Please note we have amended the title of this article as Martin Plaut retired from the BBC as World Service Africa editor at the end of October.

Martin Plaut was born and raised in Cape Town. He left South Africa after the Soweto uprising of 1976, planning to return. But he met and married a British girl and has lived in the UK ever since. He has worked on Africa for the Labour Party and the BBC, writing widely on the subject. His latest book is ‘Who Rules South Africa?’ with Paul Holden. He is also the proud author of the Hamster of Hampstead Heath – available from Daunt books, Hampstead.

When were you happiest?
Walking over the Heath.

Where would you like to live ?
In Ryland Road – where I already live!

What is your favourite sound or smell?
Foxes barking.

What is your greatest life achievement?
Fighting apartheid.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
Never underestimate the power of love.

What makes you unhappy?
Poverty – both physical poverty and poverty of the imagination.

What simple thing would improve your quality of life?
Less litter.

What is your most unappealing habit?
Being dogmatic.

What is your guilty pleasure?
Having a Portuguese tart and coffee at the Portuguese Wine Cellar on Kentish Town Road.

Where do you hang out?
At the Grafton pub (below) – just a wonderful place now that it has been refurbished.

Who or what do you hate and why?
Tories. As Aneurin Bevan said: ‘No amount of cajolery, and no attempts at ethical or social seduction, can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for the Tory Party. So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin.’

What’s your worst experience in NW5?
Seeing drugs being traded on the streets.

What’s the worst thing anyone’s said to you? ‘You are the most arrogant man in the BBC!’

What has your career taught you?
As a journalist, you are a generalist. To get on you need to carve out areas of expertise and work on them.

What is your favourite dish and why?
Babotie – a great South African dish that reminds me of my roots.

Describe yourself as an animal.
A labrador – too enthusiastic and impulsive.

Are you Kentishtowner? Drop us a line as this Q&A is open to anyone, anywhere. Email

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