Tag Archives: Holloway

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

 

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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

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

 

 

Nabila El-Ahmadi: multi-tasking mum

27 May

Everyone has a story. Despite looking after four school-aged children and having a demanding job, Islingtonian Nabila El-Ahmadi, 36, manages to be a school governor, Arsenal fan and get to her boxercise class. Interview by Nicola Baird

Nabila El-Ahmadi at Lizzy’s on the Green planning the Bollywood themed prom for Year 6 leavers at St Jude & St Paul’s Primary School

Nabila El-Ahmadi at Lizzy’s on the Green planning the Hollywood themed prom for Year 6 leavers at St Jude & St Paul’s Primary School

“I was born and raised in Islington. I went to Pakeman Primary School on Hornsey Road, and then to Hornsey Girls School. I then went to Barnet College for A levels and to London Guildhall University (now London Metropolitan) to do a degree in law. I still live in Islington, and I’m still involved with Islington schools as a parent governor at Highbury Fields School.

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 loved where I grew up on in Hornsey – it’ll always be home to me. I was born in the Mother’s Hospital and then lived in Crouch Hill for 23 years until Mum moved to Broxbourne. My mum was quite strict but used to let me stay out until 10pm, I wonder about why she did that, but my brothers looked out for me too.

Nabila El-Ahmadi: "I really like driving. I need to do a super car drive day so I can try a Ferrari or Lamborghini."

As a teenager Nabila El-Ahmadi worked at a garage as an apprentice mechanic. “I really like driving. I need to do a super car drive day so I can try a Ferrari or Lamborghini.”

“I’m one of eight – I’m number seven. I’ve got one younger brother and four older brothers so perhaps that’s why I was a bit of a tomboy. My room was blue and filled with pictures of Arsenal players and luxury cars. I loved that room with the Mercedes, Range Rovers and Bentleys on the wall – everything I can’t afford. I look at cars as pieces of art, not bits of metal.

“During the school holidays from the time I was 15 until I was 18 years I worked as an apprentice mechanic in a garage. Then I went on to work part time in a big dealership during the school holidays. It was character building! You had to have a tough skin and deal with the jokes. I really like driving.

Emirates Stadium: AISA's Paul Matz lives just 12 minutes away.

Gunners fan Nabila El-Ahmadi has worked as a steward at both the Emirates and old Highbury.

Places Nabila likes in Islington

  • I like the Emirates, but I prefer old Highbury. I went a couple of times to Highbury as a spectator and the last match I saw was when Ian Wright broke Arsenal’s goal scoring record. He lifted up his top and had 179 on the vest. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zylJ7M1Ta3I
  • I like Newington Green. I remember when Lizzy’s café wasn’t here. Lizzy’s is great – the only café I’ve been to which gives you blankets so you can sit outside. And I like the little park.
  • clara-euphorium

    Cafes at Angel.

    Angel is a nice place to spend the afternoon. It’s got lots of cafes, cinema and such a diversity of shops and people.

  • Mum’s in her 70s now but still comes with my Dad to Holloway to buy meat at the Algerian butchers on Seven Sisters Road. My parents are fussy about meat: it has to be halal and really decent. Every Sunday I look forward to my Dad’s Moroccan chicken tagine.

Working life
“I am an avid Arsenal fan and was a steward for 12 years working at both Highbury and the Emirates stadium. I gave up when my last child was born (he’s six now). I do really miss it. But it was eye-opening – no language fazes me now. You had to deal with difficult behaviour and build a rapport. I was lucky I never had to eject anyone.

“I’m a voluntary sector broker working in social care in London. It’s interesting and I have a sense that I’m doing something good for families who need services, but might otherwise miss out. Part of my role is to network and form partnerships with organisations like Home-start UK and Sure Start Children’s Centres. I’m really interested in children and their welfare, and safeguarding.

“I absolutely love boxing. I do a boxercise class. It’s a really good stress release and quite technical as well. It’s good to have found something I really enjoy at the gym as I hate jogging and find yoga and meditation quite boring. My mind just wanders and I start thinking about what I’m going to cook for dinner, I can’t be in the zone. My niece, who is 15, and daughters 14 and 11, wish they could box. They’ve all got junior boxing gloves. We’re all looking forward to the new boxing gym opening at Sobell and wish they would hurry up. All girls need a couple of sessions of self-defence.”

