#Imagine FPK … My Creative Hub

Hi Finsbury Park,

As you always do at the Islington Turkish, Kurdish and Cypriot Women’s Welfare Group – we got a huge welcome from Gul and the group when we visited them at the community centre in Durham Road earlier this summer. We drank tea – we ate sweets – we laughed – we danced – and we spoke to Gul, the group co-founder, and Seher, a member of the group, who reflected the importance of the arts and sharing stories – particularly the stories from those that may haven’t had the opportunity to share them before…

#MyCreativeHub… GUL: “We set up thirty years ago, nearly. Thirty years ago, there wasn’t a lot of stuff around here in Finsbury Park. I started the group with a friend of mine who’s a social worker, and we said let’s go and visit women at their homes and call people up to invite them along to the centre. When we started, we had ten women attend. Some of the women who attended said my husband doesn’t want me to come to the centre, but when they went home, they explained to their husbands that they get help with filling in forms, that we interpret for them and help with reading letters from the hospital and things like that.

The group’s growing now – I’m really proud. As well as helping fill-out forms, reading letters and interpreting, we have lots of projects and short courses too. Everyone just turns up. They meet each other and talk to each other, and they make tea, and they make coffee, and they cook. It’s all word of mouth – one woman tells her friend, who tells her friend.

We do creative things too – like handicrafts – we did The Loop @ Andover project on the Andover Estate – we arrange flowers…we do lots of things actually! The women at the group love to share their stories. We did a project with All Change, a community arts organisation based here in Islington. We worked with a photographer called Leticia Valverdes and she asked the women about their stories – about when they came to London, about their family, about their grandchildren and about their own story. They really enjoyed it with All Change. We published another book with a documentary maker recently too. It’s very important for the community to get to share their stories. The women at the group never had the opportunity before the project with All Change. They were really excited. Everyone said ‘I have my book and everyone’s read my story’.”

#MyCreativeHub… SEHER: “I loved taking the photographs the most – my pictures are in the book. When I was taking them I was saying to everyone ‘Let’s go mad!’ – or something like that. I was screaming! It was so much fun. We all brought our handmade things and took photographs of them.

We do Turkish dancing too – it’s not belly dance, just folk dance. I learnt from people who were always dancing around the area I used to live in. I love dancing. I feel so comfortable when I dance. When I get angry, I don’t want to break anything in the house, I just want to dance! I start my music and I dance!”

For more information about the group contact Gul on 07905 744 756.

#ImagineFPK…My Creative Hub

Hi Finsbury Park,

Have you heard of Blighty UK Cafe in Finsbury Park? If you like to relax, eat healthy, attend poetry sessions and open mic events and other creative classes, then Blighty UK Cafe is calling you!! We discovered Blighty UK Cafe on Blackstock Road, where we met Chris, the founder of Blighty Commonwealth of Cafes, and Anna, one of the amazing barista’s there, and who runs the London Portrait and Life Drawing sessions at the cafe. Please read on for Chris and Anna’s #MyCreativeHub‘s…

#MyCreativeHub… CHRIS: “My aim is to create the Blighty Commonwealth of Cafes – one for each Commonwealth country. So this is the first one, the Blighty UK Cafe.  Blighty UK Cafe was a rundown college, when I got the keys. The second one is the Blighty India Cafe in Tottenham and the third is the Blighty Kenya Cafe, which is coming soon. There’s 53 countries in the Commonwealth, so ideally, I’d like to have 53 Commonwealth Cafes, such as Blighty Ghana, Blighty Australia, Blighty Cananda and all of them would have a slightly different menu, concentrating on a good full English and good coffee, but a different thing on the menu relating to its culture.

I started here because I actually live in Finsbury Park, only 3 minutes away! I’m trying to find a closer commute haha! ‘Blighty’ is a slang name for Britain like the expression ‘Welcome back to Blighty’. It was first used by the Raj in India, where the locals used to point to British people and called them ‘Blighty’, which means foreigner. I am a proud British man, so thought why not go with that name? Finsbury Park is very diverse with people from a mixture of cultural backgrounds – what I’d call the ‘modern Blighty’.  Overall, I hope Finsbury Park doesn’t change too much, it’s quite edgy here – a nice mix of people’s culture, wealth and jobs which is nice and makes a good community.

