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upper street, yinka ilori, the street that changed my life
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Designer Yinka Ilori on growing up in Islington

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

Isabelle Aron
Written by
Isabelle Aron

‘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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