Tag Archives: holloway road

Alicia Montplaisir: fairy spirit and singer-songwriter

20 Apr

Everyone has a story. Canadian Alicia Montplaisir is able to perform her one-woman show, Walking My Heart Home – a mix of songs, poems and dance – at St Luke’s, West Holloway thanks to crowd funding, friends’ generosity and www.patreon.com fans. Interview by Nicola Baird.

Alicia Montplaisir performing. (c) alicia montplaisir

Alicia Montplaisir performing in February. (c) alicia montplaisir

To be honest Alicia Montplaisir’s c/v is slightly confusing. She’s a fairy from St Joseph de Sorel, a French-speaking part of Canada, who has been based in Islington since 2014. She’s also a licenced desire map facilitator (enabling her to help you find work and a purpose to your life in a manner prescribed by Danielle La Porte in the Desire Map). She’s also a singer song-songwriter based in N7.

No surprise then that when Islington Faces waited to meet Alicia at the new Barn café on Holloway Road I had no idea what to expect. Turns out that Alicia is a lovely woman. She’s wearing arty get-up, but that’s normal for London – and there’s not a hint of wings or wands.

But she’s clearly finding 10am a bit early for an interview.

“I’m not a morning person,” says Alicia sipping a freshly-squeezed orange juice (it’s Islington Faces who is mainlining black coffee). But there are several reasons for this. Often it’s because she is dealing with the severe pain caused by a chronic condition that can steal her energy. But it’s also because she sometimes works on songs at the very dead of night. Last May while rehearsing at 2am (2am!) on the public piano at St Pancras International station Alicia was recorded by a passer-by who popped it on to Time Out’s Facebook page. That clip went viral and has now been shared 172,000 times… “I was learning the Edge of Glory by Lady Gaga. It’s really hard to sing,” says Alicia who absolutely nails it in the video and is rewarded with spontaneous applause from two random passers-by and a couple of high-vis clad cleaners.

https://www.facebook.com/TimeOutLondon/videos/10152867962172405/ (May 2015)

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.

Throughout the interview Alicia is unable to resist singing along to the radio, whatever tune comes up from Ed Sherrin to Rock n Roll. “My mother teaches music so I started learning piano when I was five,” she explains. “I never did any grades, but every year we performed. Then I started singing at eight, and around 11 had classical lessons. I just learned every song I could and performed everywhere,” she explains. By the time she was 18 she was able to take over her mum’s students when her mum took a break to look after her unwell mother.

Although Alicia, now 28, can teach and helps finance her shows, and cover her rent, by teaching French conversation to adults and French nursery rhymes to children she is adamant that, “For me creating and performing come before teaching. I do not intend to make a career out of teaching. But who knows?”

To keep her voice in practice she’s joined the choir at St Luke’s, Vox Holloway, which is currently focusing on gospel songs for a concert in June but has recently performed original material about mental health issues at a fundraiser for Islington Mind and performed at the Barbican during the Shakespeare Weekend on 6 March in A hum about mine ears, which was based on The Tempest.

Alicia Montplaisir rehearsing on the grand piano at St Luke's West Holloway.

Alicia Montplaisir rehearsing on the grand piano at St Luke’s West Holloway.

St Luke’s plays a big role in Alicia’s life. “I’m always there,” she says – making it the natural venue for her gigs (next date to be confirmed, see how to buy tickets below). “My concert is a very personal experience. I wrote the songs and there is some poetry and some dancing. I’ve had really positive feedback. After the performance people have said how touched they were and how they related to the material – it can be very healing which I’m glad about because I share very personal stories about pain and depression and one song is about a friend who died from suicide – so I bring up health, mental health and self-care.”

That’s why Alicia asks her audience to be 16+. “It’s a 70 minute solo piece in which I explore the darkness and light of self-discovery, love and growth. I don’t want to think about filtering myself so I may or may not curse during the concert. In my mind there is an age before 18 where those topics become important, 16 seemed reasonable to me and is loosely based on maturity more than age,” she says.

The Barn Cafe at 60 Holloway Road serves breakfast all day. It's got fab rustic decor and free wifi too. Find it just opposite St Mary's Church, close to Central Library.

The Barn Cafe at 60 Holloway Road serves breakfast all day. It’s got fab rustic decor and free wifi. Find it opposite St Mary’s Church, close to Central Library.

What does Alicia Montplaisir like doing in Islington?
Islington has a similar vibe to where I lived in Montreal for eight years, in the north east of the city.

  • Candid Café: A personal favourite when it comes to meeting friends in the afternoon or evenings. It opens at noon which suits me quite well! I love their sandwiches, the decoration and they usually play good music
  • The Barn Café, 60 Holloway Road: A new addition to my regular spots. They serve brunch all day which is an absolute joy when it comes to having breakfast around 3pm
  • St Luke’s church, Hillmarton Road: This is a second home. From dancing 5Rhythms to singing in Vox Holloway, I am also a member of the congregation. I regularly attend the Sunday service and have volunteered for the homeless night shelter during the winter
  • I know it’s just on the other side of the line but St Pancras International will always have a special place in my heart. All nighters playing piano in the station and meeting strangers from all over the world. It’s simply magic.