We have cultural things such as life drawing, which is actually run by one of our staff members, Anna, on a Thursday evening. The creative element is an important part of Blighty UK Cafe, as the customers love it and it brings people together. People come up with ideas to run classes – like, once a month we have the ‘Death Cafe’ that’s been seen on the BBC. We also have random open mic nights and poetry events and acoustic nights that you should definitely check out!”

#MyCreativeHub… ANNA: “I’ve known Chris since he opened Blighty UK Cafe through Park Run. I was actually almost a full-time teacher at a college and I met loads of artistic directors and one thing led to another. So I started working in the workspace upstairs in the cafe while I was teaching. I started helping out in the kitchen, where I worked on my favourite banana cake…’Anna Banana cake’. This cake is beloved by Park Run and Blighty UK Cafe!

Thursdays are my life drawing classes and once a month we have a self-portrait class. I recommend you come. I am a photographer, generally, and I  run the classes here each week which are relaxed, informal and inclusive. There’ s loads of people from different backgrounds – and people that are creative that wouldn’t usually get involved. The art aspect is so important and people fail to understand how arts can give people the ability to express themselves even without them realising.  It’s a creative community. Blighty UK Cafe is an extended family – an area you can lounge in, eat in, be creative and just be yourself. “

If you’d like to get involved and do some life drawing, pop in to Blighty UK Cafe (35-37 Blackstock Road, N4 2JF) on Thursday evenings at 7pm.

For more information on Blighty UK Cafe’s delicious menu, amazing coffee, co-working spaces and their charity Blighty Arts visit – www.blightycafe.co.uk/finsbury-park  – or just pop-in and have a chat (they’re really lovely people)!


Hey Finsbury Park,

Recently, Naomi met Susana and Jenny at The Loop @ Andover – a community reuse hub in the heart of the Andover Estate – and spoke about about the benefits of having a reuse enterprise project in Finsbury Park. Below, Susana and Jenny speak about how the project has encouraged women to get more hands-on with DIY and using tools! As well as, how the project has opened up opportunities for the local community, like learning new skills and meeting new people, and its benefits on wellbeing.

The project came to an end of its current form earlier this year, but are offering workshops on furniture upcycling and upholstery, starting this Autumn.

#MyCreativeHub… SUSANA “I volunteered at the Loop @ Andover for over a year. My background is engineering, but I’ve always felt like an artist deep inside. I did some furniture restoration and upholstery in college and trained with an artist in Paris on lacquering furniture. During my stay in France, I also volunteered with people who did upcycling and upholstery for a living and that gave me a good flavour of what it means to work in that sector. Then I started to volunteer for The Loop, which started in October 2015 and I stayed with them until it finished last March.

The Loop @ Andover aimed to reduce fly-tipping by offering residents an onsite furniture collection service free of charge. The collected furniture would then be repaired or upcycled and sold at an affordable price to local residents. The project also offered workshops locally on upcycling, DIY and upholstery. These workshops gave residents the opportunity to meet new people, learn new skills and have some fun in the process. It also gave women participants the confidence to use manual and electric tools such as saws and sanders and not to be afraid of using them. There are mental health benefits for projects like this. I find upcycling and upholstery quite relaxing and therapeutic, and they provide a great opportunity to discover your creative self. That was the main reason to continue with the workshops, as well as providing individuals in the local community with skills that could help them entering the working market. And the environment benefits too as less furniture ends up in landfills.

It’s for people to come, participate and get creative. I love seeing the transformation in people – they go from doubtful to ‘oh its easy, it’s fun!’. Remember, everybody and anybody can be an artist! Sometimes people may think that art isn’t for everybody but furniture upcycling is!’’

