Listen to a Londoner: Mariano Ortiz

Listen to a Londoner is a weekly interview with a Londoner – someone who lives in this city, born here or elsewhere. If you’re up for being interviewed, email littlelondonobservationist@hotmail.co.uk.

Mariano Ortiz

Mariano is a born and bred Londoner. With an emphasis on social integration in everything he does, he loves to engage people through teaching English language, giving salsa dance lessons and playing vallenato accordion. He also runs Latinos in London Ltd.

LLO: Where are you from originally, how long have you been in London and what brought you here?
MO: My parents left Colombia in the seventies. They went to Spain to study at university. As luck would have it, they only met when both were on holiday here in London. They fell in love, got married, then I popped up and the rest was history – our life was to be here in England. I have therefore been here all my life, since 1983, and now enjoy my days running Latinos in London Ltd, teaching English, teacing dance, teaching music, bringing artists in from Latin America for concerts and providing consultancy services to London Concert venues with acts that appeal to Spanish/Portuguese-speaking audiences in London.

LLO: Latinos in London has well over 4,000 members on Facebook. Tell us what it’s all about.
MO: Latinos in London branches off from Timeout London, for whom I did work experience when I finished my A-levels. It will become a fully functioning and interactive website this year. It basically provides English speakers across the world with an insight into Latin American and Iberian happenings in the UK without the biassed coverage most other bodies do because there is indeed no regulator or actively working critical body here. We seek to become that regulator and in addition bring about advancement in all aspects of community and politics but are well aware that the only way to hold the attention of as high a percentage of the public (especially a cross-section of generations) is by focussing on events and providing the service of a comprehensive events and curent affairs media body.

In addition to reporting news and current events both in the UK and abroad, we promote everything from book launches to film screenings via concerts, night clubs, conferences, lectures and many other events. Our site will launch once we have our critical agenda and critical team together because the most important thing we are looking to do is operate a critical and political branch to our project which should hopefully promote improvement and advancement of Latin American / Iberian communities in the UK. We are clearly not all illegal immigrants looking to scrounge off the UK welfare system, nor are we all Saints – thus a clear-speaking unbiassed media body is required by all to tell things as they should be.

Most other bodies are unable (and moreover unwilling) to do this based on:

1. The alliances they have with community groups, consulates, embassies and past or present advertising clients. Spanish language newspaper editors portray our 32 consulates and embassies in the UK as perfectly oiled machines of absolute efficiency when in truth most are far from this. Even more farsical is the tabloid style coverage these bodies give to news related to immigration, by which political candidates are judged to be pro-Latin based only on their backing of “possible future amnesties” – which indeed addresses the many of us in need of regularisation in the UK but portrays us as little more than a community in need of such things when a significant percentage of us would rather see politicians addressing issues concerning trade agreements.

2. The solely financial objectives they have and the limitations these entail: publicity clients, diplomatic bodies, service providers, restaurants and so on cannot be badmouthed or criticised as this will lead to bad business and the small “mafia” of regular advertisers in these newspapers have grown to become “family”.

We, as a community, need to remove ourselves from the ghetto mentality that reigns within too many of us here in the UK and allows things to remain sloppy and half-hearted. Latinos in London Ltd is 100% privately funded and has no restrictions or limitations. It additionally is the only platform producing daily and in English.

LLO: We’re looking for a great Latin American restaurant in London – best food and authentic Latin atmosphere. Recommendations?
MO: My opinion has changed over the years but at the moment I am against frequenting both typically Latin eateries and chain-stores of Macdonald’s style La Tascas, Nandos and Las Iguanas clown feederies. right now I am particularly interested in backing restaurants looking to push integration of that which is Latin American and that which is British/European in all aspects: menu, atmosphere, lighting, wine list, drinks, staff, service, etc.

In summary, my recommendations are Sabor run and owned by my dear friend Esnayder (also interviewed for Listen to a Londoner!) and Arepa & Co run by another visionary and lateral thinker, Gustavito.

LLO: Favourite unique London discovery?
MO: Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club

LLO: Best place to go out dancing or hear some great live Latin American tunes in this city?
MO: My house! I organise a monthly “Vallenato House Party” where people are welcome to experience an authentic Colombian “parranda” (party with live music) with all the essences of typical food, atmosphere and imported drinks. Come along and be transported to any typical Colombian Northern coast house on a weekend evening. Details: www.Vallenato.co.uk

For added fun, check out Latin American harp and clarinet maestros Diego Laverde and Cheveto Requena at Angel and Green Park stations when you get the chance.

LLO:  Which area of London are you most familiar with and what’s your favourite thing about it?
MO: I am still deciding on that!

