No 36 Ashley Road

An unas­sum­ing ter­raced house in north Lon­don trans­formed into an excit­ing, exper­i­men­tal art project proved to be one of the most intrigu­ing and orig­i­nal events in the cal­en­dar of a local fes­ti­val. Enti­tled The Secret Life of no:36, the project, shown as part of Crouch End Fes­ti­val, was inspired by the his­to­ry of the house and its inhab­i­tants, going back through 140 years to its beginning.

The cur­rent own­ers of no:36 Ash­ley Road are Ahmed Farooqui and Alan Swann. Ahmed is a man with con­sid­er­able vision, ener­gy and enthu­si­asm who, togeth­er with Alan, a med­ical offi­cer at Impe­r­i­al Col­lege, embarked on this inno­v­a­tive and com­mu­ni­ty-mind­ed use for their home – they have also under­tak­en pre­vi­ous projects with their local annu­al Open Stu­dios weekends.

For this project they invit­ed six artists to be part of a four-month res­i­den­cy. Their cho­sen six would work on Ahmed’s germ of an idea and inter­pret the his­to­ry and lives of the house­’s inhab­i­tants, both past and present. All hous­es have sto­ries to tell and this one revealed its past – in his­tor­i­cal­ly-accu­rate fash­ion and with a few flights of fan­cy includ­ed – through a series of instal­la­tions. The artists had access to Ahmed’s stu­dio space upstairs for the res­i­den­cy and Alan made avail­able his tech­ni­cal and con­struc­tion skills in dis­play­ing some of the pieces.

The work was placed around the house, flow­ing through the ground floor and down to the low­er-ground lev­el kitchen and din­ing area, which trans­formed the view­ing into an excit­ing voy­age of discovery. 

In the front room, Esper­an­za Gomez Car­rera’s instal­la­tion start­ed with the idea of the home library – pages of well-loved books took flight and escaped through the window.


The instal­la­tion by Liz Brown (above) pre­sent­ed a col­lage of hous­es num­bered 36, fea­tur­ing prop­er­ties all over the world. Liz cre­at­ed  a ‘vir­tu­al com­mu­ni­ty’ for no:36 Ash­ley Road by ask­ing mem­bers of the pub­lic, wher­ev­er they were in the world, to pho­to­graph and send her images of hous­es in their area num­bered 36. 

Ahmed’s own piece dis­played the names of all those who had resided in his house at one time. Placed on a long roller blind, these names could be revealed and then snapped back into the mists of time (see pho­to below).

Regard­less of the occa­sion, the most impor­tant ele­ment of vis­it­ing any home is to feel wel­come, and in this aspect Ahmed and Alan made the expe­ri­ence utter­ly relax­ing, nur­tur­ing and joy­ful. Once you were shown into the house, you were at lib­er­ty to wan­der and enjoy each room for as long as you liked but if you want­ed to chat to the own­ers or the artists, they were on hand. Cof­fee and tea were offered, plus an amaz­ing choice of home-made cakes, for you to take into the gar­den where you could sit and bask in one of this sum­mer’s rare per­fect sum­mer days.

Instal­la­tion by Jeanette Abi Khalil, below.

art scene

After two week­ends, the exper­i­ment is now over. Much as it would have been tempt­ing to allow it to run and run, its ephemer­al qual­i­ty is an intrin­sic ele­ment – the work came alive to be enjoyed for a brief time, and now has melt­ed away, to be part of the ever-grow­ing his­to­ry of the house. For those who vis­it­ed, we will car­ry it in our memories.

Yet what is equal­ly excit­ing is that this home, which Ahmed wants to share with like-mind­ed oth­ers for art projects, is now ready for new ideas that will unfold in time. I asked him what he envis­ages for the future. He says, “One pos­si­bil­i­ty is to extend the use of the space to oth­er art forms such as dra­ma, poet­ry, music and per­for­mance art. Of course these would have to be suit­able for per­for­mance in a house in a res­i­den­tial street, fit in with our val­ues of col­lab­o­ra­tion and con­vivi­al­i­ty, and respect the space as being also our home.” It will be excit­ing to see what hap­pens next.

To read more about the artists and instal­la­tions, please go to

The house own­ers are keen gar­den­ers (they take part in the Nation­al Open Gar­dens scheme) on a year­ly basis.

Artists: Roan Allen, Liz Brown, Stephanie Con­way, Esper­an­za Gomez Car­rera, Ahmed Farooqui, Livia Gar­cia, Jeanette Abi Khalil

Instal­la­tion by Ahmed Farooqui
Garden at 36: Ashley road

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