Five minutes with Nicola Baird
Nicola Baird is the founder and writer of local blog Islington Faces. She’s interviewed hundreds of local people and is passionate about the rich mix of people and things to do that the Islington has to offer. We decided to turn the tables on Nicola and ask her the questions for once!
What first brought you to Islington and which part of the borough do you call home?
I left university and started renting a flat with a friend in Highbury back in 1986. Now I’m based in Finsbury Park.
When did you set up Islington Faces and why?
I’ve been a journalist for a long time but trying to sell interviews with characters, rather than celebrities, has become almost impossible. After interviewing an amazing old horseman, Ron Pace, I decided to publish it myself on a blogsite. Islington Faces began in 2012 and I try to publish a new interview once a week, so there are now 188+ interviews. I have a very special Islingtonian lined up for the 200th interview. I wonder if you can guess who it is?
How do you decide who would make an interesting interviewee?
Everyone has a story – you just have to ask the right questions about their experiences of living or working in Islington.
Any local characters that particularly stand out from over the years?
The person I’ve just published is always my favourite – recent posts include a fairy, flirt coach and a landscape gardener. I learn so much from people’s stories about life in Islington – it’s such a mixed community so there’s a lot to be curious about.
Highlights include the teenager who saw the Beatles play live; the history-lover who turned into a house detective; the Bangladeshi granny who came here in the 1970s to get married…and Charles Baron who was born here in 1920, grew up around Angel, and met me in 2015 for a cuppa after Sunday lunch at the Highbury Barn pub. Suggestions are always welcome.
How would you describe Islington in three words?
It’s my home!
If you were advising a new visitor to the borough, what would you recommend they do and see?
Whoever you are, and whatever you look like, Islington will be home to someone like you, so settle in and find your clique. Whoever you are be sure to try eating at the Algerian and Ethiopian cafes on Blackstock Road; Instagramming blooming tree pits and exploring the area via the 19, 4 and 210 bus routes. Taking a Sunday cycle ride is a good way to discover Islington’s numerous small green spaces.
Favourite Islington café or restaurant?
Wittles and Blighty, both on Blackstock Road, are my favourite cafes. I’m also very fond of the King’s Head theatre pub on Upper Street which hosted Islington Faces Live to celebrate the 100th published interview.
Favourite Islington shop?
Arsenal Food & Wine run by Ozzy (by the Ambler Road, Blackstock Road junction) because he stocks everything, is open most of the time and the staff are lovely.
Perfect way to spend a summer’s day in the borough?
Street parties are fun, and so are picnics at Oasis Café on Highbury Fields or in Gillespie Park. But I also love walking around my neighbourhood enjoying spontaneous chats and sometimes even swapping vegetable garden gluts.
You can read all of Nicola’s Islington Faces blogs here. If you’d like to nominate someone to be interviewed by Nicola, who grew up, lives or works in Islington, or suggest yourself, let her know via firstname.lastname@example.org.