Posts Tagged ‘London’

Playing catch up

Before I start feeling inexplicably guilty for not writing anything non-work related forever, let me start by saying hi. How’ve you been? I hope that those of you who do ocassionally find themselves on my blog haven’t missed me too much – in fact I’m pretty sure that the majority of you follow me on Twitter and are subjected to my word vomit on a daily basis. If you fall into either (or both) of those categories, then THANK YOU.

As I’ve been gone for a while, I figured I’d launch my new look blog with a little catch up.

February 2014

Back in February I spammed everyone who follows me on Instagram with photos from Hakkasan, where Charlie and I had our first ‘Dim Sum Sunday’ experience. We opted for the Signature menu (hello additional champagne and cocktails) and sat back as 6 equally beautiful and delicious courses were delivered to us. But February wasn’t all elegance – I also reverted back to my teenage years and went to see Taking Back Sunday at KOKO with some great friends and ended up in Burger King. So swings and roundabouts.

March 2014

March was particularly busy as Mum and I went to see Yoncé and Charlie and I celebrated our anniversary early. We like to go out and do something together rather than buying gifts we don’t really need, so I took him to see Book of Mormon and he treated me to dinner at Soho’s NOPI afterwards, which we both enjoyed, but felt lacked something in comparison to Ottolenghi in Islington. I also got to spend time with one of my dearest friends Elizabeth at the Martin Creed exhibition, where we giggled at fart boxes and danced around in a room filled with balloons.

April 2014

In April I went to Chatsworth House for the first time in years with my family. As beautiful as the house is, I could just as easily spend all day exploring the gardens. Back in London, I went to see one of my favourite bands Brand New at Troxy for the first time EVER. Don’t ask me why or how, but I’d never gotten around to seeing them before and I wasn’t about to miss them again. The gig was everything I had hoped for, although if you ever find yourself at Troxy you might want to drink a lot of water: it’s a stunning venue but the air con was non existent and I saw at least 5 girls hit the deck before Brand New even hit the stage.

I also took a trip to Leeds for the weekend to visit the girls I lived with at University and had THE BEST time. I’ve only been to Leeds on a handful of occasions but each time I’ve fallen more in love – does anyone else feel the same way? Like all great weekends away, my mini break revolved experiencing some of the best food and drink Leeds had to offer, including…

Leeds 2014

Red’s True Barbecue

As tempted as I was to try their infamous donut burger (yes, you read that correctly) I opted for a giant helping of the best pulled meat nachos I’ve ever had. If you like your meat with extra meat, GO. IMMEDIATELY.

The Alchemist

After stuffing my face at Red’s, I was in the mood for a strong beverage. My resident Leeds girl Zoe took me to The Alchemist, where you’ll find smoking cocktails, colour changing cocktails, glittering cocktails…my cocktail ‘A Night at the Movies’ even included popcorn!

The Botanist

Before I left Leeds, I got the chance to sample The Botanist’s deli style menu, which is perfectly suited to an afternoon of nibbles and drinks. The hanging kebabs looked delicious, the cocktails were great (despite slightly slow service) and the staff were extremely friendly.

May 2014

May was a blur of adventure, fun and excitement. Charlie and I went to Lisbon to stay with one of my oldest friends and had an amazing time. I wish we could have stayed for the whole month, but we had to get back to London for Charlie’s birthday surprise: Les Mis. I managed to hold it together until the interval but after One Day More, I basically cried throughout the entire second act. Towards the end of May, the nerves set in as I got ready to be photographed by Rankin! I joined 10 others who had also entered Hunger Magazine’s Selfie competition at the studio for a surreal afternoon of posing – Rankin even jumped in for a couple of fun photos. You can see the full winners shoot here and if you visit Hunger’s Tumblr, you’ll even see me in GIF form…

Rankin shoot

In June I discovered a handful of new pubs in the area thanks to Streatham Food Festival, which I only regretted slightly as I joined the inspirational Curvy Kate ladies for a photo shoot to promote their awesome new strapless bra – keep your eyes pealed for more news soon and look out for the Ultimate Uplift campaign…

June 2014

June was also the time for new tattoos. I’d wanted to get a tattooed by the immensely talented Rebecca Vincent at The Circle for a while, so when she announced a charity day for Sensory Leeds, I emailed her immediately. Now I have a beautiful tattoo AND I can feel good about the money going to such an important non-profit organisation. You might have seen my pinecone on Instagram recently as I’ve been documenting my #100happydays – I’m almost at the half way point and haven’t given up yet!

My Talented Friends : Toni Hawkes

As well as sharing her name with a pro-skater, Toni Hawkes is a talented illustrator, a fellow baking fanatic, a display artist, and all round geek. We met almost six years ago through a couple of ex-boyfriends, banding together over mutual interests, our sense of humour, and eventually, our broken hearts. Toni has worked in creative retail display for ten years and has recently been busy creating her own company with friend and prop artist, Katie Forman. I managed to grab a few minutes with them both to talk about their new venture, Hawkes & Forman.

Toni Hawkes, Hawkes and Forman

Hey ladies! Are you working on anything exciting today?
Hi Amy! Actually today we’re creating neon animal heads… [laughs] I can’t say too much about it, but all will be revealed at the beginning of January. If you keep an eye on the website, it’ll pop up on there soon!

