Yllka is a Kosovan-born classical pianist living in North London who lived through the war in Kosovo in 1999 and subsequently moved to England. She studied at the Royal College of Music and has performed world-wide. She has recently accepted to become one of only 1,600 recognised Steinway Artists. Yllka is also a keen runner and has run at a range of marathons globally, including the 2015 London marathon.
Having continued her piano practice unrelentingly throughout the Kosovo War, there is very little that could distract her from her goal to continually develop her skills. Yllka draws many parallels between her two pursuits, concluding that the mental state required whilst performing in a concert is very close to that of a long-distance run. Her level of concentration as well as her ability to play through her piano pieces in her mind as she runs, creates a meditative state that allows her to carry on even when her body is compelling her to stop.
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Film Maker: Peter Kelly
Questions & Answers
- What's your first memory of London? Emerging from High Street Kensington tube station after arriving from Heathrow airport on a Friday evening and thinking Wow, this city is all Glitz and Glamour!
- What do you miss when you're away from London? I miss myself. I feel it’s the only place where I can be who I truly am without worrying. Feeling safe and taken care.
- What's your favourite neighbourhood? Crouch End. I didn’t discover it until a few years back, but learned to love it. It has everything, the pubs, restaurants, comedy clubs and my gym.
- What's your favourite building? Shakespeare's Globe. It's a unique building with a rich history. I was lucky to gain a greater appreciation of the architecture and the work they do, as I did a fundraising internship at the Globe after my studies.
- What's your ideal day out in London? Visiting all the museums in the Exhibition Road.
- What's your ideal night out in London? Going out for dinner followed by a visit to a local comedy club or a concert. Wigmore Hall has a late night concert series, which is a great ending to an evening out.
- What's the best view in London? The view from Archway bridge on a foggy morning. It takes you back centuries.
- What's your favourite open space? Hampstead Heath.
- What's your favourite bar, pub or restaurant? Jin Kichi Japanese restaurant in Hampstead. I love everything in there, the food is excellent and if you get a seat in the counter it feels cosy, warm and fun.
- What's the most interesting shop? There is an antiques shop at the Stables market in Camden Tow, which has a lamp that I’ve been planning on getting for two years now.
- What's your favourite place to hang out? My local pub The Bull in Highgate.
- What's been your most memorable night out in London? Unexpectedly being offered tickets to the Guns’n’Roses concert in the Mayor’s box at the O2. It was my first ever rock concert!
- How would you like to spend your ideal day off in London? Going out for a long run.
- Where would you take someone visiting from out of town? To my local Indian restaurant Kiplings and then to the Downstairs at the Kings Head in Crouch End for a comedy show.
- What's the worst journey you've had to make in London? Being caught in a snow and ending up with a ten hour drive back home.
- What's your personal London landmark? Swains Lane in Highgate. One of the steepest hills around and a challenge for many athletes. Being able to run it and cycle it was a big challenge and it’s great to see my continued improvement.
- Who's your favourite fictional Londoner? Gary, Tony, Deborah and Dorothy from Men Behaving Badly. I love the show, can watch it over and over again.
- What's your favourite London film, book or documentary? Orwell's 1984.
- If you could travel to any time period in London, past or future, where would you go? In the near future, about 100 years from now. It would still be recognisable London, but different. Would like to see what people do to entertain themselves, which restaurants are popular, if Royal Festival Hall has been replaced.
- For you, who is the ultimate Londoner? Dame Myra Hess, one of the greatest pianists of the last century and one of the rare women pianists of her time. She organized 1698 lunchtime concerts at the National Gallery to raise morale during the WWII. It was wonderful to know that she used to live very near me when I first moved to London.