent was cheap, only £8 a week, so they agreed it was an adventure,” says Hannah exuding calm – you can see she’d have made a good case to her parents all those years ago.

Hannah’s a lovely person to meet: someone who has spent years in the theatre (her real high point was working with the original Cats cast), but then went back to university to do a Psychology degree at UCL in the late 1980s. She then worked for Islington council, did some counselling courses and in 2002, having worked her way up since joining the organisation in 1995 became director of the Immune Development Trust*(later known as Complementary Health Trust) which offered complementary therapies for people with HIV, cancer, MS and lupus.

She’s lived all round Islington – even meeting her partner, Tony, at a dinner party held at the vintage specialist shop Past Caring* on 76 Essex Road.

“I’ve lived in Islington a long time – I feel really fortunate – so I want to give back,” explains Hannah. Recently she took a short break from full time work to “be there for my mum who had Alzheimer’s. My father had previously passed away at St Joseph’s, so I felt I wanted to give something back by working there as a part-time co-ordinator. I also helped out at their jumble sales. After mum died, and after being at St J’s for six years, I felt the rumblings of a new challenge in me and I wanted this to be local, in Islington.”

As luck would have it the Stuart Low Trust was looking for a general manager. Hannah seems immensely proud to have joined the organisation in April (2014) telling the Islington Tribune: I am so moved by the valuable work of the Stuart Low Trust. Their social therapeutic groups for vulnerable people alleviate fear, despair and social isolation”, says Hannah. “It is a lifeline in Islington, a non-judgemental, safe community, combating the above average suicide rate here. It’s helping people to gain confidence and achieve better mental health and well-being”.

Screen on the Green cinema recommended for its comfy seats.

Screen on the Green cinema recommended by Hannah Kalmanowitz for its comfy seats.

Places Hannah Kalmanowitz loves in Islington

  • I like hidden away places like Freightliners Farm, Candid Arts Trust (they have a lovely courtyard café) and the Culpeper Garden. The Stuart Low Trust has two big plots at Culpeper and on Thursday afternoons you’ll find us growing fruit and veg there. Sometimes we also cook food grown on the plots, like rhubarb or gooseberry crumble. It’s a soothing place where people make friends – you can just come for a cup of tea and to relax.

  • I love South Library on Essex Road. They are lovely, friendly people and very helpful. It’s a good source of local information.

  • I really like the Indian veggie restaurant at the end of Chapel Market but go more often to Stoke Newington Church Street for an Indian meal.

  • I like the local theatres especially the Old Red Lion, The King’s Head (where I’m hoping to see Diary of a Nobody in August) and Almeida. There are really comfy sofas at the Screen on the Green. The Union Chapel is also a lovely place to listen to serene music.

Day-to-day
The Stuart Low Trust is well known in Islington – it was set up in 1999 in memory of a young Islington man, of the same name, who killed himself as a result of not being able to find the support he needed to help him cope with his schizophrenia.

“We work with people with mental health issues or recovering or just lonely or vulnerable people,” explains Hannah. “We have a wonderful, dedicated team of trustees and volunteers who help organise the famous Friday night events at St Mary’s community centre on Upper Street. It’s a non-judgmental space designed for when people are at their lowest ebb and when normal offices and clinical services are shut.” The Friday nights may include a health topic or self help tips, live music, or presentation, but always include a nutritious buffet meal attracting 60-100 people each week.

“We’re planning to run workshops soon on health and well being, social skills and arts and crafts,” says Hannah, “as we want to attract young people, aged between 20-40 years because there is a high incidence of suicide in this group in Islington, especially among young men.” The Stuart Low Trust hopes this will complement its established groups which include philosophy discussion, singing and gardening as well as monthly outings.

20140807_120919

Candid Cafe, behind Angel tube, offers a calm courtyard for coffee. When Hannah did the islingtonfacesblog interview we shared delicious chocolate and coriander cake.

Family feeling
Hannah is clearly practical and rooted in place. But it turns out that Islington only defines her in part. In 1998 she changed her name by deed poll to Hannah Kalmanowitz after finding out more about her Polish heritage.

“It was my grandmother’s name,” she says, “but died out because of World War Two. Those people who’d survived had either died or they’d married and taken their husbands’ names. I went with my mum the first time to our village, Rejowiec* in Poland, where the family are from. We went to Auschwitz too [where members of her family were murdered]. It was an awful feeling, but it also felt vitally important and compelling to go back and light candles and make it clear they haven’t been forgotten.

