Islington is not the first place that comes to mind when thinking of the rich and powerful. In fact, even when thinking of the starving artist, Islington might not be up there either. However, it is in this understated part of London where some have made their home, being able to hide better from the peering eyes of the paparazzi. Whilst many celebrities aim for Kensington & Chelsea or the leafy Hampstead Garden Suburb, Islington remains the elusive jewel of the capital. Fred, a stop-motion animator and Islington Storyteller will take you on a journey of unexpected discoveries.
Whilst many celebrities aim for Kensington & Chelsea or the leafy Hampstead Garden Suburb, Islington remains the elusive jewel of the capital.Fred, islington storyteller contributor
Islington has made itself home to a number of politicians in recent years, becoming somewhat of home from home for those attempting to grease their way to the top of the Parliamentary ladder. So it should be of no surprise that many of these politicians have been party leaders and, in some cases, eventual Prime Ministers.
Once the man who was going to change the country (and in many ways did), before he made his way to Downing Street, Mr Blair lived in Richmond Crescent between 1993 and 1997. Blair became the youngest Prime Minister since 1812 and oversaw a number of changes to the country and his own party. He won three general elections, which seems impossible for any politician presently.
Speaking of Labour leaders, Jeremy Corbyn, who has represented Islington North since 1982, lives in Finsbury Park in a relatively new post-war era house.
Once Mayor of London, Mr Johnson now represents the UK at the highest level for better or for worse. Boris Johnson lived up until 2018 in a grade II listed townhouse on Colebrooke Row, just above the Islington Tunnel. Prior to Colebrooke Row, Johnson had also taken up residence in Highbury Fields. It seems that not only do the two opposition leaders share a borough but also have similar tastes in coffee with both Johnson and Corbyn frequenting the same café on Duncan Street, albeit rarely at the same time.
In 1903 Vladamir Lenin and his wife Nadya first arrived in London to escape arrest in Munich. They would visit and stay for varying durations up until 1917 when more pressing matters would summon them back to Russia. Lenin worked in 37a Clerkenwell Gardens, which is now a Marxist Memorial Library. During his time in London, Lenin wrote for a radical left-wing magazine aimed at Russians in exile. He would continue to visit up until 1911 though he apparently was not too fond of the weather.
Islington may be thought of by some as a dormant district lacking in the creative bubbling’s of neighbouring boroughs, however, those doubters are sorely mistaken. Islington is home to many musicians that, even if you don’t know who they are, your parents might. Let’s see if you knew about them before!
Brothers Gary and Martin Kemp were both born in Islington and attended schools in the borough (Central Foundation and Dame Alice Owen respectively). They rose to fame as Spandau Ballet along with fellow Islingtonite and lead singer Tony Hadley. The Kemps not only performed as musicians but also delved into the world of acting, most notably portraying the real-life brothers of the crime duo of Ronnie and Reggie Kray in The Krays.
Lily Allen is known for her upbeat music with darker undertones in her lyrics. Her distinctive voice and musical style have her etched into the memories of anyone who was growing up when she rose to fame with the songs Smile (with part of the music video filmed at Alpino’s in Chapel Market) and LDN are very much evocative of summer in the city. Allen was born in Hammersmith but raised in Islington.
Known for hits such as White Flag and Here With Me and often associated with Eminem for the sampling of her lyrics in his hit Stan. Like the Kemp brothers, Dido was born and raised in Islington and continued to live in the borough even after the success of her albums. Dido is still recording albums with her most recent release Still On My Mind coming out in 2019.
This aspect of our list was the hardest to create as it seems many actors have lived ever so briefly in the borough before they are whisked away to more lucrative grounds. So in this area, we have settled on two thespians who truly embody the spirit of Islington.
Probably best known for his role in Eastenders, Phil Daniels is well recognised for his strong cockney accent. Blur fans will recognise his grumbling narrations in Parklife. Along with the Kemps, he attended the Anna Scher Theatre School in his youth, eventually leading to him being cast alongside fellow Londoner Ray Winstone in the borstal film Scum and later taking the leading role in The Who’s rock opera Quadrophenia, which has a location cameo in Islington with what is now the Meat People on Essex Road standing in as the Vespa Café.
Beck notably played the cockney spiv Pvt. Walker in the hit show Dads Army as well as other roles such as spot in Coronation Street. A firm favourite in the show’s line-up, he played the only character of fighting age who had a variety of excuses as to why he could not possibly enlist in anything other than the home guard. Beck was the first of the Dads Army cast to be written out due to his untimely demise. It is not known exactly where Beck lived but as he went to Popham Road Primary School (now The New North Academy) it is likely that he lived in St Pauls Ward near Essex Road and New North Road.
So there we have just a few of the famous people who have, and some who still do, reside in the garden of London. We are well aware that our list has not covered everyone who has ever lived or was born in the borough and would welcome suggestions of missed celebrities who are known to live here.
NB! If you would also like to contribute to the Islington Storyteller, get in touch at email@example.com