More about fairies
“Three years ago someone gave me a Tarot deck made of fairies painted by Brian Froud and that’s the way I was introduced,” explains Alicia who, when prompted, describes herself as a lone fairy, rather than a group-joining-fairy. “We have the material world with chairs and tables, but there’s a certain level of magic that you may not feel. So if someone says ‘Do you think fairies are real?’ It makes me laugh…” And then Alicia starts laughing and it is unclear whether she’s pulling my leg or whether it’s blindingly obvious that the room is full of fairies playing hide and seek.

There’s a good chance it might be the latter as Alicia adds cheerfully: “Fairies are just laughing at you. They pop in and out of nowhere. My fairy godmother will appear out of nowhere and then disappear saying ‘I’m off’. And if you ask ‘What kind of fairy are you’ a fairy Is likely to say ‘I’m not telling!’”

Like so many artists making a name for themselves Alicia is having to put up with a lot – she rents a shared house, and to save money lives in a shared room. “We each have a bed,” she says “and work around each other’s schedule in the morning.” She’s also doing all sorts of odd jobs including kids’ parties and French teaching, despite her poor health, to enable her to work on her songs and show. But there’s no hint of irritation at facing these challenges. Instead Alicia says, “ I’m learning the ropes of how to develop patron, thanks to crowd funding supported by her friends’ generosity and www.patreon.com where people pledge to support what I do. But I am very lucky and have got wonderful friends who sometimes give me extra money.”

Alicia Montplaisir may work on a financial shoestring but it’s one clearly brightened by fairy dust and her own amazing voice. Do go and like her Facebook page and, if you can, go along to the next show she holds at St Luke’s.

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

 

Frank Turner: singer-songwriter

9 Dec

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

Frank Turner (c)xx

Frank Turner (c) June 2015

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

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

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. 

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

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

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

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

5 places in Islington Frank Turner really likes

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

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

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

The Angel Islington (Frank Turner)

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

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

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

By the waters of the Thames
I resolve to start again

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

www.frank-turner.com @frankturner @FTRAOK

Over to you
If you’d like to nominate someone to be interviewed who grew up, lives or works in Islington, or suggest yourself, please let me know, via 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

David Gibson: Islington Society

21 Oct

Architect David Gibson moved to Islington as a student in 1965 – and is still living here. David is convinced that good planning and the design of buildings improves people’s lives, and is a committed chair of the influential Islington Society (find out more by attending the AGM on Thursday 12 November 2015). Interview by Nicola Baird

David Gibson, architect who chairs the influential Islington Society.

David Gibson, architect who chairs the influential Islington Society.

David Gibson – and his wife Mary Gibson, the well-known former Yerbury Primary School head teacher – have been transforming the lives of Islington people for years. Turns out they were childhood sweethearts.

David, an architect and founder of the David Gibson Architects based on Essex Road, is also chairman of the Islington Society, which helps to influence Islington town planning for the better.

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. 

David first moved to Islington in 1965 while studying at University College.

“Most of the students lived in terrible, grotty bedsits in Barnsbury and Canonbury. They were slums, and there were plans to knock them down.” David’s student digs were in Beacon Hill, off Hillmarton Road, N7, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that he moved to Upper Holloway. The couple now live in Tufnell Park and their adult children Timothy and Helen are also based in Islington. “I am so lucky to have a good relationship with my children and have them both living within a five minute walk,” says David who met Mary when they were both at secondary schools (different ones) in Warrington. “We were introduced by the local parish priest who ran a philosophy club.”

Their charmed life had a huge hiccup in 2011 when they were involved in a head-on car collision while holidaying in Vermont. Mary had broken ribs and a punctured lung and missed the start of the Yerbury School winter term 2011/12, while David, then 63, suffered multiple fractures. But five years on he looks fit, well and looking forward to his upcoming US trip.

“For around 30 years we’ve spent a week in New York and three weeks in Vermont, staying with a friend Mary met as a young teacher in Islington at Ecclesbourne School in Canonbury (now closed),” through her regular class trips to the Children’s Library (now South Library) on Essex Road. http://www.islingtontribune.com/news/2011/sep/yerbury-school-head-mary-gibson-survives-car-crash-us

The long awaited pedestrian crossing over Holloway Road opposite Nags Head.

The long awaited pedestrian crossing over Holloway Road opposite Nags Head. David Gibson: “You go to Nag’s Head for the things you need. You go to Angel for the things you think you want.”

Why David Gibson loves Nag’s Head & hopes you do too

David Gibson has lived in Tufnell Park for 30 years . He’s also on the Nag’s Head Town Centre Management Group. As a result he’s a huge fan of the Nag’s Head:

  • An independent treasure for coffee and meals on Holloway Road (opposite Argos).

    An independent treasure for coffee and meals on Holloway Road (opposite Argos) now renamed Ekko.

    The Nag’s Head is brilliant but under rated. You go to Nag’s Head for the things you need, and you go to Angel for the things you think you want.” There’s nowhere in the Angel where you can buy a nut cracker or ordinary household equipment but at Nags Head you’ve got Selbys, 384-400 Holloway Road, N7.