  • The new boxing gym is due to open at the Sobell Centre on Tuesday, 16 June. Basic info here.
  • Lizzy’s On the Green is open most days. The café want to celebrate its second birthday by asking people to send them suggestions for the future and how the café has benefitted the area. Email: lizzysonthegreen@gmail.com
  • As long as you are over 18 years old you can be a school governor. Find out more here. There’s also info about what governors do from the National Governors Association here 

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

Jennifer Yong: founder Jenius Social

27 Jan

Everyone has a story. Tucked behind Holloway Tube off Hornsey Street is a chic, airy space designed for greeting, meeting and eating. You can hire the kitchen; learn how to judge coffee like a pro; even get to grips with filleting fish. Jenius Social founder Jennifer Yong explains how her new business is settling into Islington.  Interview by Nicola Baird.

Jennifer Yong founder of Jenius Social which connects people through food. “We get people together through food. People are typically aged from their late 30s-50s, but there’s no typical person, although they are usually interested in food! In January we had a lot of people who’d been given gift vouchers at Christmas.” Photo by Sam Awad.

Jennifer Yong founder of Jenius Social which connects people through food. “We get people together through food. People are typically aged from their mid 20s to 50s, but there’s no typical person, although they are usually interested in food! In January we had a lot of people who’d been given gift vouchers at Christmas.” Photo by Sam Awad.

Around 10 years ago Jennifer Yong, 37, moved from Perth, Australia to London. At first she was happy working in the finance world but gradually she decided she wanted to be the boss. After two years refining her business plan and hunting for the perfect location she opened Jenius Social – a way of connecting people through food. There are classes every day (except Monday and Tuesday) offering the opportunity to learn and cook, or learn a bit more about something you enjoy (eg, wine or beer) or just to eat at the monthly supper club.

REQUEST: if you enjoy reading about people who live or work in Islington please follow this blog by email (see how on right hand panel) or join the Facebook group. Fresh interviews are published once a week. 

Jennifer Yong: “I’ love food but I’m not an expert, I bring in experts. I’ve learnt so much - I road test the classes so I’ve been a student and sometimes I also cook with my guests.” Photo by Sam Awas XXX

Jennifer Yong: “I’ love food but I’m not an expert, I bring in experts. I’ve learnt so much – I road test the classes so I’ve been a student and sometimes I also cook with my guests.” Photo by Sam Awad.

“I wanted to do something different and this fuses two of my favourite things – food and socialising. I’m passionate about food, not just eating it, learning about it. There’s a good chance that if people pay to join a coffee class then they will be meeting like-minded people!” explains Jennifer.

“I like meeting new people. In London it’s a bit difficult to meet people: you do it at work, or through friends of friends, on line or at a bar. Here we group people so they can socialise and talk through food. It’s not dating it’s just a chance to meet interesting people you’d have never met.”

 

Sacred Cafe is a key place to meet people working close to Islington Studios and Hornsey Street. Jennifer Yong: “I’ love food but I’m not an expert, I bring in experts. I’ve learnt so much - I road test the classes so I’ve been a student and sometimes I also cook with my guests.”xxx

Sacred Cafe is a key place to meet people working close to Islington Studios and Hornsey Street. Jennifer Yong: “I used to work at Sacred Cafe before Jenius Social opened.”

Places Jennifer Yong likes in Islington

  • “I don’t know the area well yet. But I walk along Holloway Road to work. I like the independent coffee shops and the quirky secondhand shops selling furniture.”
  • “Sometimes I walk from Angel through the back streets because the architecture is amazing. There are beautiful houses in Barnsbury.”
  • “I like to go to the Angelic pub, next to the big Sainsbury’s at Angel. The owner, Sarj, has done the same thing as me, but 10 years before, so it’s good talking to him.”
  • “I sometimes go to the House of Wolf on 181 Upper Street or the Horatia pub on 98-102 Holloway Road.”
  • The Pig & Butcher has amazing Sunday lunches, but you have to book.”  80 Liverpool Road, N1
Jenius Social.

Jenius Social – just minutes from Holloway Road tube. Photo by Sam Awad.

Since Jenius Social opened in summer 2014, at Hornsey Street which now has 600 flats and 50 commercial units, Jennifer has run cheesemaking classes, butchery, wine tasting, cocktail making and nose to tail eating where you learn how to cook using all bits of an animal. Jennifer’s concept is very elastic – she’s as happy hosting a corporate away day as running private. “I did a lot of research and for customers convenience is very important – Hornsey Street has very good public transport.”

