TM - Spring Fair

Flowers, chocolate and VW Vans: Islington welcomes Country Living Spring Fair 2015

For all city locals yearning for a quick escape to the country, Angel is the place to be this weekend. The highly anticipated Country Living Magazine Spring Fair 2015 is in full swing, offering a switch up to the London way of life.

Taking place at the Business Design Centre in Angel, the Spring Fair features over 400 exhibitors from small startups to well-established brands. The exhibition kicked off on 17 March and is on until tomorrow (22 March).

The fair itself has been running for over 20 years and typically attracts a high proportion of locals as well as visitors from across London and the home counties.

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Catherine Gee (right), from Country Living Magazine, has worked closely on the current exhibition. She said:

“We opened on Wednesday and it has been absolutely amazing. The Spring Fair is about 20 years old but this is by far one of the best.”

Anastasia Conti, a first-time visitor to the fair, said: “It’s been great. I live locally but this is the first time I’ve been and I’ve really enjoyed it.”

Chef Patrick Le Mesurier, founder of Le Mesurier, which produces a range of natural condiments, said: “We’ve been doing the show for the last three years and it’s a really good platform to show your products to the general public.

“We’ve moved from the usual position upstairs to downstairs and the footfall has been definitely much better down here so quite pleased.”

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Patrick Le Mesurier

At the fair this year, special features include a Country Living Theatre for panel discussions and lifestyle tips from interior design columnist Alison Cork and horticulturist Lucy Summers.

Elsewhere, there are chocolate-making classes in the Craft & Create Rooms and a ‘glamping’ inspired garden which has its very own vintage VW camper van.

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Chocolatier Fiona Sciolti (right), from North Lincolnshire, has showcased at the Spring Fair for the last four years. She said: “It’s fabulous. They’ve brought the food hall down from the top so it’s more light and airy and it’s just a better environment. Customers have loved it and us traders have really loved it as well.”

Ms Gee said there are some challenges with the fair that did not exist before. “20 years ago, a lot of the small producers, particularly the food producers, had to come to something like this in order to reach an urban audience. But they don’t need to do that anymore because there are farmers markets.”

“They’ve got websites, and they can sell to someone who lives on Upper Street via mail order so they have less of a need to come to an event like this. So that’s why we try to add all the other bits so it’s generally a great day out.”

Today is the last day of the Spring Fair 2015. Tickets can be purchased here.

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The Dolls House Islington

The latest offering to Islington’s Upper Street is the Dolls House, a stylish restaurant and inconspicuous private members’ club, which is now the permanent home of the glamorous Hoxton pop-up.

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The Library

Situated by Islington Town Hall in a rustic three-storey Victorian townhouse, this whimsical restaurant boasts debauchery on another level. Screams of laughter from the “members only” room can be heard as you enter and dancers swinging to jazz beats in flickering candlelight give it that extra bit of mystery.

Armed only with black marker pens, Dead Dolls Club owners Adam Towner and Katy Gray Rosewarne transform old buildings into monochrome hand-illustrated stately homes. The Dolls House Islington is the third offering from the couple, who have already established the Dead Doll’s Club in Bethnal Green and Doll’s House in Peckham.

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The Ballroom

With a public bar in the downstairs parlour, Espresso Martini Bar and Library open to the public on the first floor and members’ ballroom in the upstairs attic, there is plenty of space. Previously known as the House of Wolf, the Dolls House plays host to live jazz and swing on Thursdays and Sundays, with resident DJs playing on Fridays and Saturdays until 4am.

A tasty food menu is created by Daryl Wilson of Salt House and reflects the charming interiors of the venue. Some favourites of the evening were the creamy leek and potato soup with avocado oil and artisan bread. For mains, the unusual combination of a fillet of sea bass with provencale mussels, though dry, worked well and the delicious duck fat chips made up for it.

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A fillet of sea bass with provincial mussels with duct fat chips

Favourite cocktails of the evening included the ‘Pisco Sours’ and ‘Old Fashioned’, while dessert was a selection of six chocolate coffee cups and rhubarb and vanilla crumble canapés.

To become part of the Dead Dolls House elite all you have to do is sign up and bring a bottle of liquor from their selected menu. From then on, you can come and go as you please through the secret members only entrance.

