When we asked Liam Baker, editor of Oslo Folk Collective magazine to meet us for a coffee, we thought we had better leave the decision up to him. East London-born Liam made himself an honorary Olso-ite back in 2010, but not before testing the waters in Sweden. Stuck in a "soulless" corporate job in London, Liam moved to escape the grind after a particularly depressing tube journey to work one day. "I was just sitting there thinking, 'I don't want to do this any more. I should be doing more with my life,'" he tells us. Soon after his tube-piphany, Liam booked himself a flight to Sweden, where he spent the next couple of years working as a chef. Still restless, he migrated to Oslo soon afterwards. He now lives in the newly gentrified east side of the city, where he says: "It's all happening."
After two years working as a chef in the esteemed restaurant ORO, in May 2014 he launched the first issue of Oslo Folk Collective, a monthly online magazine celebrating Oslo's arts and the people behind them. The magazine covers art, music, fashion and food and perfectly encapsulates Oslo's strange, minimalist beauty. Liam's magazine shines a light on the city's most creative chefs, musicians, artists and filmmakers. We met Liam at Kolonihagen in the stylish Grünerløkka district. Unsurprisingly, it was a dream. Set inside an old stable, this rustic spot served dishes with organic produce from local farms. The whole thing was impossibly Norwegian and impossibly cool.
Over cured salmon on rye with peppery radishes, we soon learned that there is more to Liam than his magazine and impressive beard. As well as running O.F.C (which comes out in print next year) Liam also works as a chef in local hotspot Ni & Tyve. On top of that, he is writing an alternative guide to Oslo, set to be published next year. He is also curating art exhibitions in the city. Oh, and is working on a film exploring "the creative side of chefs". The man is a machine. "I think I must be a bit mad, really," he says. Mad, maybe. Inspired, definitely. Here's what we found out about Liam Baker while trying to suppress the feeling that we are chronic underachievers.
CURIOUS PEAR: Tell us how this all began, what spurred you to move away from London?
LIAM BAKER: I had worked for corporate companies for 12 years, and just found it miserable. I had surpressed a lot of my own creativity for a long time. I was going home on the tube one day, and the train stopped. I was just sitting there thinking, "I don't want to do this anymore. I should be doing more with my life." A week later I bumped into a friend who told me I looked like shit, and I told him how lost I felt. We drank wine, and after about five bottles I decided to quit my job. The next day I handed in my notice and booked a one-way ticket to Sweden.
CP: So where did the idea for O.F.C come from?
LB: I went to Marrakech for a few months to write, and I guess the idea came to me then. I wanted to feel something honest. I wanted to explore. I'd been in Oslo meeting all of these incredible people and just thinking 'how have I not heard of you?' Norwegians are taught not to talk about their own achievements; it's just the mentality they're used to. I felt like these people needed to be talked about, because they weren't doing it for themselves. I wanted to interact with people on a creative level, and feel inspired again.
CP: Has the experience been harder than you imagined?
LB: I have moments when I'm full of self-doubt. Any creative person gets that. You kind of beat your head against the wall. I feel very privileged and proud of the last seven years, though. When I started the magazine and was cooking too, I just hardly slept. I was working seven days a week, every hour I could get. It's been like that for almost two years now. But I like being very busy, it keeps me sane. I guess I'm an idealist in a lot of ways.
CP: Do you think Norway is changing in terms of popular culture?
LB: Absolutely, I do. Norwegians are flying all over the world more than ever before, and seeing culture in a completely new way. And I think when they come back to Oslo, they want to see those cultures reciprocated here. People have become more open minded in the last few years. It's all happening right before our eyes, these subtle changes that are making the city better than ever before. This generation in particular is really hungry for change.
CP: And is Oslo at the centre of this change?
LB: It's on the edge of something really good. In the next two or three years it's really going to pop. Now is a very interesting time to come, there's change in the air and an energy in the people. It's at the beginning of its evolution, but it's snowballing fast.
CP: What do you love most about Oslo?
LB: It's the capital city, and yet today I walked from one side of it to the other in 20 minutes. I love that about it. Visually, it is the tale of two cities. You can see the two different sides so clearly through the architecture. The moneyed west side is very precise, people dress differently and drive different cars. In the east side, it's completely different. It's more relaxed, more urban, and people are a lot more interactive. Everything leans in this part of the city, nothing is straight. But when you go to the west side there's this purist form in the buildings. Both sides are quirky in their own ways.
CP: Does the city change a lot from summer to winter?
LB: It's a totally different place. Winters are tough; the darkness just draws people inside. They're very quiet, reserved and shy by nature here. But come summer, that whole dynamic just flips, and they go wild. Anything goes. You feel it in the air, it's vibrant. People have energy when there's all this light, and the city moves at a different pace.
CP: Do you ever miss London?
LB: I miss elements of it, but only small elements. I miss my family, that's tough. But I have so much here now; I have opportunities that I wouldn't have had if I'd stayed in London. People aren't scratching each other's eyes out to get ahead of one another here, and I felt that straight away.
CP: So what are your recommendations for an afternoon in Oslo?
LB: Everything's walkable in Oslo, so just wandering around for an afternoon and taking in all of the architecture is a great way to spend the day.
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