New Beacon Books

New Beacon Books: shop front

When I moved into Stroud Green 22 years ago I often popped into New Beacon Books to buy books by African, Caribbean and Asian writers. So I was so glad to attend the re-launch of the shop on Saturday 7th October.

New Beacon Books has been in Stroud Green since 1966, set up as a Black publishing company by John La Rose and Sarah White. Later, in 1973, it was established as a bookshop with the aim of encouraging Black writers and to sell books by Black writers, sadly lacking in other bookshops. John and Sarah were active campaigners in the educational field aiming in particular to address the negative stereotyping of Black schoolchildren. John La Rose also established the George Padmore Institute, an archive, educational resource and research centre of materials relating to the Black community of Caribbean, African and Asian descent in Britain and continental Europe. It holds educational and cultural activities, including talks and readings, and also makes its archives accessible to the general public.

The growth of ebooks over the past few years meant that sales of books decreased, leading to an insecure future for New Beacon Books. However, John La Rose’s grandson, Ronaldo, and his family launched a ‘gofundme’ campaign to raise money for a refurbishment, quickly exceeding the target of £10,000.

Today the bookshop is light and airy with space for a small coffee bar and a meeting place at the back.

Coffee and juice bar
Inside the bookshop: Sarah White speaking

It’s also colourful with paintings of Black women on the ceiling.

Ceiling painting

I went to the launch with one of our councillors, Kirsten Hearn, and we also bumped into Catherine West, our MP. There were speeches by Ronaldo La Rose and Sarah White as well as those who have been supporters of the bookshop for years: Professor Gus John and MPs Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbot.

Jeremy Corbyn, MP
Diane Abbot, MP

Gus John spoke movingly about how important it was to give positive images to Black schoolchildren. Do read his informative lecture, given at the British Library in December of last year, in which he celebrates 50 years of New Beacon Books.

New Beacon Books is open Tuesday to Saturday 11 am to 6 pm; Thursday 11 am to 8 pm


Summer of Love Local

I had second thoughts about writing this post about last Saturday’s celebration of Stroud Green Road. There were lots of celebrations in the area, what with this Stroud Green Day and also various events to celebrate Jo Cox’s Great Get Together. And then on Sunday – the terrorist attack on worshippers at Finsbury Park Mosque and Muslim Welfare House. But I thought I would talk about the event as a way of showing a strong sense of community spirit.

I followed a shop trail of 21 shops and pubs. First off I visited The White Lion to collect my map and to visit Kiran Sidiki’s jewellery stall.

Kiran Sidiki with her jewellery display

I backtracked to Vittorio’s Deli to chat to Michele. It wasn’t quite lunch time, so I didn’t indulge but I often do. Among my favourites are the arancini, the salads, and of course the Italian cheeses.  A great recent addition to our street.

Michele at Vittorio’s Deli

Then southwards to Boulangerie Bon Matin at Tollington Park. Tempted I was with the glorious selection of cakes, I held off for the time being, but the place is a good one for coffee and cake, as you can see.

Window display of Boulangerie Bon Matin

Next was the estate agent Davies and Davies, from where I bought my flat 21 years ago! This used to be some kind of men’swear shop I think and the display cabinets are still there at the back of the shop. I chatted for a while, extolling the virtues of my flat and garden and learned that they do a lot for the community, in particular sponsoring Pedal Power, which I featured on one my posts a few weeks ago.

Not being a beer drinker I’d never visited Clapton Craft, a recent addition to the street with every imaginable craft beer on its shelves, and beer on tap to boot. I’d thought it was just beer from a local micro brewery, but no – Martyn, the manager told me that he sourced the beer from all over and there are several other branches in London. And there’s even wine at the back for us wine drinkers.

Martyn of Clapton Craft

Then to Pretty Shiny Shop.  Again this is a fairly new shop selling all kinds of gifts including bags, scarves, cards, candles.  I must admit to being a bag lady myself and so just before Christmas I purchased an all purpose black shoulder bag with many compartments.  Usually I switch my bags for the occasion but the last winter I was mostly seen with my black bag.

Bag display at Pretty Shiny Shop

One of the most intriguing and specialist shops on the street is Top Balloon.  I spoke to John, the manager there and Caroline, his assistant. They sell balloons for all occasions,: foil, latex, message balloons, glitter balloons, bubble balloons.

John and Caroline with their balloons

Now it really was lunch time, so I went to another favourite, the Deli at 80. Brigitte, a local neighbour, set this up a couple of years ago and it’s been a success with a range of deli goods, excellently kept cheeses as well as sandwiches, cakes, coffee and other drinks to eat in or take away.  If you’re quick on the uptake there’s usually Portuguese pasteis de nata but they sell out fast. I ordered a salmon and cream cheese sandwich and sat outside in the sun to enjoy it. I watched a pop-up tarot reader and her client engrossed in conversation (I couldn’t hear them though).

Wares displayed at the Deli at 80

Somewhat refreshed, although this was a VERY hot day, I popped in next door to Snow White Dry Cleaners for a chat.  Here there was a very satisfied customer who comes all the way from King’s Cross for her cleaning, a good recommendation I thought. The manager was chatty.  I thought I would give it a go sometime as I have some clothes alterations to be done.

From there I went into Mosey Home, selling mid 20th century items.  It also had a display of pretty hangers by Studio GBD.

Hanger by Studio GBD

Across the road I visited Stefan Alexander, a designer clothes sample shop.  It’s been here longer than I have, so it’s quite an institution.

