Domestic Abuse Support All-dayer fundraising gig

(Tuli from Gang)

I recently went to a local gig put on by Art’s Cool raising money for the local domestic abuse support charity. It was an all-dayer, with half the lineup being local Kent bands, and the other half being from Leeds. The next day they did it all again, but in Leeds, and raising money for an education charity there. I missed the first band, but they were kind of a supergroup made up of members from the different Leeds bands. The promoter also handily made this Spotify playlist of all the bands.


The lighting was a bit difficult, being mostly magenta and strongly focused on one side of the stage. How easy it was to photograph the band members depended strongly on how much they moved and where they happened to be standing, and varied dramatically from act to act. When I take gig photos I like to try to have at least one photo of each band member (which can be hard with drummers positioned far back), and as flattering as possible, especially when it’s smaller bands who may not have many nice live photos of themselves. So I took, and deleted a lot of photos (and didn’t get as many usable photos of some of the bands such as Chest Pains as I would have liked). Here they are, in order of running on the day. There are links to each band’s facebook fan page in each title.

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Trying to be nicer to myself

Today is the last day of my 32nd year on the planet. As someone with a mid-January birthday, I particularly hate how January is assigned to be the hate-yourself-and-vow-to-change-everything-about-yourself-in-a-punitive-way month. Rather than futile and harmful diet and gym plans, I’m trying to be nicer to myself and less viciously self-critical about my appearance.

It’s hard though when you live in a society that actively wants you to hate your appearance. As a woman you constantly receive the message that the only thing that matters about you is your appearance, and it isn’t good enough, and will never be good enough. I try my best to avoid harmful media, whether it be traditional or online, but it’s a constant onslaught, and you’d have to be a hermit in a cave to avoid it completely.

I was going to write a lot more in-depth about the topic and was drafting and thinking about things all afternoon, but it was just exhausting and made me feel really sad, and I ended up deleting it all, especially as it was stirring up memories of some horrible, horrible things men have said to me over the years (such as “you are so horribly overweight, I’m embarrassed to be seen with you in the street” when I was the same weight I am now).

So yeah, I guess all I’ll say is be nice to others, and try to be nicer to yourself, despite the onslaught of messages telling you not to be.

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Here’s some more photos from Germany. From Harth in Nordrhein-Westfalen to be more precise. It’s a small village in the Sauerland, a scenic forest region about a hundred miles east of Cologne, popular for hiking and cycling. I was there for a week to teach a holiday course in a school in the local small town of Büren. It was a pretty good week- nice weather, good kids, and cheap food and drink in the inn we were staying in. The only real fly in the ointment was when one of the parents tried to put me down on the insurance when his child broke her phone. Casual insurance fraud (and insurance policies/claims for everything) is a national sport in Germany though.

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2017 in photos

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.

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Some thoughts about having left London

(A sunset I saw on the beach about a month ago)

So I returned permanently to the UK in September and moved to Margate. I grew up in Kent, but haven’t lived here permanently since I was 18, which feels like a long time ago. Settling in has been both good and hard. I travelled non-stop essentially from January to September, and adjusting myself to being in one place and the idea that I live somewhere has taken a while. It’s also kind of weird pretty much only being surrounded by people I’ve known for 1-2 months- you feel like the awkward new kid at school.

I spent the last four years mostly in London, and frankly living in London is brutal. I came to the realisation recently after a conversation with a friend who returned to Leeds after years in London, that you just get used to this continual background low-level rejection from people in the capital. Whether you are worth talking to or acknowledging as a person depends on where they place your value in terms of status or connection. People speak to you with one eye over your shoulder for someone better to talk to than you. People you have met and spoke to many, many times claim they don’t recognise or remember you, I guess because you weren’t important enough to remember. People would look eager when I said I worked somewhere prestigious (museum) and then their face would drop when it turned out my job was extremely unprestigious (tourist information desk and tickets). If you’re not status or money-focused (I’m not) it can be quite a grim social environment. Even so-called “alternative” places could be like that- very focused on whether you knew the right cool people or not.

Of course I have/had like actual friends there (most have left or are planning to leave) I like and enjoy spending time with, but with busy schedules and everyone only being able to afford to live in peripheral areas, there’s a whole lot of logistical wrangling and booking things in a diary two weeks ahead to actually get to see them.

