Q&A: My Gospel Oak
- Credit: Alastair Campbell
Mental health campaigner, author, and former Labour communications chief Alastair Campbell has lived in Gospel Oak for over two decades
What brought you to Gospel Oak?
My partner Fiona has lived all her life on the same page of the A to Z (apart from the two years in the West Country where we met as trainee reporters). We started at her parents’ in Abbey Road, then bought a flat in Belsize Park, then a small house in Oak Village when Fiona was first pregnant. By the time she was pregnant for the third time we moved to a bigger house and have been here for 24 years now.
What makes Gospel Oak unique?
The mix. On one side of Mansfield Road are owner occupied middle class houses leading up to the Heath. On the other is one of London’s biggest council estates. And, on the whole, people get on. For a London high population area it feels like a proper community.
You have a day off to spend in Gospel Oak, what do you do?
Take my dry cleaning to Top Choice, then get my hair cut at Palushi’s, Malden Road. Drop something off at Sunflower and Poppy picture framers next door. Lunch at home - stuff from Giacobazzi’s. Go for a long run on the Heath which is one of Britain’s greatest treasures. Early film at Everyman Belsize Park. Dinner at Chez Bob next door or Mimmo La Bufala South End Green.
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What part of your current roles do you enjoy the most?
Campaigning on mental health for Time to Change, fighting Brexit, including through Ham&High’s sister paper The New European, and writing books. I have my 14th out this month, a novel about football and terrorism in the 70s and I’m having a lot of fun with my co-author, former Burnley striker Paul Fletcher. They say you should never meet your heroes but our friendship disproves that.
If you were the editor of the Ham&High, what would you focus on?
I’d crowdfund to buy a big red Ham&High bus with ‘Boris Johnson is a liar, save the NHS, stop Brexit’ on the side, and drive it all over London, parking it every night outside his house. I’d also have twinning arrangements with towns in the Brexit heartlands, hear what they say, try to persuade them.
What’s the thing you’re proudest of?
Professionally helping Labour win three elections and delivering investment in schools and hospitals, and peace in Northern Ireland. Personally my children Rory, Calum and Grace, who are living proof that good local State schools - Gospel Oak primary, William Ellis and Parliament Hill - give you a better, more rounded education than anything in the private sector. And I am proud of the leadership role my wife Fiona has played in local schools, and still does years after they left.
Who is the most inspiring person you’ve met?
Nelson Mandela. Every time the hairs on my neck stood up. Locally I am going for Tessa Jowell right now. We went to Scotland with Tessa and David, her husband, over the New Year and it was truly inspiring to witness her courage and her determination to use her illness to help others.
What are you looking forward to for the rest of this year?
Promoting the novel. A BBC film I am making about depression. Burnley doing well. Helping to persuade the country to change
its mind on Brexit. And trying to get my favourite Scottish folk band, Skipinnish, to the Roundhouse.
• SATURDAY BLOODY SATURDAY
by Alastair Campbell and
Paul Fletcher is published by Orion on Wednesday February 7