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: Jay Barrett

Jay Barrett

Jay is the owner and director of Neighbourhood hair salon. Bringing a pocket of Shoreditch cool to Earl’s Court, Neighbourhood not only has a quirky interior complete with antlers and copies of Wallpaper magazine, it’s a lot of fun to get your hair cut there. Jay cuts mine, so I asked him to interview for LLO, of course.

Read on for stories about some of London’s diverse characters, some of Jay’s favourite places to hang out near Earl’s Court and which Londoner’s hair he’d most like to get his hands on.

LLO: Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.
JB: Although originally a northern lad, I mainly grew up in Essex – the style centre of the UK – but gravitated to London like most creative folk at the tender age of 17 to join Toni & Guy. I started London life in a dodgy bedsit in Willesden Green with an aging hooker, an alcoholic and a schizophrenic landlady who frightened the life out of me, but were genuinely the nicest people on the planet.

LLO: You opened your hair salon in Earl’s Court in 2009. Tell us a bit about the vibe of Neighbourhood. What’s its “personality” like?
JB: We originally opened the salon under the name of ‘Concrete’ but because of legal reasons were forced to change the name after our first year. So after a busy Saturday with a glass of wine, we all set to thinking of a new name, and I remember saying to the team: “The name has to be something that reflects all of our clients’ personalities in the neighbourhood.” Thus Neighbourhood was born, so its personality comes from all the colourful characters that made it really.


LLO: Tell us a bit about your clientele.
JB: We’ve attracted a really diverse clientele, mainly because I think people like the concept of going to a friendly local salon, and not necessarily just on a professional level, but with each other. More often than not, there’ll be laughter and banter going on between clients and I’ll stand back and think you’re a banker, you’re a single mum, you’re a singer and you’re a student all on the same level having a giggle. That’s pretty cool.

LLO: You must hear all the gossip from the area. Without giving away any names, what’s the best story you’ve heard recently?
JB: Blimey, I could write a soap opera on all that goes on in Neighbourhood, who’s linked to who, etc.. but I can’t divulge any recent stuff. We have a ‘what’s said in the salon, stays in the salon’ policy out of respect. My favorite though was a regular married couple who booked simultaneous appointments one Saturday morning, only to discover his mistress of six months sitting there having highlights, which no one knew about. It was definitely a ‘hide the scissors’ Jeremy Kyle moment  !!

LLO: What sort of products do you use in the salon?
JB: We’re are exclusively a L’Oréal salon, using Serie Expert, which is the salon professional range of shampoos, conditioners and treatments. They’re more cost effective than Kerastase. Last year we introduced the Innoa colour range into the salon, which are ammonia-free and are amazing. No smell, no stains and glossy, healthy hair after..


LLO: How long have you lived in Earl’s Court? Tell us about your favourite little gems within walking distance from the salon. 
JB: I’ve been here for eight years now, and while it seems everything has shifted East, there’s some great little gems around here: The Devonshire Arms for chilled Sunday roasts with the papers or friends. Evans & Peel Detective Agency for lethally good cocktails. The Troubadour is also a bit of a gem, for chilling with a coffee, sharing a bottle of wine in their secret garden in Summer or watching a gig downstairs.

LLO: What was the biggest challenge you have had to face in setting up a business in London and how did you overcome it? Most rewarding aspect of your job?
JB: Probably my own naivety (ha ha)! After a lot of begging with the bank to get finance, negotiations on the shop lease dragged on for five months, so the entire loan was swallowed by three party’s solicitor’s costs. I literally had an empty shop without a penny to put anything in it, so it was furnished with eBay and a credit card. I also became a master builder, plumber, tiler, plasterer, decorator overnight. That was pretty rewarding, but I will leave it to the professionals next time!

LLO: Best place in London for food and drinks away from the tourist trail?
JB: The Betsey Trotwood on Farringdon Road, EC1, is the best hidden gem in London.

LLO: Which Londoner’s hair would you love to cut and why? What would it look like when you finished?
JB: Definitely would have to be Victoria Beckham! She’s a girl with her finger firmly on the style pulse, and whether you like her or hate her, clients copy her look time and time again. Maybe it’s time to edge her up a bit with a wig and see how many Twitter followers copy it overnight (ha ha)!

LLO: Favourite London discovery?
JB: SOUTHBANK!! Winter, Summer, rain or shine, there’s always something random going on that opens your eyes a little bit more. It’s also the perfect place to just sit people watch.

Thanks Jay!

60 Kenway Raod,  London SW5 0RA
Nearest tube: Earl’s Court
020 7373 9666

Listen to a Londoner: John Christian


John Christian has lived in London since 1989. His fascination with this city as well as his career in international education started with a semester abroad during his undergraduate years at SUNY Oswego in New York. He is now the President /CEO of CAPA International Education, which brings American students to London and other global cities around the world. 

Below, John talks about how CAPA students connect to Londoners, how London has changed since his own study abroad experience in 1986 and how he fights the stress of being a CEO of an international organisation in such a fast-paced city.

LLO: Where are you from originally, how long have you been in London and what brought you here? 
JC: I am originally from Troy, New York (which is Upstate NY). I first came to London in Spring 1986 on the SUNY Oswego London program where I studied abroad. After that, I did what a lot of people do and started researching ways that I could come back. My first time back was in November 1989 when I returned to London to be the director of the SUNY Oswego London program – the same programme that got me started in this field. I have lived here ever since.

LLO: As President / CEO of CAPA International Education, tell us – what is CAPA?
JC: CAPA International Education is an international education organization, or IEO as we call it. As an IEO, CAPA hosts academic programs for students from American institutions to learn abroad. All of our programs are located in global cities and focus on the exploration and analysis of the many layers of complex social, political, economic and cultural issues that exist in these unique environments. We currently bring about 2,000 students abroad every year.

Not everyone wants to do a full semester program or join a CAPA program, so we also create programs that align with an institutional or departmental identity. These are called specialized programs. They are unique because each one has its own academic identity. An institution or department can draft a different curriculum based on a program like theatre or business and create a program around that. Then CAPA helps them to identify the location, cost, academic opportunities, internships and all of those things that make it a program designed by the institution but hosted by CAPA.

LLO: How many students does your organization bring to London each year? 
JC: Out of our 2,000 students, 60% actually go to London. It’s our largest destination and Open Doors will tell you that it is THE largest destination for learning abroad – at least the UK as a whole, but the primary location there is, of course, London.

LLO: You have programme sites in eight global cities around the world. Where are the others and what makes London so popular?
JC: London is popular because it is, in terms of global recognition, one of the world’s top cities. When you take that global recognition and add that it’s English-speaking, and to many American students appears to have cultural similarities to the US, it is a great option for a learning abroad experience. Of course once they are here they soon discover the many differences in values, politics, culture and so much more that makes Britain what it is. The other CAPA program locations are Beijing, Buenos Aires, Dublin, Florence, Istanbul, Shanghai and Sydney.

LLO: You’ve recently given a generous gift of $200,000 in scholarship money to your alma matar, SUNY Oswego in New York. Tell us about this donation which will bring students to our wonderful city who may not have had the chance to come otherwise. 
JC: It’s a gift I have wanted to present to SUNY Oswego for some time.  My experience there as a student and later a member of the professional staff at the study abroad office shaped my career and life work in learning abroad.

The gift serves both the institution and the student community. The Office of International Education and the Institute for Global Engagement out of the President’s Office can actually use $100,000 of this money to look at how they can take some of their curricular strategies and internationalize them, therefore getting faculty and administrators abroad. The second part of the gift is for students who are financially challenged to a point where study abroad is not something they’d think about because they do not believe that they would ever come up with the resources to do so. So, that’s the other $100,000 in full fee scholarships bring students to our London and Beijing programs.  Two students each year for the next three years will have access to these funds. The funds are in honour of Dr. José Ramon Pérez who was my director at SUNY Oswego and very much a mentor to me, not only for his understanding of how to build and manage sustainable academically rigorous programs, but for his belief that every student should have access to these programs.  This commitment to accessibility remains a focus of my work and certainly is a core value of CAPA International Education.

LLO: In such a technologically interconnected world, why is study abroad still important and how is CAPA keeping up with the changes in the field of international education that such interconnectedness has brought about? 
JC: That’s a really good question and it’s scary how technology has enabled us to live and connect globally at an instant. I think that the problem is that we communicate less thoroughly and less intimately. Study abroad still has a role in the understanding of people in human terms that cannot be satisfied by technology.  However, it does have a strategic place in how we enable students to connect to each other while abroad and to reflect on their experiences through blogs and other social media forums.

At CAPA, we are actually building our own system called MyCAPA which allows students to get involved in the decision making and planning of their own experience by choosing how and what they will learn on our programs.  This forms a planner which reflects their choices and helps them maximise their time abroad. IT also gets them involved in discussion groups both on and off line that serve as a reflective tool for them to process their experience with faculty and students throughout their program. We are rolling our new system out this term and look forward to the feedback the current student body will give us on the development of this technology.

LLO: How do American students studying with CAPA integrate into London life and interact with Londoners? 
JC: This is a difficult question to answer as  it is unique to each individual based on their interests, comfort zones and choices.  What I do know is that CAPA presents every student opportunities to engage with Londoners through internships, clubs and community events through our MyEducation strategy.  We encourage our students to go out and engage with people and definitely create pathways for them to meet Londoners and build relationships. In the end, they also do this in so many other ways – when they’re on the tube, when they’re walking in the street, at the grocery shop, etc.

LLO: In which ways has London changed since your own study abroad experience here in 1986? 
JC: A lot. That’s a really tough one. It is really different in 2013 from when I landed here in January 1986. I know I had a very romantic view of London when I was a study abroad student. We all did, right? It was my first time out of the United States, so I was dumbstruck. I was one of those student who really had never lived in an urban environment before so I had that going on, I had the big city around me going on, busses and trains and planes and hustle and bustle. I had what I would say was a much more English city experience, but I wonder if that’s because I was in a romantic study abroad bubble. I had a lot of English friends, went to pubs with English people and really made an effort to learn from locals what London meant to them. It was also  a smaller city in 1986. It was as commercial as it is today but it wasn’t as obvious because advertising, marketing and technology have all risen to a new degree in 2013. London seemed more intimate than now where it’s more anonymous. Many people actually prefer this anonymity I think. Back then, no one spoke on the tube and there were much more strict urban codes about queuing, and street side manners.  There are always references to these things when people refer to “English London”, but they are less and less an expectation of the many tourists and people who live here.

LLO: I only have one night in London and want to go somewhere nice, away from the tourist trail, for dinner and drinks. Where would you recommend ? 
JC: The East End, definitely – a walk down Brick Lane. There’s so many different restaurants so it depends what kind of food you like, but there’s amazing locally-run curry houses there. You’ll meet some Bangladeshi, Indian or Pakistani local cooks and get some unique food. The whole area has developed like London has, so it has a commercial side to it, but still very much has the East End edge and history.

LLO: One of your favourite activities outside of CAPA is keeping fit. Do you have any tips for Londoners? How do you fight the stress of being a CEO of an international organisation in such a fast-paced city? 
JC: I use running and weightlifting to make myself feel really for each day – not just physically, but mentally. I think it’s up to the individual what you do. It isn’t even about physical appearance – that’s a nice consequence to it – but actual physical exertion just drains the body enough to replenish itself and like a battery it gets stronger. I think it’s actually really important for the mind. That’s what helps me manage the variety of tasks and challenges I have in this leadership post. That could also be achieved by a long walk, jump roping, some other mental exercise like pottery or yoga. The second part is diet. I don’t think people have to live by a code that discounts anything, but a balance that allows for everything without exaggerating it. My golden rule is to control your ingredients. It’s a big one for me. I like to eat out, but when I can I try to buy healthy things I make my lunch with and certainly cook a lot so I know what I’m putting into my own food. That way I can see the nutrient value, fat content, etc.

LLO: What is your favourite London discovery?
JC: My latest? The Shard. Have you seen it? It’s phenomenal.

Thanks John!

For more about CAPA International Education, visit their website.

CAPA also has a blog called CAPA World (which regularly features posts about all CAPA sites including London) and a presence on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn.

Listen to a Londoner: Hatty Uwanogho

DJ, mum, blogger, photographer and born and bred Londoner, meet Hatty Uwanogho.

LLO: Where are you from originally? 
HU: I’m glad you asked!  I am a proud south east Londoner, born and bred. Can’t seem to think of a reason to leave, have untold reasons to stay.

LLO: You’ve been writing in your blog Hatty Daze since mid-2011. What’s it about? What makes it worth a visit?
HU: Hattydaze is about life from my point of view so it’s based on my main interests – music, photography, London, my kids (though not in a ‘parenting’ type of way).  Since starting to read blogs I have realised how I don’t like to read too many words, so that’s why I ended up posting more pictures than words.  Sometimes I just post photographs of things I have seen while going about my way to and from work.  It’s worth a visit as you never know what you might find in there, plus you might see things from a new angle (quite literally if we’re talking about my photos).

LLO: You’ve posted a few blog entries about Elephant and Castle. What in particular about that area fascinates you?
HU: I suppose I like to find the beauty, or at least interest, in places not generally considered to be beautiful.  Elephant and Castle is definitely in that category, and it’s a place I go through several times a week.  There’s something about the grittiness which I like, especially the Heygate Estate as it stands there eternally waiting for demolition.  I love the Now and Then graffiti on that main building that you see from the station, the rows of empty flats, yet how close it is to the river and the centre and major tourist attractions like St Paul’s.

LLO: What’s it like to be a mum in London? Any advice for expats coming over with kids for the first time?
HU: It’s great being a mum here.  There is so much to do with your kids, loads of parks, exhibitions, hands on stuff for them to get involved in.  You really have to have a community once you are a mum, and the area where I live has got even better for me since I became a mum and started spending more time here.  It’s brilliant to find out that you can actually get to know your neighbours, even in the city, and that there are all sorts of like-minded people in the area who you didn’t get to meet when you were out at work Monday-Friday.  You have your worries about the kids growing up and getting into bad stuff, but you would have those worries wherever you live.  My only advice to expats coming over with kids is to feel no shame about striking up conversation with other parents.  You might surprise yourself and find that Londoners like to chat inanely to strangers too (nice strangers, anyway).

LLO: As a DJ, what sort of music do you play and where’s your favourite London venue to play it in?
HU: Good music!  For me that means anything from 60s soul classics to 70s funk and disco, hip hop, drum and bass, right up to dance and pop music which errs on the side of cheesy – generally a great big mix of party tunes that will get you up onto the dance floor.  I play with the Dino Collective which is basically a hobby for me and my husband, as we are both vinyl heads.  I generally play for friends and do a few local events like my own night called Mothers’ Ruin, which was originally intended for parents to get out locally, at a decent hour, where they could have a drink and a dance without feeling the pressure to dress in a certain way or be younger or hipper.  Next one due in November so watch out on the blog… We do also take bookings so it’s worth getting in touch!

LLO: Any advice for live music lovers looking for something a bit quirky or different?
HU: Cargo is good for live music as it’s a small, fun venue.  You can see pretty much everyone you want to see at Brixton Academy, and the venue is still medium sized.  As a South East Londoner I am delighted that the The O2 in SE10 is now a world class venue where you can see the biggest acts in music, although be careful if you get vertigo and risk the cheap seats.

LLO: I have one night in London. I’m looking to get away from the tourist trail. Where would you recommend I go for dinner and a drink?
HU: Goodge Street, W1.  You could do worse than to have a couple of cocktails in the dark basement bar the London Cocktail Club and then (if you manage to surface) stagger across the road to Salt Yard for amazing Spanish/Italian tapas.

LLO: Give us your soundtrack for London life.
HU: Cor that’s a hard one!  See above where I talk about what I like to play – that’s my soundtrack.

LLO: Tell us about a Londoner you know personally who is doing something cool worth talking about. 
HU: My friend Rosie runs dotmakertours, a tour company running different and original walks in the Greenwich area.  Currently she is doing Greenwich Safari and Chimney Tunnels.  I’m really looking forward to a new one called Rubbish Tip, and to a Family Safari for half term so I can take the kids along too.

LLO: What’s your favourite London discovery?
HU: I make them all the time, even silly things like working out how roads and areas fit together, or turning a corner and finding an amazing building that I’ve never seen before.  And that’s in my 40th year…  It’s why I never want to leave.

Thanks Hatty!

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.

Listen to a Londoner: Emma John

I came across Emma through an article she wrote on London’s East End in my favourite travel magazine, Afar.  Now her priority is the Olympics. She has been a journalist for 12 years, and lived in London for all of them. Her special interests include cricket, theatre, film and, most recently, bluegrass music; as deputy editor of the Observer magazine she tries to write about any or all of them whenever she can get away with it. 

LLO: You recently wrote an article on East London for Afar magazine. Did you happen upon any interesting little London discoveries whilst you were wondering around the area?
EJ: I’d never really ventured into that Hackney Wick/Stratford area of east London before so almost everything was new to me. I think my favourite discovery was Fish Island; the artists’ colony there is so hidden that you can actually walk around these streets of dilapidated old factories without ever seeing anyone. As soon as you meet one of the artists living there – I bumped into a knitter and a comic book artist – they start pointing out the buildings where there are good parties and dinners at night. They introduced me to the Counter Cafe, which serves amazing pies and has a great view across the canal to the Olympic park. They also pointed me in the direction of Imperial & Standard, the quirky antiques and vintage shop in Hackney Wick. Jamie, the owner, is wonderfully laconic. You can go in, browse, and he just says ‘hi’ then disappears into the back of the shop and you never see him again.

LLO: What are some of the advantages and the challenges of being a sports journalist in London? 
EJ: Right now, I guess the answer to both those questions is the Olympics! It’s a completely unique opportunity, it’s never going to come again in our lifetime, and we get to cover it. But then you start thinking about the logistics and you realise – hundreds of thousands of people are going to be trying to get to the same place that I am. Even though I live right on the train line in to Stratford, I’m having to research a load of backups in case I can’t actually get onto a train. You can’t just phone the desk and say ‘sorry, I missed the start of the game, it was a nightmare getting here…’

LLO: What has been your favourite article to write, where was it published and what was involved in putting it all together? 
EJ: Definitely the travel piece I wrote for Afar about my bluegrass trip to the South last year. It was published this month, a year after I made the trip, which is only partly because of their long lead times and mostly because I spent six months in total writing it. It was only 6,000 words but I had had such an incredible experience that I wanted to make sure every word was right.

LLO: Favourite London-based Olympic athletes and why? 
EJ: Well Andy Murray’s up there at the moment, but that’s because he just put in such a heart-stirring performance in the Wimbledon final. I’d love to see him win a gold medal. It feels like he deserves some sort of reward!

LLO: As a bluegrass fiddler, do you have a favourite spot to listen to live music in London? 
EJ: I do have a favourite spot to listen to bluegrass: the Monday night jam at the Hemingford Arms. The jam’s been going 18 years or so, and it’s run by Americans who were part of the original bluegrass revival in the 60s and 70s. It’s the most authentic stuff you’ll get to hear in the city.

LLO: Any tips for up and coming journalists who want to start a career in London? 
EJ: Find a magazine in a niche you’re interested in, and pester them till they let you come make the tea. Honestly, everyone is applying for experience at the newspapers, but you get a lot more experience and climb the ladder much quicker at a magazine with a small staff. Plus you’ll get to write about stuff you care about.

LLO: Best thing about living in your postcode?
EJ: Just the variety really. Islington is so varied, you get to meet and hang out with lots of different types of people. It’s really vibrant, there’s always something new going on, but there’s always something comforting and familiar round the corner too.

LLO: What’s your ideal way to spend a free Saturday in London? Is there anywhere you’d like to explore or visit in London that you haven’t gotten to yet? 
EJ: I haven’t really got an ideal day, but I do love taking a tiny area of London and spending a day just combing it. My sister and I started it as a little tradition between us – we’d take off a weekday when we’d normally be at work, and we start at the area’s best place for breakfast. Then we walk around the whole day on a contented stomach and just poke around into every little nook and corner we can find. So far we’ve done Fitzrovia, St James, Mayfair… I think it’s got to be Shoreditch next.

LLO: Tell us about a Londoner you know personally who is doing something cool worth talking about.
EJ: My friends Ben and John put on Shakespeare plays as a theatre company called Antic Disposition – they choose really clever and unusual locations, like the hall at Middle Temple, that give their productions a special atmosphere. Their last play, A Midsummer Nights’ Dream, got an amazing review by the Independent so I’m excited to see what they come up with next.

Thanks Emma!

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.