Estimated reading time:6 minutes, 59 seconds
Everyone on Islington Faces Blog has a story. How well do you know Islington? Do you know it well enough to know that it’s a name for places outside north London and a media corner of Manchester too? As a celebration of all things Islington, Canadian Linda Plater talks about her home and work life in Islington – a suburban area of western Toronto, Canada – boasting dozens of murals. SPECIAL 100th interview by Nicola Baird
Q: Where do you live?
A: “I’m from a small great lakes town, Collingwood in southern Ontario, ski capital of our province but for the last 17 years have called Etobicoke (place where the alders grow) home. The Village of Islington http://villageofislington.com/ is in Toronto’s westerly municipality population ~350,000 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Etobicoke . In my 20s I lived in Ottawa, Vancouver, Whistler and Tokyo. My German husband and two kids (11 and 14) spent three years in Bremen, Germany where soccer and cycling were a big part of our life.”
Q: Have you ever been to London and our Islington?
A: “I visited London in 1982 when I was on a student exchange in Liege, Belgium but stuck to the tourist spots downtown before starting a Britrail adventure with my mother and aunt keen to trace some Scottish roots on the Isle of Skye.
Q: Do you think the two Islingtons have anything in common?
A: “The Village of Islington was settled predominantly by the British in the late 1700-1800s but now is home to people from all over the world, just like Islington UK. We’ve got pubs and football but otherwise we resemble an American city, modern and busy. Our area is working hard to encourage walkablility by improving the streetscape to make it more attractive to frequent local businesses.”
Q: What do you do?
A: “On a typical summer day I return emails, grocery shop, run my son to soccer and play some tennis. I try to be disciplined with yoga and 20 minutes jumping on my outdoor trampoline. My time is my own as I work as a contract freelance communications consultant.”
Q: What do you like doing best in your Islington?
A: “Of course, visiting the murals is a must. There are now 25 and a new one to come this year. The project is ten years old and covers ~15,000 square feet of outdoor wall space. It is a hidden gem tucked away in a part of Toronto usually overlooked by the tourists.
Q: Can you remember when you first realised there was another Islington?
A: “About a year ago I received a tweet or an email from someone familiar with the UK telling me I should connect with Islington UK and suggested reaching out to the City Council. My home town has a sister city in Japan and I thought, “Hey, brilliant, nice way to develop a relationship with your city.” When I searched the Internet, I realised that taking the official route of dealing with City Hall was complicated and reaching real people like Nicola at isilngton faces blog made the most sense, best to build a friendship bridge one-on-one.
Q: Although some people have lived in London Islington for a couple of generations a lot of Londoners are newcomers – what’s your area like and what advice do you have about how to fit into what is characteristic of your Islington?
A: “Over the past decade Canada has been receiving roughly 250,000 immigrants per year and many settle in the Greater Toronto Area. We have sophisticated settlement services including English as a second language. Most newcomers can find what they are looking for in Toronto. In the Mabelle Community right in Islington newcomers can find a way to connect with others through art. http://mabellearts.ca/ Finding employment in their chosen field presents a serious challenge to new immigrants. There are various government programs to assist in economic integration but many highly skilled people are still stuck in low paying jobs.”
Q: What do you think of islingtonfacesblog – have any of the interviews inspired you or which is your favourite part of the interview?
A: “I enjoy the way your blog tells the stories of real people, and the reader can relate to them and think, I could really get to know that person as a friend. Finding a common interest is a great start and the blog does tell some interesting “day-in-the-life tales.”
For a visitor to Canada what are the most fun things to do, and especially if people visit your Islington?
Linda Plater: “Canada is enormous and visitors can’t see it all in one visit, so…
Any visitor to Ontario should drive to Niagara Falls (two hours from Toronto) and experience the great power of the fresh water which is our incredible natural resource.
Go up the CN Tower – once the world’s tallest free standing structure and look out over Lake Ontario – an ocean of fresh water lake, just one of the Great Lakes.
Take a trip up north in late September. See, smell and feel the Indian summer. The vistas of lake, rock and flaming maple leaves will take your breath away.
Q You are the Village of Islington BIA co-ordinator. What does the Village of Islington BIA mean?
A: “Forty years ago a local business association founded the first BIA which stand for “business improvement area”. http://www.toronto-bia.com/ Now there are 77 in Toronto and hundreds more around the world that are business associations based on geographic boundaries – often a main street of merchants driven to make their areas attractive. With beautification as a goal to encourage a better place to work, live and enjoy, BIAs are a vital part of Toronto neighbourhoods. The ‘Village of Murals’ brand grew out of a mural mosaic project started ten years ago to curb graffiti. Now we have a fantastic BIA boasting top restaurants, pubs, cafes and arts organisations on top of many service oriented businesses.”
Q: How community spirited are the people of your Islington?
A: “I took on the role as BIA Coordinator almost three years ago and work with an amazing volunteer board of directors with a vision to build a prosperous and attractive business area. I’ve also built a team of ten volunteers, mostly seniors who lead mural tours year round. Last year around 1,500 people took tours of our area and our website attracts people from around the globe. Local schools, libraries, churches and service clubs rally around the murals and embrace the idea that the art tells our history. It is the stories of real people past and present that help us co-create our history and build a sense of belonging in Islington. Our area is set to expand westward and construction of a 40 million dollar infrastructure project is set for the coming 3-5 years, see more here.” http://www1.toronto.ca/wps/portal/contentonly?vgnextoid=b4e98d0195ce1410VgnVCM10000071d60f89RCRD
Over to you
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This blog is inspired by Spitalfields Life written by the Gentle Author.