Mobilise! Mobilise! Exhibition offers glimpse into hidden lives of Holloway firefighters

White Watch. Picture: Niki Gibbs

White Watch. Picture: Niki Gibbs - Credit: Archant

A free exhibition gives a glimpse into life at Holloway Fire Station when the people who work there aren’t out saving lives.

Artist Niki Gibbs observed life at the Hornsey Road station when the firefighters weren't climbing up ladders and dousing flames, and drew what she saw.

The exhibition Mobilise! Mobilise! is running at Islington Museum in St John Street until March 31.

Niki, who produced the body of work between October 2018 and February last year, said: "For me personally this is really my first proper solo show, which is amazing. I just feel that we see the emergency services in the street with their sirens going, that's when you notice them. And it's just great to have had a bit of an insight into someone else's world and what their lives like and how integral it is to the community. [...]

"When they get called on the tannoy it says: 'A311, Mobilise! Mobilise, that's the name of their truck.

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"They're a real family, so on the whole each watch works together all the time, so I flt there was a real looking after each other."

Niki's paintings and oil pastel drawings all came from pictures she took while visiting the station, including portraits of the firefighters.

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Niki also depicted them checking their equipment and running a session for fire cadets.

She added: "One day, one of the firfighters on red watch showed me a picture of them at Grenfell. They were called out to Grenfell. So I did one drawing of them staring up at the blazing building [where 72 people died], which I thought was really poignant. [...]

"I think it really affected them. You could see it when he was showing me the picture. It's not just them going to rescue people, their lives are in danger as well. It's one of those instances that resonates throughout the hall fire station whether they were there or on duty or not."

She added: ""I think it has been really well received so far. [...] I really wanted to get a glimpse into a life I didn't get to see every day. I feel really privileged that they accommodated me so well."

Islington's business chief Cllr Asima Shaikh said: "We are extremely grateful for the brave and tireless work of our firefighters, who play a vital role in keeping our community safe.

"This excellent exhibition provides a rare opportunity for visitors to see into the daily working lives of our emergency service personnel, and get an insight into some of the work that is so often unseen.

"It is important that we view those that keep our borough safe as real people too, and the opportunities to meet the firefighters featured in the exhibition will no doubt help to reinforce this."

The museum will host an in-depth discussion between Niki and a local firefighter on March 3 from 6-7.30pm.

Booking for this event, named "Beyond the Fires", is available at

Elsewhere, Islington Guide will lead walks celebrating the legacy of firefighting on March 7 and 21 at 11am-12.30pm. Both start at Farringdon Station and end at the museum.

There museum will also offer a sensory adventure with storyteller Dani for Under 5s on 13 March 13 at 10-10.45am.

Islington firefighters will also visit Finsbury Library to visit under 5s on March 17 at 11-11.45am.

Readers can meet some of the firefighters featured in the exhibition, as well as London's newest fire cadets, at the museum on March 21 at 2-4pm. And the museum will host a messy play event for under 5s on March 26 between 10-11.30am

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