Listen to a Londoner: Flora Tonking

Listen to a Londoner. This is a weekly post where people who live (or have lived for a while) in London answer a few questions about the Big Smoke. If you fit the bill and want to be interviewed, give me a shout at Always looking for new victims volunteers….

Flora Tonking (aka The Accidental Londoner), 25

Brought up the The Midlands, Flora always vowed she’d never live in London, but somehow after university she found herself job-hunting and flat-hunting in the city. Over two years later she’s still here and secretly loving it.  She works in research for an engineering company, blogs about life in London ( and fills up her precious free time studying for a Masters degree.

LLO: Best thing about London?
So much to do and see!  You could live here for years and still be surprised and entertained.

LLO: 2012 Olympics – stay or go?
I confess I wouldn’t mind leaving the city for the duration of this event; I dread to think what it’s going to do to our already overloaded infrastructure.  That said, it’s hopefully going to do great things regenerating areas of East London.

LLO:  How do you spend your time on the tube?
Listening to my iPod and people-watching.

LLO: Best place to catch a gig?
The Roundhouse in Camden – fabulous music venue without the sticky floors and sweatiness.

LLO: Best place to spend a Sunday afternoon?
A leisurely (sometimes hungover!) walk down the river followed by a big Sunday lunch at The Sun Inn at Barnes with the newspapers.

LLO: Best museum or gallery?
The V&A, Knightsbridge – great temporary exhibitions and fabulous permanent collections; you always discover something new everytime you go.

LLO: Best London magazine, newspaper or website?
The Evening Standard – even better since it became free!

LLO: If you were to dress up as one of the tube station names for a costume party, which would you be?
My housemates and I once covered ourselves in leaves and green face-paint and went to a Tube station party as “Green Park” – we left foliage all over South West London that night!

LLO: Best time of year in London?
Summer – Wimbledon tennis, Pimms outside the pub and afternoon’s lying in a park somewhere.

LLO: What would you change about the city if you had the power to do so?
Make more of the centre pedestrianised, and maybe create a two-speed pavement system, so people who are late for work don’t get stuck behind lost tourists!

Thanks Flora!

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.

London Art Spot: Julie Bennett

After Julie Bennett conquered the industry of graphic design in high-end music magazines like NME, she found a new niche in painting where she could get her hands dirty. A few years ago, when she exhibited her work in the Saatchi Online Gallery, The Independent labelled her one of “Saatchi’s new stars”. Her unique style has also gained her attention from The Evening Standard, The Sunday Times and Artists and Illustrators Magazine. She’s exhibited her paintings all around London from the Sassoon Gallery to the Sartorial Gallery.

Catch her latest work in the “Girls at Gold” show at The Gallery, Goldsmiths Student Union which features eight female artists – four from Camberwell, where Julie is currently studying, and four from Goldsmiths. The show opens on Monday 23 November and runs until 11 December. More info here. Julie’s website is

A native Londoner, Julie gives us a bit of insight into how the city influences her work, talks about her failed attempt at becoming a rock star and her infatuation with Boy George.


LLO: How has living in London influenced your painting?
JB: I was born in London so London is obviously a massive part of my life. Even though I’ve travelled around, London is still my favourite place. I absolutely love the diversity of people. It’s great for portraits. I’m always so inspired by walking the street and people watching on the tube. I want to take photos of people sometimes, but obviously I can’t.

Girl with Feather Earring

LLO: Your background is in graphic design for some big magazines like NME and Q. What made you turn to painting, and do you find your design experience inspires your current work?
JB: I achieved all my dreams in graphic design – to work in music, at NME and Q. I worked at nearly every music magazine London holds – Kerrang!, Classic Rock. I even worked for a bit on the UK launch of Rolling Stone magazine. I needed a new dream, so I decided to become a rock star. I enrolled on a guitar course at Goldsmiths for two years, but I was really, really bad and had no talent to write my own music. So I decided to try painting. I enrolled on a painting course at Slade. It was brilliant, exactly what I needed. I was excited to use paint and get messy. You don’t get messy with graphic design. My graphics experience comes into painting in that I’m so interested in magazines and popular culture.

Come Back to Camden

LLO: Many of the characters you paint have an androgynous look about them and your signature style is also quite layered with a dripping effect slightly distorting the faces. Can you tell us a bit about your style?
It’s a celebration of paint. I allow the paint to be free. Representation isn’t really important to me. It’s more about the materials. Allowing paint to drip shows it’s still paint. Sometimes it still looks wet. Graphics is so flat, shiny and perfect. My painting is about the material, about the paint. The androgynous look is not something I go about doing on purpose. It just comes out because I’m pretty open and interested in androgynous people. I grew up a massive fan of Boy George and K. D. Lang.

Izzy After Camden

LLO: What do you think is the role of painting today and where does your work fit in?
Painting is a form of entertainment. Its role is really to give us something beautiful to look at and I hope my work does that.


 Thanks Julie!