  • Until about 1920 Nag’s Head was the principal centre of Islington with three theatres and all sorts of shops. It’s still geographically central.
  • I like to go to Ekko, formerly Amici restaurant, 367 Holloway Road, N7.
  • Joyce Pollaya, who was the Nag’s Head town centre manager, and on the Nag’s Head Town Centre Management Group, campaigned for 20 years to get a pedestrian crossing going east-west over Holloway Road (between Parkhurst Road-Camden Road/Tollington Way). It ws finally opened in August 2015. The west side, where the restaurants are, has very wide pavements so there can be more activity there, like tables outside the cafes. Previously the economic side seemed to be on the east side, where Selby and Morrisons and the other big stores are.
  • Find out more about the Nag’s Head Town Centre Strategy (adopted May 2007 by Islington Council) here 

Islington Society
As an architect he has worked all over the place, but it’s where he lives that David has focussed his volunteering efforts.

“I’m passionate about the Islington Society. It’s a local campaigning organisation set up to safeguard and improve the quality of life in Islington. Normally this sort of group would be combative and against things but I think to make a change and a difference you need to be able to work with the council, as well as against,” says David who has been an Islington Society member since 1995. “That’s why we have good and strong links with the heads of department. In Islington they are really impressive people who know what they are doing and are also committed to making Islington a better place.”

The Islington Society was founded in 1960. “It was started to try and stop the demolition of Union Square for the huge Packington Estate, N1. That was 60 years ago and it’s interesting that as the Packington Estate was demolished we didn’t campaign to stop that. But the new Packington Estate is architecturally very good. I particularly like the social housing which was built first and has one of the best ends of the estate which overlooks the canal,” says David.

David Gibson has strong views about the way Angel looks, which is one reason he is on the Angel Town xx

David Gibson has strong views about the way Angel looks, which is one reason he is on the Angel Town Centre board.

5 impressive Islington buildings (& a mistake) picked by David Gibson

  • “The Islington Society runs an annual architecture award. It’s been going for 20 years and was called the Geoffrey Gribble Conservation Award. Unusually the awards go to the building – a 10 inch engraved bronze plaque – rather than the architects. The first plaques were made by an Islington sign maker in Amwell Street, who has now moved out to Kent. In 2014, the award now sponsored by Jack Morris and the Business Design Centre, went to the refurbishment on the corner of Rosebery Avenue and Farringdon Road. We’ve given the award to Ironmonger Row Baths and to the road bridge over the canal in King’s Cross too.”
  • In 1789 this was the site of the Gun pub. It was rebuilt in 1834 (when the address was 18 Pierpoint Row) and renamed the Duke of Sussex in honour of George III's sixth son, Prince Augustus Frederic (1773-1845) from whom Frederick's takes its name. You can still see the original staircase and two murals on the external brickwork.

    Frederick’s: In 1789 this was the site of the Gun pub. It was rebuilt in 1834 (when the address was 18 Pierpoint Row) and renamed the Duke of Sussex in honour of George III’s sixth son, Prince Augustus Frederic (1773-1845) from whom Frederick’s takes its name. You can still see the original staircase and two murals on the external brickwork.

    “I often go to Frederick’s, in Camden Passage, not only to enjoy the wonderful food but also because I’m a member of the Angel Town Centre board which meets there. In the 1970s the Angel was the most awful place. It was very run down. Now look at it! Campaigning by the Islington Society has helped preserve the best features and we are working to improve the places that are, shall we say not so good, such as the Bank of Scotland eyesore on the Angel tube side of Islington High Street.”  See Islington Faces interview with Frederick’s manager, Matt Segal, here.

  • “The N4 Library building, which is attached to City & Islington College’s Blackstock Road campus for adult learners is one of my favourite buildings.”
  • “All the City and Islington campuses are impressive. Their Camden Road building was designed by Wilkinson Eyre, an Islington based practice in EC1.”
  • City & Islington College's Camden Road campus.

    City & Islington College’s Camden Road campus.

    David Gibson Architects ran the competition with RIBA to select architects for City and Islington College’s 6th form centre at Goswell Road with Tom Jupp, the then Principal of the College and Jack Morris, the Chair of Governors, who had the vision to use a really good architect – it makes such a big difference.  The building was by Van Heynigen & Haward. City and Islington College is a great instituion, its Director, Frank McCoughlin, has just been deservedly knighted in the Queen’s Birthday honours.

  • “I wasn’t impressed by the Building Schools for the Future programme (which saw Holloway, St Aloysius and Highbury Grove being rebuilt and other schools in the borough being refurbished). Those of us longer in the tooth warned that schools would be locked into these deals permanently (25 years) and it would be expensive, which, funnily enough, turns out to be the case.”

Although he admits there are still plenty of things the Islington Society is vehemently against including the proposals for the Mount Pleasant Post Office site at Rosbery Avenue; removing trees from Faringdon Road and Cross-Rail’s desire to knock down listed buildings on the west side of Islington High Street. We find that the councillors are always very concerned about housing and education but don’t see planning as a front line service. But the quality of housing, educational buildings and the life we lead is to do with the physical environment we live in,” he adds with absolute conviction.

