Tag Archives: islington music

Duramaney Kamara: actor in Boy

4 May

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clerkenwell Primary.

Clerkenwell Primary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Union Chapel’s bar.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Over to you
If you’d like to nominate someone to be interviewed who grew up, lives or works in Islington, or suggest yourself, please let me know, via nicolabaird.green at gmail.com. Thank you.

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

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

If you enjoyed this post you might like to look at the A-Z  index, or search by interviewee’s roles or Meet Islingtonians to find friends, neighbours and inspiration. Thanks for stopping by. Nicola


Tricia Cottle: Islington Music shop owner

28 May

Everyone on Islington Faces Blog has a story.  How do you introduce children to music? Many people in Islington head to Islington Music, just off Cross Street  run by Tricia Cottle. It’s well-known as the first-stop shop for all mums hoping their children’s budding interest in music will remain, but also well-visited by professionals replacing a string, buying rosin or flicking through the many music scores on sale. You may even meet a tourist here looking for gifts.  Interview by Nicola Baird

Tricia Cottle

Tricia Cottle at the counter of her shop Islington Music, 6 Shillingford Street – the only music shop in Islington for the past  25 years.

“I’m not very interesting,” insists Tricia cradling her mug of coffee interrupted from her morning tasks at the counter of Islington Music. She’s wrong of course: she sings, plays the viola “very badly” (according to her) and can tune all sorts of stringed instruments including guitars and violins. She’s also run the only music shop in Islington for around 25 years – it’s where local families go to buy or rent instruments, replace broken guitar string and join the craze for ukulele bands.  There is also a huge range of the must-have ABRSM music exam books for an orchestra of instruments.

Let’s run a shop
“When my youngest son, Jon, was two or three, I realised I had to work, but I couldn’t do a job from 9-5 because of the boys, so I thought ‘Shall I start a shop?’ I thought it would be fun, but I had no idea how much time and work would be involved.” She laughs gently at her younger self…

Tricia Cottle's first Islington home was near the hole in the wall in Almeida Street.

Tricia Cottle’s first Islington home was near the hole in the wall in Almeida Street.

Tricia shared a flat with a friend in Islington, just off Almeida Street, when she was first moved to London in her early 20s, and then ended up in a flat on Seven Sisters Road when she got married a few years later. Her husband Malcolm is a musician – working as a pianist, organist and conductor – so the pair had a head start when it came to deciding on what sort of shop, and were also able to take good advice from friends including the owner of the Southgate Music shop (now no more) and the thriving Harpenden Musicale in Hertfordshire. For the first three years they were in 41 Cross Street – in the premises later taken on by the famous Old Woodworking Tools shop – before moving across the road to 6 Shillingford Street. Tricia’s boys are grown up now, the youngest is 35, but all were encouraged to play music well as children.

So what are her tips for helping youngsters get good?
“I was pretty determined that the boys couldn’t give up playing until they were 16. I feel it is really important for anyone to give learning an instrument some time before saying ‘I can’t do that’,” says Tricia, although only Nick gave up as a teenager. The result is that Ben took violin and the viola with sports studies at university and Jon is still a cellist, playing in Barcelona where he’s now based.

For those who can’t make up their minds or those who like the flexibility of not buying yet, Tricia rents (for a very reasonable quarterly fee) cellos, violins, violas, flutes, trumpets, alto saxes and clarinets. Many are available in child-sized versions suitable for the very young.  Ukuleles are also very popular but Tricia suggests caution as children love fiddling with the pegs.

Islington Music

Although Tricia Cottle is mostly based at her shop Islington Music, just off Cross Street, she likes going out in Islington and Hackney.

Things Tricia enjoys in Islington (& just over the Hackney border)

  •  I like going to see the opera at the King’s Head pub. They have amazing things.
  • The Rosemary Branch is brilliant. I’ve seen panto and other shows there and enjoyed a wonderful birthday party.
  •  I like the market at the Angel and the stalls and shops on Camden Passage. We have loads of art galleries, the Canal running through Islington and Hackney and we are also so close to the West End – should you run out of things to do in Islington.
  • We have the 38 and 73 – what else do you need? They are two fantastic buses.
  • We live in Northchurch Road, N1 and it’s almost too nice now on Southgate Road! There’s a pizza place and a deli and the Scolt Head pub, though I find it a bit noisy. Sometimes I meet a friend for coffee at St Peter’s church (which also does lunch).

Tin whistle or ukulele?

Tin whistles can be a good way to introduce a class of primary school children to music.

Tin whistles can be a good way to introduce a class of primary school children to music.

“I’ve just delivered 12 tin whistles to John the Evangelist Primary School at Angel. One of the teachers says tin whistles are very popular there – and at least they stay in tune. Ukuleles are very popular in schools, but it must be very difficult to keep them in tune.” Here Tricia almost winces – it’s as if she can hear those early efforts. “I used to play music in the shop, but then it became just another of the many things that you have to pay for. I thought it was an absolute cheek,” says Tricia who is well-loved for having conversations with many of her customers.

Music celebrities
“We get a lot of famous people in the shop, but I never recognise them, and I’m sure on the whole they are pretty pleased about that,” she says. “We have had  that one who bared his bum at Michael Jackson (Jarvis Cocker at the 1996 Brit Awards), and one of the original King’s Singers (a cappella band) and Simon Rattle, the conductor – everyone knows what he looks like.” I nod enthusiastically, knowing I don’t, but Tricia isn’t trying to test me.  Indeed it turns out that Islington Music attracts Eastend actors, MPs and “lots of famous lawyers. They are all very charming,” says Tricia diplomatically.

What do you want to learn to play or get better at playing?

What do you want to learn to play or get better at playing?

Islington Music’s mix of old-fashioned promise that you too could soon play an instrument wonderfully, is irresistible whatever age you are or how skilled you are. Both Tricia, and her colleague Bronwyn, know so much about music and raising kids to play all sorts of instruments that they can offer very practical advice. Indeed Tricia is adamant that, “I will not tell people that I know about something, when I don’t know about it.” It is that honesty however that makes Islington Music such a special place for us shoppers. Do let Tricia be the wise voice she is when you next go to Islington Music.

  • Here’s a youtube on how to tune a ukulele here

Over to you

If you enjoyed this post you might like to look at the A-Z index of posts, or the A-Z of jobs to find friends, neighbours and inspiration. 

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.

Thanks for stopping by. Nicola

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