It’s Who You Know – Photographer Adam Brown

25 04 2010

MyMetropole caught up with east London based photographer Adam Brown to talk about how he got into photography, his current work,  parts of London he loves best, and a hard lesson in remembering to remove the lens cap! Read on for more with Adam Brown.

It’s Who You Know…Brett Jefferson Stott

9 01 2010

Brett Jefferson Stott is exactly the reason why I do these It’s Who You Know interviews. Director of Shoot Experience, a wildly popular photography services company based in London, Brett’s journey to his current entrepreneurial success is formed by a varied history: Where his passion led, he followed. Shoot Experience is an experiential photography organisation focusing on photography and audience participation, through photo treasure hunts, popular events such as the Shoot London event at the Tate and ShootSpitalfields events, photographic competitions, photography workshops and corporate events.

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Brett exclusively for MyMetropole.

MyMetropole: Shoot Experience is such a fun concept. Where did you get the initial idea?

Brett:I had heard of a scavenger hunt in NYC in 2004 and thought it would be good to try something here. I chatted about it with a few friends and moulded the idea until it became a photo treasure hunt.

It took us 3 or 4 events to tweak the format we have now. The original concept was more of a Shoot London, Shoot Tokyo, etc. In the end we started small with a Shoot Shoreditch event in October 2005 which got the attention of Tate Modern who we then partnered with for our first Shoot London in May 2006. The rest, as they say, is history…

MyMetropole: What is your background?

Brett: I studied multimedia and worked producing multimedia and online content for 10 years. I also taught modules of degree courses at various institutions in South Africa and the UK.

This did involve photography to some degree and the experience and skills transferred quite well.

MyMetropole: What is the best part of your current day job?

Brett:We get to travel quite a bit and work with top galleries and museums on exciting projects which is very satisfying.

People get a lot of joy out of the work we do which is a pleasure to witness!

Shoot Spitalfields

MyMetropole: So you own an experiential photography company, worked in multimedia and online content production…What was your dream job?

Brett:I actually started out in music which was my dream. New media as it was then, when it was still quite new, was more of a back up. (Brett recorded under the names Jefferson and Freedom Republic).

Shoot Experience was almost accidental, I never set out to run a photography business – an idea became a business and it just grew that way.

I would have never thought 10 years ago that I would be doing what I am now but I am grateful for it and it has become my passion!

MyMetropole: What are your favourite London locations for picture taking?

Brett:I love the Square Mile – on the weekends its empty and the architecture and history is fascinating. You can really uncover some little known gems like St Dunstans Church which had its roof blown off in one of the wars and is now turned into a garden.

It is however an area where you are likely to be queried by police when taking photos.

MyMetropole: What are you favourite London locations for party/relaxation/restaurants?

Brett:Haggerston Park near where I live in Dalston is a really underrated park where I enjoy hanging out in the summer.

Our offices were in Shoreditch until recently and so the Vietnamese restaurants on Kingsland Road saw a good deal of our custom, especially Tay Do cafe.

There are some really great pubs near Dalston, the George, the Haggerston and the Skolt Head.

Read more about Brett Jefferson Stott and ShootExperience.

It’s Who You Know…London Rollergirls Olivia Coupe

7 12 2009

“You don’t  have to be a bad-ass, but if you have a whinge someone will yell at you to Harden the fuck up! I love that!” Olivia Coupe – London Rollergirls

I recently wrote a preview for Le Cool on the London Rollergirls roller derby league’s opening day. As a result I had the pleasure of interviewing star player Olivia ‘Liv or Die’ Coupe, who plays for the Ultraviolent Femmes.

MyMetropole: Thanks for answering some questions for us Olivia! First question is semi-obvious: How did you first get involved in RollerDerby?

Liv or Die: I first heard about roller derby in 2006 through my first job working in a production house in Auckland, New Zealand.  One of the programmes I was working on was thinking of doing a piece on New Zealand’s first league the ‘Pirate City Rollers’.  I was too shy to go by myself and it wasn’t until a few months later that I saw my first game and was hooked.  When I decided to go travelling and then to relocate  overseas I had 3 criteria and one of them was that the country had to have a roller derby league.  So I moved to London and joined the London Rollergirls.  Playing Roller Derby is one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.

MyMetropole: How does London’s roller derby league compare to others around the world?