And that’s why a busy architect like David Gibson had put so much time into envisioning the ways Islington could be better. His sadly missed predecessor, Harley Sherlock, helped put the Islington Society on the campaign map. Now it is David and the Islington Society members who work so effectively to ensure the borough’s historic fabric is preserved; new buildings are of a high design standard; better public transport and priority for people on foot, bike and public transport as well as building better links between residents, officials and councillors. For anyone in Islington that makes the £8 a year membership an absolute bargain.

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

 

Garry Kennard: artist, writer and mountaineer

16 Sep

Everyone has a story. Holloway-based artist Garry Kennard – the man who mixed up art and neuroscience for anyone to enjoy at the Winchester Festivals – was born in 1948 at home in a council flat off Upper Street. He’s spent years away from Islington but now he’s back painting, writing and planning his next trip to the mountains. Interview by Nicola Baird

Garry Kennard at the summit of Moel Siabod, a mountain in Snowdonia. (c) Garry Kennard

Garry Kennard at the summit of Moel Siabod, a mountain in Snowdonia. (c) Garry Kennard

It’s possible that one of Garry Kennard’s proudest moments was when the Islington Gazette ran a story about a brave “climbing pensioner” who had scaled a mountain just a few months after having two new hips. Garry, 67, is amused by the word pensioner, and explains he wanted to make sure the Whittington Hospital got the credit for his fitness. Besides there’s a lot Garry could wave his walking sticks about triumphantly including his paintings, essays and the Art & Mind Festivals.

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. 

Holloway icons include neighbours as well as “the guy from the kebab shop, and a guy from the bike shop who never even saw his painting, Alex who runs the Euro Café round the corner, my doctor. They can be seen on Garry Kennard’s website and have been exhibited at Robert Devcic’s GV Art Gallery and at the Holloway Arts Exhibition run by Rowan Arts at Hornsey Street. “I tried to get autobiographies but only managed with half the people.” See the whole collection at www.garrykennard.com

Holloway Icons include neighbours as well as “the guy from the kebab shop, and a guy from the bike shop who never even saw his painting, Alex who runs the Euro Café round the corner, my doctor and Jeremy Corbyn (bottom right).” They can be seen on Garry Kennard’s website and have been exhibited at Robert Devcic’s GV Art Gallery and at the Holloway Arts Exhibition run by Rowan Arts at Hornsey Street. “I tried to get autobiographies but only managed with half the people.” See the whole collection at http://www.garrykennard.com

The Holloway Icons – 39 portraits of people who lived or worked close to Garry Kennard – are an impressive collection of shopkeepers, residents and local superstars Jeremy Corbyn, MP and Arsene Wenger.

Jeremy Corbyn, MP by Garry Kennard - part of the Holloway Icon series. (c) Garry Kennard

Jeremy Corbyn, MP by Garry Kennard – part of the Holloway Icon series. (c) Garry Kennard

With the exception of Jeremy Corbyn “who just looked too grim”, most portraits, even the children, stare unsmiling out, wreathed in gold as if they are uncomfortable deities. The icons were painted by Garry who was born into what he calls “a pretty rough working class Islington at the back of the Town Hall. Wakelin House, Sebbon Street is a ‘30s block and it’s still there. When I was born there was no hot water, we used a copper thing to heat water.”

Although home life was fun, he didn’t like the area much and admits: “I left home as soon as I could by moving to Belsize Park.”

For years Garry moved around London avoiding Islington. He then spent 10 years rebuilding two houses in the Corbieres Hills near Perpignan, France. “They were used as a gite and for exhibitions and concerts. But the area was exactly like the sort of society portrayed in the film Jean de Florette (1986), which meant when we made friends with a few people, we also made enemies with others, it wore us out.”

Zenobia* the cat stays cosily asleep throughout Islington Faces interview with artist, essayist and mountaineer Garry Kennard.

Zenobia* the cat stays cosily asleep throughout Islington Faces interview with artist, essayist and mountaineer Garry Kennard.

It was while drawing trees in France that Garry had his moment of epiphany. “I’ve always been a painter and in France I became very interested in the way works of art have their effect on the human nervous system. I looked on the web and found that really serious neuroscientists were also looking into this. So I started writing about it from an artist’s point of view. I’ve always written a lot of letters and so I wrote to Rita Carter, author of Mapping the Mind asking what the public knew about this. She said ‘not a lot’.”

The pair met, became friends and dreamed up the idea of regular festivals which combined art and science in a unique way, see more about these here. After securing £60,000 of funding Garry based himself in Winchester where he ran Art & Mind Festivals from March 2004 until October 2009. The first festivals were sell-outs and attracted luminaries from both the art and science worlds, in part because of patronage from two celebrity scientists – Richard Dawkins and world renowned neuroscientist V S Ramachandran – but also because of the mix of lectures, discussions and performances, or as Garry called it “the theatre of discourse”.

Garry might have stayed in Winchester if funding hadn’t become too difficult and that he hadn’t met his current partner, Erif, who he describes as a “city girl” who wanted to go back to London to a flat she owned in Islington. “It almost felt like a defeat,” he says with a smile, “but I got over it immediately.”

Garry Kennard in his studio, just off Holloway Road.

Garry Kennard in his studio, just off Holloway Road.

Places Garry Kennard loves in Islington

Chapel Market (c) Isabel Vandergert-Wilson.

Chapel Market (c) Isabel Vandergert-Wilson.

