Listen to a Londoner: Graham Greenglass (& Giveaway!)


Born and bred Londoner Graham Greenglass went through the famous course, the Knowledge, to become a black cab driver. Combined with his history degree, he has an extensive knowledge of this city which he shares through tours in his cab. They have different themes like music and horror and are one of the most popular London activities on Trip Advisor. Graham has offered a free one to a lucky LLO reader (details at the end) and has taken the time to answer a few questions about how London has changed since he was a child, what it was like to go through the Knowledge which is famously gruelling and a fun London discovery in Dollis Hill.

LLO: Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and your interests. Which part of London is home for you? 
GG: I’m from north west London, man and boy. Like most Londoners, I think that I live a quite unremarkable life.  But like a lot of Londoners, I know that I live in a truly remarkable city; and I love it and it never ceases to interest me and almost every day I discover something new to read about or visit or find.

LLO: How long have you been a black cab driver? What was it like to study the Knowledge? 
GG: It took three years of doing the Knowledge for me to get my green badge in 2000, which is about average.  They say that two thirds of people who start the Knowledge never finish.  The Knowledge was definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

A Knowledge student eats, sleeps and drinks the Knowledge.  It’s all encompassing and takes up almost every waking thought of every day.  I may never be a millionaire but it’s scientifically proven that my brain is bigger than your brain.

LLO: You’re running your own London Cab Tours, which are number 3 out of 516 activities in London on Trip Advisor. Impressive. What prompted you to start doing this? How long are the tours and where do they start?
GG: Sometime in 2001, I thought I’d like to be a London tour guide, using my London taxi for tours. I’d done a history degree in the early ‘80s, but had never actually used my love of history in any job I’d had.  It dawned on me that I could show people London icons, from a London icon.

Each tour lasts for two to three hours and we can cover quite a bit of ground in the taxi.  We make lots of stops too and go for the occasional short walk.

I’ll pick customers up from anywhere in central London and drop them off anywhere central too.

LLO: Tell us about the themes of your tours. Which is your most popular? Which do you most enjoy and why?
GG: My tours cover various themes:  London Highlights; London Rock’n Roll; London Horror; London of Dickens & Shakespeare.

London Highlights is the most popular tour, but I enjoy them all.

LLO: As a born and bred Londoner, what are the biggest changes in the city since you were a child?
GG: The architecture and London’s built environment – there is both a lot of imaginative use of space and some quite hideous monstrosities.  This is a very clean city (which is nice), but I do kind of miss the grime.

LLO: What’s your favourite London discovery?
GG: Churchill’s spare war bunker in Dollis Hill.  It’s only open during Open House and I managed to go a few years ago during its first ever re-opening. Hard hats and wellies required. Once you’re forty feet underground you discover why it was never really used. No toilets.

LLO: Tell us the story of your most memorable passenger.
GG: I’ll always remember the British Museum academic who told me that he’d just finished inspecting some old, rare Tsarist paper money.  He had to tell the owner/dealer that they were fakes. Only worth a few thousand pounds, instead of the hoped for tens of thousands of pounds.

LLO: Share a piece of London trivia that passengers would hear on one of your tours.
GG: In 1972, a man was arrested after driving into a lamp post one night near Cockpit Steps. His defence at his court hearing was that he’d swerved to avoid the ghost of the headless lady of Cockpit Steps. He was acquitted.

LLO: What kind of music do you listen to when you drive? Or do you prefer silence?
GG: I’m a bit of a music freak. But right now, anyone called Hank from south of the Mason Dixon Line.

LLO: When you think of London, what comes to mind when you hear each of the following:
Sight –  The Houses of Parliament (corny, but true)
Sound –  Sirens (horrible, but true)
Smell –  Fish & Chip Shops and Indian Restaurants
Taste –  Fresh challah
Texture –  The mottled rubber of my taxi steering wheel

Thanks Graham!

Check out Graham’s London cab tours on his website,


Graham has very kindly offered to give one lucky LLO reader a free London tour in his cab! The tour will last two hours. Graham will pick you up and drop you off anywhere in central London and you’re welcome to choose any of his tour themes (which you’ll find on his website). The tour can take place any day time, which will be decided between Graham and the winner.


I’m trying to spread the word about my new blog, Little Observationist. To enter, please share the link ( on any of your social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, blog, etc). For each place you share, leave a comment here on this entry and let me know where you shared the link. Extra entries for Facebook page likes.