Liv or Die: I wouldn’t be surprised if London has one of the most diverse roller derby leagues in the world.  We have women and men from all around the globe – loads of Americans, Antipodeans such as myself, French, Spanish.  We’ve played leagues all over the UK and more recently in Stuttgart, Germany.  Our All Star teams London Brawling and Brawl Saints remain undefeated and we recently won Roll Britannia which was Europe’s first ever Roller derby tournament.

MyMetropole: The season opener is tonight, what are some big events to look forward to coming up this season?

Liv or Die: We’re really excited to have two huge events next year – We have a game with the Texas Rollergirls’ Hustlers on 20 March 2010 and in April we’re flying over to New York to train and play with some of the U.S.A’s top leagues on the east coast.

MyMetropole: Sounds like London Rollergirls are really on the rise internationally. Let’s talk about getting knocked down now – do you girls suffer crazy injuries?

Liv or Die: Injuries?  Sure, like any sport the risk is certainly there,  but I’ve come away lucky.  I’ve had a black eye and a broken toe but nothing too serious.  Our league is really conscious of safely at every practice and we have designated trained safety persons for each session.

MyMetropole:But certainly you have to be a BAC (bad.ass.chick) to play roller derby, no?

Liv or Die: There’s no set personality type needed to play derby and you certainly don’t have to be “bad ass” :). Attitude doesn’t always equate to skill but it helps to be able to push yourself and do things that scare you.  Roller Derby doesn’t leave much room for complaining. Sometimes you might have a bit of a whinge at training or you’ll be in a really bad mood but someone will tell you to harden the fuck up and snap you out of it which I love.  I don’t consider myself very bad ass at all but when you’re in the game and you land a huge hit on a girl and she goes flying it’s the best feeling when the crowd goes nuts!

MyMetropole:Hell yeah! I can imagine that it feels great when the crowd goes wild!What are the fans like?

Liv or Die: Our fans are just as diverse as our league.  All ages from kids as young and 4 to grandparents.  A lot of our regulars are rollergirls from leagues around the UK, particularly Romsey Town Rollerbillies, Birmingham Blitz Dames, and Rainy City (Manchester).  A crowd averages around 200-300, partly limited due to us outgrowing our venue.  We’re always on the lookout for venues to train and bout in, which is really difficult to find in London.

MyMetropole: What about when you’re out on your own away from the fans. What are your favourite London locations?

Liv or Die: I’m a bit slack when it comes to seeing London.  I’ve got a couple of local restaurants in Brixton where I live that are really cheap and really good – so good I don’t want anyone else to know!

MyMetropole:Alright, then we won’t drag that out of you…So, how do people react when you first tell them you play roller derby?

Liv or Die: Most people seem really amused. I think they’re expecting some inked up rockabilly punk or someone a bit more imposing than myself.  We have all types including those of course!

MyMetropole:So, what is your ‘type’ then, What do you do?

Liv or Die: Film type. I’m a film editor working mostly in beauty/fashion.

MyMetropole: I see what you mean about roller derby girls having a variety of backgrounds. I never would have expected beauty and fashion film editors on knocking down the competition on four wheels!  So, mandatory MyMetropole question: Who inspires you?

Liv or Die: I don’t have any role models but I’m inspired by other women who achieve things or push themselves.  It makes me want to get out there and do the same.  I like having roller derby because I think it gives me a bit of an edge .

MyMetropole: Cheesy last question: How has taking the plunge to begin as a roller derby player changed your life?

Liv or Die: Over the years roller derby has given me a place to stay in a city where I knew no one, it’s allowed me to get into countless gigs and events for free, play sport internationally and it’s how I got my job which is a huge one!

Olivia ‘Liv or Die’ Coupe plays with the Ultraviolent Femmes, who had their first game of the season on Saturday night They lost to  the Steam Rollers, which is home to one of the league’ s superstars Jessica aka Sky Rockit,who was awarded both rollergirl of the match as voted by the crowd, and MVP as voted by the Ultraviolent Femmes.