“My middle brother still lives in Islington off Essex Road.”

“I first remember going to Chapel Market with my mother when I was very young. She did a lot of shopping there. It’s not changed much, they’ve still got the pie shop, though they used to chop eels up outside.”

Manze’s Eel, Pie & Mash Shop, 74 Chapel Market, N1 – reviews on Yelp here http://www.yelp.com/biz/manzes-eel-pie-and-mash-shop-london

“I like to go to Cass Art off Essex Road. It’s enormous and you get good bargains.”
66-67 Colebrook Road, N1 https://www.cassart.co.uk/

“One of my favourite places is Whittington Hospital. I like to give them publicity as over the past 18 months as they’ve been marvellous – I’ve had two hip replacements, a kidney stone out, a perforated colon and I’ve been circumcised. Within three months of my 2nd hip operation I was climbing in north Wales and then skied in France.”

Whittington Hospital is on Magdala Avenue, N19

“I went to Queen’s Head School – a terrible secondary modern. You’ll know it as Islington Green (or even COLA, City of London Academy). But I met an art teacher there who saved my life!”

 

Moel Siabod 1

Climbing in Snowdonia. (c) Garry Kennard

Garry’s tenaciousness is most obvious when it comes to his passion for mountains. With Islington’s highest hill at 129ft (443m)*. It’s no surprise that it was elsewhere – on a trip to Switzerland with his second wife to see the Eiger – that he first wondered what it would be like to climb a mountain. It wasn’t long before the mountain bug was so strong that Garry could describe himself as “a mountaineer and occasional extreme rock climber”. He climbed in the Alps and then led expeditions in 1984 and 1989 to the Himalays. Here with Sherpa guides and his friend Mark Adams, Garry tried to try to climb the 6,620m (21,719ft) Kande Hiunchuli mountain in Nepal. Both times his team had to turn around 600m (1,968ft) from the top.

Impressive mountain library.

Impressive mountain library.

When Garry was 62 his team tried again, and were still thwarted. You can see pictures from the last expedition here.

I gave my stuff away,” he says, but it’s clear he hasn’t stopped thinking about the unclimbed Kande Hiunchuli, or properly retired. “On Google Earth I’ve seen a new flatter route which no one knew about,” he says. Any new expedition may be stymied by a lack of the £6,000 it would cost to make the attempt, but in case this problem can be solved some fitness training has already begun – within three months of Garry’s most recent hip replacement he was climbing in north Wales, and this August (2015) he was rock climbing on Lundy Island. “I also train by getting up Highgate Hill as fast as I can. Since my first hip operation I’ve made 58 ascents.”

Inspiration for the lemon tree suite.

Inspiration for the lemon tree suite.

In quieter moments Garry is working on the growing collection of works he calls Lemon Tree Suite – watercolours and drawings done on A3 white paper linked by the little lemon tree in the corner of his studio. See some of the pictures here .

20150902_155117

In Garry Kennard’s studio.

As Garry points out “most of my new work is based in this house or sometimes the view from the garden – so it’s very local.” Even if the photographs are of huge climbing victories around the world from the Old Man of Hoy in Orkney to that unconquered peak in Nepal, it’s Garry’s own large paintings done in Islington of Islington – a triptych of trees reflecting into water or sky along the New River – that dominates his cosy sitting room and in the studio it’s the Holloway Icons.

Garry is a man who has a huge capacity to think, talk, debate and then tell the story another way using colour, while anticipating the work the viewers’ minds will have to do too.

Words*

Zenobia – a famously beautiful 3rd century warrior queen who lived in what is now Syria.

Highgate (north) hill starts in Islington and ends in Haringey. It is 129m (423ft). The tallest hill in Greater London is Westerham Heights, Bromley is 245m (804ft). The hills around Crystal Palace are 110m (361ft) and 112m (367ft)

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

Tara Button: buy me once campaigner

9 Sep

Everyone has a story. Tara Button wants MPs to bring in a simple law that stops companies making products built to break – and she’s asking us to help her by signing a 38 Degrees petition that got 8,000 signatures within a fortnight of its launch.  Can she get 100,000 to help throw away our throwaway culture? Interview by Nicola Baird

“I really want more environmental views in Parliament,” says Tara Button who has set up a super-popular petition calling for built in obsolescence to be ended, an idea already operating in France.

“I really want more environmental views in Parliament,” says Tara Button who has set up a super-popular petition calling for built in obsolescence to be ended, an idea already operating in France.

“I tried really hard not to do this idea. It’s completely away from what I normally do – write children’s books and advertising copy. My friends think of me as a geek tweeting about Harry Potter and Game of Thrones,” she adds. They clearly didn’t realise Tara Button was a self-confessed “sucker for petitions.” They do now.

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. 

“I was searching for an electrical appliance and it got me thinking about what lasts, then I saw a Guardian article that the French had passed a bill about obsolescence. It seemed to me such a simple idea because people can make decent choices if they know how long a product is going to last,” says Tara. After that every time I saw anything about the environment I’d get itchy inside. I’d think I’ve got this idea about finding appliances that lasts and maybe my idea would help.” It was clear she couldn’t do nothing, so she set up a petition which would:

1) Aid consumer choice by enabling proper comparison for the first time, (by providing cost and predicted lifetime).