Also it seems pretty much the only way to meet people for relationships was via internet dating, which is extremely depressing. No-one speaks to you in places like pubs or gigs. Some people find dating sites a wonderful expansive use of technology, I find them a depressing neo-liberal way to commoditise people. My few very short and depressing attempts at using them gave me a strong impression that people felt they were ordering up some customised person off a catalogue. They weren’t looking for a real human, just a nice lifestyle accessory with every feature to their satisfaction (and probably very unrealistic expectations). Aside from the nasty harassing messages that most women get, even a good chunk of the men who were ok in messages were nasty in real life, and because they felt it was anonymous and we’d never meet again, it was ok to be nasty. (Either a lot of people have been reading those terrible MRA pickup guides, or they have independently become an arsehole). For example, who does things like look into my noticeably green eyes and then start telling me at great length that of course the most attractive eye colour is blue? Why? What result do they think that will get other than pissing me off and making me leave? You also of course have no reference or background for this person, and have no choice but to believe what they tell you about themselves, making it ideal I guess for compulsive liars. It’s better to retire from the field.

Socially and logistically, living in a small town again is pretty different, and I’m still adjusting my brain (I still mildly panic when I look at a clock and it’s an hour before something, because I would already be late in London). I’m still always so pleased at the way that people seem to genuinely want to talk to me as a person though. They remember meeting me! I keep getting hugged! I get introduced to people’s friends. When I initiate conversations with people, they are happy to chat to me, rather than making it clear I’m essentially filler material until they spot a better person. It’s actually pretty sad that I notice this, and makes me wonder what the hell I was doing in London.

In pretty much every way, my life is easier, despite the fact I have way less money. I can just about afford to live alone and not have to live with a million housemates, everything is in walking distance, and people are nice to me. I should have left London way earlier.

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I spent most of August in Germany, teaching some school workshops and going to Documenta art fair along the way. My first assignment was in rural Nordrhein-Westfalen. The agency has a tendency to book you on flights at brutal times early on a Sunday, so instead I booked my own flight to Cologne on a Friday evening, and claimed it back off them. I have been to Cologne loads of times, and my colleagues were flying into Düsseldorf, which I had never visited. So I decided to stay in Düsseldorf, do a bit of sightseeing, and then meet up with the others before heading to the Sauerland. (A delayed flight and the questionable joy of rural DB trains on Sundays meant that that turned out to be a bit more complicated than planned, but everyone got there in the end).

I can’t say I knew much about Düsseldorf. It’s in the Rheinland, the most densely populated part of Germany, it’s a rich place with a big financial industry, Kraftwerk come from there, they say isch rather than ich (check out Kraftwerk’s Neonlischt), and they have an intense rivalry with their better-looking and more famous neighbour Cologne (to the extent of selling postcards everywhere saying “Düsseldorf statt Köln”- Düsseldorf instead of Cologne. Nice try Düsseldorf).

The centre of Düsseldorf is very posh- the Königsallee is full of expensive designer shops, and there are lots of expensive restaurants and gleaming modern corporate headquarters. It wasn’t really my thing. There are a surprising number of Japanese restaurants too- which I did avail myself of. There was cool looking modern art museum, but I got there too late for it to be worth paying to get in. The rest of the city isn’t quite so gleaming though, just kind of bog-standard Germany, and I stayed in quite a nice hotel for €30. There were a weirdly high number of stag and hen-dos/exam celebration groups in town too. There was an annoying group of Bavarian boys in lederhosen at my hotel. The sarcastic manager pointed them out to me and said “look, there’s some Bavarians in their famous sexy lederhosen. As a free gift from the hotel, you can pick one. None of their mothers will mind”. I declined.

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They only want you when you’re seventeen

(My ID photo from 2003, the following year)

I made this playlist a while back, and the post has been languishing in the drafts for a while, so I thought I’d finish it off for the end of the year. It’s all songs I liked when I was 17, which was in 2002. It’s a fairly roughly put together playlist, because it’s an attempt to make a jumble of songs fit together rather than to create a flow of songs (my usual way of creating playlists). I can’t remember why I made the playlist in the first place, but I think it was sparked by reading some article or the other. It was a while back, as I said.


The dominant music at the time was Nu Metal. The Strokes et al had just started to come in. I wasn’t particularly enthused by either. I used to go to a really shit alternative night in Chatham because it was something to do and they didn’t care about legal drinking ages (and was the only place open after 11 where my friends wouldn’t get beaten up). One room played indie, the other metal. Whatever song you asked for was too heavy for the indie room, and not metal enough for the metal room. So I rarely heard anything I liked there. Some of my (male) friends were in post-rock or post-hardcore bands, and that was more fun. (Some of them later set up a piss-taking night they dubbed post-core and claimed it was a legitimate genre).

