The Local Arts Nights


You know how it is. If you want something to happen, organise it yourself. Even if it is an ambitious concoction of culture, chat PLUS the necessity of people paying tickets for entry.  And thus it was, when I was trying to be interested during football practise in Thornhill Square one night that I bumped into my neighbour Jeff.“Come on then Millard! Let’s go to the Cauldron!” he said. I had no excuse. Did I really feel like dragging myself into the Hemingford Arms for a night of Renaissance lute music and beer? If I have to be honest, no.

The Cauldron is the brainchild of writer Rebecca Stott  who recently moved into the area and thought it needed enlivening. She has a point. Bar the monthly Mexican guitar experience down at Shrimpy’s, illustrated here, and the  Second South Islington Brownies, which admittedly is somewhat niche, the only regular evening cultural activity in this precise area is Taikwondo beneath the library.

And so Jeff and I paid our £5 admission fee, for an evening themed around the Italian Renaissance. First, lutenist Andrew Wadsworth played exquisite Baroque music  on a lute which seemed to have come out of Gulliver’s Travels as it had a seven-foot long fretboard.

Then novelist Sarah Dunant  gave an electrifying reading and chat with Stott on her new novel Blood and Beauty, an extremely sexy and exciting romp around the dastardly Borgias. This was a serious scoop; Dunant was at the Cauldron before her book had even been reviewed in the nationals (which it subsequently has been, very well).  She was the perfect guest; informed, funny and absolutely impassioned about the glories of historical fiction. And Hilary Mantel.

The other rather wonderful thing about the night was that, like a mild summer’s eve  which brings out rare birds in search of even rarer moths, it encouraged the presence of people I had almost forgotten lived around here. People in sandals, and not Prada ones. In fact, nobody with anything by Prada, not even a bag. Nobody with a Mulberry bag either. People with beards. People who had moved into Islington long before the hideous notion of ‘gentrification’.

Next day I happened to be at the BBC. Guess who I saw going upstairs to appear on Radio 4? Yep. Sarah Dunant. But we had her first, I felt like saying to her producer. Na na nee na na.

Only around seventy people can fit into the upstairs room at the Hemingford Arms. So if you want to go to the next one (it’s on the last Monday of every month at 7.30pm), visit the and book in.


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