2) Prevent companies building shoddy products built to break.

3) See less products made… and less going to landfill.

4) Mean that manufacturers can move away from their perpetual price war and compete on quality again.

5) Help poorer family out of a cycle of poverty where they are forced to perpetually buy and replace broken appliances.

Still her idea wouldn’t go away.

If you choose products with a lifetime guarantee you only need to go shopping once. Tara Button has identified a few #buymeonce products including a Davek umbrella; Tweezerman tweezers; pans from Le Creuset and the For Life range of Dr Martins boots and shoes. See more ideas at buymeonce.com

If you choose products with a lifetime guarantee you only need to go shopping once. Tara Button has identified a few #buymeonce products including a Davek umbrella; Tweezerman tweezers; pans from Le Creuset and the For Life range of Dr Martens boots and shoes. See more ideas at buymeonce.com

Initially Tara, 33, considered running a website-store stocking products with lifetime guarantees. But she says, “I couldn’t think how to make money from it or how to avoid the headache of getting a warehouse or drop shipping.” So she decided to keep her day job but go ahead creating the buymeonce.com website and pack it with info about where to find kettles, pans, shoes, furniture that are built to last.

Tara, who was born in Hong Kong, is a friendly Holloway resident. She’s full of energy – working full time at Islington-based Krow on Goswell Road, running a children’s writing group two evenings a week (often at Angel) and also finishing a sci-fi book for 10-12-year-olds about a very spoilt alien who gets a human pet.

Even so she’s been stunned by the way the petition to stop greedy companies making products that break took off on 38Degrees.

 “From the 80 people I knew that I shared it with on a Saturday it started getting a life of its own – there were 1,500 signatures by Sunday. I kept refreshing and every 15 minutes another 50 people had signed it. It was so exciting, though it’s calmed down now,” says Tara. On the day of this islington faces interview the signatories were up to a massive 8,000.
“Yes I feel I’ve done something really great,” she says with a grin, and “it outstripped my expectations, but then I got new ones! I think 15,000 signatories could make the difference but 100,000 definitely will.”
Nag's Head market.

Nag’s Head market. Tara Button’s cat spent three days on the roof because no one would help her get it down. “I was in the Islington Tribune,” she says. Luckily her cat was eventually rescued.

Places Tara Button likes in Islington

  • When I’m not trying to save the world I run a book writers’ social club. It’s a children’s writing group with about 140 members. We meet twice a week, often at Candid Café. I set it up on Meet Up. We sit in silence for two hours and then are allowed to talk and eat cake – it’s a way to create an office for writers.
  • I try really hard not to eat cup cakes, but… I buy the ingredients from Morrisons as it’s very close. Occasionally if I need gluten free ingredients or something extra healthy then I get it from Waitrose on Holloway Road. I’m also excited about the new organic shop just by the Coronet (Wetherspoon pub) at 338-346 Holloway Road.
  • 20150804_163038

    Hollywood Bistro on Holloway Road.

    I often walk through the Nag’s Head and use the stalls for reheeling shoes and key cutting. Once I lost my cat, Prim, on top of the market roof and for days couldn’t get her down.

  • My boyfriend and I are suckers for the £10 meals from M&S on Holloway Road. We also have a favourite greasy spoon, the Hollywood Bistro. We also like the Front Room on Tollington Park Road, N4.
  • I was commissioned to write a children’s book, with the working title of Wishing for Normal for Body & Soul, the children and family HIV charity by Sadler’s Wells. It does wonderful counselling and support.
  • I went to Filthy’s, 274 Holloway Road for my birthday which sells cocktails in jam jars.

Instead of enjoying the summer Tara has been studying the small print of what we buy. “It’s become my life,” she says. “I spend a lot of my time tracking through the T&Cs (terms and conditions) and if it is not clear then I call up. It’s a bit random: I now know far too much about screwdrivers – but I don’t like shopping so I am excited about only having to buy things once.”

As Tara reveals on the new website buymeonce.com – which her employer has offered to help with – there are already products that really do last years, from shoes to umbrellas. So if you need to buy something then do take the time to have a look at the website.  It’s great that Islington has been the birthplace of such a useful resource. Thank you Tara, and good luck making our MPs create a really useful labelling law.

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

 

 

Ade Clarke: landlord at The Lamb Beer & Liquor

13 May

Everyone has a story. The golden days of pubs may be over but Islington is lucky – some of the new landlords, like Ade Clarke at The Lamb Beer & Liquor know how to mix music, real ale and people to create pubs that make you feel just like a local. Interview by Nicola Baird

Adrian Clarke: former money man at book and actor agency A P Watt, then Blake Friedmann, has been pub landlord at The Lamb Beer and Liquor since November 2014. “I loved our Christmas singsong around the piano. Someone brought a guitar, another got the whole pub singing those cheesy songs. We’ll do something similar in the summer. We have about seven people working here. It’s a few hours on your feet but the time goes… I enjoy chatting and we all want people to feel very welcome.”

