Ich Bin Kentishtowner: Editors Stephen Emms & Tom Kihl

As part of our second birthday celebrations, we thought we’d practise what we preach and take the Ich Bin Kentishtowner test. It’s harder than it looks

Left to right: Tom, Pepper, Stephen. Photo: Vicki Couchman

Stephen Emms was born in Margate, raised in New Malden, Surrey and moved north of the river in 1997. He’s lived in Kentish Town for nine years. Before founding The Kentishtowner in 2010, he contributed to titles including The Guardian, Time Out and The Independent. Tom Kihl was brought up in Parliament Hill. He’s a longterm hack who worked previously as deputy editor of DJ Magazine and Managing Editor at Ministry of Sound and has lived in the area all his life. The pair started London Belongs To Me Ltd in January 2012 to publish Kentishtowner.

When were you happiest in Kentish Town?
S: Right now. It’s been a fascinating year building relationships with people in the area, as well as seeing so many inspiring new places open. And we particularly like the rise of previously derelict stretches like Wilkin St Mews.
T: I had a ball working for DJ Magazine based at Highgate Studios in the early noughties. We were the black sheep of our large publishing office, where coming in direct from the after party with no sleep was considered the height of professionalism, at least around our desk.

S: A pastel palace on Leverton Street.
T: I’m happy on Grafton Road.
S: Rattling around the mansion!
T: Yes, exactly.

What is your favourite sound or smell in the manor?
S: The most overwhelming smell is the jerk chicken stall on Queen’s Crescent market. Lip-smacking, even at 9am.
T: The sound of horses hooves on the empty roads early in the morning, heading to the barracks near Regent’s Park. At once rural yet ever so urban.


What is your greatest life achievement?
S: Nothing yet. I used to think a critically acclaimed novel would be nice.
T: Surviving having two daughters.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
S: If you don’t care about success, it might just happen. And vice versa.
T: A lot of time is wasted by mindless following of one dogma or another rather than learning – and collectively progressing – from actual life experience.

Underage drinking at the Forum. Tsk tsk
Underage drinking at the Forum. Tsk tsk
What is your earliest NW5 memory?
S: Underage drinking as we watched the Inspiral Carpets at the pre-Forum Town & Country Club, 1989. I was 14, growing up in suburban south London, and Kentish Town felt like the end of the world.
T: My first solo shopping sorties, walking for 25 minutes to The Circle In The Square record shop (now Tescos). They had signed Madness LP covers on the walls and it was the best place for rarities of the day like, er, Thompson Twins picture discs.

What makes you unhappy?
S: Anything technical. But that’s what Tom is there for.
T: Ultimately very little. Even during the most serious moments of personal drama, I can’t help but remind myself that we are exceptionally privileged in location and history to be here right now.
S: And for Tom, there’s plenty of drama.
T: Quite.

What simple thing would improve your quality of life?
S: Opening the shortcut down Regis road to Kentish Town station. Come on people, sort it out.
T: Less regulation stifling creativity. From rules on outdoor dining to the unaffordable costs of holding community events and the removal of legitimate street art and creative shop signs, there are a lot of silly decisions made that make this area, and the rest of the UK’s streets, more boring.

What is your most unappealing habit?
S: Incessant worrier.
T: Complaining that I never have enough time, although with the Kentishtowner I think this is justified.

It’s like having an affair
What is your guilty pleasure?
S: It would be Dirty Burger if I let myself go. We know of several male readers who swing by there before they go home to their wives for dinner.
T: I seem to be drawn to ice cream emporium Gelato Mio whenever I’m passing anywhere in the vicinity of St Pancras Station.

Where do you hang out?
S: Camden Brewery Bar, The Grafton, Shebeen, The Southampton, Junction Tavern, Chicken Shop and, inevitably, many more.
T: Well, now there are kids in the equation, mostly Talacre Treetops, the various Heath/Regent’s/Primrose playgrounds and the small pool at KT Sports Centre.
S: There are also plenty of places we’d like to hang out more in: Torriano, Doppio, Old Eagle, Aces & Eights, and loads of places in Tufnell Park like Nuraghe, Del Parc and the TP Tavern.