With food being such a passion in Islington – just look at the choice of restaurants on Upper Street – it seems like Jennifer has hit upon a genius idea. So if you want to learn more about food, hire a venue for a private party or give a voucher to a friend Jenius Social might be the perfect match.

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

 

Cass Farrell: Small Restorations boss

8 Oct

Everyone on Islington Faces Blog has a story.  What would make a teenage tearaway change? Small Restorations boss Cass Farrell talks about how he turned his life around – thanks to his own strong work ethic and two amazing men. It ought to be a movie. Interview by Nicola Baird

Cass Farrell with the Small Restoration joiners: (L-R) Cass Farrell, Terry Davis and Joseph Silva in the workshop.

Cass Farrell with the Small Restoration joiners: (L-R) Cass Farrell, Terry Davis and Joseph Silva in the workshop. Cass Farrell: “Islington’s got better, and we get larger jobs. In the past someone would want to change a window or a door. Now they want to change the whole house.”

“You’ve got to work for your luck – everyone will be lucky somewhere but then you’ve got to grasp it,” says Cass Farrell in the office of Small Restorations, the joinery shop in Blackstock Road that offers the sort of old-fashioned service that Islington home owners want. Local businesses love it too: as a result Small Restorations has helped stamp a unique identity on Blackstock Road by creating shop and restaurant fronts for the Woodbine pub, Gathering Moss, Out of the Attic and more recently for Cinnamon Village 2 as well as Seasons and Blossoms.

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ISLINGTON FACES LIVE – to celebrate islingtonfacesblog’s 100th interview there will be a one-off live event with Nicola Baird at the King’s Head Theatre, Upper Street on Saturday 25 October 2014, from 3-5pm.Tickets are £5 in advance at https://kingsheadtheatre.ticketsolve.com/shows/873523048/events  or call the box office on 0207 478 0160. Tickets on the door will be £6.

Expect to meet local royalty – the Pearly King of Finsbury; a stargazer from Highbury Fields; stunning Ethiopian singer Hanisha Solomon; Joanna Bevan who runs a unique language cafe at Archway, the Mayor of Islington plus others.

This event is to fundraise for King’s Head Theatre.  islingtonfacesblog is delighted that Barnaby’s hairdressing salon at Highbury Barn is sponsoring the show.

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Cass Farrell.

Cass Farrell from Small Restorations:  “Blackstock Road is like a second home to me.”

Cass, now 49, grew up in Holloway off Seven Sisters. “Dad’s still got that place. He was born in Montserrat – he came here in the 1950s and hasn’t been back since because he’s scared of flying.” The family’s island home has long been swallowed by Montserrat’s infamous volcano, but Cass says his 78-year-old Dad still has a brother living there who is 105 years old. “He was one of 14,” says Cass attempting to explain the huge age gap.

The team at Small Restorations are often given gifts from happy customers. Cass Farrell: “It’s usually crates of beer but we’ve just been given this – the label says ‘Buddah will bring you loads of love, health and happiness’.”

The team at Small Restorations are often given gifts from happy customers. Cass Farrell: “It’s usually crates of beer but we’ve just been given this – the label says ‘Buddah will bring you loads of love, health and happiness’.”

Leaning back in his leather office chair, facing a wall decorated with photos and old-fashioned timber saws Cass, who has been a managing partner of the company since it was dreamt up by Colin Small 28 years ago, looks born to it. But he is quick to give credit to the two men who helped him after his Dad gave up on the out-of-control teenage son. “I’ve been lucky twice in my life. If it wasn’t for Colin Small and Tony Davis I don’t want to think where I’d be now,” says Cass.

Cass’s life story is one that movie makers might like.

Growing up in Islington
“I was a typical naughty boy. I liked fighting and kiss chase! My sister dragged me to school at Yerbury Primary school. I feel quite sorry for my mum now I’ve got children,” says Cass who is a father of four and already a granddad.

Cass’s undoing was cars, but in a strange way it was his desire to have his own vehicle that helped him end up at Small Restorations with five employees.

“I was always getting into trouble,” admits Cass who eventually ended up in a Young Offenders institute a long way from Islington. “I deserved it. I was stealing cars – all the police knew my face.”

“I made up my mind in prison that when I came out I’d get a job and not get into trouble. My dad had disowned me, but my mum used to visit in Suffolk and I didn’t want to let her down.”