Ade Clarke: former money man at book and TV agency A P Watt, then Blake Friedmann, has been pub landlord at The Lamb Beer & Liquor since November 2014. “I loved our Christmas singsong around the piano. Someone brought a guitar, another got the whole pub singing those cheesy songs. We’ll do something similar in the summer. We have about seven people working here. It’s a few hours on your feet but the time goes… I enjoy chatting and we all want people to feel very welcome.”

“I love being behind the bar. This pub has got a great feel – it’s a shabby boozer but wears its history well. By history, I don’t mean Charles I ordered a flagon of Camden Hells lager here in 1631, I mean that for 150 years people have come through those doors and had a good night out. That’s a precious thing.” Ade Clarke, pub landlord of The Lamb Beer & Liquor since  November 2014, loves history so much that he qualified as an Clerkenwell and Islington guide* four years ago.

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. 

Turns out that Ade, 53, who grew up in Hatfield, has been driving past his pub since childhood. “I’ve always known the Holloway Road well because it’s the A1 and we always came along it when we came into London or drove home.”

Ade and his business partner Rosamund Watson (whose CV includes experience at Moro and the Quality Chop House) moved to London in the early ‘80s. He studied at City of London Poly and Roz at the London College of Fashion. Now their shared love of “music and dressing interestingly”, as Ade in his fake leopard print cap puts it, has led them to become pub landlords skilled at creating an atmosphere of “shabby, magical, cosiness”.

Already The Lamb Beer & Liquor is attracting a local following with its candlelit piano in the corner, dark wall panels, comfy banquettes in the bar and a great stock of London beers including Camden Town Brewery, London Fields Brewery, Hackney Brewery and N7’s own Hammerton Brewery often delivered by brew master Lee Hammerton himself. There’s also a growing calendar of events including fiendish Monday night quizzes – set by Pete, Irish music on Tuesdays and Sundays. http://www.hammertonbrewery.co.uk/

The Lamb Beer & Liquor looking towards the bar. The pub has been a Holloway Road local since XX. (c) Ade Clarke

The Lamb Beer & Liquor looking towards the bar. The pub has been a Holloway Road local since the 1870s. (c) Ade Clarke

Places pub landlord Ade Clarke likes in Islington
“Despite all my years in London if I get past Marble Arch ‘there be monsters’. Roz (my business partner) and I looked for three or four years until we found the Lamb Beer & Liquor. So apart from our pub I like:

  • Holloway Road has something of a rock and roll history and the music we play reflects that. 1960s record producer Joe Meek (of Telstar fame) had his studio down the road, The Lord Nelson pub (now The Horatia) was an important venue during the 1970s in the days of pub rock, and I’ve seen a bizarre photo from 1970 of John Lennon and Yoko Ono standing on the roof of what is now The Wig and Gown bar*.”
  • Central Fish Bar, 149-155 Central Street, south of City Road in St Luke’s is a great place. It started as a fish and chip shop but now it’s a fish restaurant with a real mix of diners.
  • Hope Workers Café, 111 Holloway Road is a really old school London caff. The food is homemade and reasonably priced (tea is 80p). And I love the lettering, so 1940s.
  • Shakespeare’s Head, 1 Arlington Way, next to Sadler’s Wells looks like a 1960s estate pub but has a bell for when the interval ends, and sometimes fills up with dancers. I’ve had some good times there.
  • It’s great to see the 12 Bar Club from Denmark Street finding a new home at 203 Holloway Road.
  • For a posh dinner it’s hard to beat The Almeida, 30 Almeida Street. I had a little party for my Mum’s 90th birthday there, a few weeks ago, and the food and staff were lovely.

Music pub
“Music is important. The Irish sessions are a nod to Holloway Road’s Irish heritage. We have regular bluegrass sessions too. Our manager Martin Thompson is in an indie band called The Fire Stations. Our playlists are interesting it could be anything from 1920s tea dance to 2015 indie sounds,” adds Ade.

Landlord Adrian Clarke: “The Lamb Beer & Liquor is a bohemian place. We’re not a football pub with screens but if you are an Arsenal fan and you come up the side of the road from Highbury we’re the first pub you find. Match days are really busy: lots of guys come in here before the match for a pint.”

Landlord Ade Clarke: “The Lamb Beer & Liquor is a bohemian place. We’re not a football pub with screens but if you are an Arsenal fan and you come up the side of the road from Highbury we’re the first pub you find. Match days are really busy: lots of guys come in here before the match for a pint.”

Pub with a history
Since the late 19th century 54 Holloway Road’s wooden interior, and green tiled exterior, has been tempting Holloway Road drinkers. Adrian thinks his pub was originally a beer house called The Lamb. “It’s a traditional pub name, and Holloway Road was once a droving route, or perhaps even a pilgrimage route,” he says. Holloway locals may also remember The Lamb as Barcosa and also Tank when it boasted an iguana and anaconda cage. Or what about the Flounder & Firkin stage during which port holes were made in the wooden floor that allows drinkers to watch brewing in the cellar?

“We think that the pub dates from the 1870s and it was known as The Highbury Brewery Tap up until 1985. The Highbury Brewery was established in Holloway Road in 1815 and was operational for 100 years,” explains Adrian. It’s clear he’s a real fan of Islington through the years.

