My Gospel Oak: Bafta-winning screenwriter Shawn Slovo ‘Heath is world’s most outstanding open space’

PUBLISHED: 15:00 09 January 2015

Shawn Slovo

Shawn Slovo


Shawn Slovo, 65, a South African-born screenwriter, has lived in Gospel Oak for 25 years. She won a Bafta for her first screenplay, A World Apart, a fictionalised account of her life as the daughter of leading anti-apartheid activists Ruth First and Joe Slovo. In 2014, she won a US Writer’s Guild award for her screenplay Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight

What brought you to Gospel Oak? My present home is my third in the area in 25 years, because of its proximity to the Heath. Not only for walking the dogs but for the Women’s Pond, the Lido and the superb Kentish Town swimming pool down the road. I wouldn’t live anywhere else in London. I’m lucky I have the choice.

What is your favourite thing about Gospel Oak? In the small enclave of Oak Village where I live, there’s a strong sense of community, of people looking out for each other and helping out. We have a marvellous neighbourhood association who keep us connected and in the loop about the stuff that affects us. We’re right in the centre of the city and living here is akin to living in a village. We have the best of both worlds.

What makes you smile on your way home? The peace and quiet and tranquillity. The impending reunion with my animals.

How would you spend your perfect Sunday? I work from home, so every day feels like Sunday. When I’m in the middle of a project I tend to work seven days a week, to keep the momentum going. If the work is going well, then it’s a perfect Sunday.

As guest editor of the Ham&High for a day, what one local issue would you most like to see reported? The increasing strain on public services as a result of the draconian coalition government cuts, and the heroic efforts of Camden Council to balance the books.

In a film about your life, who would play you? In my biographical first film, A World Apart, the remarkable Jodhi May plays the 14-year-old me. That’s enough me on screen for one lifetime.

What makes Gospel Oak a special place to live? In the end, it all comes down to the Heath. The most outstanding urban open space in the world.

What place would you twin with Gospel Oak? The village of Scarborough on the Cape Atlantic coast in South Africa.

If you had to write your own epitaph, what would it say? No epitaph thank you very much. Cremation please, ashes scattered in woods on the Heath.

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