Entries will be accepted until the midnight GMT, Sunday January 26. A winner will be selected at random on Monday January 27th and notified by email. The winner will be put in touch with Graham directly to make the tour arrangement as above.

Listen to a Londoner: Suzi Brown


I received an email the other day inviting me to a little shindig to kick off something called “Mama Brown’s Pop-Up Experience”. The message said it involved fashion, all sorts of art (including”specially curated graffiti”), the offer of some Monday evening drinks, a spot of shopping with local artisan vendors, food (always important) – in particular, home-cooked Middle Eastern treats and some comfy lounge-style sofas.

What could be better apart from the fact that it’s set in the old abandoned Victorian post office on King’s Road that’s always intrigued me and the fact that it’s less than two minutes walk from our flat? Yes, please. Count me in.

So I decided to interview the brains behind this operation to find out what it’s really all about and, well, who exactly is “Mama Brown”? Turns out she’s Suzi Brown and she’s a pretty fascinating person indeed. She’s well travelled, has a light installation in her dining room from a Saudi Arabian artist and she believes in cooking good food and bringing together people from all walks of life. Read on for more.

(Note: These are press photos throughout besides a couple from Mama Brown’s Facebook page, but I’ll be sure to take some to share with you at the event on Monday night!)

Mama Brown's

LLO: Tell us a bit about yourself and your background. What’s your favourite London discovery?
SB: I was born in Baghdad, Iraq, and grew up in Lebanon. When the war started in 1975, I came to the UK to study at Oxford and then went on to Richmond College and earned a BA in Art History. London is now my home. There’s nowhere like it. It is the centre of the modern world, yet it maintains a rich sense of history and tradition. That’s what gives London its edge and that’s why people keep coming back. Just when you think you know it, London presents another side that you never even knew existed. It is then that you realise you’ve only just scratched the surface of this amazing city. Discovery is the norm in this eclectic and international place.

Brooski Jewellery

LLO: The old Victorian post office on King’s Road will host your upcoming event “Mama Brown’s Pop-Up Experience”. What can we expect from the “experience”? What will the atmosphere be like? Also, talk a bit about your choice of venue.
SB: When I first walked into the post office on King’s Road, it was in a sad state –  dirty and grimy, with no source of water or power. But there was something about the space that I knew would lend itself well to what I wanted to do with Mama Brown’s. It was huge, cavernous, and gritty. It was like working with a blank canvass, “tabula rasa“.  We immediately seized the challenge of transforming the space into what it is now. The atmosphere is a bit of London’s East End meets London’s West End. Mama Brown’s is bringing a bit of Shoreditch street flavour to the posh neighbourhood of Chelsea.

Miro's Love Bites

LLO: What prompted you to set up the first Mama Brown’s Pop-Up Experience over the Summer and where was it? What were the highlights? What’s new this time? 
SB: The first Mama Brown’s was at Holland Park. It was hugely successful as it was an intimate setting where art, design, culture and cuisine came together. Apart from the amazing showcase of merchandise that came from all around the world, people were very much impressed by the organic Middle Eastern food that was served fresh every day. That was definitely a highlight.The idea was born through my love of bringing people from all walks of life together at huge communal tables – each person sharing his or her own experiences in life, culture, food and art. But this time, I want to take things even further by making the experience even more memorable, more enriching, more impressively festive. Of course, Mama Brown’s will still have the same heart and soul that made people fall in love with it the first time around, but we have a few more surprises up our sleeves that are sure to delight. There will be more art to admire, more beautiful merchandise and even better food. We are bringing in lots of new vendors whose items you will fall in love with.