When you’re open from 4pm-midnight week days and until half past midnight on Fridays and Saturdays there’s a lot to be said for making your daily commute a bit shorter. “My missus, Anji, and I are going to move here in the new year,” he says. “I like Holloway Road and the diversity in Islington – and I feel like I’m the oldest person in Spitalfields sometimes. It’s time to move on.”

Bohemian rhapsody
“It’s been a steep learning curve – helped by Martin who was the manager here for three years. But I enjoy chatting to customers and I love the way more and more people come in on their own because they know they’ll know someone in here. That’s why the pub tends to fill up as the evening goes on,” adds Adrian.

Holloway Road pubs are enjoying a renaissance. But even with these new improved local boozers Ade and Rosamund’s The Lamb Beer & Liquor stands out as a friendly pub, with a great selection of real ale and wine, run by two landlords who have lots of ideas – from history talks and art curation of the old iguana tank to live music nights – that they’d like you to share. See you there: I’ll have a half!

Words*
Clerkenwell & Islington Guides Association  – courses are held at the University of Westminster, and applications for 2015-16 will be accepted from 1 June 2015, see info here.

Read about the Wig & Gown’s links to Michael X and the Black House of Holloway Road on this blog.

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

 

Ulises Diaz: Flamenco heart in Archway

5 Mar

Everyone has a story. This blog’s 2nd guest post is by Joanna Bevan who works with Here To Islington. Here she interviews her housemate,  musician, Ulises Diaz, about his Flamenco heart and Islington soul. Find out how to contribute a guest post (or nominate a person to be interviewed) on islingtonfacesblog at the bottom of this post.

Ulises Diaz with the cajon. ‘‘I teach people from all over the world, there’s a high demand to learn Spanish, be it for work, travel or just a hobby, but sometimes people struggle with the three disciplines of Flamenco.’’

Ulises Diaz with the cajon. ‘‘I teach people from all over the world, there’s a high demand to learn Spanish, be it for work, travel or just a hobby, but sometimes people struggle with the three disciplines of Flamenco.’’

‘’Good coffee is important,’’ says Ulises Diaz pouring another freshly brewed coffee into mismatched mugs, as we sit at the large family dining room table in his home, which he shares with 13 other people – and two cats – in Archway. Sunlight streams through the French windows, casting a warming glow onto the kitsch sunflower tablecloth.  The hotchpotch house has a homely Mediterranean feel, perhaps because Ulises is originally from Toledo, Spain.

“The diversity in Islington’s artistic scenes are open and dynamic, there are always new people to refresh it and it never gets tired,” says Ulises, 36, who has been in the UK for the past 10 years. He has made a living out of all things stereotypically Spanish: from teaching the language a short bike ride away in Haringay College, to cooking up copious amounts of paella.

Making paella.

Ulises Diaz making paella.

He also teaches and performs the fiery flamenco at home in Archway and all across London. “Sometimes people struggle with the three disciplines of flamenco – dance, singing and playing music, but they are all interconnected,” says Ulises who was originally a singer until a medical complication. Soon the cajon, a box-like drum, became his instrument of choice – an essential element for any authentic flamenco.

What do you like about Islington?

  • “The shops and restaurants of the Essex road are one of the highlights of Islington with food from all around the world
  • “Archway has a buzz with new initiatives like the Farmers’ Market on Holloway Road in Archway http://www.archwaymarket.org/ and street entertainment such as the Million Minutes project http://www.amillionminutes.org/.
  • ‘’My two favourite hotspots are close to home on Junction Road in Archway, it has to be St John’s Tavern http://www.stjohnstavern.com/ for some excellent gastro food followed by ‘The Hideaway  http://www.thehideawaybar.co.uk/ for some late night drinking’’
El Molino coffee shop, 10 Hornsey Road sells paella pans and traditional Spanish snacks. It's open Monday - Friday and for Arsenal home games.

El Molino coffee shop, 10 Hornsey Road sells paella pans and traditional Spanish snacks. It’s open Monday – Friday and for Arsenal home games.

Spanish thinking
Ulises thinks Islington people can learn much from the Spanish way of life. “There is something about the sense of privacy that is more diluted in our societies. I think that there is something to learn about relaxing and surrendering to spontaneity,” he says.

Although the Spanish joke that, “on graduating you have three options available – by air by land or by sea,” many Spaniards find “it’s not an easy path” integrating with people in Islington’s less than sunny shores. Seems like this might be a good time to add a Mediterranean approach by pulling a few chairs up around the Paella pot and inviting the neighbours round. Viva la Vida!

To contact Ulises for Spanish language or Flamenco lessons try emailing: despues_de_la_tona_na@yahoo.es

This guest post was written by Joanna Bevan (photo taken by Evgenia Kharitonova). Joanna has a background in community development and lives in Archway. She researched community resilience at the City University of New York. She speaks five languages and loves writing poetry and running marathons. "The best thing about living in Islington is the huge amount of world cuisine on offer."

This guest post was written by Joanna Bevan (photo taken by Evgenia Kharitonova). Joanna has a background in community development and lives in Archway. She researched community resilience at the City University of New York. She speaks five languages and loves writing poetry and running marathons. “The best thing about living in Islington is the huge amount of world cuisine on offer.” Thanks to Here To Islington for linking islingtonfacesblog with Joanna Bevan.

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

 
%d bloggers like this: