Foxes in Ladbroke Grove

Quite a few of these fox stencils have popped up around Northwest London – Queen’s Park, Kilburn and these three I spotted around Portobello Market and Ladbroke Grove. The third one has already been painted over, I noticed this morning.

Fox on Pink

Fox on Silver

Fox Stencil

Does anyone know who the artist is or if she/he has work in other areas of London? What’s the significance of the foxes? I’d love to know!

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Listen to a Londoner: Daisy Coole

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.

Daisy Coole, 26

Daisy Coole is a jazz and session musician who has temporarily swapped touring Europe for organising the biggest and best cupcake extravaganza this country has ever seen. Cupcake Camp London will feature thousands of cupcakes and raise money for the North London Hospice, who looked after Daisy’s father until he died in March 2010.

LLO: As a born and bred Londoner, what are some of the biggest changes you’ve noticed in the city throughout your life? Anything in particular you miss?
DC: I miss being able to walk down a street without being knocked over by a 4×4, controversial as I’m sure that is! Drivers try to fit these ridiculously wide cars down the narrow backstreets of London. Use public transport or buy a smaller car! Or walk! I often have to travel with at least two saxophones, a music stand and some hefty sheet music, as well as my boyfriend’s bass and amp but I don’t need a mini truck to transport me across London: my little Ford Fiesta does the job. We are blessed with a brilliant transport system in this city. Except when you want to get from Kilburn to Hampstead. Then it’s a pain. Why isn’t there a connecting line between the Jubilee line and the Northern line before Kings Cross?

LLO: You’re a jazz musician. What’s your favourite London venue to play and what’s special about it?
DC: When I toured Europe last year, some of the best gigs were to hundreds of people in small Swiss cities, so it’s somewhat ironic that my favourite venue to play in the huge city of London is the Green Note in Camden. It’s a tiny vegetarian restaurant and live music venue which has the most incredible atmosphere. The audience are literally at your feet and you often have to swing round to avoid the waitresses as they pass between the rooms but you feel them take every step with you as you perform. Plus the food is amazing – always a bonus at a gig.

LLO: What the best thing about living in your postcode?
DC: I grew up in Hampstead and although it took me 12 years (aged 12-24) I moved back into the area as soon as I could, albeit to Gospel Oak! From my house I can walk to the posh cobbled streets of Hampstead Village, the eclectic and somewhat grubby Camden Town or the bustling (polite word for overcrowded and crazy) central London! Most importantly I’m back near Hampstead Heath, park of my childhood and the scene of many fond memories. It’s also my memorial place for my father who died last March. We scattered his ashes on top of Parliament Hill and you can see the whole of central London, particularly Fleet Street, where he spent so many years as a journalist. There is something overwhelming and yet calming about sitting on a bench on the hill and imagining the thousands of trials and tribulations taking place down in those streets. I find it peaceful.

LLO: One of your ideal escapes is an armchair in a cosy café. Share your top three comfy cafes?
DC: I hate to sound cliche but number one has to be the Starbucks in South End Green, NW3, because it’s right next to my gym – caffeine and comfort when I need it most! There used to be an amazing cafe in Camden called the Bean & Cup, which had huge sofas to sink into and loads of newspapers in the back room. They also did a divine Strawberry Latte, which I’ve never found anywhere else. My third recommendation is Proud Galleries in Camden: a gallery and live music venue with gorgeously decorated stables, in which you can hang out and have a coffee while browsing the internet, playing Wii or watching TV. The best room is pink with a big white wicker throne and loads of hanging plants. It’s also the venue for Cupcake Camp London.

LLO: As the organiser of Cupcake Camp London, give us a rundown of what to expect and why we should sign up to attend immediately.
DC: Cupcake Camp London is the first of it’s kind in this country, having started in San Francisco two years ago and travelled via New York, Paris and Sydney (among others). It is an incredible day where London’s amateur and professional bakers can bring down their best cupcakes to share with the public and raise money for the North London Hospice. There will be live bands, Frosting Shot Girls, a tombola and a silent auction where you can win seven nights at a gorgeous hotel in India! Bakers can even enter the cupcake competitions, judged by the founders of Primrose Bakery, legendary food writer, Mary Berry, supreme political strategist, Alastair Campbell and the winner of BBC’s Great British Bake Off, Edd Kimber. We have almost 2,000 cupcakes pledged so far and need lots more so sign up on the website www.cupcakecamplondon.co.uk and join us!