Torula Bags

LLO: Tell us about a couple of the stand out vendors who will be there on King’s Road. 
SB: It’s difficult to name only two as all of them are stand outs in my opinion. Each one is bringing in something totally different from the other. What makes Mama Brown’s different and unique is that all these amazing designers, whether they are established or up-and-coming, will be found under one roof.

cire trudon candles

LLO: Give us your top choice of gift for holiday shoppers looking to buy something fun at Mama Brown’s Pop-Up Experience for each of the following:
Mum: A beautiful and ornate cashmere shawl
Dad: A pair of exquisite cufflinks
Brother: A cool, one-off designer shirt
Best girl friend: Gorgeous accessories for everyday
Boyfriend:  A holiday weekend bag or a nice leather iPad cover with his initials

LLO: I hear there will be “specially curated graffiti” on display at the event. What sort of specially curated graffiti? Also, with artist Ben Wilson’s recent chewing gum art trail down King’s Road, do you think Chelsea’s becoming more open minded about embracing street art? Or will it stay in the east?
SB: The space we have was a virtual blank slate and we had to think of ways to aesthetically transform it whilst keeping the edgy character of the place intact. Graffiti is the one art form that we felt would allow us to do this.  But it couldn’t just be any graffiti. The style had to reflect what Mama Brown’s is all about – avant-garde, yet classic; street, yet clean and functional. Yes, we are in Chelsea, yet we are bringing some edge to it. Ben Wilson’s chewing gum art on the King’s Road is a breath of fresh air. It tells us that the neighbourhood can appreciate beauty in all forms.

Year Zero Bag

LLO: What is your favourite piece of art in your private collection?
SB: It would definitely be the Ahmed Mater light installation in my dining room. It is difficult to explain why. Art is art and it speaks to each one of us differently. That’s why art is so special, isn’t it?

Imperial Collection Vodka

LLO: Where does your love of cooking come from? What will we be eating at Mama Brown’s Pop Up Experience?
SB: When you are a mother of five children, you learn how to diversify and experiment when it comes to cooking! Apart from that, I was exposed to some of the best cuisine from an early age, growing up in an Arabic household. I am an avid traveller and I believe one of the best ways to experience culture is through food. I bring the flavours and tastes of my travels to every dinner party I host and to every meal I prepare for my loved ones. Mama Brown’s is a labour of love. What better way to show my guests my appreciation than by preparing some of my best-loved Arabic dishes at Mama Brown’s?

Flower Headbands 1

LLO: What’s your favourite holiday season tradition and why? Any holiday season pet peeves?
SB: It would have to be the time I get to spend with my family over the winter break. We have a tradition of travelling to a corner of the globe that we have never been to. Last year, we spent a glorious three weeks in Vietnam and Cambodia. It was amazing – totally immersing ourselves in a new culture. Apart from spending time lounging on tropical beaches, we did some really interesting things that we’ll never forget, like planting rice in rice paddies. Pet peeves? I abhor packing and tourist traps!

Communal Table

LLO: You’ve been called “London’s ultimate hostess”. That’s a big name to live up to! What are your top three hosting tips for the rest of us?
SB: A big name to live up to, indeed! If I didn’t love bringing people together, I would never do it. I love to host and I do it very frequently – whether it’s a small intimate dinner with my closest friends or a big party until the early hours.

Top three tips:
1. Food made with love. Everyone loves a delicious meal. It’s what people remember most at the end of the night.
2. Introduce new blood. Always make it a point to bring in a few new faces each time you entertain. It makes things more interesting.
3. Create a fun atmosphere with no stress.

Thanks Suzi!

Mama Brown’s Pop-Up Experience is located at 232 King’s Road, Chelsea and will be open to the public from the 26th of November until the 15th of December (Tuesday-Sunday, 10:00am-7:00pm).

Listen to a Londoner: Garry Hunter

GH_with_cover_image_of_NameRank&SerialNumber_showing_GreatUncle_John_Gaffney_KIA_1944Photo: Garry with image from NYC show celebrating John Gaffney the Great Uncle he never knew, killed in action during Normandy campaign

If you follow the street art scene in London or anywhere else in the world, you may be familiar with Garry’s book,  Street Art: From Around the World with the ROA rat on the front cover. He’s just completed a second volume titled Urban Art: The World as a Canvas. Having spent many years as a photographer, on many different levels, Garry is now heavily involved in the street art scene, bridging artists in the UK with international opportunities and bringing artists from abroad to paint in the UK. He has his own studio space in Trinity Buoy Wharf which is exactly as he describes below (and I speak from experience) a wonderfully cluttered mess of art and memories, a cave of ephemera. In his interview, Garry tells us more about his connection to street art and how the scene has changed in recent years, the fascinating history of his family and connection to the Docklands and the story behind his own arts group, Fitzrovia Noir.