#MyCreativeHub… JENNY  “I’ve been living on the estate here for about a year now. I met Rachel when she set up The Loop and got involved as a volunteer. What attracted me was that it was something different. I was new to the area and I thought it would be really nice to learn some new skills. So, I tried it and that was it – I was hooked! I’ve learnt a lot being here, like doing new things like recycling and upcycling. For me, knowing that you’ve worked on a piece furniture makes you appreciate it more than if you’d bought it – knowing that “I’ve done that” gives a deep sense of satisfaction. My role as a volunteer entails going around the estate looking for furniture that has been dumped, then collecting it for upcycling, then we sell it at a discounted rate to the residents. If somebody wanted to give their furniture, we’d go and collect it, make sure it’s safe, upholster and paint it and give it new life. It’s a lovely project.

It helps brings communities together, once we brought the Turkish, Kurdish and Cypriot Women’s Welfare group here and taught them how to sand down and paint walls and decoupage, which are generally known as men’s tasks.

In today’s society, not all people have much money. It’s great to have a project here on the estate that residents can buy something at a discounted price and have it delivered, or knowing that you can help somebody decorate and fill up their flat. There’s nothing worse than moving somewhere with absolutely nothing.

The skills that I learnt will always stay with me. I’m always keeping my eye out for things to take and use, to upholster and recycle as my mini, personal project in my home! If somebody wants to get involved, I’d tell them to come along and let them know anyone can get involved or volunteer.”

If you would like to get involved in the workshops please email Susana on: workshopsloopandover@gmail.com

#Imagine FPK… My Creative Hub

Hello Finsbury Park,

We headed over to Manor Gardens to speak to Jessica – Manager at the Stroke Service who introduced us to Roger, a stroke survivor who has beautiful art work hanging in the centre. In this My Creative Hub post, Roger talks about his passion for the arts and painting and Jessica talks about the Stroke Service club, which takes place at Manor Gardens on Fridays and the role art has within the service. In addition, if you know anybody that would benefit from using the Stroke Service at Manor Gardens then please read on to see details of how to get involved. We hope you enjoy!

The Stroke Service at Manor Gardens:

Roger: “I prefer capturing movement, things like the boats, there’s always action and movement. I’ve done some in Switzerland of Lake Lucerne and Lake Maggiore but they don’t move in the same way. In a river, you get boats and ships, they’re difficult, but that’s a bit of a challenge. I started to like the inside of churches because they’re colourful. Then from my bedroom window at quarter past eight in the morning, I could see the colours catching the sun. When you paint, you have to open your shoulders like a tennis player. I’ve always loved art since I was about four years old. That’s the impact it’s had. Going back to the 50s and 60s there’s a boy’s magazine called The Eagle. It did notoriously good illustrations. I loved those. I’ve always loved drawing, always loved painting. Art is certainly not leisure. It’s more important than that. I would say I’ve sacrificed quite a lot. I’ve always just loved it, but I cannot emphasise enough that it makes you vulnerable because you want to do this one barmy thing that makes doing anything else impossible. There’s this wonderful critic called Julian Spalding and he says “Nobody loves modern art”. They don’t. They know they’ve got to like it, but that’s not the same thing. I don’t know if you’ve ever fallen in love with a piece of work because I have. In Tate Britain, there’s a French painter called Jacques-Emile Blanche. And in 1990, he painted Ludgate Hill. And it’s like falling in love with a person, and at first you don’t think much of it but then it was stuck in my mind – it was bloody marvellous! Art gives people pleasure, nothing more than that, I see no other deep meaning in it. I really can’t. And I tell that’s the role of art is just to give people delight.”

Jessica: “We have a club on Fridays, where we do exercise, art, storytelling – lunch and tea together and we celebrate birthdays and events together on Fridays. Art can sometimes feel inaccessible to our clients – who’re mainly older and disabled. But it shouldn’t feel like that and I would like to be able to provide a space which enables people to express art in many ways and educates people that art can be expressed in many ways,) educate people that art can be expressed in many ways, including informal ways – that they can make it in any way that they want. “Our Friday clubs start at 10am, where it’s tea and coffee and mingling which leads into our first workshop, somebody comes in and teaches a session. Right now, we have Feldenkrais, which is a type of slow movement therapy that allows the participant to visualise the exercises in their minds, which rehabilitates and eases movement and martial arts for people with disabilities. Which is a really loud session! Yes, stroke club is fun and loud! We have story-telling from ‘InterAct’ who specialises working with stroke survivors. We then have lunch then we have another session after lunch, which is based upon what the clients need. We also provide other services for stroke survivors and their carers, including an outreach support service, provide information and do stroke awareness talks around the borough of Islington.”