The London Rollergirls have  6 games this season, 3 are closed door bouts not open to the public. For more information and schedules visit

It’s Who You Know…RJ Rushmore aka Vandalog

18 11 2009

It’s two months ago, and I’m meeting American street art collector and tour guide RJ Rushmore, known online as Vandalog, at the Bean in Shoreditch. I’m late, as usual, so we’ve texted, he’s gone to run a few errands and will meet me in a few. I want to meet him because I read about his Street Art Tours and I think they’re worth promoting.

RJ is 18, from the Chicago suburb of Wilmette, just 20 minute drive from Palatine, my own John Hughes (RIP) suburban home town. He’s been here for 4 years. That means he started here when he was a freshman. I get a kick out this. I get a coffee and sit down on the bench outside, guessing at which hoodie or hipster will walk in to educate me on the Urban Art Scene in London.

Cool dude after cool dude saunter past, none stop, none are RJ.

Then, a skinny guy neither hoodie nor hipster approaches and asks if I am Jessica. Sure enough I catch that Midwestern accent…RJ asks me if I’d like anything else to drink, he’s just going to grab an Earl Grey tea.

It takes my eyes a minute to adjust to the crumbling of my expectations – this guy isn’t the cool dude I am expecting. He really is a young, high schooler… Well, I’ll have a chat with him, it’ll be nice to reminisce with someone from Chicago for a bit, I think to myself.

RJ knows he’s not what people expect.  “I like golf,” he offers. “I considered studying computer programming,” he continues. He’s still considering it even,  though he might minor in Art History.  This whole leap into the street art scene, in fact, started when his dad brought home a piece of street art ‘to seem cool’, and continued as a way to get out of taking an art class at his American High School in London. His task was to organise an educated tour of graffiti in East London for his fellow students. They ate it up. Their moms wanted tours. Suddenly, the tours were in thelondonpaper and everyone wanted them.

So how does RJ know so much about street art? He and his dad collect street art together, he explains, and it becomes clear that they have a much closer relationship than one normally has with their dad at 18. The interest turned into a shared passion, and RJ started his blog – Vandalog, which led to an internship at the Black Rat Pres Gallery (where he later takes me).

The longer I listen to RJ tell his story, my impression shifts from one of a bit of shock and disappointment to one of absolute awe. I’m really enjoying hanging out with him, he’s one of the most genuine and intelligent guys I have met in a long time.

He educated me on the history of the street art movement in great details, all the while namedropping pieces he has bought or artists he knows personally and has even done some work with.

I learn that some street art I’ve always been partial to is by Shepherd Fairey – world famous, in part for his Obama poster fame.  Yet another, albeit slight, Chicago connection. He can show me Fairey’s latest piece, he says, it’s just gone up at Cargo down the road. We’ll head there after he finishes his tea.

In fact, he can introduce me to Sarah, over at Black Rat Press, who’s the real expert, he says. Without her and his internship work at Black Rat, he’s never be able to run the exhibition he is curating at the Village Underground.

Stop. Reverse. Huh? Did an 18 year old just casually and self-depreciatingly drop into the conversation that he is curating his own urban art exhibition at one of the coolest locations in London?

Oh, yes, he tells me, at the Village Underground. In November. It’s called The Thousands. It’s going well, he says, it’s mostly just a challenge to get that and the book finished at the same time. The book is called The Thousands: Painting Outside, Breaking In. He’s launching it at the exhibition.

Who’s your favourite artist, I ask him? His all-time fav would have to be Swoon for what she does outdoors and in the gallery, though he’s loving Burning Candy in London, in New York City, Skewville, The ADHD Kids and Booker are all being very innovative and you can’t ignore Banksy, he adds.Banksy is always pushing things to the next level and staying fresh

I try to be cool, I ask him if these large scale exhibits, like the Banksy vs Museum in Bristol and even his exhibit are not turning street art into the mainstream, negating the very spirit behind the work. Isn’t that selling out, I cleverly ask…

RJ sees nothing wrong with it all. Street Art on the outside of the Tate Modern or exhibitions like his, he explains, could be seen as selling out or as gentrifying the art-form, but that is a necessary side effect of something much more important. Promoting street art to a wider audience, getting it in museums and generally making sure that the larger art community accepts it are all part of making sure that this art-form is preserved for future generations.

Work on the street is ephemeral and only lasts in photographs. If MoMA buys work by Banksy, future generations will be able to see it, and street art is an important enough movement that some of it deserves preservation. And as for Banksy versus The Bristol Museum, he adds, that show got 300,000 from around the world to visit a city museum in just a few months! Banksy did something that had a massively positive impact on the city of Bristol and got a bunch of people interested in art.

