“Stoke Newington has that village feel with the cool influence of still being in Hackney,” enthuses Nikki Neate, Channel 4’s group publicity manager of comedy and entertainment. “Yes it’s family friendly but it doesn’t feel too grown-up and proper. It’s a walk from Islington and a few train stops from Westfield.”
Residents include writer Iain Sinclair, comedian Stewart Lee and actor Charlie Creed-Miles. “And there are lots of illustrators around here,” says Anna Billson, art director at Penguin Children’s Books. Small studio spaces are plentiful and relatively cheap. “And I think it helps community spirit that people want to get out and meet up in neighbourhood cafés.”
The village-style Newington Green has Belle Epoque, “the best French café in London” according to many, and Stoke Newington Church Street is full of independent shops, bakeries and pubs.
Fashion boutique Hub — which stocks Acne skinny jeans, See by Chloé and Sonia by Sonia Rykiel — has two branches there. Nook sells beautifully designed gifts, and Ashlyn Gibson, former Red or Dead creative director, set up N16’s award-winning family shop Olive Loves Alfie. “People really support the local shops,” says Billson. “I even have a milkman who comes round in a float.”
West of the Green is Clissold Park, with its ornamental lakes and Grade II-listed mansion, Clissold House, where the café has had an £8.9 million revamp. And don’t miss Abney Park, one of the “magnificent seven” garden cemeteries of London, now a nature reserve and where Amy Winehouse’s classic Back to Black video was filmed.
There’s a farmers’ market, a literary festival and a lively branch of the WI. Residents have so far fought off a Sainsbury’s branch, and the local Nando’s has a discreet black frontage. There’s even a Banksy on The Lion pub. Newington Green Action Group organises planting schedules and community events including summer fairs and the annual Jazz on the Green festival, and there’s a café just for young families, That Place On The Corner.
The Unitarian Church in Newington Green is a hub for believers and non-believers alike. The US-born minister, Rev Andy Pakula, says: “Stoke Newington really is a village — though there are multiple communities because it’s very diverse, from yuppies to a strong Turkish community.”
There are some fine Georgian houses on the main roads and overlooking Stoke Newington Common, but Stokey, as it is known by locals, isn’t set in aspic. In June 2013 the minimalist, steel-panelled photographic business, Waddington Studios, opened in Church Walk, designed by award-winning architects Featherstone Young.
A one-bedroom flat, with or without outside space, costs £300,000 to £370,000. Ex-council flats sell for about £250,000. A grand, two-bedroom garden flat in a Victorian conversion in Osterley Road, just off Church Street, was recently on the market for £550,000. You can get a four-bedroom Victorian house on a quiet residential street south of Church Street for £900,000.
Mature buyers stay around “the village” but the younger generation head for the grittier Stoke Newington High Street, which runs down to Dalston. It’s where new bars and vintage shops are opening up, such as cocktail bar Fifty5 and bricolage shop Flying Goats. There are Afro beat nights at Pelicans & Parrots, and an acclaimed new French bistro, Oui Madame, from the guys at Favela Chic.
Locals say Stokey is bohemian but gritty and stress its lively, countercultural aspect. “It dares to be different in an increasingly conformist society,” says Guardian journalist Anthony Paley. “Where else in London could I go to a church which welcomes atheists; browse independent shops such as The Film Shop in Church Street where I can find art house movies, and sip genuine Dublin Guinness in bars such as the Auld Shillelagh?