Sian Phillips

The esteemed Welsh star of both stage and screen reveals to Melissa Crowther how her move to the area was a happy accident

Why Clerkenwell?
Ididn’t actually choose to move here. I was gazumped on a flat I was buying in Bayswater and I had just four days to find somewhere else. I’d sold my apartment, which was in Kensington, and ordered the removal van and everything. It was a very, very bad experience. I was thinking of Borough or Southwark but then the estate agent said there was a place near the Angel. I said, ‘Oh no, I’ve lived in Islington twice before – I don’t really want to go back.’ But then he showed me the flat, and I’ve been here for six or seven years now.

What won you over?
My flat’s a duplex at the top of the building, although it’s only on the fifth floor. But it’s also on a hill, so I have a panoramic view of London – from St Paul’s and the Natwest building right round to the Post Office Tower and the Wheel. The view was so stunning I took it straight away.

What’s it like inside?
It’s modern with some silly features like a curved ceiling. I don’t know why anybody has a curved ceiling. It was a fashion of the Nineties, I suspect. It’s got a lot of glass, which is why the view is so great and there’s so much light. I’ve never lived in a modern building in London before. When I tell people, they say, ‘Gosh, that’s a change for you!’ And then they come over and, of course, inside it looks exactly like every other house I’ve ever lived in. It’s full of antique furniture.

Are there any modern touches?
Well, I have a canary. I love cats but pets aren’t allowed here, so I have this canary. I’ve always considered them to be very retro, very fuddy-duddy. But then I started to see pictures in house magazines of incredible black and white minimalist rooms with one little splash of colour – a canary. So it seems that I have become quite trendy without realising it.

Where do you go when you go out around here?
I know the restaurants are good but I don’t go to restaurants very much – only when I have to meet people. I go to the Museum of London a lot, I’m always haunting it. I love it. And I go to Chapel Market – I’ve been getting my fruit and veg there for years and years. I also like to buy olive oil from that lovely shop in Compton Street [Embassy Electrical Supplies, see the Post, issue 2], and just along from there is a little engraver where I get presents and things done.

 How did you get to know the area?
I walk everywhere. My favourite walk in the whole of London is from the Angel to Smithfield, and then down to the river. I know all the wonderful hidden streets. I’m also very good at extracting – if I look at a street, I can take out the 19th and 20th century and see what a building was like before. I just look at things all the time. I know Clerkenwell keeps getting smarter but it still has so many original features. It’s very romantic.

You’re constantly working – ever in EC1?
I was in a Sam Beckett play at the Barbican some years ago, and I’m doing a Shakespeare evening there with Rufus Wainwright in March. He’s a good friend and we’ve worked together a lot. Before Christmas, I recorded the Welsh equivalent of Songs of Praise in St Bartholomew’s in Smithfield. We had a crew up from Wales and, of course, you can’t stop tourists from coming in just because you’re doing TV. I could hear them say, ‘What language is she talking?’ They couldn’t make it out at all!

Overall, what’s your verdict?
This is my third time in this part of London. I’ve lived in Barnsbury and off the Essex Road, and now I’m in Clerkenwell. This is my favourite. I’ve been very happy here, very.

Siân is in “Lovesong” by Abi Morgan at the Lyric Hammersmith until 4 February ( and is performing cabaret at The Pheasantry on the King’s Road from 23 to 26 February ( Her Rufus Wainwright date has sold out.