North London's Cultural Guide

Kentish Town: a bird’s eye view

Sometimes a photo makes you look at your neighbourhood with fresh eyes. This is one such example

Look at the gentle arc of Kelly Street, with its fan of pastel houses. Photo: @MPSinthesky

Part of the power of a vibrant urban London neighbourhood lies in its architectural juxtaposition.

And for us pedestrians, it creates both interest and atmosphere, as we weave along a row of cottages or pass a disused warehouse, a detached Victorian villa, sixties estate. The net result? A quiet sense of perspective on our lives; a hint of the city’s constantly changing appearance.

Like any memorable photograph, this snap taken by the Met Police helicopter is a corker, transformative in the way it makes the casual viewer see a well-known locale with fresh eyes.

So, without further ado, let’s start at the top: aren’t those patches of green in the estates larger than you might expect? And, at the bottom, how solidly linear is the ocean-liner bulk of the former polytechnic building, now luxury flats. Note the central courtyard, and the corner ex-Pizza Express building too, awaiting its reinvention as arthouse cinema and cafe.


But what makes the image really striking is the gentle arc of Kelly Street, with its fan of pastel houses, poised between more functional housing and the hefty municipal buildings.

Finally, look more closely still: there’s the tiny Hope Chapel on Prince of Wales Road (bottom right); the Abbey pub; and, lurking top left is scaffolding concealing the doomed Castle building, once the “gateway” to Kentish Town – and still only just safe from demolition.

Proof, then, that for good or bad, cities are transient – and fragile – at their best.

For more aerial shots of the capital follow the Met Police helicopters on @MPSinthesky

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About Kentishtowner

The award-winning print and online title Kentishtowner was founded in 2010 and is part of London Belongs To Me, a citywide network of travel guides for locals. For more info on what we write about and why, see our About section.