That’s quite a lot of notches for his belt, and all accomplished in his gap year before he heads off to study at liberal arts Haverford College in Pennsylvania.

Watch out college. RJ’s coming to town. His self-depreciating and genuine style will knock you off your feet. I know I’m smitten.

The Thousands starts tonight and runs through Sunday. Check out for details and make sure to check out for RJ’s online Street Art nuggets of knowledge.

Buy the book  here:

It’s Who You Know…Niamh and Danny from Thames River Adventures

16 10 2009

In a previous post here, I vividly imagined what it would be like to kayak on Regents Canal early in the morning with Thames River Adventures. The company offers sunrise, daytime and sunset kayak tours on Regents Canal, Hampton Court and Tower Bridge.

At 5am one recent Saturday morning, I met with Niamh and Danny on the bank of Regents Canal and spent over 90 minutes peacefully kayaking through London. As we paddled through Regents Zoo territory, we were very quiet not to disturb the sleeping animals, but otherwise throughout the rest of the tour, we exchanged stories and learned quite a bit about each other and Thames River Adventures. The idea is original, the tours, invigorating, and Danny and Niamh make even a total beginner feel right at home on a kayak.

Kayaking on Regents Canal

MyMetropole: I hear non-London accents – Where are you both from originally?

Thames River Adventures (TRA): Danny is from Christchurch, New Zealand, and Niamh is from Dublin, Ireland.

MyMetropole: Where else have you lived?

TRA: Danny has lived in the US, I (Niamh) in Cork and together in London.

MyMetropole: How did you end up in London?

TRA: Both of us came to London for work – Danny came originally as a psychiatric Nurse.

MyMetropole: Have you both always been big kayakers?

TRA: Not really, Danny introduced me to kayaking. He has been kayaking for the last 10 years.

MissDani on Canal

MyMetropole: What is your most exciting kayaking experience?

TRA: Danny kayaked on the Padis River Grade 4 White Water in Borneo. But Danny’s favourite place to kayak is London
because the urban experience is so unexpected. I love the Abel Tasmin in New Zealand because of the dramatic scenery and tranquillity.

MyMetropole: How did the idea for Thames River Adventures come about?

TRA: I (Danny) spent a summer kayaking through London and realised what a unique experience it is to kayak on the waterways in London. We thought it would be an great business opportunity as well as a eco-friendly, green business. We also were pretty sure other people would enjoy what we were doing.

MyMetropole: How is business going?

TRA: Business is going well – we now have 4 instructors working for us and we have seen business grow this year due to the year of the ‘staycation’. We even took out Natalie Imbruglia for Tuition session for one hour with her PA and stylist in preparation for a music video which she was due to film in Hawaii kayaking.

MyMetropole: What is your favourite time to be out on the kayak?

TRA: For me (Danny) it is sunrise on a crisp clear Autumn morning. Niamh loves the 10am Lunchtime Tour at Hampton Court and stopping for the well deserved pub lunch at a good old English Pub.

MyMetropole: What does Thames River Adventures have coming up?

TRA: This year 2009/2010 we will continue through the Winter. Last year we travelled through to South East Asia, Antipodes and South America. This year we look forward to seeing and kayaking London in the snow!

Regents Canal

It’s who you know…Interview Sahara C

6 10 2009

An introduction to It’s Who You Know…Interviews:

You walk down the street in overcrowded London, bumping shoulders with strangers all day, pressed up against them in an overcrowded tube carriage, phoning them for information or reservations, never knowing who the individuals are. Through my work I am able to meet some very inspiring individuals, people who are really out there living their dreams, being creative, and inspiring others. ‘It’s who you know’ is not some Paris-Hiltonesque attitude about climbing a social ladder – It’s Who You Know Interviews are about the  people I meet in my life who influence and inspire in big ways and small.

It’s Who You Know…Interview: Sahara C

Sahara C

As an absolute outsider at Zimfest 2009, the festival opened massively opened my mind as it exposed the very multi-racial, multi-ethnic population of Zimbabwe, and broke several stereotypes about what a ‘Zimbabwean’ actually is. The news agenda only supports the doom and gloom coverage on Zimbabwe, but as this feel-good event made clear, there are hundreds (if not more) Zimbabweans doing something positive, right here in London, to help their country and the image of their country and its people abroad.