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The Original Jay Sean: Chasing Soul and Substance

Fifteen million records sold, five consecutive Top 40 Billboard singles, and over a decade of international success, the UK’s finest R&B artist, Jay Sean, is back in the UK promoting his newly released mixtape The Mistress II. I caught up with him ahead of his release for an exclusive interview!

Jay-Sean-THE-MISTRESS-mixtape-cover-2After being signed to Cash Money Records for six years, with whom he released two highly successful albums, All or Nothing, featuring hits Down and Do You Remember, and Neon, Jay made the shocking announcement in October that he was to leave the record company.

Explaining his decision, Jay said, “It got to the point where I couldn’t be at that label anymore, I couldn’t stand all the weighting and the lack of support. We had a great amount of success together, we did big things, we created history but in the end, I just sat down with them and said I need to go and do this, this is where I’m happier.”

His new album is a clear shift back to his musical roots and harkens back the original UK urban style, which gained him the attention that launched his career. A reflection of a sound on his earlier albums such as Me Against Myself, Jay’s new singles Tears In The Ocean, Jameson and All I Wanna Do showcase his renowned R&B style.

“I wanted to set the tone with Tears in the Ocean. I wanted people to understand what this project is about. Of course I can do the fun up-tempo party songs but that’s just one side of me, at the core, this is what I do.”

The Mistress

Explaining how he came up with the idea for The Mistress II, he said, “When I was writing my last album Neon, with Cash Money, I was struggling to inject enough soul and substance and passion into it to be honest. I knew that it had to be commercially viable; it had to have something that would sell because when you’re with a record company, they’re investing money in you. They want stuff that radio will play and that’s the difficult thing about being an artist signed to a label.”

Jay made it clear that he is happy with his decision, despite R&B becoming a “niche” now. “I find more joy and satisfaction out of this kind of music, then writing two minutes of a song that will be here today, gone tomorrow.”

The theme throughout the new album is adultery, which is often considered a taboo subject, particularly in Asian culture. Jay’s response was, “There’s been films about it, so why not an album? With Mistress, I basically made a movie in my head, about a guy who is married to a girl and he falls for someone else. In the beginning, its fun, playful, risky, an adventure and he feels alive but then there is the guilt that comes along with it, pain, lying, deceit, all of that and that allows me to write songs about everything.”

The Real Jay Sean

images-1Turning the question on to him, does he practice what he preaches? “No absolutely not. I’ve actually always been a very loyal boyfriend. If I knew it was coming to the point where I was going to mess around, I always ended the relationship. Because of this, I’ve actually managed to stay friends with all my exes.”

The music industry can often make or break artists in a blink of an eye. Yet Jay has always remained true to his beliefs. “I have always been who I am and have always stayed true to myself. I’m too firmly grounded and I think that’s the reason why I’m able to make the crazy decisions I do. People think I’m crazy for leaving medicine, for leaving Virgin Records, leaving Cash Money Records but it’s because I just know what I’m worth, I know my value, I know what makes me happy and if I’m not getting all those things, I leave.”

“I never got into any of this for girls, drugs, to be a superstar. It never meant anything to me. What has always mattered to me is credibility, respect, and dignity for my work.”

A few fun facts you didn’t know about Jay: Julia Roberts is his favourite actress, he would pick Etihad above any other airline, if you ever catch Jay at a bar, buy him a Vodka Soda, New York definitely over London and, of course, his favourite restaurant is Nandos!

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The Man Behind The Harmonica

‘Busking is pure. If you can get people to like you in ten seconds, you’ve consolidated all your practice in that one moment’

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Philip Achille is not your average busker. He’s the kind that shatters every expectation. You may have heard him modestly playing his harmonica on the London Underground, possibly playing an impressive rendition of Bach’s Violin Concerto in A minor on… yes a harmonica, to London’s commuters.

The British harmonica player, from the West Midlands, is in fact a Royal College of Music graduate whose list of talents is endless. The bass, saxophone, violin and piano are just some of the other instruments on which he experiments his jazz and classical styles.

Playing music is “something I feel like I have to do”, he tells me. Adding to the history of the harmonica is his mission and he says he achieves this by busking. “That’s the great thing about busking, I get an intense personal enjoyment out of it as well as the financial gain. Especially busking in London, the exposure and ability to connect with other people, the sheer volume of people that you end up playing to is quite amazing. For me, it’s been a great tool to get myself out there in a way.”