Although he learnt how to brick lay in prison, his first job back in London was as a driver for a joinery business on Hackney Road. “I got £120 for six days,” remembers Cass. “I’d be paid every Friday and be short by Sunday.” But he worked hard and caught the attention of a skilled joiner, Tony Davis. “I’d finish driving jobs early and report back to the shop and get involved in sanding and priming windows and doors. Tony started teaching me all kinds of joinery. That’s when I knew I wanted to go legit and not be paid in cash. I wanted to use HP to buy a car.”

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Cinamon Village 2 – benches and striking shop front created by Small Restorations. This cafe is getting bigger and offers a delicious biscuit with your coffee.

Places Cass Farrell enjoys in Islington

  • xx

    Mustafa for hair cuts.

    Small Restorations takes up so much time – I do seven days a week but Blackstock Road is like a second home to me. I think everybody knows me. And I shop round here – I use Dave at Highbury Butchers (see interview with islingtonfacesblog here) and Wallers for fruit and veg. Mustafa opposite cuts my hair.

  • I jog round Finsbury Park – I like all the trees, especially in autumn.

  • The bars and restaurants on Stoke Newington Church Street are great, but I go a few times a year to Juniper, 100 Blackstock Road, N5. I really like this restaurant.

  • I’m a season ticket holder for Arsenal and go with Metal Mickey – most people know him! I always liked the old stadium, but the new stadium is getting there.

Let’s go clubbing
After a few years one of the company’s customers, Colin Small, asked Cass to work for him.

“It was the 1980s and he used to buy houses and restore them. Colin bought an old van for me too. But then came the house slump and wages were hard to come by. At that age I’d go clubbing, and at the Rocket near Holloway Road [it’s still there just by Daniel Libiskind’s crazy building at 166-220 Holloway Road, N7] I’d help the technician out. I’d been with Colin a few years when they offered me a job at weekends. I’d do clubs, set up sound systems and fix breaks. You must know it. It’s where Mega Dog, Return to the Source and The Prodigy started off. I‘m still there – I’m the longest serving member of staff!”

Colin Small, Cass Farrell and Tony Davis. “I don’t want to think about where I’d be now if I hadn’t met these two guys.” Colin retired in 2008 but lives round the corner from the joinery. Sadly Tony passed away in 2010.

Colin Small, Cass Farrell and Tony Davis. “I don’t want to think about where I’d be now if I hadn’t met these two guys.” Colin retired in 2008 but lives round the corner from the joinery. Sadly Tony passed away in 2010.

Then came the property slump. “Colin and I had always been busy but there was never enough money. So when things started picking up again and Colin decided he wanted to get a joiners’ shop so he could make things for other builders. He found this place on Blackstock Road and said to me I’ll make you a partner in the business. He warned me we may be working for no money, but I’d been working for practically nothing for two years!”

Gradually the economy picked up and Small Restorations’ turnover improved.

Now comes the good bit,” says Cass with pride. “After we were established here Tony said he’d come and work with us. He had so much knowledge, and I hadn’t finished my apprenticeship with him. He worked with us for years. It was a big blow when Tony passed away four years ago, he was like a father to me.”

In an even nicer twist to this story it turns out that Tony’s son, Terry, now works at Small Restorations.

Colin Small with his wife Jacqui and Cass Farrell pose at a house on Richmond Avenue where they’d created a grand Sphinx entrance. “We’ve still got the casts at Small Restorations, they’re different for the left and right,” says Cass.

Colin Small with his wife Jacqui and Cass Farrell pose at a house on Richmond Avenue where they’d created a grand Sphinx entrance. “We’ve still got the casts at Small Restorations, they’re different for the left and right,” says Cass.

Keep it clean
So what are Cass’ tips for coping with building work?

“It’s a big deal having windows or a staircase taken out so some people get worried. You have to remember that you’re going into someone’s house so you’ve got to be ultra clean and not leave the place in a state. Some people really thank us for that.” The only disappointment – for islingtonfacesblog at any rate – is that Cass has never found a mummified cat inbetween floorboards, see interview with Marco Wouters at Angel Flowers, see here. “We’ve found old coins and a newspaper clipping from the 1920s though,” he says.

A few years ago Cass and his team at Small Restorations fitted double glazed sash windows in my house. And they did it brilliantly, so I’ve recommended them to many people. Turns out there are plenty of fans – they’ve even done work for the Sultan of Brunei and the American Embassy. “I’ve worked in 1,000s of houses,” says Cass, “but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else than Islington.”