Tell me about Hawkes & Forman…
Hawkes and Forman is basically a combination of creativity provided by me, Toni Hawkes, and Katie Forman. We’re prop makers and display artists, and we pride ourselves on the high standard to which we work. As a company we’ve only been going for four months, but we’ve already created displays for Harvey Nichols, Sweaty Betty, and Topshop. We specialise in hand-made bespoke pieces, so everything we make for our clients is unique!

Toni, how did you become a display artist?
I did a degree in Illustration at London College of printing (now London College of Communication) and it was during that time that I started working for the Topshop creative team. I’ve always enjoyed being creative, and it was amazing to be able to combine paid work with my degree. After six years with Topshop I moved on to work for a display company, where I got to meet a variety of clients and generate a lot of contacts – which have definitely become useful now I have my own business!

How does it feel working with Topshop again?
The team at Topshop were like a family to me, so working there again is like going home! It’s different coming in with my own company, but it’s a positive difference – it’s great to have more control and creative input.

Were you nervous about branching out and starting your own company?
It was more excitement than nerves I think! Katie and I were both freelancing and we are used to the inconsistency that comes with this kind of work. With my contact book and Katie’s model making background, we realised that we had a rare combination that could really benefit us. We were actually pretty confident [laughs] and to have achieved so much in a short space of time has been surprised and amazed us.

Hawkes and Forman display

Topshop mannequins by Hawkes and Forman

How did the collaboration between Katie and yourself come about?
We met working at Pinewood Studios – we were both making props for Clash of the Titans. Katie had been working in film since she graduated from her model making degree and we quickly became friends, realising that we shared a common interest. I was looking at branching out into new creative industry alongside my retail background, and Katie was looking to break out on her own and make props for other industries. after we finished working on the film, we put together a portfolio and branded ourselves Hawkes & Forman!

You both have a lot of experience under your belts – what’s the most exciting thing you’ve worked on to date?
Definitely the mannequins we created for Topshop’s Oxford Circus! They came to us with a concept from the Creative Director, and through samples we developed the idea. It was great for us to be able to have a hand in the design aspect as well as creating them. Each mannequin stands around 7 feet and is covered in hundreds of hand made paper cones, so it was a very labour intensive job, but the result was worth it, and they’ve received some amazing feedback.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to become a display artist?
Oh god, you have to be prepared to hassle people! [laughs] Not just for work, but to sign off jobs and pay you. It’s an aspect we didn’t really think about at the start, but when you have no one else working for you then you have to do the dirty work and chase companies to pay you on time. Other than that, you have to learn to be good with numbers and estimating, as there’s a lot of quoting and back quoting involved. For us, working together has been beneficial in more ways than one. We’ve found it helps to team up with another person as you can support each other, balance each other out and bounce ideas off each other. Creatively, having original ideas and an ability to visualise someone else’s concept are important. Be aware of your competition, and try to come up with a unique selling point. Most of all, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there!

If you can imagine it, they can make it…
If you need a window display, an installation, props for a photo shoot or props for a film, I cannot recommend these ladies highly enough. They’re both extremely talented and hard working, with passion and creativity by the bucket load. You can contact Toni and Katie directly via their website, or if you’d like to keep up to date with their inspiring work, you can follow them on Twitter, and on Facebook. If you live in London you can catch Hawkes & Forman’s mannequins in Topshop Oxford Circus up until Christmas.


When I first told my friends and family back home that I was moving to London and would be living a stones throw away from Brixton, their responses were mixed. The question I perhaps met most frequently was “But doesn’t Brixton have a bad reputation?” You may think that this is a fairly generic stance from someone living outside of London, however I’ve found more and more that a lot of people I meet here seem to have the same view.

For any faults the area might have, I love Brixton. It has gumption. You’ll experience diversity in age, race and sex just by taking a few steps. The market is a particularly fascinating example of what happens when cultures mesh – the food variety, the languages, even the fashion – it’s always growing and evolving. It is, unfortunately, becoming more hip even despite it’s shadows – there’s a notable influx in ‘trendy’ eateries and trendier cliental. If you’ve never been to Electric Avenue, I recommend you go now whilst it’s still holding onto it’s roots.

Brixton Market
Places to eat in Brixton
London market
Vegan cupcakes Brixton

Borough Market

After the Indian summer faded and the wind began to set in, last weekend felt truly autumnal – Saturday evening was almost bitterly cold.

Over the weekend I went to explore Borough Market with Charlie and his parents. I love food at this time of year; the deep colours of the vegetables, the comforting stews and soups with rustic bread, thick chunks of smoked cheeses, and that unmistakable smell of mulled wine. After elbowing our way through the hustle and bustle, we picked up some pieces for dinner, drank a little champagne, ate a huge pork and stuffing baguette, and saw the rest of the afternoon out in the pub. Perfection.

Borough Market
Borough Market mushrooms
Borough Market vegetables
Borough Market bread


I really like photographing people. Whenever I get my hands on a decent camera, you’ll usually here the words “hey [insert friends name here] come here for a second and let me take your picture” come out of my mouth.

Matthew Hurford