LLO: Can you tell us about some great resources for Latin Americans coming to London for the first time?
MO: Learning English? Well I have been working as an English teacher and education guidance mentor since 2006 and believe the best advice anyone could ever receive is personalised – so in short, my contact details are 0781 569 65 94 /contact@latinosinlondon.com

LLO: Tell us about a great memory of something that could only have happened in London.
MO: Celebrating Barcelona winning the UEFA champions league a few years ago against Arsenal in Trafalgar Square. Colombian Barcelona supporters, we were playing vallenato into the night. Argentine Barcelona supporters, they were playing Latin rock guitar, Cubans had salsa cow bells and claves  and who were we sorrounded by? Joyous Tottenham Hotspurs supporters cheering and dancing along.

LLO: If you were to leave London in the near future, what 5 things (people not included) would you miss the most about the city?
MO:
1 – The mentality: Most people here do not allow social class and appearances rule their lives.
2 – The culture: Every country of the world is represented in this city
3 – The food: Fancy eating anything from anywhere? look for it in London.
4 – Employment flexibility: Fancy changing careers from sales to dance entertainment and then back again? Only in London.
5 – Night clubs and entertainment venues open 7 nights a week: We don’t know how lucky we are to have these.

LLO: You’ve got a free day to explore a part of the city you’ve never been to. Where do you go and why?
MO: My head hurts now.  😦  I can’t possibly think straight and answer for this. Sorry 😦

Thanks Mariano!

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.

Listen to a Londoner: K Anderson

Listen to a Londoner is a weekly interview with a Londoner – someone who lives in this city, born here or elsewhere. If you’re up for being interviewed, email littlelondonobservationist@hotmail.co.uk.

K Anderson, 28

K Anderson plays ‘lesbian music by a boy’ – confessional, conversational songs about the important things in life – getting older, bad sex, and needing a special someone in your life who can shave your back hair for you.

LLO: Which aspects of London life most influence your creativity?
KA: I think the randomness of London life is what is most inspiring. Turn a busy street corner and you could walk into a makeshift market, a film shoot, a drunken punch up or a protest march – you just never know. Speaking of random, the other day I ran into a girl who I went to primary school with on the other side of the world. My head is still spinning about that.

LLO: Where are you from originally, how long have you been in London and what brought you here?
KA:
This is always a bit confusing: I was born in Scotland, but emigrated to Australia with my family when I was 8, and then moved to London when I was 22. My friends in high school were obsessed with Oasis, and I was obsessed with the Spice Girls, so England was the obvious place for us to plot our escape to. I was the only one who actually managed to move here, though…

LLO: Tell us about the making of your video for “Shrug”. Lots and lots of feet…
KA:
I carried a video camera with me for a few months, and sheepishly asked all of my friends to dance for me when I caught them in a good mood.  I wanted a light and breezy video to go with ‘Shrug’, which is one of those toe-tapping songs disguising a sinister lyric. The hook of the song – ‘You want to call what we do love, I want to call it dirty sheets’ – keeps getting me into trouble with prospective romantic partners…

LLO: Favourite place in London to spend a Saturday night out on the town?
KA:
My favourite club night is ‘Unskinny Bop’, which is held at The Star of Bethnal Green. They always play totally random songs, and so you find yourself dancing to tunes you haven’t heard in years and years. Expect Betty Boo followed by The Temptations, Fuzzbox, and The Backstreet Boys. Amazing!

LLO: What’s the best part about living in your postcode?
KA:
I live in Stoke Newington, and although there are a number of pushchairs to avoid when walking down Church Street, I don’t think I would want to live anywhere else. There is a real sense of community here, and everyone I meet is fiercely proud of this little village. Oh, and there’s an amazing vegan stall at the local farmer’s market.

LLO: I hear you’ve been inviting people into your big new bed. Tell us more.
KA:
I’m slightly modest when talking about my music, but if you start me talking about my bed you won’t get me to shut up! It’s a super-king-size, and I have been madly in love with it since I bought it last year. I started a video series, ‘In Bed With K Anderson’ as a way of not only showing it off, but the talents of my many singer/songwriter friends. The premise is simple – people come over and sing a cover of a recent hit song in my bed with me. It’s been such an inspiring project for me, and it’s great to discover they way other people approach music making.

LLO: While you were in bed singing Rihanna/Eminem cover, you wore a t-shirt with iron-on letters that says “vegans make better lovers.” Are you vegan? If so, what’s your favourite place to go out for vegan food in London?
KA:
I am, indeed, a vegan. I would have to say that my favourite place to go in London for vegan food is RootMaster (www.root-master.co.uk/) – it’s an old routemaster bus which has been converted into a bustaurant (see what they did there?), and has delicious pizzas. Oh, and the cheesecake is quite delicious too.