LLO:Favourite London bakery and best thing they serve?
DC: I’m a big fan of Primrose Bakery and bought their book while my father was in the North London Hospice. Cue much excitement when they agreed to be judges at Cupcake Camp London! Their bakery in Primrose Hill is almost painfully gorgeous with its yellow shopfront and pastel-coloured interior. I celebrated my birthday there last year with my oldest friends from school and we shared about eight different cupcakes between us. I think my favourite has to be the Lime and Coconut cupcake although it’s almost an impossible decision.

LLO: I hear you’re up for a cupcake tour of London… Tell us the starting point, the ending point, and not-to-miss stop off in the middle.
DC: Bake-a-boo in West Hampstead is the perfect starting point, particularly for anybody with allergies. It is also delightfully pink and girly and they do wonderful ‘Afternoon Teas’ on cake stands for Hen parties and the like. Crumbs & Doilies have a stall in Covent Garden, among other places, and were one of the first companies to support Cupcake Camp London by donating a prize. They do a great ‘name this cupcake’ competition on their website every month and whoever does their piping is a genius – Johnny Depp in icing is quite a sight! Lastly I would travel down to Greenwich Market and visit our Cupcake Camp Vegan judge, Ms Cupcake. Discard any preconceptions you have of vegan cake: these are delectable and rich and not at all healthy… love it!

LLO: After all those cupcakes, what’s a fun way you’ve found to work it off and stay fit?
DC: Most of the cupcakes I bake go straight into the bellies of my boyfriend and his friends, thank God! If they’re not around, I try to get the cupcakes out of the house as quickly as possible to avoid becoming as big as a house. I’m captain of a social league netball team in Islington and we’ve just won our league for the third season in a row, with a random assortment of teachers, hotel executives, insurance brokers and corporate PA’s. Come to think of it, they always complain that I never bring them cupcakes so I should probably get baking before they start a mutiny.

LLO: I’m in London for one night only and want to get off the tourist trail. Where would you recommend I go to eat and drink?
DC: La Porchetta in Chalk Farm produce delicious pizza and pasta in a lovely setting. I was taken there for Valentine’s Day a while ago and keep meaning to go back! Alternatively, the Pizza Express in Kentish Town is in the most incredible Art Deco building, with a floor to ceiling mirror design and wide, sweeping features. I think they have planning permission to tear it down, which would be a disaster as it’s the most beautiful building in the area. The best place for drinks is FiftyFive Bar, down the road in Camden. They serve 180 different cocktails and have a 2-4-1 offer from 6-8pm on Monday-Saturday. Definitely get there before 7pm, though, because it get seriously busy at the bar! If only it didn’t clash with my netball league, I’d also be there every Monday for ‘Mojito Madness’: 2-4-1 on all 12 Mojitos. Genius.

LLO: Best London discovery?
DC: My boyfriend keeps nagging me to get a bike so we can cycle the Regent’s Canal from Camden Lock to Limehouse and the Thames. The path is a bit narrow at Regent’s Park but it’s almost a direct route to the Primrose Bakery – result!

Thanks Daisy!

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: The Stayaways


Islington

Deep in the heart of Camden Town some years ago, Liam, Sean and Matt downed a few pints at The Good Mixer and created a band called The Stayaways. Since then, they’ve been rocking out on stages from Camden to Croydon, gathering a following of fans along the way. Last night, they broke seven months of silence – after Matt injured his shoulder – to play a free gig in Kilburn…and surprised everyone with Lee – a brand new guitarist that made this 3-piece into a 4-piece. In this week’s London Art Spot, the original three Stayaways give us a glimpse of what’s to come now that they’re back on the stage.