MyMetropole had the chance to interview Sahara C, a Zimbabwean singer who took part in the Zimfest festival in London. Sahara is a great example of a positive Zimbabwean, and I caught up with this inspirational singer to ask her a few questions about her career, life in London, Zimfest and what Zimbabwe, and London, mean to her.

MyMetropole: Are you enjoying Zimfest?

zimfest 006Sahara C: I think Zimfest 2009 is a resounding success!  The team worked very hard for the artists and to get the event organised properly, no major hitches! I am very pleased to have been part of such a professional show.

The main message from Zimfest is one of solidarity – across all ethnicities of Zimbabwe and I feel that moment was captured when Siyaya Arts was on stage and the entire crowd, a mixture of skin tones, all danced and enjoyed the music.

I also really enjoyed the performance of DKR.  Before my performance I was very nervous, but afterwards I was ravenous and I ate some sadza, muriwo & nyama from one of the food stands – can’t go to Zimfest and not eat traditional Zimbabwean food!

MyMetropole: Where are you from originally?

Sahara C: I’m was born in Harare, in Zimbabwe

MyMetropole: What brought you to London, when did you move here?

Sahara C: I came to England in 1997 and settled in reading before moving to Hither Green in South London. I came to England to pursue my music career.

MyMetropole: Do you consider yourself a ‘Londoner’?

Sahara C: I’m not sure. I have now moved to Milton Keyne to be closer to friends and family, so I don’t live in London anymore. But I think as an individual, I’m definitely a Londoner. I love the nightlife, and I love the fact that you can find so many specialist shops amongst the larger ones. I absolutely love shopping in London.

MyMetropole: What is your favourite location in London to sing – why?

Sahara C: There is a lovely little venue in North London called Viva Viva. I like singing there, although it has been a long while since I was last there. The staff are great and the food is wonderful… and it’s a very cute little venue with a stage that’s up close and personal with the customers, so you get to connect on a real level with people who are often hearing you for the first time

My Metropole: Describe yourself in 3 words

Sahara C: Brave. Strong. True.

MyMetropole: Now, describe your music in 3 words

Sahara C: Soul. Smooth. Real.

MyMetropole: In dealing with other people, what is your biggest pet peeve?

Sahara C: I can’t abide people who don’t talk straight – people who promise something and don’t deliver.

MyMetropole: What’s been the biggest challenge in your career for you?

Sahara C: It’s always a challenge to find the finances to record and release music, and to have my music heard.  Exposure has traditionally been impossible for the indie artist. To overcome it I use the internet a great deal… I have web presence almost everywhere that I can – all the social networks you can think of .  I’ve managed to get listeners all over the world, so its slowly starting to happen.

Sahara CMyMetropole: And what’s the dream?

Sahara C: The dream is to be heard… If I can sing every single day and get paid from it, if I can release music and have it bought and heard, then I will be very very happy.

MyMetropole: What do you love most about singing?

SaharaC: I get a rush.  I don’t have any other vices (don’t take drugs, don’t smoke – though I do enjoy the occasional tipple now and then) but I get a real rush from singing in public, and I love it.  Plus I get to say in song what I often won’t say in words.

MyMetropole: If you could meet any person, alive or dead, who would you want to meet and why?

Sahara C: I’d like to meet Maya Angelou.  She’s a straight-talking, wisdom-sharing woman who brings light to the darkness.  She is a beautiful poet, with words that she knows how to use well and to good effect, and she has been through a lot of troubled times.  Although I have read many of her books, poetry and quotes, I would still love to sit in her company for a bit and share some of her thoughts.  She’s truly inspirational.

MyMetropole: What’s coming up for you in the future?

I just recently got results from the 2009 UK Songwriting Contest that my song Last Goodbye placed in the semi finals with a score of 7… I’m really chuft about that because 7 is borderline finalist (according to their website) and this is the 3rd time I have placed so well.  My scores have gotten better progressively since I entered first in 2007.  I hope this means that my next entry will win…!
Check out Sahara C’s music on MySpace, Facebook, ilike, Reverbnation, Twitter, and Lastfm

sahara C 3