LLO: Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.
GH: I was born and raised in South Shields, a town that the Romans called Arbeia ‘Land of the Arabs’ as even when they arrived, the ferry across the River Tyne was run by boatmen from the Euphrates. This testament to the cosmopolitan outlook continued with settlement of Yemenese sailors in the 19th Century and when I was growing up my Egyptian neighbour, Mr Aziz used to drive Jimi Hendrix around during his early tours of the Newcastle area, his manager being the local former-Animal Chas Chandler. In the early 1970s the town had the largest settlement of Muslims in Western Europe, hence Muhammed Ali visiting the mosque to have his marriage blessed. I have a vivid memory of him standing only a few feet from me dressed in an immaculate white suit when he came to Gypsies Green stadium, now the finish line of the Great North Run.

My great uncle Bill cycled to St Albans in the 1930s and never came back, so my mother used to visit him regularly after the war. She got to know London well on day trips from there and used to regale me with stories of the bright lights of theatres and crowds of busy people, although I really just eventually ended up here without a real intention, like so many people.

My actual first published photograph was in 1982, when I sneaked into Rik Mayall’s soundcheck at The Jesmond Theatre in Newcastle. He not only shared his cans of Brown Ale with me and allowed me to take pictures, but introduced me to a very young Ben Elton and also Jools Holland who was then hosting the anarchic Tube music programme that was filmed in the city. They all said I should move to London, which five years later, I did. In the meantime I toured with rock bands and learnt why roadies wafted thermometers around on lighted stages prior to gigs; this was to balance the temperatures between stage and dressing room, so guitar strings did not expand and go out of tune. I can’t really talk about the more decadent side of the business that I experienced, as I wish to maintain the privacy of those people who became good friends of mine and gave me opportunities I had never even dreamed of.

The miner’s strike of 84/85 hit North East England badly, with my own father then working at a coal pit. As soon as it was over I left my job as an exhibition printer at a local photolab and moved to Suffolk to live at the haunted Claret Hall Farm that housed the Lodge Recording Studios in former barns. I had cut my teeth on ‘live’ rock photography and here honed my skills on more art directed conceptual image making for record sleeves and promos, dodging police raids on the management’s ever-relocating amphetamine factory.

I then hitch hiked to art college in Swansea, South Wales, sleeping under my portfolio on a partially shrubbed traffic island in Bristol. Two and a half years later I arrived in London a week after the big 1987 storm, squatting with a Clapham Old Town cadre of washed-up aristocrats, who had spent their inheritances on Class A drugs and still squandered their meagre dole money on designer trousers. I got a job with a right wing photographer in Soho, who almost put me off the business as he made portraits of Freemasons in aprons with (non designer) trouser legs rolled up. After then working at a ‘glamour’ studio in Hoxton and printing exhibitions for the National Portrait Gallery, I met by chance an Armenian who would become my mentor – photographer and raconteur Peter Mackertich, and we are still friends after 25 years, working together on fine art projects where he uses Speed Graphic plate cameras and ‘blaster’ flashbulbs.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPhoto: Ancestors by Sciutto – East India Dock

LLO: You spend a lot of time in London’s Trinity Buoy Wharf, the “Docklands most exciting arts quarter”. Would would we discover if we paid you a visit?
GH: I discovered the Wharf quite by chance about twelve years ago and was immediately enchanted by this hidden gem, which once found must be revisited, or the ghost of former resident Michael Faraday may send you lightning bolts. I did a few exhibitions during Open House in then-vacant Container City spaces and then when Boiler House 1954 became available I remortgaged my flat to fund the initial projects I wanted to do there. I have since been supported by both the Trust and Urban Space who manage the site, allowing me to invite artists from France, Iraq, Luxembourg, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand and Venezuela, as well as working there with UK practitioners such as Ben Wilson (AKA Chewing Gum Man) and William Alexander who makes vehicles from cardboard, reflecting the upcycling ethos of the wharf, where many studios are made from old shipping containers.

The most recent addition to our growing collection of permanent work is a piece by Irony that celebrates the natural beauty of an enigmatic non-celebrity, caught in the breeze that gives the Wharf its nickname of Windy Corner.

Over the weekend of 28/29 September, we are exhibiting work inspired by the tattoo genre in the historic Electricians Shop at the Wharf, built in 1835 when many sailors would be returning from the South Pacific with freshly inked skin. We have artists from Luxembourg, Spain, Italy, New Zealand, the UK, the US and Venezuela looking at interpreting ‘flashes’ (or tattoo designs) into other media and onto other surfaces. The gallery has just this week been refurbished with spotlighting and a brand new entrance from Orchard Place. I like the way the architect has kept the historical details but has opened out the extended area with large glass panels to maximise daylight.

