EastEnders actress Lisa Hammond: ‘My love letter to Old Street – and its communities under threat’
- Credit: PA Archive/PA Images
Barnsbury actress Lisa Hammond is famous as Donna in EastEnders, but she also works with young people in the south of Islington where she grew up. She tells the Gazette why this work is so important.
EastEnders fans know her as loudmouth Donna Yates.
And Barnsbury native Lisa Hammond is no different off screen. In fact, it was teenage attitude that accidentally led to her first TV role in the 1990s.
Lisa, who has a condition that restricted her growth and causes her chronic pain, explains: “I didn’t train. I fell into acting. I hate this term, but I had to go to a ‘special needs’ school in Hackney as I couldn’t go to my local comp, Islington Green School [now City of London Academy Islington].
“Anyway, scriptwriters from Grange Hill were visiting in a search for disabled characters.
You may also want to watch:
“I was being mouthy as usual, but they asked me to audition and that accident is what launched my career. Everyone always says to me: ‘Ah, you must have gone through [legendary Islington drama school] Anna Scher Theatre.’ I have to say: ‘No I didn’t! I had no intention of being an actor. I wanted to be a lawyer.’”
Lisa, 39, was cast in EastEnders in 2014. She also has an important side project brewing. It relates to Old Street, the area where she grew up with best mate Rachael Spence.
- 1 'Proper old Islington boozer' voted best pub by readers
- 2 Trevi Ristorante scoops prize with readers' votes
- 3 Kacem Mokrane: Islington man amongst seven charged with 2017 murder
- 4 Man in Highbury court charged with shooting gun in High Holborn
- 5 Dog Olympix 2021 raises more than £700 for a water fountain in Whittington Park
- 6 Mem and Laz Brasserie voted as readers' favourite restaurant
- 7 'Islington drivers – you don't always need to overtake cyclists'
- 8 Tony Eastlake: Man denies murder of ‘flower man of Islington’
- 9 Aristocrat's daughter, 25, died unexpectedly after developing 'severe headache'
- 10 Spectrum to C5: How Clive Sinclair began the UK’s tech revolution from a house in Islington
Lisa and Rachael have created a community drama project about Old Street’s development. To do this, they went round estates interviewing older people about the changes they have witnessed.
They then gathered young people to retell those stories verbatim. There was a performance in Roscoe Street art gallery Kunstraum on Sunday.
“The show is a kind of love story about Old Street,” says Lisa, who intends for it to become a full-scale production in 2019.
“I grew up in Whitecross Street. The area has undergone massive change and I’m fascinated by it. The show was a lovely excuse to wander around and talk to people.
“But the thing is, traditional communities are under threat. If you have a family, with rent to pay, the prices are going through the roof. Rachael is getting to the point where she is considering moving out of the area she grew up in. I could be split from my best friend.
“Parts of Old Street’s development are brilliant. Art is a massive influence. But the population has become transient.
“The older people we spoke to used to know everyone. Now Old Street is populated by students and business people who aren’t there half the time.
“It’s lost that family element, because families can’t afford to be there any more.”