George Sallis as Pierre in Nabokov’s ‘Invitation to a Beheading’, 2009

We don’t make a habit of upsetting folk here at The Kentishtowner, but one local whose nose was put out of joint the other week was George Sallis, artistic director of Giant Olive Theatre Company. Yes, you may remember he was the one who, in the Camden New Journal, declared Kentish Town was “up and coming” on account of the new branches of Pret and Costa Coffee.

How we howled! But, this week the story took a twist when Mr Sallis revealed to us he was misquoted by a reporter with what he mysteriously termed “an unfortunate habit” (make of that what you will).

“[The quote] was to demonstrate how the larger branded organisations now see Kentish Town as an opportunity,” he explained here (initially, perhaps, a little irate). “We’ve always known about the hidden gems; I’ve been running one for three years.”

Fair point. Mrs Kentishtowner, however – who is harder to please than viral mother-in-law Carolyn Bourne – remained unconvinced.

“Give us your top 5 places in NW5 then,” she snapped, arms folded, brow furrowed, “and we’ll be the judges of whether they’re hidden bloody gems or not.”

So what else could the poor man do? Over to you, George:

#1) Giant Olive at The Lion & Unicorn Theatre, Gaisford Street

“What else could be my number 1? Of course I may be accused of being biased, but after being closed for over four months while the pub was being refurbished, it’s great to be back. We have 200 performances scheduled so far this year, from Shakespeare in French during bastille week, two weeks of Edinburgh Comedy previews from some of this year’s finest to a four month celebration of international woman playwrights, performers and directors. Now it’s time to start planning the Christmas show. It’s relentless work but incredibly worth it when you find that gem. Book your tickets now!”

#2) Map Café, Grafton Road

“Great atmosphere, lovely people, fantastic home cooked food, bright colours and live music; Map café is a rare treat. I recently saw ‘Lovesong’ at Map, an honest and intimate performance treat from soul singer Omar, written and directed by Che Walker. Coincidently, J T Coachworks was founded in the early 1950’s by one of my uncles and still resides at number 102a Grafton Road.”

#3) The Greek Orthodox Cathedral of St Andrew, Kentish Town Road

“My grandfather moved from St Andrew’s in Cyprus to Kentish Town in the 1950’s and opened up George’s Café in York Way where it stood for over 50 years. He lived in Rochester Terrace which is a stone’s throw away from the Cathedral of St Andrew on Kentish Town Road, quite ironic really. Over the years a number of important family events have taken place here but perhaps the most fitting to mention is the christening of my Uncle John, who started the myth of the Giant Olive which has helped to forge my own Kentish Town destiny. Whether you’re religious or not, you can’t deny the remarkable architecture of this building and the stunning imagery inside; it’s a very peaceful retreat from the outside world.”

#4) The Southampton Arms

“The Southampton Arms is right next door to where I had my first Saturday job when I was 15; my family has owned M & A Coachworks for 41 years. Of course, back then it was just a shabby pub. But now, it’s well worth a visit up the hill for some real ale and a bap whilst visiting my family and friends next door.”

#5) Bintang, Kentish Town Road

“The thing you’ve got to love about Bintang is that the food tastes really good. Thai, Malaysian, fusion cooking on a budget. I went the other night with a really nice bottle of wine (it’s BYO), sat outside in the garden and ate to the sound of reggae being played from the next door neighbours’ back garden.”

Well, as you can imagine after such a fine peacock-like display of both family history and local insight in equal measures, Mrs Kentishtowner has beat a hasty retreat, a lioness with a sore paw. Let’s face it, the man’s roots in the manor go back way further than mine, hers, and probably most of yours.

So the moral of the saga? It’s good to talk, it’s bad to misquote, it’s even better to support the arts: and with that in mind, George, we for one will be checking out your theatre pretty damn soon.

More info here and here.

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