My own studio next door has been described as anything from a man-cave to my deconstructed brain and I think it’s somewhere between, put most succinctly by Antarctic Expedition Ops Manager Tris Kaye as ‘all of this knowledge’. Many pieces are gifts from artists I’ve worked with, other bits that I’ve rescued from derelict buildings, amongst hundreds of books in a sea of ephemera. There are works in progress, others coming in from or going out to an exhibition and ideas sparked from serendipity.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPhoto: Ancestors by Sciutto – East India Dock

LLO: Why are you attracted to the Docklands?
GH: I grew up by the foggy North Sea, where Tyne Dock nearly died in the early 80s, only to be revitalised by the constant Nissan transporters now coming out of the old airport site. Rather than sending coals to nearby Newcastle for export the area is now making cars to send to Europe.

My father was in the Merchant Navy from 1948-55 and sailed just about everywhere apart from the Panama Canal and Japan. These were the pre-container days when cargo ships were in ports for weeks, offloading, cleaning and loading, giving plenty time to explore New Orleans, Kingston, Odessa, Galveston, Caracas, Port Said, Adelaide and a hundred points between, so this sense of adventure was embedded in my psyche from an early age. On my mother’s side, her paternal grandfather was captain of the SS Effective, a Victorian steamship that he once navigated down to Genoa to have family portraits taken by renowned photographer Sciutto (pronounced ‘shoot-o’ perhaps part of the etymology of the word for a photo session?) I still have these original prints which I’ve here put on a maritime metal bollard cast in North East England and still at East India Dock, which in its heyday might well have secured the vessels that my ancestors traveled on from Durham.

(NB Sciutto made many famous images including this one of legendary Italian stage actress Eleonora Duse.)

My father would have visited East India Dock when it occupied a much larger area (the surviving nature reserve is only one of the smaller entrance docks) but was always more interested in smuggling paint ashore in Italy or dodging rogue traders in the Suez Canal. My first book Trip_Transporting Grain looked at these journeys, revisiting locations half a century later, the title referencing the Marshall Plan voyages that my father made from North America and the act of carrying grain within camera film.

LLO: International connections seem important to you in your work with artists. Talk a bit about how you’re bridging UK artists to other parts of the world and vice versa.
GH: I’ve established some great links with motivated people in Morocco, who are helping to bring artists from there here and UK artists out there. This has great potential, as do some other locations in Europe and Latin America, which I can’t talk about yet as they’re still in early stages of development.

By_Irony_at_Trinity_Buoy_WharfPhoto: Street art by Irony at Trinity Buoy Wharf

LLO: As well as helping to give emerging artists a voice, you have a history as an artist yourself. Tell us about your work as a photographer. What stands out as one of your most memorable experiences? I worked in photography exclusively from 1980-2005 and went from originally wanting to be a documentary photographer, to getting breaks into the music business, onto abstract experimental studio work for massive corporations, then to public sector campaigns for the NHS, NESTA, the Film Council and creative documentation for galleries like Hauser+Wirth, Gagosian and Modern Art, which bridged me into fine art practice.

One of my most memorable assignments, six years ago was a UN mission into Niger to create imagery for an advocacy program on maternal health. After photographing at a hospital in the French colonial capital of Niamey, we drove across the Sahara to Zinder, an ancient crossroads where slaves were traded until relatively recently. We met with the Sultan who decreed that girls could no longer marry aged 12, and now had to be 16 adding that this would be raised to 20 ‘if they were a bit skinny.’ Fistula is however a serious problem and we met many young girls suffering from this avoidable condition but can only hope that their treatment is successful and others can be protected. I was so heavily bearded and suntanned after this extended period in the desert, that when trying to leave from the international airport, my passport was seized while officials checked my temporary resemblance to an Al Qaeda fugitive on their wanted list.

