Stephanie Smith was born in Hammersmith, lived in Archway as a teenager – and then moved back as an adult. Her working life has spanned selling helium-filled balloons on Westminster Bridge, trading at Camden Market, teaching voice skills and singing in pubs. She set up the weekly Archway Market eight years ago, and in 2013 applied for a council regeneration grant to create the ArchWay With Words literary festival, which starts its third outing this month.
What’s special about the festival this year?
We have a visitor from New York New York! Penny Arcade is a genuine legend in her lifetime – subversive, original and above all, gloriously funny. She’s the finale act in an evening with Viv Albertine – now that’s special.
Who did you most enjoy last year?
Simon Singh and Alex Bellos, the fantastically entertaining mathematicians, enchanted a sell-out crowd of all ages – it made me very proud. I love that science is a big part of this festival, alongside the fiction and history. Brilliance and expertise is so delicious.
Archway is exciting; there’s so much going on. It’s a very neighbourly place with loads of lovely people who are interested in each other and in their surroundings. They genuinely value their small shops and businesses and get involved in creative projects. Big changes are happening with the central redevelopment, but I think it will always retain its feeling of being somewhere real. It’s the opposite of a sterile clone town – it’s proper London.
Finally, where do you personally recommend?
Top of the list has to be Archway Market – and yes, I would say that. I think the reason it’s so successful is that not only are the things on offer the best of their kind, but that the people selling them are so lovely which makes for a great atmosphere. On Junction Road try Absolute Print for stationery heaven, and Mosaic restaurant for its big lush garden that makes you feel like you’re on holiday. Over on Archway Island, Resurrection Boutique has gorgeous vintage clothes and he’s an alterations genius.
Archway With Words runs from October 10th-28th. For details, stage times of all the above and tickets head here