LLO: What’s your favourite unique London discovery?
KA:
Candid Café, which is behind Angel station, is just lovely. In an area which is riddled with Starbucks, Café Nero and Pret a Manger, it is nice to find a little, unique space which sells plenty of varieties of teas and has proper, worn-in couches to spend an afternoon lazing in. What’s especially good about it is that there’s almost always a place to sit!

LLO: You just launched your album, The Overthinker. Why should we immediately pick up a copy and have you thought about what’s next?
KA:
‘The Overthinker’ is a snapshot of London life for an unsure 20-something year old; someone who is no longer cocky enough to believe the world will bend at his whim, but also not yet fully comfortable with the person he is becoming. It is at times awkward, brash, and comforting. At all times, though, it is honest. Perhaps too honest.

For the future, I am most looking forward to doing more writing – bringing out an album is hard work! Before that, though, there will be more ‘In Bed with K Anderson’ sessions and music videos to accompany songs on the album. I will also be hitting the road soon, visiting different parts of this country with my guitar on my back…

LLO: What’s your favourite place to play a gig in London?
KA:
I love playing at the cabaret venue Royal Vauxhall Tavern, because it has a proper stage, lovely sound, and a really appreciative audience. Oh, and it’s probably one of the only venues I play at in London which has its own dressing room. It may not be swanky, but it’s rather fun telling people that you have to go to the dressing room to get ready.

Thanks K!

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.

Listen to a Londoner: Danielle Zezulinski

Listen to a Londoner is a weekly interview with a Londoner – someone who lives in this city, born here or elsewhere. If you want to be interviewed, email littlelondonobservationist@hotmail.co.uk. Always looking for new volunteers!

Danielle Zezulinski, 29

Danielle started Bloody Brilliant before leaving New York for the cobbled lanes of London. The blog is a record of her journey, and new life in Big Smoke.

LLO: Give us the basics first – Where are you from originally, how did you end up in this fabulous city and how long have you been here?
DZ:
I grew up in New Jersey, and spent most of my twenties hopping back and forth between New York City and Philadelphia. I most recently lived in Brooklyn before arriving in London just over two years ago by seeking out a transfer to my company’s London office.

LLO: Favourite place in London to get a taste of home?
DZ:
Byron Burger – tasty burgers and Brooklyn Lager in a bottle – heaven! They just opened a restaurant in Islington so I don’t even have to go far.

LLO: Is there a place you love to go for a head-clearing run or bike ride
in the city?
DZ:
I love running up Regents Canal from Angel to Victoria Park and back. The route is about 8-10 miles depending on how you go and Victoria Park is really pleasant and relaxing, though the towpath can get really crowded so it’s best to do it in the early mornings.

LLO: Best independent coffee shop to take a friend for good conversation?
DZ:
Oh excellent question, and a toughie! I love Tinderbox in Angel, Flat White in Soho and Dose in Smithfield. I can’t choose!

LLO: What’s the coolest thing about living in your postcode?
DZ:
Hrm… N1 is pretty great for the combination of its location and its own amenities. It’s really close to the center of town – I actually walked home from Covent Garden last night and it only took 35 minutes – as well as Shoreditch and Hackney, but it also has everything you need and more within its boundaries. If I wanted to, I could probably go for months without leaving the area and never realize it! If I had to pick one thing, it would be all of the markets in the area. I’m a
sucker for a good market.

LLO: Most unique London discovery?
DZ:
Sir John Soane’s House. It’s not quite a discovery, as an old colleague who is English tipped me off to it, but it is one of the most experiences to walk around an old house in candle light and look at a man’s collections and obsessions. Very London! I highly recommend everyone go.

LLO: Share a challenge you’ve faced as an expat?
DZ:
Where do I start! Actually, expat life isn’t that difficult except for all of the red tape around processes. I just applied for the Tier 1 visa and I had so many issues with my bank getting all of the necessary paperwork. And doing US taxes is such a pain in the neck! Resources from the US government are woefully lacking, and I think the main issue is that no one really knows the rules for sure. Everyone is just guessing and giving each other advice they think is true, so all expats are working off of a network of assumptions and Chinese whispers.

LLO: NYC or London?
DZ:
Tough one. They each have their virtues and vices, but I’d say London to live, New York to love.

LLO: What’s the most unusual experience you’ve had since moving to London?
DZ:
  I think that the weirdest thing for me has been getting used to sick on the street. It’s just not done in the US, and it’s pretty shameful if you have to hang over the gutter on a night out. I was shocked when I realized what was all over the sidewalks on Sunday morning… and even more shocked when I did it once. I’m still ashamed of myself!