Philip shot to fame last month after a video posted by the jazz pianist John Turville went viral, featuring on the Huffington Post and on social networks. The reception of the video has compelled Philip to take his music to another level. He is currently raising money to fund a recording album, of which he has gained significant support.

Some of the musician’s proudest achievements to date have included playing the introduction for Jon Bon Jovi’s finale of the Royal Variety Performance in 2007 and playing at Andrew Lloyd Webber’s birthday celebration in Hyde Park in September 2008.

The classical player’s pure and graceful style is owed much to his mother, he explains, who ensured that he was given a wealth of opportunity as a child. Searching for a music teacher for the saxophone at nine-years-old led him into the hands of the only harmonica teacher in England. “So I just thought let’s give this a go. It turned out to be the greatest thing that ever happened to me.”

Only in his twenties and Philip has already won numerous awards, including National Harmonica League Player of the Year 2005, World Youth Solo Chromatic Harmonica Champion 2005, World Open Harmonica Champion 2005, Birmingham International Jazz Festival Young Musician 2006 and Eurovision Young Musician of the Year Finalist 2008.

The talented player began busking at sixteen years old in his hometown of Solihull. Since then, his ambition, passion and charm have allowed him to become a regular on one of London’s sought-after busking pitches. “It’s an amazing thing for a busker to know you’ve got a spot. I’ve met loads of cool people, got some cool gigs, recording sessions from it. The system definitely works as well because you don’t have to pay anything for it and you get to busk in the greatest cities in the world.”

For Philip, he says he tends to do really well with commuters. Providing background music is what he likes doing. He emphasises that with busking you cannot get disheartened. “As a busker, you’re always thinking about the fact that people are there to get on a train and not to hear you play. I don’t think people actively ignore you; they’re just in a hurry. The idea of good background music is that it doesn’t get in the way, but at the same time, it enhances the experience so people still enjoy it. For me if someone stops, I just appreciate it even more.”

Often perceptions of buskers are usually quite negative, with many people not taking them seriously. Addressing this view, Philip says, “The more people expect something the harder it is to actually impress them. When you’re busking, because people expect very little, they have no preconceptions. So when I go there, I give the best possible show I can, which means that many people listen in a pure sense.”

What has he learnt from busking? “Having done busking, it’s changed the way I play and teaches you how to hold a melody. It is quite a high level of performance because you’re trying to convey something to someone who will judge you based on the ten seconds it takes him or her to walk past you. Busking is pure. If you can get people to like you in that ten seconds, it’s almost as if you’ve consolidated all your practice in that one moment.”

 

Top 10 Twitter handles to follow for Islington

islington-ward-map-1Islington has increasingly become more trendy over the last decade, with so much to do and see, its hard not to feel like you’re missing out! Here is (quite a varied) Twitter list that will keep you in the know on different topics and things happening in Islington and may even provide you with some possible leads.

1. @MPSIslington

For every borough, there is a robust police force. Islington’s police are equally as robust on Twitter, providing updates directly to users almost every hour. It’s good to check in with this feed for follow-ups on stories published in the local papers, policing and meetings.

2. @IslingtonLife

This feed gives you news that is otherwise not featured in the local papers. With an impressive following, it’ll keep you updated with views and events in the area.

3. @Islingtongztte

Of course, this is a must-follow twitter handle that every journalist scouting the area should have.

4. @IslingtonBC

This is a great place to search for news as the Council regularly updates the feed with events, announcements and new policies that are being enforced.

5. @creat_islington

Creative Islington is a network organisation for the arts and creative industries in Islington. Visit to find education, arts and cultural issues, events and interesting things in the area.

6. @nosey_islington

Though not entirely trustworthy, this feed is perfect for getting in on community gossip, reading reviews and finding opportunities in the area.. (which all could possibly lead to a news story.)

7. @1stofN1

This quirky group is a place where you can find a list of  ‘firsts’ that have originated in Islington and the surrounding area. They constantly update this with new ‘firsts’ (so keep a look out – it may be in your patch!).

8. @IslingtonInside

IslingtonInside keeps you in the know by providing you with a birds eye view of what is happening in the borough.

9. @IslingtonPRS

If you are looking to write about any issues related to housing, Islington tenants provides information, support and advocacy for all Islington residents renting in the private rental sector (PRS). It definitely highlights the gap between the rich and poor in Islington.

10. @IslingtonTrib

Had to put this here – another great newspaper where you can find follow-up stories.

For the full list, click here