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A Sunday Kind of Love #2: The Get Down Edition

28 August 2016


Has anyone else been watching The Get Down? Netflix's newest series (with a $120 million budget) is a mythological, fantastical look into the birth of hip hop, and inside the Bronx in the era of disco. It's directed by Baz Luhrrman (which is immediately obvious through it's frantic pace and grandiose use of colour) with a little help from Grandmaster Flash, Nas, among others to keep it somewhat historically accurate. I'm on episode three at present and loving it! It's already got me thinking about New York, the city in the 1970s, and about hip hop as an artform, and the other books and films that encompass this.

Here, then, are my five recommendations for The Get Down fans:

01) Just Kids - Patti Smith

I wrote about this previously in this post about a crisis of creativity I was having. Just Kids is Patti Smith's first autobiography -- a beautiful, poetic journey through her young adult life in  1970's NYC. Mostly famished, at times homeless, and in a perpetual fever of love, Patti and her boomerang-beau Robert Mapplethorpe are (quite literally) fuelled by their art. At the Hotel Chelsea, it even pays their rent. Their faith in their talent and in their work never falters, and inevitably they both live compelling creative lives alongside some of the most amazing cultural chiefs of their generation. They're both so fucking cool and completely unabashedly live out their dreams. 

02) Hip Hop Family Tree

This series of graphic novels by Ed Piskor sprawls the early history of hip hop. Was the cartoonish The Get Down inspired by them, I wonder? My flatmate got me the first installment 'Vol. 1: 1970s-1981' for Christmas. It's beautifully illustrated, and a must-read for anyone into the musical genre.

03) Time is Illmatic
Nas was a "huge creative force." and a major inspiration for The Get Down, with the show essentially acting as a re-telling of his rise to fame through its fictional protagonist, Ezekiel. Time is Illmatic is a documentary chronicling the making of Nas' seminal album, 1994's Illmatic. In the film, the rapper returns to Queensbridge, the neighbourhood in which he was born and raised, to explain some of his most famous lyrics, and also to illuminate the decimation of his 'hood by racial policing and the War on Drugs. It's a sobering insight into '90s hip hop, and the startling poverty that propelled many of its breakout stars.

04) City on Fire
Garth Risk Hallberg's mammoth first novel begins in 1976 in New York City, and ends with the great 25-hour blackout of 1977, a disaster which sent the Tristate area into a tailspin. We meet a selection of somewhat reprehensible characters, and follow their interlocking stories. It's a great, sweeping look into what life was like in the 1970s, especially within the NYC aristocratic and punk worlds.

05) Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing 
Another mosaic of protagonists, 1989's Do the Right Thing tells the story of a singular scorching day in the Brooklyn neighbourhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant. Race and racism are defining factors of the concluding confrontation which burns through the community. It's cinematically stylised in distinct Spike Lee fashion, and an amazing, important look into both the 'Fight the Power' movement of gangster rap, and race relations in the 'crack age' of New York City.

x

Sister Act @ Leeds Grand Theatre

26 August 2016


What do you get when you cross tone-deaf Nuns with a diva of Vegas proportions? The Craig Revel Horwood directed UK stage tour of Sister Act, that's what. 

Now I've never seen the first film, but I've seen the second (Lauryn Hill slaying) and I have to say from what I gather that this theatrical performance is incredibly different from both. It's worth noting that the songs are original and unique from Emile Adorlino's 1992 film starring Whoopi Goldberg, and Bill Duke's 1993 sequel. Oh, and there's no Whoops.

I was reminded throughout the show of another musical, namely Dreamgirls, the motion picture which stars both Jennifer Hudson and Beyonce. In her portrayal of Deloris Van Cartier in Sister ActAlexandra Burke (the 2008 X Factor winner) to my mind consistently channels Queen Bey. It's even apparent in the way she says the name "Curtis" (sounding more like "Curdis") which is also the name of Jamie Foxx's character in DG, who's Beyonce's love interest. Maybe this isn't surprising considering Burke duetted with Beyonce on the pop television show which launched her to fame. Maybe B even gave her some tips. But, this isn't to say Alexandra's starring role as an American chorus-girl-cum-Holy-ward is not convincing. In fact, in this role she shines. Her stunning voice reverberates around the Leeds Grand Theatre in a true Whitney Houston tinged fashion; it brings the house down.

