London Grilling with Park Life’s Juliet Kinsman
We’ve got the Editor-in-Chief of Mr & Mrs Smith, founder of Park Life blog and community advocate, Kensal Rise resident Juliet Kinsman, who’s shipped her London Grilling across the Atlantic from the States to us. Who better than this travel guru to tell us her favourite places in our own fair city?
1. Juliet, tell us – how did Park Life come about?
I was sitting in my local coffee shop Minkie’s with my friend Matt Cantor, a lifetime resident of Queen’s Park; he’s a DJ (one of the Freestylers) and was wondering what he could do next so I suggested we created a blog for the local area as a hub of information and to bring our community together. I set up the URL and created the account for him but he decided to study psychotherapy instead! Then a few months later when I bumped into Sally Wilton in the same coffee shop, the philanthropist who created our local cinema, The Lexi, which sends all of its profits to Africa, she said that the girls in the village there could do with some bras, so it inspired me to do a post calling for bra donations. And so it was Park Life was born! And it became a lynch pin with the local area, especially through the Facebook page.
2. Each borough of London is unique in its own way, but how would you sum up Kensal Rise/Queen’s Park? How does the area compare to the other districts of London?
I lived in a flat in Queen’s Park with various friends for 11 years previously, and now I’ve lived in a Victorian terraced house Kensal Green with my other half Simon and our daughter Kitty for the last 5 years. What first attracted me was that it was leafy and full of interesting creative people and within easy reach of the best of London — you can get to Oxford Circus lickety-split by tube on the overland to Hackney easy-peasy and it’s only an amble to vibrant Portobello Road on foot. Now that I’ve had a child, I especially love it as some of my friends move out for village life. I consider it a multicultural village within the heart of London — somewhere you actually talk to your neighbours. My friend Rebecca even just set up the KKBC – the Kiddies of Kensal Babysitting Club and we take turns looking after each other’s little ones which is great.
3. You’re a seasoned traveller so we’d be interested to hear – which other cities around the world you think can compete with our fair city?
Having grown up in New York City, I spend a lot of time there and I’d say parts of Brooklyn definitely compare. We’ve done a few house swaps to NY to Cobble Hill I’m still really good friends with the neighbours we met doing that.
I have friends in Park Slope which shares a lot of the qualities – sure you could accuse both of gentrification and yuppification, but when somewhere becomes a lovely place to bring up children where people work together to consider the environment and each other, then surely that’s not a bad thing.
As an extension of Park Life, I also thought what the community would benefit from was a flea market like the one my friends run in New York called Brooklyn Flea, so I created a small quarterly boutique version at the Paradise of Kensal Green. The next one is Saturday 15 September and it has loads of stallholders selling handmade goods or handpicked vintage wares, and the £1 door entry goes to supporting local charities such as Special Yoga Centre and Mayhew Animal Home.
4. It seems Park Life is very much a place for the community to express themselves; in a rapidly changing city, how important do you think a sense of community is to living in London?
I think all too often in modern life we’re quick to complain and kvetch, to use that brilliant Yiddish term, and I wanted to create a feel-good forum where we could signpost each other to the best services and encourage each other to support local businesses rather than just criticise in the way people love to on tripadvisor, say. Having said that, I was thrilled when people used it to take action against proposed changes such as moving the main bus stop-off in Kensal Rise to right outside Minkie’s deli, which is very much the beloved beating heart of Kensal Rise. Park Life helped spread the word and the proposals were halted as a result — and I do think it saved this precious high street spot.
Save Kensal Rise Library has been a big campaign close to many people’s hearts and I’ve supported and publicised all the updates and fundraisers for that throughout the lengthy battle.
5. Tell us about some of your favourite secret London hangouts…
- The Lexi Cinema - not only is it a fabulously cosy cinema which has a great schedule of current blockbusters and interesting Q&As with filmmakers, with excellent sound quality and a fully-stocked bar but all of the proceeds go to the Sustainability Institute and Lynedoch Village in South Africa, which I had the pleasure of visiting earlier in the year.
- Hair & Make-up Dept – my friend and ace hairdresser Michael Price is the best and not just able to do a fantastic cut and colour for great value but I love his studio; in the building opposite where Stella McCartney now has her HQ. Michael used to have Unruly on Portobello and now has a stylish studio off Latimer Rd, round the corner from Mario Testino’s space.
- Roundwood Park towards Harlesden has glorious rose-filled flowerbeds, a pretty Victorian bandstand, an aviary of budgerigars and a cute child-friendly café.
- Kensal Review – not a specific place but a monthly gathering — my friend Anne-Celine Jaeger, a fellow scribe and mum, was craving cerebral stimulation and culture-vulturing and she rounded up a bunch of us to devour books, films and exhibitions. Our assignments and wine-fuelled meet-ups at each other’s homes have been better for the soul than Prozac.
- Minkie’s - not such of a secret around NW10, but I couldn’t not mention the place I spend the most time in after work. Their decent creamy-yet-punchy flat white is my raison d’être. Minkie’s by Kensal Rise station is the beating heart of my own hood, thanks to host-with-the-most and Mr Minkie, Doron. Even Thandie Newton is on affection terms with our Israeli deli hero.
- My ‘shoffice’. My shed home office in the garden built by London Garden Studios.
- Freightliners Farm - perfect day out with kids including the vegetarian cafe.
- Comptoir Mezze - the BEST Moroccan food and right on my doorstep.