I lived in New York from 2004-07, exhibiting my first solo show Name, Rank and Serial Number picking up an award for the accompanying book and half a dozen others for my fine art work and abstract experimental advertising imagery for big corporations like Sony, Cable&Wireless and Pfizer. When I got back to London I felt I needed to move on and set up Fitzrovia Noir with Lucy Williams, a specialist in community arts outreach.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPhoto: Inside Garry’s studio

LLO: How has the advent of digital photography affected the art form as it is today?
GH: I used to love the alchemy of large format image making using cameras with extendable bellows and film formats measured in inches, pushing chemical technology beyond the norm. Whereas it often used to take me days to produce one finished image that had exposures of minutes using projectors and mixed lighting, now it’s instantaneous. I lost interest in photography that resembles a colouring-in book, where the process is concentrated in post-production.

I spent a month at BATSUB (British Army Training Support Unit Belize) in 2010 shortly before it closed due to MoD cuts. There I created ‘textographs’ which describe photographs not taken, that were then framed like prints for the Annuale Festival of Independent Practice during Edinburgh Festival. This was an experiment into whether a photograph is still worth anything like a thousand words, promoted by research I did on cognitive uses of the brain, facilitated by The Disconnected Mind project led by Professor Ian Deary at the University of Edinburgh.

On the positive side I have rediscovered documentary photography and this features strongly as a strand of my curatorial practice and in the books I write and illustrate.

STORM_Waterloo_signed_editioned_print_20x24_C-typePhoto: Original  image on 10×8″ format transparency

LLO: In 2008, you set up Fitzrovia Noir arts group. Tell us about this group and why you chose the name.
GH: When the 250 year old Middlesex Hospital in Fitzrovia was sold and demolition began, I thought it was extremely important to celebrate this iconic teaching institution that had cared for so many Londoners from Prince Monolulu to Peter Sellers, hosting the laying in state of Rudyard Kipling and having treatments for a cholera epidemic supervised by one Florence Nightingale before she left for the Crimea.

I added Noir to the neighbourhood name to signal our interest in the darker side of life, whilst also referencing both of my grandmothers, one who had the maiden name of Black, the other who had a French side, with milliner cousins running a shop in Paris. The prefix ‘Fitz’ was used to denote a child conceived out of landed gentry wedlock and added in front of existing surnames in Ireland, so this also relates to a distant relative who I’m told was a baron, but I’m not sure if he was a real bastard…

We like places undergoing transition and exhibited our Responses to Conflict & Loss group show as site specific changing showcases that specifically responded to the three venues: St Pancras Crypt which was a WWII air raid shelter; Space2 Gallery in Peterborough, once used as a Cold War nuclear shelter and the University of Hertfordshire Galleries that had the de Havilland aircraft factory on its site. We have also exhibited in an old pithead on Tyneside, a former grammar school in Chelsea, an empty shop in Edinburgh and look forward to a 13th Century Château in the Ardèche next summer and possibly a French colonial abattoir in Casablanca in 2014 too.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPhoto: Inside Garry’s studio

LLO: You’re the author of Street Art: From Around the World with a follow up book out this month. What can we expect to see in the new volume?
GH: The last book was an introduction to the street art practices of stencil, paint, poster and 3D, citing notable artists. This new book goes under the skin, examining the concepts behind the work and looking at the pioneer artists of the 1960s and 70s including Kent Twitchell in Los Angeles and Ernest Pignon-Ernest in Naples, featuring previously unseen archive photography by Peter Mackertich and specially taken photographs by Doralba Picerno, Sheridan Orr and myself that look at urban artists’ work in countries lesser known for such activity including Canada, India, Korea, Morocco and South Africa.

LLO: How did you get involved with the street art community?
GH: I’d taken an interest in graffiti since an early age, being something of a practitioner myself and getting caned at school for misuse of a pen. My great friend Cathy Gibbons in New York opened my eyes to emerging practices, as did visits to Berlin and I got to know some artists very well as collaborators when I set up Fitzrovia Noir.

An ongoing project I first formulated in 2006 has finally broken through after much immersive research and changing hurdles imposed by funding authorities. The core idea is to look at the street names on the postwar council estate where I grew up, which honour writers like Ruskin who had a social conscience and deep interest in the visual arts. The next estate celebrates Ruskin’s friend Turner and many other famous painters such as Landseer and Rembrandt, so this really is a new look at ‘street art’ where I hope to engage current residents in a program of celebrating people from the area, who I feel have been neglected. I was six years old when my father took me for tea to meet Lord Blyton, a campaigner for miners’ rights who carried on living at his council house nearby and is still the most impressive Lord among the many I have since met. My concept is, I am happy to say, the central theme of a successful consortium bid called The Cultural Spring that will see a two million pound fund to promote the arts in areas of North East England that are much more in need of ‘street art’ than say, saturated Shoreditch. I have a strong desire to get Lord Blyton properly recognised locally, as well as many less famous people who make huge efforts to improve the lives of others.


