I am an artist with a glassblowing studio and gallery in Bermondsey Street near London Bridge. At 83 I am still going strong, currently shielding, but working harder than ever, largely from our kitchen table to keep our business going.
How long have you lived in the area?
Apart from a few years in Kent, I have lived in South London for over fifty years, with spells in Forest Hill and West Dulwich. We have lived in East Dulwich for around three years, and love its vibe.
What brought you here?
In the 1970’s I searched all over London for my first studio, eventually settling in an old towage works beside the Mayflower in Rotherhithe. Ten years ago we found a brilliant space in vibrant Bermondsey Street and moved to East Dulwich to be closer to work and family, who all live within ten minutes of us.
What’s the one thing you couldn’t do without?
London parks; we walk in Dulwich Park almost daily. I love the stunning variety of trees, their foliage and scale. There’s a huge Turkish Oak, whose branches sweep the ground, which is designated a national treasure.
The most famous person you have seen or met?
I have met lots of famous people over the years, some through my brother, the actor George Layton, others through my son, Bart, a Film Director. Elton John, Melvin Bragg, Jeremy Paxman and David Attenborough all have work from our gallery in their collections. The most famous person I never met is the Queen; I was invited to her Jubilee Lunch but managed to get the day wrong and missed the event!
Do you belong to any groups?
I am a founder member of the Contemporary Glass Society, which now numbers over a thousand members around the country. Glass is the most versatile and magical of materials for art – but as yet is relatively undiscovered.
Where are you likely to be found on Saturday?
I enjoy the village feel of the area; wandering through North Cross Street market or shopping in some of the speciality shops in Lordship Lane. Moxons for fish, William Rose the Butcher and Mons Cheesemongers are among the best anywhere.
What is your favourite place to eat?
There are so many. Pizzaro and Casse Croute on Bermondsey Street; Peckham Bazaar and Forza Win in Copeland Park are great and the Begging Bowl in Bellenden Road is always terrific. We also thoroughly enjoy the Next Door fish restaurant in Lordship.
Where is your favourite place to walk?
Other than the outer perimeter path in Dulwich Park, and Crystal Palace Woods ending up at the Woodman, Nunhead Cemetery takes some beating, as does any of the old London cemeteries. I’m not staking out a claim just yet!
The book I am reading at the moment?
One of the silver linings of lockdown has been the opportunity to read more. I recently finished Barbara Kingsolver’s, The Poisonwood Bible. Brilliantly conceived and written, its complexities resonate with our current difficult times. Another inspiring read was The Salt Path by Raynor Winn, the true story of a homeless couple, one with a terminal illness, overcoming all the odds during their 630 mile walk of the South West Coastal Path.
My Secret Ambition?
To grow even better tomatoes next year. I am drying out the seeds right now!
This article first appeared in the November issue of SE22.