Charismatic Londoner Peter Werth established his eponymous clothing brand in 1975 in Islington, London N1 and is now synonymous with great British design, high quality contemporary clothing, footwear and accessories.
As you probably know, Islington is rich in history and has huge variety. Modern shops mix happily with old London pubs, a handful of theatres, along with the widest variety of restaurants to be found anywhere in London.
Discover the best of Islington, London N1, with the second installment of Peter Werth’s round up of where to go in the place we call home.
King’s Head Theatre
The King’s Head Theatre stands on a plot of land that has been used as a public house since 1543, though for most of its history it has been known as the King’s Head Tavern (the name itself coming from an old story about Henry VIII supposedly stopping for a pint on his way to see his mistress). The current building dates back to the 1800s.
Dan Crawford took over the venue in 1970, and founded the King’s Head Theatre in a room that had been used as a boxing ring and pool hall, establishing the first pub theatre in London since Shakespeare’s day. Under his leadership the pub became well-known for ringing up pounds, shillings and pence until 2008, a full thirty-seven years after the rest of the UK had switched to decimal currency. The pub is packed full of other period details, including gas lights, the original bar, old photography, and coal fires that burn continuously throughout the winter.
Crawford led the venue for thirty-five years, establishing it as a breeding ground for new talent and great work. The walls of the pub display the multitude of famous faces that began their career there, among them Hugh Grant, Steven Berkoff and Alan Rickman, and today boasts Joanna Lumley and Tom Stoppard as patrons. In 2010, Olivier Award-winning UpClose Productions became the theatre’s resident company, and Adam Spreadbury-Maher was appointed the venue’s second Artistic Director.
At the start of 2015 the third chapter of the King’s Head Theatre began as the Theatre celebrated its 45th anniversary.
115 Upper Street, London N1,1QN
Little Angel Theatre
In 1961 a troupe of enthusiastic puppeteers under the leadership of South African master, John Wright, found a derelict temperance hall in Islington and transformed it into a magical little theatre, specially designed for children and for the presentation of marionette shows. Little Angel Theatre opened on Saturday 24th November, 1961. In 2011 we celebrated our 50th anniversary.
Over the next 30 years, the Little Angel company created and performed over 30 full-scale shows. They toured all over the UK and abroad, absorbed new styles by participating in International puppet festivals (including Europe, USA and the Far East), collaborated with musicians (including Daniel Barenboim and Robert Zeilger) on large-scale productions for the South Bank and Barbican Centres, and provided a constant source of inspiration and training for a new generation of puppeteers and performers. Those in the know still find their way to Dagmar Passage from all over the world.
After John Wright died in 1991, the work of the theatre continued apace under the direction of Lyndie Wright and Christopher Leith, a renowned puppeteer who had learned his craft at Little Angel. They encouraged new collaborations with writers, directors and musicians, including John Agard, Ken Campbell, Howard Gayton and Henk Shut, to produce a succession of innovative and highly acclaimed shows.
Little Angel Theatre continues to command international respect for the artistic quality of its productions, and is dearly loved by children and adults alike. At the close of 2014 Little Angel Theatre opened Little Angel Studios; an invaluable hub for creativity, education and professional development, just a moment’s walk from the theatre.
Little Angel Theatre, 14 Dagmar Passage, London N1 2DN
Le Mercury has been open for nearly 30 years now and has a very loyal Islingtonian customer following. Le Mercury provides its customer with a great atmosphere with it’s simple and bright decor for lunch time pop ins and business meetings to a romantic candlelit evening experience where the atmosphere buzzes with a full restaurant. However you see Le Mercury, in the most basic sense, its aim is to serve amazing French bistro style food at great prices.
Naturally, it’s had its fair share of plaudits over the years. According to foodie website Square Meal: “‘Perfectly executed French food at incredible prices’ is the satisfied report from one of many customers who have frequented this unpretentious bistro since 1985. Though a little worn around the edges, the ground floor dining room with its terracotta flooring and intimate tables for two retains a faded romance, and is the top pick of rooms on three ascending levels. Those unbelievably low prices are £4.45 for starters, £9.95 for mains and £3.45 for desserts. You don’t have to eat like a peasant either; dine in royal style on crayfish and lobster ravioli with spinach and shellfish sauce, followed by roast saddle of lamb with grilled courgettes and rosemary jus, then crème brûlée or ripe French cheeses. Les vins blancs et rouges are an international affair, and to finish there’s a generous selection of liqueur coffees.”
We love it!
140A Upper Street, London, NI 1QY
Victoria Miro Gallery
Victoria Miro first opened her gallery in Cork Street, Mayfair in 1985. The gallery quickly earned acclaim for showing the work of established and emerging artists from around the world. In 2000 Miro relocated her gallery to a sensitively converted, 8,000-square-foot former furniture factory situated between Hoxton and Islington. In October 2006 the gallery expanded further by opening a second exhibition and viewing space in an adjoining building on Wharf Road.
The new space, conceived by Claudio Silvestrin Architects and executed by the project architects Michael Drain Architects, comprises galleries and viewing rooms. It sits atop a refurbished Victorian building, its sculptural, minimalist form creating a dramatic approach to the building from the street. Illuminating the south façade through its six-metre-high windows is Ian Hamilton Finlay’s elegiac neon installation, The Seas Leaves the Strawberries Waves (1990). Works specially conceived for the space include Grayson Perry’s fifteen-metre-long The Walthamstow Tapestry, 2009.
The gallery is almost unique in London for having its own garden, a beautiful landscaped area overlooking a restored stretch of the Regent’s Canal at Wenlock Basin, which has been used to great effect for installations by gallery artists such as Yayoi Kusama and Alex Hartley (A Gentle Collapsing II, 2016).
The gallery ethos remains consistent: to promote great and innovative artists and to nurture the best talent from the new generation of artists around the world.
16 Wharf Road, London N1 7RW
Since the 1950’s Camden Passage ranked alongside Portobello, Kensington Church Street and Spitalfields as one of London’s leading antique locations, in later years the area has diversified with many new shops, restaurants, cafes and market stalls. Camden Passage, Islington should not be confused with Camden Market or Camden Lock, which is in the neighbouring borough of Camden.
Within Camden Passage you can find fashionable contemporary clothing, modern designer jewellery, Japanese art prints, handmade chocolates, specialist delicatessens, a fishmonger and excellent restaurants and cafes. Together all rubbing shoulders with the world famous specialist antique, silver ware, vintage clothing and retro shops which provide the backdrop for market stalls selling affordable collectables, ephemera, vintage clothes and objets d’art that find their way into antique shops and homes all over the world.
On the outdoor markets the traders work hard to find interesting pieces, and it is often at market level that new trends for collectables develop. There is a rich source of inspiration in the Passage, it’s an exciting place to explore.
Visitors to Camden Passage have included Gilbert and George, Will Young, Emma Watson, Kate Moss, Billie Piper, Barbra Streisand and Rod Stewart to name a few. Camden Passage has made regular appearances on ‘Cash in the Attic’, ‘Bargain Hunt’ and many other TV programmes both here and abroad.
Although this corner of islington is delightful and interesting, it also has a vibrancy that makes Camden Passage an interesting place to search out an unusal gift, find fine antiques and furniture, 20th Century design, period and costume jewellery, contemporary and vintage clothing and affordable stylish objects for the home. You will find Camden Passage a delightful location in which to spend the day.
Camden Passage, London N1 8EA