The Inimitable Ms. Ashley Grey
Written by: Violet Myers
“All this talk of Gary Kemp and I’ve strangely gone back to my 1980’s self,” says Ashley Grey, the Community Outreach Officer at Arts and Media School Islington, a school that’s rapidly gaining a reputation for its talented students and increasingly excellent GCSE results. This is a school that was once upon a time one of the poorest schools in the country, with only 5% of students achieving 5 GCSEs at grade A*-C. The school then gained notoriety as the subject of a BBC fly-on-wall style documentary, which revealed it to be underfunded and poorly equipped.
But that was 16 years ago and boy have things changed. Due to its genuinely passionate staff, hands-on parents and the steerage of headteacher Diana Osagie, the school has come a long way and it’s not looking back either. With some seriously talented students, Ofsted reports showing that the school is within the top 40% in the country for its core subjects and a real emphasis on aiming high, this school means business… with added jazz hands.
Ashley is a ball of energy, fiercely determined to help the school she loves and earnest in her endeavours. It’s her mission to get as much of the community involved with the school as possible, to establish partnerships and raise funds – a difficult endeavour for state-supported schools. She understands how to build relationships, a crucial part of creating a successful fundraising and awareness initiative. Ashley is the co-organiser (alongside The Telegraph’s resident Music Critic Neil McCormick) of their upcoming event ‘Up Close and Personal with Gary Kemp’, the proceeds of which will go directly to the school.
We spoke to Ashley about her life as a North Londoner, her fondness for Spandau Ballet and the school that she has dedicated herself to.
She laughs, fondly recalling the days when Gary Kemp and his band Spandau Ballet ruled the airwaves. She’s refreshingly lively, passionate about her job and certainly not the kind of person you would expect to find working in a school, but then again this is no ordinary school.
“I mean the current situation with the curriculum is that we should be sitting kids in classrooms and not doing anything creative. But our young people respond really well to the arts that we do, it seems to make them well rounded and appreciative of culture.”
Their focus on the arts appears to be working, with talents such as Jermaine Jackman, winner of The Voice 2014, and Kaya Scodelario of Skins fame, counting themselves as proud members of their alumni. Other former students, including those who have reached the heady heights of the university world by getting into Cambridge, happily return to the school that helped them so much, in the hopes of inspiring other kids to continue their education.
Up Close and Personal with Gary Kemp is the first in a series of celebrity interviews. With the help of Neil McCormick, renowned music journalist, whose son is in Year Seven at the school, AMSI’s corridors are about to be filled with famous faces.
“…Those opportunities don’t come around very often and we’re very grateful, we want it to be a success!” Adds Ashley, who’s not only an ex-punk with some new romantic tendencies (she still loves The Clash and happily treats us to her own rendition of Spandau Ballet’s ‘Gold’ while we chat), but is also tirelessly working to make sure the school is getting the community support it needs and deserves. She recently managed to secure some funding from local estate agents Davies & Davies, which will go directly towards paying for a student to attend a school trip to Barcelona with their classmates. Without this sort of support from the local community, that student wouldn’t have been able to go on the trip. It’s potentially life changing stuff.
“70% of our students are on free school meals, so what’s very important to us is that they not only have a good education but also a good life experience whilst they’re at school. We want them to be able to access London’s opportunities. The money raised from these sorts of events will help us to send them on trips and experience new activities that they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to experience before.”
The night will be an excellent opportunity for fans to throw on a ruffled shirt, re-live those magical hair-sprayed days of the 80’s and learn more about their favourite new romantic hunk. All of this whilst raising funds for a fantastic school, who may very well have the next musical superstar within their walls. Watch out Gary, there’s a new generation coming and they’ve got synthesisers!
Up Close And Personal With Gary Kemp
Thursday May 26th, 7.30pm
Taking place in the intimate Barton Theatre
(Arts & Media School Islington, Turle Road, Finsbury Park, London)
Tickets available here
North Four are chuffed to be the media partners of Up Close and Personal and are proud supporters of the Arts and Media School Islington. Now go buy some tickets!
Currently showing at Camden People’s Theatre, performance artist Tom Marshman’s play Kings Cross (Remix) is a glorious celebration of a bygone era. The show is a tightly crafted journey through the stories of some of the people who made up the 1980s Kings Cross LGBTQ scene. Bursting with warmth, charm and affection, the play is a must see for anyone interested in learning more about London’s alternative history.
The Londoner behind 'Strong and Stable My Arse'. It’s a simple message. A slogan that’s straight to the point. 'Strong and Stable My Arse’ is a statement everyone can understand with a wry grin as they spot it slathered onto billboards, phone boxes and brick walls around the UK. So who could possibly be behind such a simple, cheeky, dig in the ribs campaign? Someone who knows his audience, who knows the mindset of the British like the back of his left hand.
For some, a second bank holiday brings with it an extra day of anxiety as you wonder how to fill the 24 hour void that desk bound coffee fuelled typing usually fills. If you’re not content to lie horizontal letting gravity slide pizza down your throat, here’s our plans for your second Bank Holiday of the month.