LLO: If I only had one night in London, where would you tell me to eat and drink?
DZ:
This is really hard – there are so many choices! If you were American or wanted a distinctly British eating experience, I’d say 32 Great Queen Street for a fantastically authentic and delicious meal and then a pub/bar crawl starting from Freud in Covent Garden to Soho ending at Bob Bob Ricard for Champagne at the touch of a button. But if you’re looking for something more special, I’d say hunt out Ms MarmiteLover and eat in her front room in Kilburn. There are tons of great pubs in Kilburn to hit afterwards… just watch out to make sure you make the last tube home!

Thanks Danielle!

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.

London Art Spot: Emli Bendixen

This year started off well for Emli Bendixen as she was short-listed for Professional Photographer of the Year Award 2009. With a long list of clients like Wonderland, Vice and Dazed and Confused and a fascinating portfolio of images, this North London-based photographer – who was born in South Korea and grew up in Denmark – has the passion and vision to go far in her career.

For this week’s London Art Spot, she tells us about her approach to photography on a recent trip to India, where we can find a taste of Korean and Danish food in London and about some of the capital’s interesting locations to take a camera.

LLO: How did you end up in London and how long have you lived here?
EB: 
I first moved to London aged 19 after finishing school in Denmark. Being from a small town, I couldn’t wait to move to the city. I later went off to Glasgow and then to Copenhagen for university before returning to London where I have been ever since. I’ve lived in Shepherds Bush, Kennington, Old Street, Dalston, Stoke Newington and now Crouch End.

LLO: How does living in London influence your creativity?
EB:
 First and foremost it gives me access to some really exciting people. I’m curious and inquisitive by nature – and I can think of few places better than London to keep you stimulated and with so much to look at.

LLO: You’re from a Korean/Danish background. Where’s the best place in London to find a taste of Korean or Danish culture?
EB:
To be honest, I haven’t looked into either much. I’m here to check out all the other bits of culture that are different to mine… Although not entirely Danish, I do love the food at Elk in the Woods in Angel; and the Scandinavian bakery in Golden Square. For Korean food there are a couple of excellent places just next to Centre Point – and I really like Dong San in Poland Street.

LLO: Twitter tells me you went to India over Christmas and Flickr shows you brought back some great photos. Tell us a bit about your trip and the photos you took while you were there?
EB:
I went to Kerala in the South. It was an incredible experience. I was very aware of being a tourist, with a Western background, with a camera. I noticed that this role in relation to the people I photographed tinted my photographs with something not quite real – at best something very self-conscious, so I decided to break this process and instead forced myself to focus more on general impressions, the little and the big things… the view from our homestay in Periyar, our taxi driver from Munnar, and the dog that followed us down the beach in Varkala…The result is more personal – I suppose much like a diary – in that I spoke to almost everyone I photographed and walked the same mountains you see in my pictures. The food photography was part of a separate food diary, which my girlfriend was writing.

LLO: Which piece are you most proud of and why?
EB:
A portrait called Harmony.

LLO: Favourite place in London to take your camera?
EB:
The city is full of exciting locations – I’ve shot in pubs, clubs, warehouses, studios and council flats; next week I’m shooting in a friend’s house in Finsbury Park that’s in the middle of being renovated. Although I mainly shoot indoors at the moment, I love Hampstead Heath and Abney Park in Stoke Newington. 

LLO: Your largest set on Flickr is called “Faces”. What do you try to capture when you’re shooting a portrait and where do you find your models?
EB:
More often than not, I ask people I know to sit for me. What is most interesting for me in taking a picture is capturing some part of that person which may not usually be on display; so it’s about going beyond what immediately meets the eye. Again, it’s about curiosity… I just want to know a little bit more than I did the moment before that picture was taken.

LLO: What type of camera and lens do you use?
EB:
I normally use a Canon 450D and recently a Canon 1DS Mark III; also a Diana F+, a Holga, and a Minolta XD7.

LLO: Your client list already includes Dazed and Confused, Vice and Professional Photographer Magazine. Who is your dream client and why?
EB:
I would love to work for The Guardian and The Times; Monocle and Intelligent Life are also high on my list. I’m also keen to shoot more music photography – I’ve done press shots for bands such as Robots in Disguise for a couple of years which has been a great challenge and definitely something I want to get more into. I suppose generally I would be happy shooting portraits and lifestyle images that allow for a personal and aesthetic approach.

Thanks Emli!

For more of Emli’s work, check out her website: www.emli.dk/photography.html

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.

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