LLO: How has street art evolved in the last decade and how do you feel about the changes?
GH: I think the main problem now is corporations want a very big slice of the pie and I was told only yesterday that ‘community volunteers’ from McDonalds in branded overalls were spotted painting over work on Sclater Street, in readiness for who knows what thinly veiled subliminal messages. Some blame does lie with the self appointed keepers of certain walls in Shoreditch, who speak of strategy and branding for their artists – this is public art now, without any real message apart from a big bold statement that says ‘I own this wall.’ There is hope though – watch this space.

Photo: Garry’s latest book: Urban Art, The World as a Canvas

LLO: What’s your favourite London discovery and why?
GH: To discover Fitzrovia in the late 80s was a revelation, an area right in Central London that few had heard of and had very affordable studio space after the property crash. I had three studios there over twenty years and lived there for most of that time. It’s been ruined now through overdevelopment and I’ve lived in Dalston for the last year, loving Ridley Market and especially the superb food that comes out of the tiny Kashmiri Kebabish at No 5. They’ve even cooked for a President of Pakistan.

Garry Hunter has a book signing for the newly published Urban Art : The World as a Canvas on the Opening Night of the Heroes and Villains panels on Thursday October 3rd from 5pm to 10pm, upstairs at The Bell, Middlesex Street E1. All welcome. Signed copies are also now available from Graffik Gallery, 284 Portobello Road W10 . 

Listen to a Londoner: Kyomm Aman

Kyomm Aman Interview

Settling in to a new life in London, Kyomm has made some interesting observations in her first year here – one of them to do with Potatoes! Below she muses on what she misses from her home country of Uganda, her favourite places in London to go out for a meal and her favourite way to pass a Saturday in this city. Kyomm blogs at Vow. Move. Live.

LLO: Tell us a bit about yourself and your background. Where are you from originally, how long have you been in London and what brought you here?
KA: My name is Kyomugisha (Kyomm) Aman and I am a 28-year-old Ugandan with a background in human medicine. I moved to London a year ago to join my husband.

LLO: As an expat, what does the word “home” mean to you?
KA: I believe that home is where the heart is. For me, it is wherever my husband and I choose to live; whether it’s our birth home, Uganda, or elsewhere. Uganda is always close to our hearts though.

LLO: What do you miss most from Uganda? If you were to leave London, what would you least like to leave behind?
I miss the people I had in my life. I am grateful for a loving family and loyal friends. I miss being able to see them often and share experiences. I also miss the sense of community, variety of tropical fruits, the endless weddings and ceremonies, the genuine friendships and the sun.

If I were to leave London, I would miss the (mostly) reliable transport system, politicians who are accountable for their actions, being able to have value for money, having variety of everything at my disposal and my lovely neighbourhood.

LLO: Let’s talk food. Have you found any Ugandan restaurants in London? Any recommendations?
I have not, I’m afraid! My mother taught me well, I am able to cook several Ugandan dishes. My cousin recommends Exceline Exotic Dishes for Sunday lunch. I really should go try out their food.

LLO: If you’re heading out for dinner or drinks in London, where are your favourite places to go?
KA: We try to go to different restaurants every time. Some memorable ones are Preto (I, literally, crushed in there), Manna (vegetarian for a change) and Bluebird Chelsea (classy).

LLO: Best London discovery?
Bus 11; a friend took me on a trip across London from Liverpool Street to Fulham Broadway. I saw a lot of London on that one bus journey and have tried to visit the places I saw along the way.

LLO: Since moving to London, what have been your biggest challenges and most rewarding moments?
KA: Biggest challenges: making lasting connections, opening a bank account and realising that I am no good at picking up accents – not even the BBC one!

Most rewarding moments: finding a church that I love, the opportunity to volunteer regularly at a food bank and starting my blog – Vow. Move. Live.

LLO: What is your favourite way to spend a Saturday in London?
Window shopping, browsing and actual shopping. I, particularly, like to check out what’s on sale in Zara, The Gap and Mango (in that order). I’ll go into the shops about three or four times, but I try not to if I have company. Few people are able to tolerate this kind of foolishness!

