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'Crime-ridden and full of chain-stores'. Film composer's verdict on the borough he once loved

Michael Nyman. Photo: Francesco Guidicini

Michael Nyman. The film composer laments the ‘ruin’ of his favourite Islington haunts. Picture courtesy of Francesco Guidicini

Published: 28 September, 2012

FILM composer Michael Nyman has delivered a damning verdict on the “corpora­tisation” of Islington – by announcing he is moving from the borough to Mexico City because it is safer.

Nyman’s soundtrack for the hit film The Piano, starring Harvey Keitel, won him an Ivor Novello award, Bafta and Golden Globe as well as bringing him worldwide fame.

In an exclusive interview with the Tribune, Mr Nyman, who has lived in Islington for 20 years, reveals how he has fallen out of love with the borough due to crime and the gradual “ruin” of favourite haunts such as antiques market Camden Passage.

“Everything has become so corporate,” he claims.

Mr Nyman, who has a home in Mexico City, admits: “I actually find my part of Mexico City is safer than Upper Street.”

He admits he has never been a crime victim here, but says he is always reading about it.

“Knife crime particularly is extremely worrying,” he says. “I tell Mexicans that there is not a lot worse than being on top of a bus at night when a bunch of yobs are throwing peanuts.”

Upper Street? I feel safer in Mexico City

WORLD-famous film music composer Michael Nyman is swapping Islington for the so-called crime capital Mexico City, where he feels safer walking the streets.

The star will be bidding goodbye to the borough after almost 20 years with a solo piano concert and film at Islington Assembly Hall, opposite the Town Hall, in December.

Speaking exclusively from his home off Gibson Square – currently being sold – Mr Nyman, 68, revealed how he had fallen out of love with Islington due to crime and the gradual “ruin” of favourite haunts such as antiques market Camden Passage.

Mexico has a reputation for drug gangsters, kidnappings and killings on the street. So why would he want to move there?

“I’ve had a house in Mexico City for four years and I really like the area”, he said. “I want to spend more time there.

“I actually find my part of Mexico City is safer than Upper Street.

"Walk along Upper Street any day. You see more flowers left by lampposts as memorials to murdered citizens than you do in Mexico City.”

Mr Nyman, who received a CBE for his music in 2008, added: “I feel absolutely no threat or fear in Mexico City. I know there is a huge amount of drug violence in Mexico itself but at the moment it is not in the City.”

As he departs, his biggest regret is the way he believes Upper Street is “losing its individuality” and world-famous Camden Passage is “being ruined” by chain stores.

“When I first moved here there was Reckless Records in Upper Street [closed 2007] and a brilliant secondhand book store near Highbury and Islington tube,” he said.

“We even had real-life royalty, Count Alexander, selling antiques in Camden Passage. Great characters. Now they’ve all gone. Everything has become so corporate.”

• An Evening with Michael Nyman, a solo event with music and film, is at  Islington Assembly Hall at 8.30pm on Monday, December 10.



The death and decline of London

The same is true all over London. Recent shameful decisions of necessity, such as selling off the Moore statue and the Kensal Rise libraries, prove that London is the necropolis of capitalism. Nothing matters except enriching property developers and making sure the only people who pay taxes are those who truly can't afford to.

All the charming shops and eccentric districts are soon to be on their way out, if they haven't already been forced out. I left for the coast 5 years ago and have never looked back. I applaud Nyman's spirit of adventure, as well as his forthright outspokenness. He is totally correct.

There is literally no reason for artists, musicians, writers to live in London - the only inspiration that city gives is from suffering. I don't count people like Damien Hirst.

So farewell then...Michael Nyman

So farewell then Michael Nyman..Off then to your other home in Mexico then where you may in your way plant yourself uninvited into someone elses society and community complete with your unfathomable sense of entitlement and self importance. Islington never welcomed you to its beautiful squares its colourful history and charm but I am sure that it will benefit from your departure

Mr Nyman

I'm sure Islington's loss will be Mexico's gain. Perhaps that country might benefit from Mr Nyman's gormless naivety.


I agree with Michael Nyman. I also live in Islington, and have noticed a gradual decline in its spirit. As well as the extensive bland chain stores there are over20 estate agents in Upper St (destroying the unique quality of the borough in which the houses they wish to sell stand) The R.B.S building and the Post Modern block -both sides of the Angel Station are stains in the high Street.
John Andrews

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