Islington: Setting and Backdrop

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The streets of Islington are bustling with commuters, shoppers and the general public living out the acts of their everyday lives. We often walk the streets of London, with iPods screwed into our ears, nonchalantly directing ourselves to our next destination. The place that we spend most of our time is usually the place we most overlook. It is easily done.

It is always interesting to pinpoint film or cultural references which relate to the area in which we reside. Last year it was reported that the next instalment to Christopher Nolan’s immensely popular Batman films – The Dark Knight Rises – features scenes which were shot in St John Street, situated in Islington. The set included US police cars and SWAT vans, with a nearby building disguised as Gotham City Police Station. St John Street has a vast variety of architecture, with buildings dating back centuries – presumably why the street was used, to give the film its gothic ‘Gotham City’ effect. David Cronenberg’s crime-thriller Eastern Promises and Guy Ritchie’s Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels also contain scenes which were shot in St John Street.

S&M/Alfredo's by Fin Fahey

Movie memorabilia collector and Islington local, Frederick Erickson, shows a keen interest in the cinematic events which take place in his community. He said: “I like to acknowledge the films and literature that use the streets of London, and in particular Islington, as the location to a story. A film’s setting can be used as the skeleton to the narrative piece – it can hold it together. I’m proud Islington has been used in a few feature films. I just wish there was a building in Islington which could be as historically significant as something like Johnie’s Coffee Shop in LA.” (Johnie’s Coffee Restaurant was featured in such classics as Reservoir Dogs, American History X and The Big Lebowski).

Islington – a far cry from being akin to the star-studded streets of Los Angeles – has left its own footprint in the film world. Two of Nick Hornby’s novels: About a Boy and SLAM are set in Islington. About a Boy was later adapted into a film, starring Hugh Grant and Nicholas Hoult. Mods-vs-rockers, cult classic Quadrophenia features a scene which involves protagonist Jimmy and his friends messing around in Alfredo’s (the S&M café) in Essex Road. The same cafe is also used as Luigi’s in Jezz Butterworth’s adaptation of Mojo.

There is an extensive list of motion pictures which are linked to or have been conceived in the Borough of Islington. You may not have an affinity with the place, nor given it a moment of thought, however it can surely be recognised as a locus of cinematic importance.

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