If you’d like to get involved or know anybody else that could benefit from the Stroke Service, anyone can access the service directly by contacting:

Islington Stroke Service, Manor Gardens Welfare Trust, 6-9 Manor Gardens, London N7 6LA 020 7561 5269 strokeservice@manorgardenscentre.org

#Imagine FPK… My Creative Hub

Hi Finsbury Park,

Morgan and I went to meet Farah Mohammoud co-founder of YOU PRESS whose latest production was Voices Of The Movement at Park Theatre (scroll down to #IMAGINE FPK … Voices of the Movement – for our creative  response to the performance). Farah is the Co-founder of YOU PRESS and talks with us about the growing importance of arts and culture in his work and for the community, as well as his drive and inspirations for his project One Story, One Voice:

Farah Mohammoud

Farah: “I am interested in storytelling, especially if it involves spoken word, music and poetry. I am from Somalia where up until the late 1960s, all our history, our culture and our knowledge was passed through poetry, so it has been in my blood since I was young. I’ve always been fascinated with going to poetry clubs and music gigs, with the diverse artists and how receptive they are and how they take you on a journey with their art form. Art is culture itself and is the root of how we see everything and how we interpret the world. It’s incredible to see how we can get different perspectives of somebody else’s point of view, their identity, their history and belonging.

I am the co-founder of YOU PRESS – which is a social enterprise that believes in the power of words and stories to change lives for the better and our work involves using the creative arts and writing to empower community members as well as young people to find their voice and be heard.

I once volunteered at a homeless shelter where I was meeting these interesting people and I was thinking wow – if only these two different community members can merge in order to tell their story and give the artists some empowering content to focus on. That was my first, fresh idea and it was called One Story, One Voice. I wanted to bring those stories to life and also challenge the negative conceptions that came with homeless people. From attending more poetry gigs and theatres and after approaching a local charity we had over 40 artist participants from various backgrounds involved and incredible stories of ten homeless people. We ended up doing a live performance and we retold those stories and there was such a demand for what we did! I thought that this is actually unique and could be tailored to different issues and topics. My big vision for One Story, One Voice is to carry on with the model, with a new topic as we’ve done three so far (One Story, One Voice, Voices of Redemption – working with young ex-offenders, and Voices of the Movement working with refugees, asylum seekers and migrants)”.

If you’d like to get involved at YOU PRESS there is a new project called ScribersHive available for young people aged 16-30yrs. It provides the opportunity to act as a journalist to report what’s happening within the community. You’ll also be paired up with upcoming artist mentors and journalists and produce different articles on young people’s thoughts. The artists will then create a graphic comic illustration based on what you speak about. It’s FREE and no writing experience is needed. Take a visit to http://www.scribershive.com and just pop an email to contactus@youpress.org.uk describing whom you’re and what your interests are and they’ll set an informal meeting with you. You won’t regret it!

Lamar Alo

#Imagine FPK… MyCreativeHub

Hi Finsbury Park,

A couple of weeks ago we visited New Beacon Books on Stroud Green Road, the UK’s first publishing house, bookshop, and international book service that specialised in Black British, Caribbean, African, African-American and Asian literature. We met with Vanessa, who told us a bit about New Beacon’s place in the community. We had a browse and picked up some great books, everyone should definitely go and check it out. The ‘GoFundMe’ page is no longer active, so the best way to support the bookshop is by going and buying some books! 

