Zadie Smith shines light on Kilburn

“I do not claim to know what happens in villages”

Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith is everywhere at the moment, and yet this media ubiquity also has a very firm geographic focal point: North-west London.

No great surprise there, after all, Smith has become some sort of literary symbol for the cultural melting pot of this part of the capital. And when she titles her latest book “NW”, you can’t blame journalists for making something of it.

Since 2010, Zadie Smith has been a professor of creative writing at New York University. She’s not popping into Poundland on the Kilburn High Road of a Saturday morning. Yet the sense of north-weezy (as the kids say) identity and affection clearly runs deep. Back in June, she wrote an impassioned article in the New York Review of Books about the plans for Willesden library and bookshop (read the article if you haven’t already).

In what one hopes was a great editorial idea, rather than clever publisher PR, TimeOut this week took Smith up the Kilburn High Road to meet a few locals. Although defining what “local” is in Kilburn is a tricky matter as one tweeter commented.

@jamesrobking @timeoutlondon how many “locals” did she Speak to? Er none by the looks of it. But welcome to all the visitors of Kilburn.
— ANNE MOUTADJER (@kilburnbelle) September 6, 2012

Kilburn High Road has always been a street on the move though. It’s arterial, with all the blood-pumping energy that implies. Not so many “born and bred” locals, but a galaxy of people who’ve called it home at one time or another. That’s what has made it Kilburn.