MUST DO: Archway With Words

Still never been to N19’s acclaimed annual litfest? We take a look at what’s on this year

The festival runs throughout October, starting this weekend. Photo: SS
The festival runs throughout October, starting this weekend. Photo: SS
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.

Penny Arcade is "a legend in her lifetime." Photo: PR
Penny Arcade is “a legend in her lifetime.” Photo: PR

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.

Still warm enough to hang in the surprise garden at Mosaic. Photo: Stephen Emms
Still warm enough to hang in the surprise garden at Mosaic. Photo: Stephen Emms
Sum up the vibes in N19 right now.
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.

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Linto Kwesi Johnson makes a rare apearance. Photo: PR
Linto Kwesi Johnson makes a rare apearance. Photo: PR
1. Accessible science: don’t miss Simon Singh, whose original Enigma Machine demystifies cryptography; the polar biologist Professor Peck, from the British Antarctic Survey, who’s appearing with video and interactive demonstrations; and neuroscientist Sophie Scott on ‘the science of laughter’.

2. Jake Arnott, writer of The Long Firm and The Devil’s Paintbrush, talks about his latest work in progress and how London itself features in his books.

3. Mary Anning: we’ll be celebrating the achievements of the woman who in 1811 found the world’s first ichthyosaur at the age of 12, with a storytelling puppet show from Bronia Evers, and with Tracy Chevalier talking about her novel, Remarkable Creatures.

Ben Okri is appearing, Photo: PR
Ben Okri is appearing, Photo: PR

4. Phill Jupitus is doing two events on the first Sunday, talking about his book Adventures in Breakfast Radio, before an evening gig performing stand-up as Porky Poet, supported by a stellar line up.

5. Linton Kwesi Johnson will give a very rare performance in his wonderful rich voice of reggae poetry, his own literary form that has gained him legions of fans. He’s on the bill of a whole evening celebrating the New Beacon Bookshop publishing house.

6. Creative writing: this runs all week and consists of the playwright Diane Samuels’ ‘prompts’ – lovely little bits of concentrated inspiration that will pop up all over Archway and on @archwayword. There’s also a terrifically entertaining guide to cracking cryptic crosswords.

Phill Jupitus is doing two events. Photo: PR
Phill Jupitus is doing two events. Photo: PR

7. Free events include a whole day of activities at Archway Market with creative writing, a sitar maestro, Spud & Yam storytellers and a cross-stitch-a-quote craft workshop. Children’s writer Ian Probert is in the library too. Great special offers too such as ticket prices redeemable against two books about urban swimming by Caitlin Davies and Jenny Landreth.

8. Alexander McQueen: a new biography tells the true, tragic story of the troubled genius and visionary designer who rose to the pinnacle of his profession from the lowliest of backgrounds. Come and hear what his family, lovers and friends told author Andrew Wilson.

Esther Freud is one of the many big names. Photo: PR
Esther Freud is one of the many big names. Photo: PR

9. The London Sound Survey is a feast of sounds from the urban hubbub, documenting the changing landscapes and technologies, mapping the movements of wildlife and gathering recordings of streets, waterways, people, music and ambience of our city. Come and be part of the ‘recording of audience at book festival’.

10. Superstar writers include the likes of Esther Freud, Ben Okri, Joan Bakewell, Irenosen Okojie, Matt Baylis, Penny Hancock and Polly Vernon among the line-up.

Archway With Words runs from October 10th-28th. For details, stage times of all the above and tickets head here


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