By Aidan ‘Taco’ Jones
Jana and Elena, along with a mysterious ‘Third Woman’ have plans for The Lacy Nook to be the focal point of their vibrant, young community on Cazenove Rd, Stoke Newington.
A few weeks ago, on one of the first bright Sundays of this shining spring, I went down to Victoria Park with some friends to eat and drink away the afternoon. By sunset there were around ten of us, at least half of whom I’d never met before, and we spent the hours laughing and shouting and crying into night.
Just before we dispersed, my friend Ruby could be seen sitting cross-legged on the grass, drunk and cackling, she was throwing unopened cans of beer around the circle in a furious attempt to liven up the party. It was hilarious.
I don’t remember the specific beers we were drinking, or what we ate, or even what we talked about while sitting there all afternoon, all I remember is the place, the day, and the people I shared it with. Find a good place, fill it with good people, and the inevitable details will follow.
My first contact with Jana and Elena came in the form of this email exchange (for context, my bio on my website finishes with the joke “Fax me if you want to have sex.”:
When I turned up that Friday the three of us were all a bit sheepish after the chest-beating display we’d put on for each other a few days before. The cafe was still in the midst of renovation with planks of wood and overalled men strewn about the place, but the girls greeted me with handshakes and we headed out to the garden where they’d filmed their Kickstarter video, which I’d watched, after our emails made me chuckle.
The video made me chuckle also (rechuckle?), and after the music faded out, I literally exclaimed, “These girls are FUNNY!”, out loud, to no one in particular.
[Hey. It’s Maybe It’s Because editor, Koray here, I’m rudely interrupting to say that I was sitting opposite Taco at the time, and I can confirm he laughed like a lunatic at the video in question.]
And they were funny. Elena went to get coffee from a spot nearby, and Jana started telling me about the history of their building, which apparently used to be a gay/lesbian bar famous in the area for rowdy nights and dubious mornings. She spoke about Cazenove Rd itself as the community that the Lacy Nook will become a part of, and the idea of an entire community existing on one tiny street shocked me, but it makes sense though. A street’s worth of people who all need somewhere to meet and socialise: maybe they’re onto something?
They want it to be a meeting place, open morning, afternoon, and through to the evening – they’ve secured a license until 10:30pm. They’re going to serve breakfast/brunch, and dinner, but with drinks and nibbles on the side as well. Seasonal ingredients, sourced locally where possible, giving somewhere for local producers to show off their work.
They’ve also had consultations with a gardener about growing herbs, fruits, and veg, all in their courtyard – from wall to plate. They’re full of ideas, and they spoke with that excited intensity of two friends who feel like they’re onto something.
You don’t have to eat, or alternatively, you don’t have to drink. You don’t HAVE to do anything. The girls shrug their shoulders and laugh, “we want people to come and sit in the sun!” Me too man, I love that shit.
Then a third lady arrives, and I recognise her from the Kickstarter video. She doesn’t know about the emails – but she’s from Macedonia just like Jana and Elena. They’ve all been living in London for ten years or so. Locals to Stoke Newington. They met at a party in 2006, a party Jana almost didn’t go to because it was on the other side of town but she “had to get away!”
They all laugh again. One of the overalls men drills a plank of wood into the fence behind us and we shout over the top of it. The courtyard is taking shape.
It’s all very ad hoc here, which I believe is Latin for “make it up as you go along stop stressing so much idiot it’s going to be fine.” There’s not as much certainty as the girls would like – the construction has been sucking time and money since they realised just how much work needed to be done stripping the interior of the building. Fire damage. Old floors and walls.
The tentative opening date is July, and they look a little nervous as they recall the setbacks they’ve already had, but nervous is good. Nervous means emotional investment, nervous means they care, and if they care – like REALLY care – then The Lacy Nook is already halfway to being great. When it comes down to it, heavy passion wins the day.
I trust these girls, and they seem to trust themselves too. The freedom of finally casting aside a lifetime of working hard for other people tends to breed that sort of self-assured confidence. Confidence that if you build the place, and fill it with the right people, the rest, the details will follow.