Finding out more about those awful years enabled Hannah to get to know her living relatives – in the UK and abroad – better too. As a result she’s been back to Rejowiec a few times, and was proud when her cousins arranged for a fence to go up around the old Jewish cemetery which had been obliterated.

“Finding out about your family helps you answer ‘who am I?’. It’s about identity,” explains Hannah. Clearly the information she’s gleaned has topped up her own inner strength – it’s certainly made her an inspirational choice to run the Stuart Low Trust.

  • Stuart Low Trust is based at Office 7, Claremont, 24-27 White Lion St, London N1 9PD, tel: 020 7713 9304. See www.slt.org.uk for events, information and how to donate. Follow on twitter @stulowtrust
  • The Stuart Low Trust is a beneficiary of Islington Giving, which encourages locals to donate to local projects, see http://www.islingtongiving.org.uk/website_/ for more info.
  • This interview was done at Candid Cafe, which has a lovely outdoor courtyard and the most original interior – but you do have to climb a few floors to reach the cafe. It is rather a secret find still! Find Candid Cafe at 3 Torrens Street, EC1V 1NQ, email: office@candidarts.com Open: mon-sat 12-10pm, Sun 12-5pm. The rooms can be booked for parties or private hire. Website here.

WORDS/INFO*

St Martin’s School of Arts still runs foundation classes – and now it’s based in Islington at King’s Cross. Entry requirements here

Alastair Livingstone now runs a yoga studio in northern Ireland, see http://www.yogastudioireland.com/team-members/114-alistair-livingstone.html

Past Caring was at 76 Essex Road, N1, but then moved to 54 Essex Road. It’s a great shop to find fabulous vintage items including furniture, crockery and curtains. Opening times: noon-6pm (Monday- Saturday).

Rejowiec – during WW2 half the population was murdered by the Nazis.

Marc Chagall (1887-1985) was described by art critic Robert Hughes as the “quintessential Jewish artist of the 20th century” Chagall said his art was “not the dream of one people but of all humanity.”

Over to you
Would you like to nominate someone to be interviewed? Or would you like to write a guest post for this blog? if the answer is yes for either please email nicolabaird.green@gmail.com

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), @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 jobs to find friends, neighbours and inspiration. Thanks for stopping by. Nicola

Katherine Horsham: community mobiliser

22 Jan

Everyone on Islington Faces Blog has a story. Katherine Horsham, manager of the Islington council-funded Here To project designed to encourage helping out in the borough, is a huge fan of living in Islington, and one day hopes to live by Regent’s CanalInterview by Nicola Baird

Katherine Horsham is manager at How To Islington, an organisation which helps match volunteers with tasks locally.

Katherine Horsham is manager of How To Islington, an organisation which helps match volunteers with tasks to be done locally. The dish is risotto served at Sunday, a fabulous cafe on 169 Hemingford Road, N1.

“It’s a real privilege to live and work in Islington,” explains Katherine, 26, who moved to Islington about a year ago. “I grew up in Chingford, near Epping Forest. It has quite a different feel from Islington; it’s a bit suburban. Now I live in a place of such history  – the former swimming baths on Hornsey Road – and wake up to the lovely view of a Victorian school [Montem Primary].”

IMG_1118“Islington was central and closer to everything, but it was only when I moved in that I realised how awesome it is,” she explains at the packed Sunday café on Hemingford Road, N1 not far from her office.

“I’d studied History at Durham University – which has a lovely community feel – and then a Masters in International Management at King’s and had to move back home. Chingford doesn’t even have a tube, it felt so far away from everything.”

Here To snaps

Your interviewer tries out the How To photo booth at Gillespie Festival 2012.

Your interviewer tries out the How To Photomatic Machine at Gillespie Festival 2012, offering to “listen to your life story.”         Apart from changing the blog name that’s exactly              what I’ve done!

Here To started life near Katherine’s flat, but is now based at the Isledon Head Office on Caledonian Road. Although Here To is still relatively new and only has a small team behind it, you might have come across the Photomatic Machine at summer festivals around Islington (see photo, left).

The key goal of Here To is to connect local people to local projects in fun, flexible ways. The idea is to first get people thinking about their personal goals and the perks they want to get out of helping out, and then the ‘secret skills’ they have to offer Islington. Here To can then match proactive people who can do stuff with project and community groups who need stuff doing. This can range from sorting out Oxfam Islington’s shop window and befriending older residents to story telling and even teaching scuba diving.

