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upper street, yinka ilori, the street that changed my life
Image: Time Out

Designer Yinka Ilori on growing up in Islington

The artist and designer reminisces about design shops and wild nights in N1

Written by
Isabelle Aron
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‘Most of my adolescent life was spent on Upper Street: working, eating, socialising. I loved how multicultural and vibrant it was. I used to go to a bar called Pitcher & Piano that had a really good DJ who would play R&B, hip hop and afrobeats on a Friday and Saturday. I grew up in a huge council estate and everyone from the estate would go down and fill it out every weekend.

‘There are also some really nice design shops in the area that I would always pop into for inspiration when I was trying to become a designer – places like Aria and TwentyTwentyOne. When I was growing up, there was such a community there: people really cared who visited their shops and made an effort to remember you.

‘Obviously, it has changed a lot since I was 16 – it’s a bit more bougie now – but it’s a place I’ve brought with me into adulthood. I’d love to do a mural or public installation on Upper Street, to give something back to the area, because it really shaped my experiences and my outlook. It shaped my work too: my art is very much about community, a sense of belonging and celebrating the power of multiculturalism in London.’ 

Read more from this series:

Yotam Ottolenghi reminisces about his training at Le Cordon Bleu in Marylebone.

Dane Baptiste on his first stand-up gig, in a London wine bar.

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