There’s a big mix of stuff on here I guess, but nothing too embarrassing. Most of it is probably typical of people of roughly the same age. When I lived in Brighton however I seemed to be surrounded by crust-punk types, and in London more straight up HxC types. These weren’t the people I seek out, but they just seem to be there, surrounding you. They are also people with incredibly narrow and restrictive tastes in well, everything. They are certainly people who would judge this choice of songs embarrassing. I’ve leave the verdict up to you.

Brief comments about each song under the cut.

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British Museum Sketches

Here’s some more old sketchbook pages I scanned, this time from the British Museum. (Unlike the V&A they let you use pens and have plenty of stools to give out). The first one is metal grave goods from the Bronze Age, mostly from Central Europe and Wales. I studied Ancient History as my BA, and Bronze Age ritual landscapes and grave goods are something I’m particularly interested in. Something I’m well aware a lot of people will find horrendously boring. For the best grave goods though, see the Scythians, the nomadic horsepeople of the southern Russian steppes, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. Magnificent golden jewellery, carpets, embroidery and intricate tattoos.

These are some carvings of chickens from a mural from Lycia in the southwest of what is now Turkey. Not a famous item at all, so a nice uncrowded room to sit in. The British Museum has so many rooms that it’s almost impossible to visit them all in one day. I have visited them all over the years, and as most tourists cluster in the Egyptian and Athenian rooms, you often have the other galleries all to yourself. To be honest, the British Museum has so many treasures, they could easily send back the disputed items like the Parthenon sculptures and have lots of beautiful items to fill the galleries with (whether the items which no-one is currently clamouring for were themselves legitimately acquired is another matter, up until the 1950s or so, a lot of, or perhaps the majority of anthropologists and archaeologists were essentially robbers and con people- here’s looking at you Schliemann and your dynamiting of the ruins of Troy to get to the gold).

These sculptures are from 520-450BC as I have helpfully written on the drawing. This was the period when Athens was at its peak. People often have this idea that the Ancient Greeks, Egyptians and Romans were concurrent, but this is not the case. The Roman empire didn’t even get going (or even have emperors) until the first century AD, and the Egyptian civilisation lasted for several thousand years. Even with periods like the Trojan War and Persian War, people kind of conflate the two together and assume they happened close to each other. In reality though, the Iliad was written around 800BC (whether Homer was a single person or a kind of collective oral narrative tradition is something that is up for debate) harking back to glorious legends of the deeds of the Mycenaean ancestors around 1200BC, and the Persian war was 499-449 (please remember BC dates go backwards). The Greco-Persian wars were also recorded by actual contemporary writers too (whatever your opinion of Herodotus), and the Iliad is essentially an oral tradition written down four hundred years or so later. Troy was a real place on the coast of Turkey, and there is archaeological evidence that there was conflict there at about the right time, but who knows about Achilles, Menelaus and so on.

The era of these carvings was also the period of the Persian war (please do not see the film 300 for any kind of information whatsoever- don’t even talk to me about that film), and Lycia was on the Persian side. The Lycians/Luwians who lived in the area (and had their own language– which is likely to be the same one the Trojans spoke- Troy is not very far away) are one of the less famous civilisations of the era, mainly because they were surrounded by large bossy neighbours like the Athenians, Assyrians and Hittites.

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Wooden hands

I got a short notice illustration job this week for images for Christmas greetings from Buildopia, an Italian eco-building company. They specialise in wood and their slogan translates as “the building game”. So here’s some wooden hands presenting wooden baubles, on wrapping paper featuring a house they built.

The illustration is actually three different line drawings done with Posca marker. The house, the hand and the bauble. (I actually drew another hand with the back of the palm up too, but ended up not using it). I happened to actually already have a drawing of a hand holding a sphere in my sketchbook, which was very useful for reference- you can see it here in some sketches I did of a magician entertaining kids. I scan the ink drawings, clean them up in Photoshop, then import to Illustrator and autotrace and turn into livepaint to make sure they have a completely clean line and transparent background, before being returned to Photoshop for colouring and texture.

Each layer is set as a multiply layer on Photoshop, with a texture from some recycled paper I scanned, and extra multiply layers at around 70% opacity for any colours. I then created a repeat pattern of the houses using the offset tool, and laid it down in the background over a green-toned version of the recycled paper texture. Then the items are layered up, with each layer given a drop shadow. The hands are actually copied three times each to give the shadows more depth. So there’s actually about twelve different photoshop layers going on in this illustration.

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Zilinski album launch

So here are some much more recent gig pictures- from this week in fact. Local label M8s Records held an album launch party for Canterbury band Zilinski. With Lazy Pilgrims and Trash Mammoth in support.

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