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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Soraya Gaied Chortane

My London: The Witch of Hackney

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I’ve lived in Leyton for three years with my two British shorthair cats, Teddy and Fonzie — they’re my absolute world.

How will you celebrate All Hallow’s Eve?

I am preparing for Halloween because we’re going to have a little party at my shop. There’ll be breath work, a sound bath, healing and tarot readings.

Where would you like to be buried?

In Highgate Cemetery between Karl Marx and George Michael. I was thinking that maybe I could have some fun being ghosts with them.

Which shops do you rely on?

Longdan food centre, which is the most incredible Asian supermarket. Any Turkish supermarket because I’m addicted to spicy pickled turnip juice... don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. And of course Treadwell’s bookshop in Bloomsbury for witch and magic books and tarot cards.

If you could buy any building in London and live there, which would it be?

I would make the Edition hotel into a full witch den, where all the witches could hang out and I would have rooms for tarot readings, healings, past life regressions and hypnosis. But it would also double up as a cat sanctuary! When you’ve finished your magic you can snuggle around by the fire with some beautiful cats.

Who is the most iconic Londoner?

The three Vivienne’s. Viv Albertine of the Slits (who I saw once in a café but was too shy to go up to and still regret it to this day!), Vivienne Westwood and my friend’s dog who I named — Vivienne the boxer!

What would you do if you were Mayor for the day?

I would give a massive fine to all landlords who own buildings that are boarded up. Because I want all of the shops to become open to any independent businesses, artists and performers. You could walk down the high street and it wouldn’t be empty shops— there’d either be an art installation or an immersive performance or it would be a cool independent business selling its wares.

Have you ever had a run-in with a London police officer?

Me and my friend were in Soho and we were smoking a magic stick. If you know what one of those are...

What is your biggest extravagance?

My skincare. I love nice creams, face packs and potions. I’ve made a really nice salt scrub in the past called the Serpent and it’s all about shedding your skin and having a metamorphosis. I use it in a magical sense or rebirth and new beginnings.

What is your London secret?

I know the best spots to forage on Hackney Marshes. I know where to pick oyster mushrooms after it’s rained and I gather mug-wort for psychic teas, bay leaves, rosemary, lavender and sage, which I use in my spells.

For a first date I would recommend seeing something completely bonkers at Soho Theatre

Where would you recommend for a first date?

Seeing something completely bonkers at Soho Theatre like Kim Noble, who’s not one for the faint hearted. To test whether your sense of humour is on the same page as your date. And then I would take a stroll to Bar Italia afterwards to discuss whatever you’ve just seen and do a bit of people watching.

What was the last thing you googled?

Spas in Bali — I’ve just booked a ticket there.

What do you collect?

Cat memes. I think I am really quite brilliant at finding the best cat memes and I have a folder full of thousands of them.

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