Summerhouse Estate – Samuda Estate, Manchester Road, Isle of Dogs
As one of the producers puts it, Summerhouse is the “heart” of Top Boy. It’s where the two leads Dushane (Ashley Walters) and Sully (Kane ‘Kano’ Robinson) came from, where the drug gangs operate and a lot of the action happens, for good and ill – from the community standing together in solidarity, to riots breaking out as violence erupts. The location that doubled as Summerhouse (which is meant to be in Hackney and believed to be inspired by the De Beauvoir Estate), was Samuda Estate in the Isle of Dogs. It was built in 1967 and today has around 300 residents. Filming on a living, breathing estate brought challenges for the crew but it brought money in which has been invested back into the community.
Andy Orr, assistant locations manager on Top Boy, says, “I am very proud of the work I did on the Samuda estate. It speaks volumes to the high regard that the series is held in that so many of the residents were not only happy for the filming to take place but also to help us out with green rooms, holding areas, fake hoardings etc.”
Number One Café, London Fields
The wood-panelled caff is home away from home for Dushane (Ashley Walters) and Sully (Kane Robinson). It’s safe ground outside of Summerhouse and is where a lot of their dodgy business dealings take place. It is a fully working cafe in real life – with the same name – and attracts plenty of fans of the show.
Jamie, Stefan and Aaron’s bench – Old English Garden, Victoria Park
A bench in the Old English Garden in Victoria Park is a little oasis for the series’ three orphaned brothers. It’s where they go to remember their parents, and, after the tumultuous events at the end of series two, it’s where Stef goes to feel near to his brother Jamie. It is a hugely personal location to the show’s creator and writer Ronan Bennett, who sat with his wife Georgina there the day she gave birth to their second child in the 2001. He wrote very movingly in 2019 about how it was also where he and his family go, on her birthday, to remember Georgina and tell stories after she died a little over a decade later.
The English Garden is a lovely part of Victoria Park – it was planted in 1916 but fell into decline, becoming overgrown and in need of serious care and attention. It was restored in 2012 with money from the Big Lottery Fund.
Ridley Road Market, Dalston
It is in the market where a lot of the street dealing is done in the show. By the final season, the market, where Jaq (Jasmin Jobson) rules the roost, shows the sort of devastating effects of the drugs on those desperate for a hit, including, in a particularly low moment, an addicted mother with a baby she’s incapable of caring for.
The real Ridley Road Market has been operating in Dalston for more than 140 years, growing from 20 stalls in the 1880s to 150 today. It has long championed a diverse mix of sellers and goods from around the world, and was the location in 1947 where anti-fascists clashed with a right wing group, who were followers of Oswald Mosley. Last year, Hackney Council backed a redevelopment of the site and it re-opened in March, with officials hoping to bring the market back to the pre-pandemic days when millions visited a year and also stamp out antisocial behaviour and crime.
Dushane’s Flat – Gee Street, EC1V
The mark of of gentrification sweeping east London – a significant theme in Top Boy – is highlighted by Dushane’s move to Gee Street. From growing up on the Summerhouse Estate, he is desperate to get away and show everyone how he has moved up in the world. His posh new build speaks to the tension in the area – the gentrification in a borough that still has huge levels of poverty.
Shelley’s Nail Bar – Kiki’s Nail Salon, Freemasons Road, E16
Shelley (Little Simz) runs a nail bar and has dreams of expanding – but will she realise those dreams in this final season? Either way, fans of Top Boy and manicures will be delighted to know that Shelley’s really is a nail salon, called Kiki’s, and can be found in Canning Town.
Top Boy series three is available on Netflix from Friday