The Stayaways are:
Liam Devall (Vocals and guitar)
Sean McGourty (Bass)
Matt Whiteley (Drums)
Lee Thom (Guitar)

Listen to: “Controls”

LLO: So, the Stayaways are back after a seven month break. What have you been up to and can we expect any new material?

LD: Seven months is shocking to hear. It’s like weve been away having a baby that came out a bit early, which is what you can say has actually happened. There are definitely new songs and a few re-thinks on some of the others, hopefully bringing a new and fresh approach. We are now a 4-piece, so the possibilities seem endless in terms of sound after being a 3-piece for so long.

MW: I bloody hope so! My shoulder has been pretty ruined for ages now so had to take some time out to let it get better. Now we are back and have started on some new songs. They sound pretty good, moving on from what we have done before into what I hope is becoming quite a defined sound.

SM: It was a pretty unplanned break. Matt had shoulder troubles which was getting really bad, but the break really helped and he’s back to strength. We were kinda lucky in that we wrote some new songs and had some cool gigs like in High Wycombe students union (with masses of sweets!!!) and Barfly, then recorded just as his shoulder was getting bad. During the break, we considered our sound and have made some changes like Lee to help back up on guitar and vocals. We’ve taken the recordings from before the break and re-jigged them for the new layout and concentrated on the songs we thought worked more. We’ve also written a few new ones and have more in the pipeline. It’s hard writing new songs; there’s an urge to constantly play new songs, but at the same time, I think it’s good to revisit some of the older ones. We try to get a good mix to add contrast to our set and keep people intrested.

Sean

LLO: Describe your sound for the uninitiated.

LD: I think we have a light and a dark side musically. Songs like “Manna Factory” have both, ranging from the melodic guitars and punchy rhythms heading into the dark alleyway where we set up our thrashier punk side, all with a singable melody. Generally speaking, we try to write songs that we would like to hear; it’s not about ego.

MW: Guitars, bass, drums, voices – done fucking well with a lot of passion!

SM: Personally I think we’re a rock n roll band but not one that wears leather and rides motorbikes, we can fall into more than one bracket but if you imagine a decent Iggy song, combine in some radiohead then a fat drum beat that draws on our experiences from growing up in/ around London I think thta would be something.

Listen to: “The Liar is Me”

LLO: How does living in London and its vibrant music scene influence the band?

LD: It gives you a good indication of the broad cross section of styles out there and therefore an opportunity to try and be unique. You couldn’t get that in any other city in England as in so many there tends to be a niche still lingering – based on a city’s music history – which is hard to break out from.

MW: I don’t live in london.

SM: I’m the only real Londoner in the band; however, Liams lived here for the last so many years. I think being in London and soaking up the variety in life has given us the freedom not to be tied down doing one thing. I don’t think any of us are really stuck in just one genre. Sometimes in rehearsals, we just mess around with ideas which can evolve into songs and we’re not afraid to mix, say, a kinda disco beat with distorted guitars.

Liam

LLO: Do you have a favourite venue for your gigs and what makes the best place to play?

LD: I personally don’t have a favourite place to play. I think the best nights are set up by chance. It’s great when you’ve got a good audience who get involved and you can respond to that, and that can happen anywhere. I guess it’s to do with how everyone is feeling at a particular time, the crowd and the band. If there’s a connection between the two, then it works and makes for a great gig. It’s nice to entice the aggression out of people.

MW: I personaly love playing the Dublin Castle because the sound is good, with some really helpful sound guys. Also, because of the shape of the venue, it always seems to have a great atmosphere. It’s great to play there, because you know there have been some amazing bands that have played on that stage over the years and you just strive to surpass that.

SM: I really love playing the Dublin Castle. Everyone there is soooo nice and, after the bands, a club night starts up. Also, with the design of the stage you can get a really good feel for the audience and it’s not too expensive for people to get in. Barfly’s pretty good too, but a bit expensive on entry though you can get a really great buzz from the audience.


Matt, Liam, Sean

For more songs and updates on where to next catch the Stayaways live, keep an eye on their MySpace. To be added to their mailing list or book them for a gig, you can email stayaways@hotmail.co.uk.