My Belsize Village: Gallery owner Andrea Sylvester on why the village on a sunny day is like rural France
- Credit: Nigel Sutton
Andrea Sylvester is the owner of Sylvester Fine Art, which has just marked its first anniversary in Belsize Village. She lives in Dartmouth Park with her 16 year-old son, a long-suffering “him indoors” and is also an active member of the Highgate Choral Society.
What brought you to Belsize Village?
I knew that I wanted a space for my gallery that was not on a high street because when people buy art, they don’t want to be in a hurry, so one needs to be local. There are some wonderful enclaves like Belsize Village around London, but they are few and far between and empty shops don’t come along in them very often.
What is your favourite thing about the area?
I love that the Village is a real community, in the old-fashioned sense of the word, and that the square in the middle really is its heart. Everyone has been very welcoming. I love that so many of the businesses have been here for so long. The fruit and veg shop has been here for decades and it makes me smile when I see the chaps from there carrying the heavy bags and boxes to people’s homes, if they can’t quite manage by themselves. Him indoors would say the unrivalled cheesecake from the Village Deli!
If you could change one thing, what would that be?
This one is a tricky one because I don’t live here so my perspective is, perhaps, a little different to some. On the whole, there is little that I would want to change. I look out of my shop windows and see trees, blue sky (today at least), bicycles chained up, people wandering around and I hear the sound of children playing and dogs barking - what more could one want.
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If you had £100 to blow in the area how would you spend it?
Another tricky one but I would, perhaps, head back to my other stomping ground, Dartmouth Park, where I live, and allow myself to be pampered by Dawn at Face-to-Face because I rarely have enough time to indulge myself anymore... and it probably shows!
How would you spend your perfect day off in the area?
My perfect day off would be a long walk across the Heath, having a long leisurely lunch with friends at Kenwood and then, weather permitting, sitting in my garden with a book and a large glass of something full-bodied and red once the sun is past the yard-arm.
What tips would you give someone moving into the area?
I would suggest that they pay me a visit so that I can help them fill their walls with beautiful works of art! But seriously, I would hope that they realise that there is a real community at work here and that they should get both acquainted and involved with it. There is the Belsize Village Newsletter and an active Belsize Residents Association so there is a lot going on in such a small geographical area.
Where would you live if not in Dartmouth Park?
Dartmouth Park has been my home for 14 years and the house we live in is my creation, despite being a bit worn around the edges these days. I guess I would move to Belsize Park, closer to my shop, if I had to go anywhere else.
What town would you twin with the area?
When the sun shines Belsize Village feels like it could be somewhere in southern rural France - people wander around, sit in the square chatting, sit outside the cafes and restaurants eating and drinking. The only thing missing is better weather and a game of boules!
What would your epitaph say?
I lived life on my own terms: no regrets.
Andrea Sylvester was in conversation with Bridget Galton