In 2017 I went to ten different countries, and was rarely in one place for longer than a week between January and September, which is both exciting and unsettling. Here’s where I went and what I did, using my Instagram photos (because I don’t have camera photos of everything, and even when I do, I haven’t edited all of them). Obviously loads and loads of images under the cut. If you’re wondering how I went to so many countries, I work for an agency that sends me to teach school workshops abroad, my mum lives in France, and I won the plane tickets to Japan.
Here’s an illustration of a car park in Bracknell. Like the one I did yesterday, the original artwork was a pen and ink drawing, and the colour was added digitally. It’s available as a print in three different sizes, from £6 to £30.
(If you want to colour the picture in yourself, then the same artwork is also available in colouring book form.)
The photos it’s based on can be seen here. I took them in 2005. At the time I was studying at the University of Reading, and working part-time in a camera shop/photo lab. Every so often they would send me to cover the Bracknell branch. Bracknell is a New Town near Reading built in the 1960s, with a reputation for being bleak At the time I took the pictures, 60s Brutalist buildings were still considered ugly by many, before the reassessment that Brutalism has had in the last few years. The concrete wasn’t green in real life anyway, that’s just from the chemical process used on the film.
The shop was in a windowless 60s shopping centre, and there was no staff room, so rather than eat my lunch in a cupboard I would go and wander amongst the concrete. I haven’t been to Bracknell since 2006 or so, so I have no idea if it’s the same or different nowadays- I know that the mirrored 3M building in my photos has been demolished for sure. In 2005 the centre of Bracknell felt completely dead, it would be interesting to see if that’s still the case now.
Here’s an illustration of a fishing village in Cornwall. The original artwork was a pen and ink drawing, and the colour was added digitally. It’s available as a print in three different sizes, from £6 to £30.
If you want to colour it in yourself, then the same artwork is also available in colouring book form.
When I go to museums or talks, even if I’m not actively drawing, I like to take sketch notes. It’s a habit I got into while studying for an art MA five years ago, where we were required to keep a visual diary of talks and exhibitions we attended. (You can see that diary here). Earlier in the summer I went on a ghost tour of Cambridge via work, and I took these notes. (You can read more about haunted Cambridge here too). If I’m in a situation where I’m walking around or moving a lot, I block out the text and images in non-photo blue pencil, and then do the inking later when I have a desk. If I’m sat down, then I do them straight in pen- usually a 0.7mm bullet Posca marker. I’ve scanned a few pages today from my current sketchbook, and I’ll post them gradually, interspersed among other things.
A few notes about this page:
- Cambridge is essentially on a drained swamp, surrounded by a lot of water, and on completely flat ground right to the North Sea. This means lots of swirling fog and mist in the winter. Ideal for ghosts and haunting.
- The Night Climbers are apparently a real club of students who scale buildings. Or maybe they’re ghosts.
- Cambridge was very badly affected by the Black Death. This means a lot of plague pits and mass graves. Again, ideal for haunting.
- I didn’t go in the Haunted Bookshop, because it wasn’t open very often. I did however go in the “haunted” café next door, and nothing spooky happened, apart from a braying young man with a supernaturally irritating voice yelling at the table next to us.
- The Everlasting Club is a local ghost story about a secret club with yearly meetings.
- Charles H. Fisk (I wrote his name wrong) is an American study abroad ghost.
- “Stone Tapes” is a reference to this famous ghost story, and its idea that ghosts could be a physical recording of dramatic and emotional moments in the past.
I didn’t have a very thrilling pre-Halloween weekend. I was struck down by the bug that’s been going around locally, and stayed in and watched Stranger Things instead. I was tempted to get a pumpkin to carve, but building work next door has displaced mice that have tried to come into my flat. At the moment they are deterred by cotton wool and strong-smelling orange and lemongrass essential oils, but I’d rather not tempt them in with a large ready cut pumpkin to eat.
In the summer I went on a ghost walk in Cambridge via work. The guide told stories of mysterious cloaked figures on roofs, and Black Shuck the giant black ghost dog, and also pointed out this spot, at the back of Peterhouse College, where it joins onto a graveyard, as the most haunted place in town. I am not really a believer in the supernatural, I’m more inclined to skepticism, but I do enjoy a good ghost story, and I’m a firm believer in atmospheres, at least. Some places are just full of it, (like Kit’s Coty).
(Obviously CW: Death, ghosts, haunting, suicide, graves)
So I moved back to Kent last week. (I’m knackered after travelling round Germany for three weeks and then moving house back-to-back). To Margate in particular. I grew up in Medway, a little way to the west, but left when I was eighteen to go to university, as it didn’t feel like there were any opportunities for me. Nearly fifteen years later, here I am. A lot has changed in that time. London is not a desirable place for young people to live any more. Not because of crime (going down all the time), or pollution, but because it’s so impossibly expensive and offers such a poor quality of life.
Last weekend I went up to Manchester to do a stall and run a Zine 101 workshop at the first Northwest Zinefest. I had the luxury of a day off work, and enough money to take the train rather than coach, and stay at a bed and breakfast. The last time I was in Manchester was well over a decade ago, and it was nice to have a whole weekend rather than rush to and from the event.
Today is the UK election, and while I dearly hope we get rid of the Tories and all their terrible policies tomorrow, I also have something exciting to announce.
For quite a while now, I’ve been part of the DIY Space for London co-op, working to open a non-profit, co-operatively run accessible music, art and general creativity & activism venue in London along the lines of Wharf Chambers in Leeds. Operating in London has raised its own unique challenges. Most projects of this nature in other places can find a building and have trouble raising the money. We had the opposite problem- we had an incredible amount of goodwill, and people kept giving us money, but we had trouble spending it. London is in the middle of an uncontrollable property boom, and we had immense trouble finding anywhere suitable. Places went immediately, had residential neighbours or plans to build flats in unsuitable places that would immediately result in noise complaints, had legal issues or wanted ridiculously huge deposits.
A little while ago we found a large industrial unit in SE London, just off the Old Kent Road (the cheapest Monopoly square in the UK edition). It’s ideal, being in an affordable area that isn’t in the middle of nowhere, having no residential neighbours, and being essentially a blank slate for us to do as we like with. The co-op have sat on the news until today though, because we had to wait until all the bureaucracy and legal aspects were handled, and we had the keys. Today we got the keys, so DIY Space for London is going to become a reality this summer. The blank slate aspect though means that we will need a lot of help with fitting it out before opening up. If you’re in London and want to help out, see the post on the website here for more details.
I’ll be tabling and running a zinemaking 101 workshop at the inaugural Northwest Zinefest in Manchester on the 29th of May at the Star and Garter, and having a nice mini-break in MCR and seeing friends. Check out the Facebook event and the website.
It’s organised in association with the Salford Zine Library, who have built up an excellent collection over the last few years. They are still looking for zine donations for the library- more details can be found here.
For the past few months I’ve been weighing up whether to stay in London or to leave. I’ve lived here since 2011. In that time I’ve been a part-time postgrad (and finished the course), done an interesting but mostly not well-paid assortment of jobs, and lived in an assortment of sublets and property guardianships. Since the end of 2013 I’ve lived in a property guardianship that’s unusually cheap, but not at all homely, but far too cheap to give up needlessly.