  • Small Restorations, 199 Blackstock Road, N5. Tel: 020 7359 9753.
    Email: smallrestorations@btconnect.com

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

Molly Gorell Barnes: teaching assistant/Mollypopcards

6 Aug

Everyone on Islington Faces Blog has a story.  Do you find it hard to give a one word answer when someone asks what you do? If so you are probably under 30 years old or a freelance. Molly Gorell Barnes is a skilled greetings card designer, works hard as a special needs teaching assistant and thinks of Holloway as home.  Interview by Nicola Baird

Molly Gorell Barnes on her Mollypop card stall at the Hornsey Street Festival.

Molly Gorell Barnes on her Mollypop card stall at the Hornsey Street Festival.

“I say I’m from Holloway, but there’s a little bit of Bristol in me too,” says Molly Gorell Barnes at the Amici Coffee Deli, 351 Holloway Road. She’s spent the day as a SENTA (special needs teaching assistant) at nearby Hungerford Primary School working mostly with Years 1, 2 and 3 so chooses a latte to pep herself up – laughing at my weakling choice of camomile tea. The popular café is quiet at this time so we both notice Portugal is playing a World Cup match on the giant TV screen.

“I moved to Portugal for a year and built a house with my partner, Chris,” says Molly matter-of-factedly. “He was out there, and I wasn’t enjoying the job I had – I was doing admin, thinking ‘how has that happened’? I’d done a graphics design degree at the London College of Communication (University of the Arts London) and I’m dyslexic.  Writing a letter makes me panic! So I moved to Portugal– it was amazing, but the Portuguese language is really hard. There was delicious food and the neighbours were lovely, but it was really rural so when the house was finished we came back to Holloway.”

In fact Molly “lives in the same flat that she lived in when she was four years old, on and off.

“First I was living with my Dad, but he’s in Kent now,” she explains. She went to Pakeman Primary School until she was six years old when she moved to live with her Mum in Bristol. A few years later she was back in London again for secondary school.  “I dropped my Bristol accent fast,” she remembers. “I’ve still got secondary school friends and bump into Pakeman friends. People say ‘London is so big’, but I think of it as a village of 300 that you know, and then there are all the other people who you don’t know – a sort of city on top of a village.” It’s a good description and it’s clear that Molly is really comfortable in her big village – several times she points out people she knows crossing the busy Holloway Road, though a bit too far away to see us wave.

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

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

Places Molly Gorell Barnes loves

  • I like independent places, so come to Amici Café Deli. It does good latte and Portuguese custard tarts.

  • I love Crystals the kebab place (Crystal Charcoal Restaurant, 522 Holloway Road).  I  always get the halumi kebab with veg stew.

  • I like the fact that Holloway is home and the buses are good. The 29 is always fun (it goes from Wood Green to Trafalgar Square) and there’s usually someone a little bit insane on it…

  • I’ve had my birthday at the Swimmer for the past seven years. I even came back from Portugal to celebrate! I’ve suggested changing the venue but my friends say ‘it’s tradition’ now. The Swimmer is where everyone feels comfortable. It’s not too trendy, and not too old man-ny. My Dad can come here and my friends. Swimmer at Grafton Arms, 13 Eburne Road, N7

  • I do keep forgetting Highbury Fields, then I go there and it’s so nice, and really near too.

Cards on Etsy
“I love Holloway and joke all roads lead to Holloway,” she says with a happy grin.

Turns out that her choice of “jobs are taking me closer and closer to my old primary school. I have even been back to Pakeman to vote – it just felt tiny. I had to ask my dad where the assembly hall was, and he said we were in it!”

Besides a rough plan to stay working in education Molly has been making witty greetings cards for a few years. “I like to make people laugh – with puns or being silly. Because of my dyslexia I quite often get puns five minutes later, so when I do get them I find them extra funny,” she says with a giggle pointing out that effort adds to experience. She likes a bit of left field humour too… “Sometimes I’ll have done loads of twee cup cakes and cups of tea and I just want to make cards with swear words!”

Occasionally Molly runs a card stall at local events, but she also sells them on Etsy at Mollypopcards. Do have a look at her fabulous designs – it’s always a treat to get a card for a birthday or special occasion, but even better when you know it’s been done by a proper local with a nice line in puns.

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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

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