My Dartmouth Park: Author and former culture editor reveals favourite writer

Author Matt Cain. Picture: Alicia Clarke

Author Matt Cain. Picture: Alicia Clarke - Credit: Alicia Clarke

Matt Cain, 38, is an author who lives in Tremlett Grove, Dartmouth Park.

He used to make arts documentaries for ITV and then became Channel 4’s first ever culture editor. Now a full-time writer, his latest novel, Nothing but Trouble, is published by Pan Macmillan. It has been described as a “riotous and raunchy peek into the crazy world of the music business”.

What brought you to the area?

I’m originally from Bolton but came to live in London after leaving university. At first I shared rented flats with friends all over the city but when it came to buying somewhere I wanted to live in an area that was easy for family to get to when they were visiting from up north. A friend of mine owned a one-bedroom flat in between Tufnell Park and Archway and I liked it so much that when she was getting married and put it on the market I bought it off her! Twelve years and one move later I’m still here.

You have a day off to spend as you wish in the area, what would you get up to?

I’d start the day with a run around Hampstead Heath, slowing down to take in the view of the city from Parliament Hill. I’d spend the morning reading on my roof terrace, preferably with my cat on my knee, then would go to the Workman’s Cafe on Junction Road for my ‘usual’ - liver, bacon, mash and veg. I’d potter around Camden Market in the afternoon and in the evening have dinner in the St John then drinks in the Southampton Arms. If I’m honest, after a few drinks I’d probably end the day by calling into the McDonald’s at Archway for a sneaky quarter pounder. But don’t judge me!

Is there anything about the area which you would like to see changed or improved?

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Ever since I’ve moved here, the area around Archway tube station has been a total dump. They’s been lots of talk about doing it up but finally it’s happening - and I can’t wait for that awful traffic island to disappear. I only hope they replace it with something nicer - although it can’t get much worse than it is at the moment!

As guest editor of the Ham&High for a day, what one local issue would you most like to see reported?

Dog dirt. I know it might seem like a really trivial issue but as I live near the Heath lots of my neighbours have dogs and some of them don’t make it to their destination in the morning before their pets dump their loads. If the owners don’t bother to pick up the mess before you know it there can be a dozen dog turds on the pavement. Surely there must be some way of finding out which dog-owners are guilty and making them stop?

A film is set to be made about your life. Which actor would you choose to play you and why?

I’d love to say someone classy like Benedict Cumberbatch or Eddie Redmayne but it’s much more likely to be someone northern and camp like Antony Cotton from Coronation Street. But I’d be more than happy with that!

Who is the most inspiring person you have ever met?

Before writing novels I used to make arts documentaries for ITV and then was the arts correspondent on Channel 4 News so I was lucky to meet some amazing people. Perhaps the one who inspired me most was the artist and film director Sam Taylor-Johnson. I spent a year following her around to make a South Bank Show and it was fascinating to find out how she expressed her personality through her work. Filming with her really made me want to find my own creative voice rather than just profiling other people’s creativity.

Who is the author you admire the most and why?

Probably David Nicholls. I’ve read all his novels and particularly enjoyed One Day and Us. He takes what might seem like ordinary relationships but is so good at exploring his characters’ emotions that you can’t help but feel a real connection. I also love the fact he’s a male author unafraid to write love stories and who doesn’t feel the need to show off his intelligence or come out with big pronouncements about the state of the nation or what it means to be human. Although my own fiction is much more story-led than his work and infused with a more camp humour if I can demonstrate just a fraction of his understanding of everyday emotions I’ll be happy.

If you had to write your own epitaph, what would it say?

He wasn’t perfect but he did his best - and he had a lot of fun trying.