What’s your best experience in NW5? Worst?
S: Best? Why, The Kentishtowner of course. Who’d have known when I started it two years ago all this would happen? And worst is the static nature of Queen’s Crescent – we would help change it for the better but no one involved appears to be interested.
T: Best is getting to know the history of the place through this project. Adds a whole other layer to strolling around.

14. What do you most dislike about your appearance?
S: Put it this way: I’m very jealous of a nice quiff.
T: I have girlie hair. Would probably be very lovely if left flowing, but not really the look I’m after.
S: So vain.

Tell us a secret.
S: I don’t drive.
T: I don’t drive either.

What has your career taught you?
S: Try everything.
T: Disruption is inevitable, so embrace it. That’s how the Kentishtowner project was born. The twin industries I’ve worked in – music and magazine publishing – have both been undergoing constant change for over a decade. Exhausting yet stimulating stuff, all at the same time.

What is your favourite dish and why?
S: Anything with anchovy, sardines or mackerel. In NW, bottarga at Pane Vino, pig’s cheeks at Bull & Last, or an onglet at the Colonel Fawcett, Market, or, more recently, the Canteen.
T: As an occasionally fallen vegetarian I remain a sucker for pulses, so the manor’s daals, refried beans and meze options are all firm favourites. The Phoenicia provides.

What was your best or worst gig and why?
S: Best was Glastonbury 2005. Witnessing the then-hyped Magic Numbers with a rowdy bunch of mates on a flooded field.
T: My worst was Bebel Gilberto at the Roundhouse. A lesson in why stage presence is so important. She had a broken leg so sang sitting down, self-medicating the pain with glugs of wine. She lost the crowd early on with her weakened delivery and frustrated apologies. Those who didn’t wander out spent the rest of the show drowning her out braying drunkenly. That or the recent Bloc Festival debacle, but that was so ridiculous it was actually a uniquely unforgettable London night out.

What is your most overused phrase?
S: Unbelievable! (negatively)
T: Hyperlocal. Obviously.

Describe yourself as an animal.
S: Jack Russell. Investigative, food-orientated and noisy. It’s why Pepper and I get on.
T: A meerkat. Constantly distracted and with black eyes from lack of sleep.

As we said above, it’s our second birthday this week and we’re having a secret bash on Thursday night. We have ten free pairs of tickets to give away. Just answer this question: Where would you host your dream party in NW5? We’ll pick the best 10 answers. Email us only at info@kentishtowner.co.uk before 7pm tonight. Good luck!


  • Show Comments

  • Sarah m

    Hey I’m interested in reinvigorating Queens Cresent….the place has oodles of possibilities waiting to happen. And I wonder how come residents of this part of Camden have been neglected so much that we have this wonderful shopping street that doesn’t even have proper paving stones? Wouldn’t happen in Hampstead now would it? So How to go forward? At least a campaign to get Camden to support the area properly. please Message me. Have ideas, am local

    • JCB

      How would you move things forward? The QC has its own charms but is shackled by the estates and the surrounding poverty. Perhaps a Tesco local and a Costa Coffee shop may begin the gentrification process 😉

      • worriedparent

        Having lived in Queens Crescent for 18 years now, I agree that it is a bit tatty but I like the static nature. I certainly don’t want it turning into Broadway Market Hackney or Bellenden Road Peckham where it is taken over by coffee shops, knick-knack shops selling pointless fancy candles or a ‘Local’ of a big chain supermarket taking over Frank’s.

        It has a character all its own which would be lost. I suspect change will happen when the big estates north of QC are redeveloped as planned by the Council, with a large number of housing units for private sale.

    • Kentishtowner

      Hi Sarah
      Thanks for responding. Email info@kentishtowner.co.uk and let’s see if we can get a plan together for QC.

  • Noella Bello Castro (@mamadaveycastro)

    I’d really like to get involved in the regeneration of Queens Crescent too. I love the place but it really does some TLC. (Loved this piece btw. Totally with you on the Regis Road shortcut thing!).