Back at the beginning of 2013, we launched what we called a ‘rather fetching newspapery incarnation’ of the established Kentishtowner website.
There wasn’t really a long-term plan, just a hunger to see how far we could run with the concept of a print publication dedicated to our favourite London neighbourhood (and home).
The idea that this fledgling print title might one day reach its 50th edition, let alone spawn a growing family of websites and papers elsewhere across the city, was as inconceivable then as the thought of producing issue two.
But here we all are. Kentishtowner is a firmly established monthly read for tens of thousands And we hope it’s never wavered from the original intent: to champion all the amazing things people do here, supporting the culture and diversity that make Kentish Town such an exciting – if still underrated – patch.
Here are ten of the front cover stories that particularly stood out for one reason or another, and the stories behind them.
Jason Wilde (Issue 1)
Why did we chose this cover image for our first ever print issue? Simply because local photographer Jason Wilde has amassed over a thousand images of north London passersby with his Free Portrait Studio project. In fact, he may well have snapped you or a neighbour, as his mobile space – which mirrors the tradition of the travelling photographers of Victorian times – has pitched up at Castlehaven Community Centre and the James Wigg Practice on Bartholomew Road over the years. The idea is simple: anyone passing is invited to stop and pose. Collectively, the results document lives and histories through the endless variety of faces. “Many of the most interesting shots have come from the sessions in NW5,” Jason says. Read the original story here
Cultural Map (Issue 3)
For our third issue, out Sping 2013, 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, Sian (now of Grrrr! Gallery fame) has lived in the
borough of Camden for 16 years. Her map is a work that rewards repeated study. As well as most of the key galleries, music venues and cultural spaces, look closely and there’s the Fields Beneath cafe, or the outdoor gym in Lismore Circus. It was inevitably a personal edit. “There are bound to be a few places I’ve left out,” said Sian at the time. “It’s not necessarily comprehensive. We’re all lucky to live here. I hope we will all stay here forever (death is no object with Highgate Cemetery nearby).” Read the original story here
Lost Kentish Town Cinemas (Issue 9)
In our Christmas issue 2013, Tufnell Park Film Club founder Nigel Smith and Islington-based photographer Sam Nightingale undertook an exploration and survey of all eight of NW5’s former cinemas, from the Forum and the Alhambra on Kentish Town Road to the Gem (or ‘Fleapit’) and Lismore in Gospel Oak. The pair’s search has been made all the more poignant by the developers of the former poly’s deceptive promises about a new cinema. Sadly for now Kentish Town is still screen-free. Read the original story here
Nimbys (Issue 11)
Our most controversial ever cover, published in April 2014. None of us are immune to a good grumble, we argued. But over-objecting city-dwellers who see it as their mission to go about lodging complaints and blocking licences, the preserve of the infamous nimby (meaning: ‘not in my backyard’), has the very real potential to damage all that’s good about living in a city. A few such disproportionately powerful voices can make a decent stab at extinguishing flourishing cultural hotspots. But would anyone really still fight for such restriction if it also directly leads to boarded-up shops and rundown listed buildings? We spoke to three business owners at the time – from then new openings Shebeen, Ladies & Gentlemen and Knowhere Special – who had all faced battles from locals over plans to open quality small bars, and examined why people feel such an ownership over where they live. We also commissioned our cover cartoon ‘The Nimby & The Hipster’ – which indeed touched a few raw nerves. Read the original story here
37 Things About Tufnell Park (Issue 12)
May 2013 was the moment in recent history when a flurry of upmarket new openings hit Tufnell Park, including Bear + Wolf, Jonathan Norris and MeatNW5. So we devoted an entire issue to uncovering as many random facts about the area as we could. Our favourite? That eclectic music venue The Dome was once, in fact, a swimming pool. Later known as wrestling hotspot the Tufnell Park Palais, the ‘Stanley Hall and Baths’ is commemorated by a plaque from 1884 – still visible on the wall on Junction Road. Oh, and if that wasn’t enough there were 36 more such fascinating nuggets. Read the original story here
