Barry Edwards: Islington’s Mayor 2013-14

Estimated reading time:5 minutes, 4 seconds

The Mayor of Islington with the Mayoress - Barry Edwards and his partner Jenni Chan.

The Mayor of Islington with the Mayoress – Barry Edwards and his partner Jenni Chan.

Everyone on Islington Faces Blog has a story.  Islington has the second highest level of child poverty in London (and the fourth highest in England). What’s to be done? Step forward Barry Edwards, 65, who grew up in one of the poorest parts of Finsbury Park. In May 2013 Barry became Mayor of Islington and is determined to use this as an opportunity to help the people living in Islington for whom every day is a struggle. As Mayor his two special charities are Islington Giving and Freightliners Farm. Interview by Nicola Baird

The Mayor of Islington Barry Edwards with his partner Jenni Chan. ¬†“I thought if I can use my year as Mayor to get more people involved in Islington Giving then I will have done something that will stand the borough in good stead.”

Q: What’s the one thing you’ve learnt during your life?
There are no such beings as ‚Äėself-made people‚Äô. Looking back I realise how lucky I was to have parents, teachers, neighbours and friends who have helped me. There are many people, young and old, who do not have all that support and if I can‚Äôt help them personally I can support Islington Giving to support the many volunteers and organisations in the borough that help those who need support. [more info here about the increasing polarisation in incomes in Islington from a report for the Cripplegate Foundation here.]

Q: What are your earliest memories of Islington?
I grew up in Woodfall Road, N4, in Finsbury Park and went to Pooles Park School, N4. We were not far from Finsbury Park itself and I enjoyed going there with my grandparents and seeing the steam trains going over and under the footbridge! Later we moved to Holloway and I went to Pakeman School, N7 where Mr Draper, an ex-footballer, taught us football.

Barry at nine months. He loved watching the steam trains pass Finsbury Park.

Barry at nine months. He loved watching the steam trains pass Finsbury Park.

Q: What did you do for fun as a child in Islington – was it mostly free or did you pay?
In¬†Woodfall Road, back in the ’50’s, there were hardly any cars and we played football in the street all day long in the holidays! ¬†In the early ’50’s there was still rationing and I can remember going down to the corner shop with my pocket money and my ration book. I needed both, or no sweets!

Q: What things do you notice having changed around Holloway – or Islington – since your were a child? How different were Paradise Park and Freightliners Farm?
Paradise Park didn’t exist then! We played on the streets or on bomb sites where houses destroyed in the war had not been rebuilt (the original adventure playgrounds). As the sites got built on and the streets filled up with cars kids needed somewhere to play, that’s when places like Paradise Park, Whittington Park and small parks and playgrounds like the one that replaced our side of Woodfall Road were created.

Q: You’re a big Arsenal fan. What else do you enjoy doing with friends and family in Islington ¬†ie, sports, pubs, eating out?
I’d like to do more of all of those. I promise that when I’ve stopped being Mayor I will take Jenni [my partner] out more often!

Q: What are Islington people like?
Islington people are so mixed and varied. It was already so when I was a kid and even more so now! We have so much to share with each other, we just need to remember that we share a very crowded little borough and not be so demanding of what we want that we impose upon our neighbour’s space (and peace and quiet).

Q: Why do you live in Islington? Can you imagine leaving the borough?
I have left Islington in pursuit of past relationships, when they didn’t work out I’ve always come back to Islington. Jenni was the first to spot that she couldn’t compete with Islington (and the Arsenal) and that we would both live here!

Q: How do you learn all the ceremony aspects of being a Mayor. Is there a handbook Рit looks so hard (and a bit archaic, though a very touching link to the past)?
As a councillor [of Holloway Ward] I have seen more of previous Mayors than most and we had a year of being Deputy Mayor and Mayoress (a sort of apprenticeship). The team of Sue, Janet and Sylvester at the Town Hall has served Mayors for years and know the answers to everything!

  • Cllr Barry Edwards is Mayor of Islington, 2013-14 and has been a councillor for Holloway Ward since 2006.
  • Islington Giving¬†is an N1-based campaign asking residents and businesses to give what they can, be it money or time, to make a real difference to the community. Since its launch in 2010 Islington Giving has supported 40 projects designed to invest in young people, tackle poverty and confront isolation. ¬†Find out what you can do at¬†¬†To read the interview about Cllr Barry Edwards‚Äô involvement in Islington Giving, also published in¬†Angel Resident¬†magazine, see¬†here.
  • To read the interviews with staff and volunteers at Freightliners Farm on see here.

Over to you

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This blog is inspired by Spitalfields Life written by the Gentle Author.

If you enjoyed this post you might enjoy the most popular of all islingtonfacesblog posts, Nina Marcangelo from Alfredo’s Cafe on Essex Road which had 800 viewers in a week, 187 views on its 2nd day up and 97 facebook shares.