“Only last night I found myself lost / by the station called King's Cross. / Dead and wounded on either side / you know it's only a matter of time.” [Pet Shop Boys - Kings Cross] It’s the night after the play and I’m standing at the bar of ‘The Big Chill House’ on Pentonville Road in Kings Cross. It’s ‘Throwback Thursday’ (#TBT) and happy hour is definitely over.
Ceramics with charisma. Local pottery genius, Laura Bird has of course graced the digital pages of It’s Nice That, sold out in Anthropologie* and taken her seat at many a London ceramics stall since just recently starting her career in ceramics. It’s no surprise she is well loved: her unique and gentle humour exudes from every jar, planter and candlestick holder, adorned with cheeky expressions and impish grins.
Having worked in hospitality with a keen artist’s eye, the Arts Building knew Emma was perfect to take over the space. They were after a morning to night eatery for the neighbourhood, one for local residents and workers alike. Knowing the street’s reputation as a bit of a foodie strip, the menu had to be up to scratch for it’s discerning super-taster of a community. Yes, we’re a hungry bunch in Stroud Green.
At the time of writing this the menu has just been released for Food by Feast’s new supper club. I imagine, however, that by the time you read this every dining space will be swiftly filled. If you aren’t acquainted with the duo yet (tsk), they’re the genius collaboration of Cordon Bleu chef and food writer Olivia Potts and Guardian food writer and cook, Kate Young. Having successfully completed the likes of a Gilmore Girls supper club to rapturous applause and smacking lips recently, the latest menu experience is Twin Peaks inspired and looks equally witty and delectable.
Sound healing in Stoke Newington. This Thursday 18th May, The Mystery School of Sound are running a de-stress gong bath experience in Stoke Newington Ramadan Mosque. Alongside guided meditation, healing process and gong performace, you’ll get a mini intro to healing traditions of the druids and hermetic teaching.
Patron Cave a Manger’s pop up cinema are shacking up at The Rose and Crown in Kentish Town to screen The Artist. Soak up the atmoshpere of the Festival du Cannes with swanky popcorn and elegant cocktails. Get red carpet ready for this special screening of The Artist - the ridiculously popular award winning silent French film that everyone fell in love with.
Unfortunately rising rents are affecting community spaces in Stoke Newington and their availability. St Mary’s Centre currently provides a space for projects including the Foodbank, Hackney Migrants centre and the Night Shelter but they're at risk of losing their space. To help raise funds to redevelop the space and increase awareness, they are organising a weekend food market in Stokey. The pop-up food market is a launch event for their huge fundraising drive to rebuild the community rooms attached to St Mary's Church in Stoke Newington.
Healthy chocolate mousse and sexing up your smoothie with Kate Oates. We have found ourselves a yoga guru in Kate Oates, a healthtastic yogi based in Crouch End. When we met her last year she hinted at a few of her own culinary creations and boy were we intrigued. Asking for an exclusive recipe for you health conscious readers, we received a taste sensation of an idea for chocolate breakfast.
“All My Single Cylinders, All My Single Cylinders”. Two girls, sick to the back teeth of Tindering and Bumbling about the bars of London, decided to create their own speed dating night. Involved in the biker community of East London they have created a special series of nights combining live music, motorbikes and speed dates. Bolt Motorbike Shop of Stoke Newington is their latest venue, providing a more intriguing backdrop for your date night and quashing the usual awkwardness of sparse, brightly lit speed dating scenarios. You can admire the motors, enjoy your free drinks and listen to some live music with some top notch handpicked company.
In case you’ve never had a piirakka, (also known as Karelian pasties, pies or pirogs) they’re a delicious Finnish treat that you need to try immediately. Whether savoury or sweet, they’re basically a light pastie made with rye flour and a pretty unique variety of filling options. Meet Aapo Nieminen, a native Finnish local who grew up with piirakka. After getting tired of asking friends and family to bring him these naughty little pasties whenever they visited he came up with a plan. “They are an important part of everyday finish life. One day I thought why not just make them yourself?”
The lycra is optional. Coffee however, isn't. On Friday 197 cyclists descended on Sardinia to compete in the 100th edition of the Giro d'Italia. For those of you that don't have wardrobes filled with lycra you might never of heard of it but Think Tour d'France but in Italy. Still drawing a blank?
Naked Dough have appeared like a pair of beautiful fairy godmothers to lead me to an actual edible cookie dough dance party. Plus they didn’t even tell me what I should wear, they genuinely don’t care. Naked Dough is a new restaurant serving edible cookie dough from tubs, cones and even carry home pots. The ingredients are raw egg free and the flour is heat-treated so you need not worry-like-Edwina-Currie about salmonella and stomach bloat (unless you’re gluten free of course. In which case I’m sorry you’ve stumbled upon this torture page of an article).
Ten years ago MINT Vintage first opened in Covent Garden before moving on to the more creative surrounds of Stoke Newington, pioneering fashion forward vintage. Every piece is hand selected and sourced from all over the world, ensuring every garment is trend driven but timeless and always unique. This May they’ve decided to transform their world in to an “oops we were trying to make corduroy and came up with denim” dreamland*.