Richard & I had a normal Saturday morning today (shock, horror) including food shopping, laundry, picking up Percy’s Frontline prescription and unblocking the vaccuum cleaner. We know how to have fun... Then with Rich heading off to catch the old firm game, I caught up with the campaign team for lunch.
We had teams out in Holloway and St George’s, and ended up lunching just over the border in Camden at Rustique Cafe on Fortess Road. It’s a lovely bohemian cafe with sofas, wooden chairs, warm walls and a great good value menu. I can heartily recommend the pancakes with apples and cream cheese. There are similar cafes I love at Newington Green and Hazelville Road but nothing quite like it nearer home, certainly not on Upper Street.
After lunch, James Kempton & I went off to deliver letters to the new flats on Eden Grove and Hornsey Street. These are a mix of private and affordable homes, plus a gym, studios and the inevitable Tesco metro, as well as an attractive new open space between the D-shaped blocks (designed by Piers Gough). For as long as I can remember – certainly since I was a student at North London Poly in the late 80s – the site was a largely-derelict and inaccessible industrial estate. Now it’s completely transformed.
While most of the buildings are completely new, there are some older ones, all vaguely ecclesiastical. The development has preserved the old Mount Carmel school on Eden Grove, a victorian building with gothic windows that’s now converted to flats. Tucked away at the west end of Eden Grove is Sacred Heart church which dates from 1870. Next to it is a fascinating facade: “Vestry of St Mary, Islington” above, “Electricity Generating Station” below. This dates back to 1894 when the Vestry, the predecessor of the borough council, ran its own utilities. Over a century on, James is enthusing about the Council developing new green projects for local electricity generation; this is an idea I floated when I was a councillor so I’m delighted it’s still on the agenda.
Meanwhile we had a great opportunity to see the buildings in action as lived-in homes rather than the building sites or half-empty developments we’d visited before. I wondered if the private flats would be one of those gated communities that are cut off from their neighbourhood by choice or design. We were pleasantly surprised. The concierge was welcoming once he’d established we were legitimate callers. Wherever you go delivering, you find the pizza leaflets have got there before you. In this case I actually met the pizza man, complete with pizza, wandering around the central courtyard looking for a particular flat... There is an active residents’ association, with a sociable outlook (a pub crawl features among recent events). I also had the chance to chat to some of the residents who were genuinely pleased to have us seeking their views. New Holloway is not New Labour! I’ve already picked up one issue where we can get some results for them. So we’ll definitely be back for more.