Anima E Cuore (Issue 17)
This is the only local restaurant we have ever featured on the cover (really!), and one that routinely tops lists of the best in the area. Why? Because it’s an absolute game-changer and still packs them in three years later. The humility and talent of Mustapha and his small team, their experience previously at upmarket Mayfair destinations like Sketch, and drive to open on challenging lower Kentish Town Road has led to this stretch now becoming buzzy in its own right, with new arrivals like Lazy Hunter and Crepes a la Carte. Go for the tuna tartare. Or the gnocchi. Or pretty much anything. But book: it’s still hard to get a table. And still BYO. Read the original story here
Boozers (Issue 19)
It’s well documented that Kentish Town and its surrounds are fertile grounds for a decent pub. So in early 2015 we decided to grill the owners and managers of a dozen of the best watering holes in the area to give us the lowdown on what it’s really like: how they started out, what a typical day involves, who their regulars are, and, most importantly, why they bleedin’ well do it day in, day out. We even tracked down the longest-serving publican in the borough, Martha McGrath, who served 43 years behind the bar at the Lord Southampton in west Kentish Town (and has since retired). Her pub has been immortalised above in this atmospheric portrait by Chilean photographer Nicholas Sanchez. And there were plenty of amusing yarns to enjoy: who missed Kate Moss partying at his own gaff? Where did Daniel Craig strip off for a magazine shoot? And who (gasp!) once pulled a pint for Oliver Reed? Read the original series, starting here
Local myths (Issue 24)
Who on earth would have predicted a Princess Diana Kentishtowner cover splash? And what the devil does she have to do with Highgate Studios, you might well ask? In this issue from summer 2015 we explored half a dozen such intriguing neighbourhood tales – and worked out where the truth might lie. Who could forget, for example, the hoary old yarn about the escaped elephants rampaging up Highgate Road? Why did Frankenstein author Mary Shelley hate the area so? Why has K-Town’s ghost tube station stayed shut for nearly a century? Was Gospel Oak really the centre of the hippy movement? And the world’s first laptop invented next to Delicious By Franco? Read all our local myths, starting here
Blustons (Issue 28)
The iconic former clothes shop Blustons on Kentish Town Road still holds readers rapt, although it’s long shut and often squatted. Opened in 1931, the much-loved family-run Kentish Town ladieswear outfitters once had a real following amongst women of a certain age (not to mention a core group of male customers, too). But the Grade II-listed frontage still inspires. In their nearby studio, tucked away on leafy Bartholomew Villas, artists Dominic Mallin and Laura McEwen created a threedimensional, mixed media collage for our November 2015 cover. “We were so sorry to see Blustons close its doors a while ago after such a long existence,” said Dom, a graphic designer by trade. “So we created a collage capturing its unique shop front, signage – and of course the iconic red polka dot dress that everyone knows so well. We’re attracted to symbols of a bygone era, those places that are imbued with character, personality and distinctive, bold typographic elements. We photograph them, and then experiment with perspective and composition digitally, before trying to construct a work to capture their personality forever.” Read the original story here
High Line (Issue 34)
It was just over a year ago when we stumbled upon a blog post by UCL-based geography software developer Oliver O’Brien, laying out his conceptual designs for various High Line parks along sections of London’s defunct railway infrastructure. We were so excited about one suggestion in particular – running from the bottom of Kentish Town Road over to Camley Street in King’s Cross – that we splashed a feature all about it on our front cover in May 2016. We also asked readers for feedback online, and understandably the results of our survey were fully in favour of the idea of regenerating these crumbling old bridges for public use. We presented CTU Chief Exec Simon Pitkeathley with the survey results, and he began negotiations. The upshot? The High Line is now crowd-funded, and the story has been picked up by every major media outlet in London. Better still? It started right here, in the pages of Kentishtowner. Read the original story here