“My husband and I got involved in January; this is the whole reason why it went on to social media, because there was this whole thing at the end of the year, last year. The shop reached its fiftieth anniversary of being open and they were gonna close it. So, we had a conversation, basically we wasn’t really feeling that. It’s too important in the community to just close. Janice Durham, who is one of the directors of the bookshop, she did a video – I’m not sure if you guys have seen that? Watch it, because that caused a lot of stir and got a lot of people through the door. Just appealing to the community to come out and support and come in and just have a look at what we have in store. Following that we did a GoFundMe page, you can see the shop is old, it hasn’t really been worked on since the eighties, but the shop does still have a place in society. Yes there are people that will go on Amazon, but there are also a huge amount of people that prefer to come into a bookshop and browse. They like feeling the book physically in their hands, reading the back and then going off to another category. You don’t get that with amazon, you might get cheapness, but sometimes it’s not all about cheapness, it’s about your experience. So, that was captured in terms of the support we received. We’ve been nominated for a diversity award for a community organisation. We’re encouraging people to vote for us on that. It would be a nice kind of cherry on the cake for, this is our fifty first year now, so yes, we’ve struggled but we’re still here. That would be great to get that, just to kind of tick it off. [The role of literature] has amazing influence and amazing importance in [the community]. Again the media has a huge role to play in what people think about what’s going on. You switch on the TV, you see negative, negative, negative, iPad, iPad, iPad, phones, phones, phones. There are other people that are extremely talented and they wanna read, they wanna paint.”

New Beacon Books Ltd, 76 Stroud Green Rd, Stroud Green, London N4 3EN

#Imagine FPK…Voices of the Movement

Hello everyone, hope you’re all well and have had a great start to the week.

On Sunday, we went to see ‘Voices of the Movement’ by YOU PRESS at Park Theatre. This was an extraordinary performance that followed fifteen weeks of preparation working with 11 refugees, asylum seekers, migrants and a group of talented artist and volunteers exploring the experiences and stories of refugees and conveying this through spoken word, poetry, music and drama. YOU PRESS takes pride in using creative arts to create a positive community attitude as a social enterprise based in London and this was definitely displayed within their genuine performance.  What a compelling and brave piece that challenges stereotypes and takes a willing journey into the experiences of refugees and asylum seekers, as well as their hopes and dreams. ‘I believe YOU PRESS did a fantastic job at touching the hearts of the audiences which created such a positive outcome of appreciation and realisation.’

Stay tuned for upcoming interviews and chats with the amazing and talented artists and participants from YOUP RESS involved within ‘Voices of the Movement’ discussing their views and experiences and please read our creative response to this performance below. Thank You and Enjoy!


Like a speck on a clean slate,

My surrounding is not innate

Like a needle in a haystack

My culture will forever lack,

Like stranger danger…. BEWARE!

My home, that they don’t want to share

But to go, I have nowhere….

And kindness, to me, is quite rare…

Because In your world…

I’m a parasite, here to suck the light of your home.

I’m an alien, here to invade and take over until you’re gone

I’m a thief, here to take your benefits that always go to me

I’m an immigrant, a refugee – this is how you’ll always see me.

A stranger in your world, A stranger in mine

Would it be better if I wasn’t here? To take up your time.

Back home, I was taught to be a good host to your guests

Offer water, food and plenty of rest.

Don’t expect too much and keep your faith

If you’re not joyous, don’t let it show on your face.

So, I smile when I visit said ‘Home Office’.

Nowadays going there is more loss than profit

Just because I am here, does not mean I am home

Call it ‘Roam office’ as I still haven’t received my own.

I lived where there is hope, I lived where there was dreams

Now when I look back it has been trampled so it seems

I lived where you loved thy neighbour and shared community

But here a stranger is an unwanted minority

But I look above and keep searching.

Mum said…’Keep the faith, show joy in your face.’

I look for the hopes, community, love and dreams

Outside there is none…..

But what I didn’t do is look inside me.

Inside me is culture. Inside me is hopes. Inside me is spirit.

Inside me is faith. Inside me is a new place.

Wherever I go, inside me will be home

Taking from where I’ve been, adding it to what I’ve seen.

Who said culture is one place? I’m never a stranger in this place.

