I came to live in Holloway, rather as I did to London, by accident. But now after two years in this North London area I realise I got lucky when I moved here. I have the Heath within reach, a hundred and one handy little shops in which one can find anything from SCART leads to flower pots to mouse-traps, plenty of decent pubs and coffee shops. But the thing that Holloway really has going for it is its people. Despite being one of the smallest boroughs in the city, Islington is densely packed with a diverse population. We residents comprise numerous ethnicities, ages, household structures, and income brackets. Many of us are newcomers to the area, often first-time buyers who find their cash goes further in Holloway than in the neighbouring areas of Kentish Town, Camden and Highbury.
But a large part of Holloway's population has spent most of its life along the Holloway Road; these people are true North Londoners. They are Born and Bred, the subjects of a new book and exhibition launched recently by local arts charity, The Rowan Arts Project. 'Born and Bred: Stories of Holloway Road' is a collection of oral histories and photographs, telling the tales of 51 Holloway residents. Whilst many of the project's participants were truly born and bred along the Road, a number were born in other London areas, but later relocated to Holloway. Regardless of where their lives began, the participants display a real sense of attachment to this place, a fondness for the area where they run their businesses and make their homes. Many speak of the remarkable people and the strong sense of community, which for me defines the area I call home.
From market stall-holders to musicians, to estate agents and designers, Holloway emerges as a place of hard work, but also social strength and artistic inspiration. The Born and Bred project illuminates the diversity of life along the buzzing Holloway Road, so frequently overlooked as a grotty thoroughfare with its dodgy-looking pubs and endless fried chicken purveyors. It provides an insight into real inner city London life, where houses are not abandoned at weekends for holiday cottages on the coast, or vast swathes of office buildings stand empty when workers commute out to their suburban homes. Here is London, 24/7, and these are the people who live it.
To find out more about exhibition and hear the interviews with the project's participants, visit Stories of Holloway Road for more details. The Born and Bred exhibition is on display at The Old Fire Station, 84 Mayton Street, until the end of the year.