For the third edition of Kentishtowner in print, (now all but vanished from the usual outlets), we wanted to celebrate the cultural richness of the area. And who better to help us than illustrator Sian Pattenden, creator of the North London Arts Map?
An artist and former writer for the Guardian and much-missed titles The Face and Smash Hits, Sian has lived in the borough of Camden for over 12 years. “On and off for more,” she says, “and I still get lost. Last year I went from Kentish Town Road to Talacre ‘the quick way’ and landed up in Queen’s Crescent perusing the nylon t-shirts.”
So this new map, besides being something to pore over in the pub, has a useful purpose too (GPS be damned!) “Yes, I actually needed a map, as when I start looking at an A-Z I get lost again in the two-dimensional landscape: the road names, the random patches of green and those tiny little triangles which represent the police stations.”
Sian was asked to illustrate the North London Arts Map a couple of years ago as part of a drive by Enfield, Barnet and Haringey councils to show the vast wealth of arts venues in the boroughs.
And as fans of the original, we were keen to commission her take on NW1 and NW5. “It’s inspired by Katharine Harmon’s You Are Here,” she says, “which includes a series of evangelical maps from the nineteenth century, illustrating the spiritual path all souls wander. I was entranced, and picked up a pencil.”
We think you’ll agree it’s a work that rewards repeated study. As well as most of the key galleries, music venues and cultural spaces, look closely and there’s Books For Free, the Fields Beneath cafe, the outdoor gym in Lismore Circus! It’s inevitably a personal edit, however. “There are bound to be a few places I’ve left out,” says Sian, with a sigh. “It’s not necessarily comprehensive.”
So what appeals to her most about this patch of north London? “We have the Heath to roam around, art galleries, swimming pools and excellent pubs. It’s rich – in resources, in geography (towerblocks bordering parkland), in history. There’s a frothing mix of classes, races and cultures. The red-faced lady stands outside the library waving to Jonathan Ross in his sports car, tearing down Kentish Town Road. The man with a cardboard box on his head talks Sartre with Melvin Bragg on the Heath. Probably.
“We’re all lucky to live here. I hope we will all stay here forever (death is no object with Highgate Cemetery nearby). Maybe it’s the best place in the world.”