LLO: What’s the best part about living in your postcode and why?
KA: It is so calm, so quiet and so clean. It also helps that it is by the riverside.

LLO: What three little observations have you made about London life that you didn’t expect before you arrived?
KA: 1.) It’s refreshing to see people instinctively queue up for literally everything! 2.) I was shocked to see everyone with their ear phones everywhere. People are missing out on life around them. 3.) Apparently, there are more types of potato than sweet and regular; some are for boiling, some for roasting and others are for baking. Who knew? I once blamed a reputable supermarket for 2.5kg of crumbled boiled potatoes.

Thanks Kyomm!

Follow along on Kyomm’s London adventures on her blog, Vow. Move. Live.

Listen to a Londoner: Julie Falconer


Julie Falconer is a London-based travel writer and consultant. She writes an award-winning travel and lifestyle blog, A Lady in London, for which she has traveled to over 90 countries. Julie’s writing has featured in the National Geographic Intelligent Travel Blog, Time Out, Lonely Planet, and other publications. She also lectures and teaches classes on social media and blogging. You can read her blog at

LLO: Where are you from originally, how long have you been in London and what brought you here?
JF: I am originally from San Francisco, and I moved to London in 2007 after leaving a career in finance. I wanted to see a different part of the world and decided that London would be a good place to do that!

LLO: Tell us a bit about your blog, A Lady in London – an introduction to those who are unfortunately not yet acquainted!
JF: I started A Lady in London in 2007 when I moved to the UK. Originally, it was a way to keep in touch with people back home, but over time I started writing for a much broader audience. I have now written the blog as a full-time job for over three years, and I write about travel all over the world with an emphasis on food and culture.

LLO: Your career path started in finance. What’s your story? How did you end up as a blogger, a travel planner and a teacher of social media classes, etc?
JF: I left finance because I felt burned out and I wanted to do something different. Moving to London provided me with a lot of great ideas for things to write about on my blog, and it attracted a following over the first two years. When I started working on it full-time, I added the travel planning services as a natural extension. A couple of years later, I was asked to speak about social media in travel, and that spawned the teaching and lecturing. I also work with businesses on social media strategy, which resulted from the blog as well.

LLO: Having travelled to some 90+ countries (even before you turned 30!), what are your favourite and least favourite travel destinations so far? How does London compare?
JF: It’s always hard to choose favourites  but I like different places for different things. The Maldives is a great beach destination, and I love the food in Spain and Thailand. The only places I have been to that I don’t like are the ones that are really touristy, but that’s usually my fault for staying in the wrong place. London compares favourably to many destinations, as it is a world-class city with a lot of great history, culture, and attractions.

LLO: Where else have you lived and what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a serial expat? Most rewarding moments?
JF: I have lived in San Francisco, San Diego, Providence, Prague, Nice, Paris, and Brussels. The biggest challenges are always the ones that come with getting settled in when I first arrive, and the rewarding moments come once I get a chance to really explore a city beyond the major tourist attractions.

LLO: What’s the best thing about living in your postcode and why?
JF: I love living near one of London’s largest parks. Being in an urban environment is great for a lot of things, but I need to get my outdoor fix to remind me of the natural world beyond the city.

LLO: Tell us about your favourite London discovery.
JF: One of my favourite places in London is the Chelsea Physic Garden. It is a tiny garden near the Thames, and it has a great variety of plants and flowers. It is really peaceful and not many people know that it is there.

LLO: Best place to go for an afternoon tea in London? How about a Sunday roast? 
JF: I have had great afternoon teas and Sunday roasts all across London, so it’s hard to narrow it down to just one of each. For a classic afternoon tea ambiance, I love the Corinthia Hotel and for a great ambiance for Sunday roast, the Holly Bush in Hampstead is perfect.

LLO: Give us your top three London restaurant recommendations.
JF: My favourites are Kitchen W8 in Kensington for great food and service in an understated atmosphere, Ottolenghi for great salads and light fare, and The Grazing Goat in Marble Arch for good pub food.

LLO: Favourite way to spend a Saturday in London?
JF: It depends on the weather. If it’s warm, I will be in a park, and if it’s not, I will be in a pub!

Thanks Julie!