You may know me from outside, a stranger in

But you need to know, that it’s from the inside I shine from within. 

#Imagine FPK… MyCreativeHub

Hi Finsbury Park,

Last week we went to see the dress rehearsal Park Theatre’s production ‘Madame Rubenstein.’ It was a fantastic show, exploring themes of racism, feminism and sexuality during the 1950’s and 60’s. Park had invited us to a performance that was open to members of the community free of charge. This was an opportunity for us to speak to Finsbury Park residents about their experience of arts and culture. We found everyone had a limited knowledge of what there was to do in their local area, but were very interested in arts and culture, and many had strong connections with the arts. We asked a few people what they thought of the show and their connection with the arts in Finsbury Park, and we had some interesting responses.

My son did acting too you know, when he was younger! He did acting the first time with a lady, you know Sylvia Young on a Saturday first thing as he come from Trinidad. I come from Trinidad and Tobago. He and my god daughter, two of them, they’d act and he started from there and done several things and one with Barbara Windsor, on The Desmonds and on adverts – yeah he did a lot, and it was better when he was under 16, because all the cheques used to come in my name! I used to save it for him, but you know…. It always came in my name – good ole days! I used to live in Archway, then we moved down to Brecknock, then off the Cally – always lived in Islington, it’s the best borough. My daughter lives in Islington as well, and my son lives in Plymouth, but he still be bringing the little ones! This is my neighbour Maureen!”

I worked backstage doing hair and make up for about 15 years. At the Haymarket Theatre, The Old Vic, Royal Shakespeare. It’s nice to come back and see a theatre production. I’ve known Miriam Margolyes from Los Angeles. But I didn’t recognise Francis Barbara in her wig and everything – she looked really different. I’ve spent my entire life standing on the other side, in the wings, or the other side of the camera in films for 40 years. I lived abroad for most of my working life. I came back to live in this area and all the old stuff is gone, like the old Astoria, and all the wonderful places. For me this is the first time I’ve been here. I thought right, I’ve got something local to go to now! I really admire them for doing a production of this sort here. It’s a small theatre and it’s marvellous to get such huge talent”

The show was fantastic and it’s going to be aired for the first time tonight. So we were guinea pigs. We enjoyed it, it was very funny. We got a few shocks – what they should have said is ‘in case you got a bad heart or something there’s a man taking off his clothes.’ I love the theatre; I like the cinema as well. I like films too. And maybe arts and crafts. People doing all those kinds of things, stalls and stuff. I live in Islington so it’s easy access. It’s no problem to get here and they’re advertising a lot to try and get people to come here.

Madame Rubenstein is on at Park Theatre until 27 May 2017



Imagine FPK …In Neon

A couple of weeks ago, Naomi visited a play-reading performance of In Neon by Sarah Rutherford at Park Theatre. The play explores themes of sexuality, religion, migration and differences through family generations. The performance shares the journey of a young Muslim woman who, to her mother’s dismay, falls in love with another woman. Playwright, Sarah Rutherford courageously identifies the relationship between love and oppression with references to religious and cultural values and beliefs, inspired by stories of the local people in Finsbury Park.  Motivated by the older mother character in the performance, we wrote a letter to our older selves to read in the future. You should give it a try! Hope you enjoy!

Naomi’s Letter to Older Self

Dear Older Self,

Allow the ground to move below you

Do the things that make you feel invincible

Listen more than you speak, but share your wisdom when asked

Don’t feel, as though you know everything, there’s always more to know

Realise that you may not always be right

My dear, never dictate but always nurture.

Yours truly, younger Naomi.

Lamar’s Letter to Older Self

Dear Older Self,

Your journey has not finished. Learning is still fun.

Love the growth, more than the result

Be as fluid as water. And remember to drink more water.

Be as open and insightful as a book,

Remember laughter is the best medicine

Time is only wasted, doing what you don’t like.

Judge not, Love always.

No matter how old you are – you are as sassy as can be!

Love younger Lamar

Look out for our next blog post where we chat to local residents about their experiences of dress rehearsal of Madame Rubinstein at Park Theatre!