Highbury in fiction and on film
Islington has served as a backdrop for many films and TV programmes. Everything from the 2016 movie A Street Cat Named Bob to last year’s BBC series Taboo starring Tom Hardy in the lead role have been partly or largely shot in the borough. Though Highbury is a smaller area within the borough, it too has made its way onto TV, film, radio and into literature. We did a little digging to reveal where Highbury is mentioned in fiction and where it appears on TV and film.
Highbury on TV and Radio
Remember Mr Bean, the tweed-clad, clownish, fumbling man-child portrayed by Rowan Atkinson? Well, one of British comedy’s best-loved fictional characters lived in Flat 2, 12 Arbour Road, Highbury.
The House on Highbury Hill
In the early 1970s, British novelist Piers Paul Read wrote a comedy for BBC Radio 3 called ‘The House on Highbury Hill’. The premise focuses on a man who moves into a house on Highbury Hill and later encounters two rather eccentric sisters.
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Highbury on Film
Four Weddings and a Funeral
Many locations are used during the film, but the bulk of the action takes place in London. The flat where Hugh Grant’s character lives is at 22 Highbury Terrace on the corner of Highbury Fields. The now-infamous “is it still raining” reconciliation scene in the closing stages of the film is also shot outside the flat on Highbury Terrace.
Based on Nick Hornby’s 1992 novel of the same name, the 1997 film Fever Pitch tells the story of a teacher (played by Colin Firth) who just so happens to be a passionate Arsenal fan. Many of the scenes were shot around the old Arsenal Stadium in Highbury and the Arsenal Tube Station.
Highbury in Literature
The Highbury Barn pub near Highbury Fields was mentioned by William Makepeace Thackeray in his celebrated 1848 novel, Vanity Fair when ‘the elders of the house’ are invited to dine at Highbury Barn.
The Waste Land
T.S. Eliot’s seminal modernist poem, The Waste Land, includes a nod to Highbury, though it’s not necessarily a happy mention: “Highbury bore me. Richmond and Kew /Undid me.”
As well as once being home to Highbury Studios, a film studio which operated until the mid-1950s, Highbury also has links to the music industry. Wessex Studios was founded by the Beatles producer Sir George Martin in the 1960s, and in this studio, albums by the likes of Queen and The Rolling Stones were recorded. Wessex Studios has since closed, and the building has been transformed into flats.