Stefan Alexander, designer samples

On the corner of Stroud Green and Lennox Roads is a large Crisis shop where I stopped to chat to the volunteers.  Here’s a photo of me in a wig and heart-shaped glasses! The shop is large and well set out with a range of clothes and  household items. They urgently require donations of clothing, shoes, bags, belts, jewellery, homeward, books, DVDs, CDs and Vinyl.

Me dressed up by a volunteer!

Round the corner is the John Jones Arts Building where I attended a talk by Barry Venning of the Arts Society who spoke about the making of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album in 1967. There were about three of us in the audience who remembered its release but the younger audience was captivated.

Next I visited the new Walnut restaurant.  The summer spritzes looked good to me. It’s only just opened but the lunch and dinner menus look enticing. So that’s one to try soon.

Wines at Walnut

Now I really did need a bit of rest so I claimed my free drink (for visiting at least ten shops on the trail) at my very favourite restaurant La Fabrica. I’ve been a patron since it opened a few years ago and it’s never disappointed.  I had a little glass of something cool and rested.

Alejandro serving me at La Fabrica

In came Ensemble Moliere, a relatively new music ensemble specialising in Baroque music.  They played a selection from their upcoming performance of Rameau’s little opera, Pygmalion which was great fun.  I lingered a while, ordering a plate of Spanish cheeses for sustenance.

Refreshed, I ploughed on back up to the Stapleton Hall Road end of the street to visit the last stop of the day: the Aladdin’s cave that is X-it. Always bright with lanterns you go in and there are cards, candles, mugs, but its real speciality is in fireworks.  I bought a set of indoor fireworks for last year’s New Year party.  Thoroughly recommended!

Nicos and his wares at X-it

Well, what a day! I was exhausted after that, but what a great way to celebrate our lovely street.

Crouch End Festival

The Crouch End Festival is in full swing running from 9th to 18th June. We decided to make a morning of it on Saturday 10th. First up was a lovely pop-up concert at Hornsey Library with an all-women trio: two singers and lute playing the most exquisite Dowland songs. Attendance was good and the acoustics excellent. This was organised by Clare Norburn of the Stroud Green Festival (yes we have festivals galore this week!).

I love our brutalist designed Hornsey Library with its canopy and the fountain in the forecourt. The woman in the fountain was decorated with Festival banners.

Lady in the Fountain: Hornsey Library

Next was the fair on the green outside Hornsey Town Hall. Food and drink stalls were there, and information stalls too. My very favourite group, the Friends of Parkland Walk were showcasing the Wildlife Trail, about which I’ve written before. And the baking women of Stroud Green Women’s Institute were selling their cakes. I’d brought an empty box so was able to buy three cakes: pear and almond, bakewell tart – and an incredible gluten free cake with lots of fruit and rum – courtesy of Georgina, of From the Larder.

Stroud Green Women’s Institute and their cakes

I visited Virle Archer’s glass stall. I’ve known Virle, a local stained-glass artist, for some time since I commissioned her to design and install two small glass panes with a leaf design for the top of my kitchen windows. She also sells lovely glass jewellery. I love her earrings that twinkle in the light and change colour as you move your head.

Virle Archer and her stall

We then headed into Hornsey Town Hall for the Craft Fair. Lots of stalls selling jewellery, scarves, dresses, toys, candles and even cactus in this art deco hall.

I was tempted by some lovely chunky silver and zinc jewellery and my friend persuaded me to buy a bracelet for a very reasonable price.

My companion was attracted by a stall of silk scarves and took a card while I looked at Maria Cabrera’s stall. A native of Colombia, Maria also is interested in Japanese glazing techniques as she studied in Nagoya on a six month scholarship. I’ve bought her mugs before and think her colours and delicate designs lovely.

Well, we were tired after all this shopping and retired for a well earned coffee to Broadway’s new Crouch End Cellars which has an open courtyard at the back (more of this in another blog).

I look forward to participating in further events at the Festival in the coming week. Do check out the programme and come along!

Met’s Gents Hair Salon

When my hair began to fall out in the shower after my first bout of chemotherapy I took myself off to Met’s Hair Salon to get my head shaved. I thought it would be less distressing than having hair fall out in clumps over a period of several weeks. That’s when I met Metin, who’s from Gaziantep in south east Turkey. He bought the Stroud Green business eleven years ago from a Greek couple who were retiring. He’s assisted by Ali who is learning the trade.

Metin has been a barber for twenty years, first training in Turkey.

“I love my job,” he says with a smile. “I like the mixed community here in Stroud Green. You get educated with people’s different opinions and views.”

I ask him what he likes best about talking to people and he admitts he loves to discuss football. I’m glad he’s an Arsenal supporter, as am I!

I wonder whether he gets many women in the shop and he says he has quite a few female customers, partly because of the price and partly because he knows how to cut short hairstyles. “These days many women like short hair whereas the men are going for longer cuts,” says Metin.

To attract more customers, Metin wants to install a video screen in the window where he would play different demonstrations of his trade: cutting, hot towelling, shaving.

Met’s, which is open from 9 am till 7.30 pm six days a week, offers many services – from the usual short back and sides, colour, wet shave, and head and shoulder massage. As I spend a lot of time hunched over my computer I ask if he’d demonstrate a shoulder massage. Metin chooses a brush shaped like a fish to massage my shoulders which felt a lot more flexible after five minutes.

Since my first shave two years ago my hair has grown back but I keep it short and continue to go to Met’s.

First cut after finishing chemo
Shop interior
In the barber’s chair