Over the past year since Here To first launched, hundreds of people have gained perks like learning to cook, watching free theatrical performances, developed skills for their CV and had a lot of fun too. On the Here To website this is more elegantly put: “We’re Here To start a movement in Islington. We’re helping local people do great things, helping new ideas get off the ground, and helping local organisations get the right people with the right skills to help them with their projects.”

Here To 1st Birthday invitationBirthday party
More than 170 people will be at Islington Town Hall to celebrate Here To’s 1st birthday, including the Islington Mayor and Young Mayor on Thursday 30 January 2014.

“We wanted to recognise everyone who’d been involved in Here To so far – they’re part of a really special group of people and projects pioneering a new way of helping out locally. Here To is evolving daily as a result of feedback we get from our users, but the long term vision is to get to a point where every person who lives, works and plays in the borough uses Here To at least once a year…”  explains Katherine.

It’s an ambitious dream, but Katherine, with her red hair and pinky purple wellies, is unfazed. “I’d always volunteered as a child but after doing that Masters, which was the worst and best experience ever because it saved me jumping into the wrong job in the City, I made a conscious decision to work in social change and have a job that mattered,” explains Katherine.

Things to love about Islington

  • Parkland Walk at the Highgate end. It's a 2.5 mile foot and cycle path, with a lot of joggers, made from a disused train line.

    Parkland Walk at the Highgate end. It’s a 2.5 mile foot and cycle path, with a lot of joggers, made from a disused train line.

    Because of my job I’m always popping into Islington’s two youth hubs: Lift, in White Cross Street, and Platform, off Hornsey Road. There’s usually a hot chocolate involved.

  • I love the Sobell – it’s laid back and everything I could ever possibly want to do is there. Plus as a member I can go gyms all over the borough – yoga at Highbury or swimming at Archway.

  • I buy fresh fruit and veg from Michael’s Fruiterers, 56-58 Seven Sisters Road, N7.

  • My new favourite place to go is the Breakfast Club, 31 Camden Passage, N1. Their smoked salmon, scrambled eggs and avocado is amazing.

  • I went on a canal boat holiday from London to Windsor and back, so now I can do locks and drive canal boats. I therefore really love Regent’s Canal and hope to live there one day.

  • I like the tube stations and local buses – the 91, 43 and 271 seem to take you anywhere you could want to go. People complain about transport in London, but I don’t drive and have always travelled a lot in the UK… it seems more than fine to me.

  • I’m a massive sushi fan: the Japanese restaurant Hana Sushi at 150A Seven Sisters Road is an undiscovered gem.

  • I can’t believe Parkland Walk even exists! You feel like you’re in the countryside.

As she suspected working in a social enterprise environment like How To is personally fulfilling, but the work is tough and the hours are long – she does extra work most weekends. “But I don’t need to be doing something relaxing to be relaxed,” claims Katherine with a huge smile.

Project TILT
This perhaps explains why in the midst of start-up mayhem at How To she still found the energy to help the 200 plus householders where she lives get to know each other better.

“The only drawback to my block of flats is no one sees each other. There are all these people with loads of secret talents, and I have always wondered what they were, so I got £300 seed funding to try and get my neighbours to talk to each other more.”

Project TILT postboxAfter letterbox surveys (using a special post box in the block’s reception) and a focus group, Project TILT kicked off at the end of 2013. Residents have already had a Great Christmas Share Off (pot luck lunch) and there are plans to run specialist clubs – such as running, knitting and yoga – as well as larger supper events such as a Big Lunch in June 2014.

It’s rare to meet a person who can bring out the best in a stranger, but Katherine’s positive energy and charm does exactly that. The moment I’d finished this interview I had a good look at the website and plan to help out too and offer a rewarding task for anyone who’d like to interview a friend or neighbour with stories to tell about living or working in Islington. So a big thank you to the positive force-field that is Katherine Horsham and a big up to Here To Islington… do go and see what the fuss is about.

  • Here To… see http://islington.hereto.org, hello@hereto.org, @heretoislington, facebook.com/heretoislingoton, Islington.com/heretoislington, tel: 020 3475 3825
  • To get free tickets to Here To’s 1st Birthday Party, visit www.heretoparty.eventbrite.co.uk and follow what’s happening using #HereToParty on Twitter
  • Sunday, 169 Hemingford Road, Barnsbury, N1, tel: 020 7607 3868 is open every day for brunch, lunch and cake. It is also serves evening meals on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

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), @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 list of posts, or the A-Z of jobs to find friends, neighbours and inspiration. Thanks for stopping by. Nicola

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