Islington has a rich history in film and is used in many modern movies. Jaime Pond, editor of Anglonerd magazine, has compiled three self-guided walking tours through this London borough: The Clerkenwell Tour, the Upper Street Tour, and the Highbury Tour. Whether you take the tours separately or all in one go, you better get your walking shoes on, movie buffs! (You can also take this tour virtually with Google Maps.)
Welcome back. Hope you enjoyed our tour of Upper Street. We’re going to pick up right where we left off to journey around Highbury, the birthplace of the late George Martin and the home of Mayor Boris Johnson, Nick Hornby, Jimmy Carr, and Mr. Bean (and also Rowan Atkinson).
At the top of Upper Street, past the roundabouts that gave Sally Hawkins trouble in Happy-Go-Lucky (2008), we see the footpath in Highbury Place leading to Highbury Pool & Fitness Center. Across the street was the setting of the opening scene in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011). You remember: Judi Dench is on the phone with the internet provider, looking out the window. “Is wireless the same as wifi? And what do either of them have to do with broadband?”
Dame Judi Dench must know Islington pretty well by now because if you follow Holloway Road, you’ll follow her straight into another movie: Notes on a Scandal (2006). Hers and Cate Blanchett’s “scandalous” teacher characters—Barbara and Sheba—do a little window shopping around Egerton Pharmacy (145 Holloway Rd), which is a chemist that is still operating ten years later.
Farther up Holloway Road, past London Metropolitan University, my old stomping grounds, you’ll see Holloway Road tube station on your left. Although nearly 110 years old, there haven’t been a ton of films shot here, but long before its 2008 refurbishment, Turn the Key Softly included a scene here. This is a 1953 movie about three women released from Holloway Prison. The prison is not in Highbury, but it’s nearby in Islington, so the fact that they are shooting at Holloway Road station is geographically accurate. Incidentally, you may be interested to know that Holloway is the name of one of the characters in Vincenzo Natali’s debut film, Cube (1997), because all of the characters in that movie are named after prisons.
Onward. Just beyond Biddestone Park (left), you’ll see 304 Holloway Road (right), where Joe Meek founded RGM Records and recorded Telstar, which bestowed on Meek no royalties based on the claim that he’d ripped off the tune from the Napoleon film Austerlitz (1960). However, shortly after Meek’s murder/suicide in 1967 in this very Holloway Road apartment, the court deemed this claim of plagiarism invalid.
Let’s loop around to Emirates Stadium (sometimes referred to as Arsenal Stadium). If you hang a right on Tollington, you can then take another right onto A103, which will lead you straight there, near the Thierry Henry statue. (You probably saw this football/soccer star on The Late Late Show with James Corden this past March, alongside Ashton Kutcher and Danny Masterson.) Enjoy the stadium and pretend this is where the characters in Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch (1997) went to see a match, or where the big mystery took place in The Arsenal Stadium Mystery (1939). Then shake your head of this illusion because actually the Emirates Stadium wasn’t built until 2006. The original Arsenal Stadium used to stand where Highbury Square is today. Go have a look if you like, but I don’t know if you’ll recognize any of it.
Finally, let’s pop over across the train tracks to Highbury Terrace where Charles (Hugh Grant) lives in Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994). It is right here outside 22 Highbury Terrace that Charles (spoilers!) proposes to Carrie (Andie MacDowell) in the romantic yet torrential downpour of the final scene. What a perfect ending to our tour! Now get on up Holloway Road and catch the latest flick at Odeon Cinema.