From our first glimpse of Burke as Van Cartier, the singer on-the-run who becomes a Nun to evade revenge from her murderous ex-lover, it's apparent how flamboyant and sassy this production is going to be. She arrives at the Queen of Angels church, clad in high purple suede boots, to a throng of Nuns singing in a horrendous, farcical fashion. Over the course of the show, she teaches them how to "put... the sis back in Genesis," and preaches the power of Raising Your Voice. Feminist icon, or what!

In other Acts, we see coke-addled villains with deep, silky voices; we see an older Nun beatboxing in a backwards cap; we see other Sisters wearing habits jazzing out with Saxophones; we see Sweaty Eddie, who made me think of Todd Rungren if he was in law enforcement, in his 70s disco flares, lamenting his invisibility in the song "I Could Be That Guy" to a crowd of comical homeless people. Most of all though, we see an ensemble cast made up of multi-instrumentalists with spine-tingling voices of honey. Even characters with seemingly minor roles surprise the audience with their inherent vocal talent. 

There's comedy in Sister Act. There's fun. There's a trio of Flight of the Conchordsian bad guys, who sing about how they're going to chirpse the Nuns -- to no avail, naturally. It's a seamless production that echoes the fast-paced, glitzy campness of the Disco era. It could've maybe done with being fifteen or so minutes shorter as in the second act there was a bit of a lull in action, but all in all it was pretty fabulous.

Despite potentially receiving inspiration from other megastars, there's no denying that Alexandra Burke was, in her own right, the belle of the ball. I'd say she's our U.K. equivalent of the soulful divas across the pond. Equally as fierce, but far more fun and relatable.







One Task At A Time

24 August 2016


In an episode of the Freakonomics Radio podcast called Aziz Ansari Needs Another Toothbrush, Aziz talks about being addicted to the internet. We log on, he says, purely to get a hit of the buzz. We don't need the content in the slightest. Why then do we waste so much of our time skimming it?

 "Here's a test, like take your nightly or morning browse of the internet, right... Your Facebook feed, your Instagram feed, your Twitter. If someone, like every morning, was like I'm gonna print this and give you a bound copy for you to read so you don't have to use the internet. Would you read that book? No, you'd be like, this book sucks..."

I sit here with fifty tabs open at the top of my screen. My phone lies nearby, and every five minutes or so I'll look over it and scroll through one, or two, or three of my apps. When at home, the TV blares in the background. Every now and again I'll pop my pupils up to see that screen.

Why is it we do this? Is the internet our generation's new drug of choice?

I read an article recently about how we're literally exhausting our brains

We're hardwired now to be so easily distracted, so scattered across tasks. Endless procrastination with meaningless flicking of web pages. The ache arrives behind my eyes, the wave of anxiety seeps into my fingers. I feel the weight of a never-ending To Do List I've concocted in my head. Work. Blog. Tweet. Repeat. Until... Break. I'm reading five books at a time. I'm not replying to texts until days later, because my brain feels full. Full of air. 

Recently I had a bit of a breakthrough. Write down the To Do List and do. It seems stupidly simple, doesn't it? To work through things, one task at a time. But it works. So now I'm closing all the tabs. I'm getting things DONE. One task. One task at a time. And then, I can disconnect and switch off.


Wild Swimming in Yorkshire - 3 Places To Go

22 August 2016


Recently, the sun's been shining on Yorkshire and it's been lush. A couple of weeks ago a group of us took a trip to Gormire Lake on a cloudy but warm Saturday. Though I didn't go in for a dip that time, it sprung my imagination about where the places are to go wild swimming in Yorkshire. Who needs the sea when there are bounties of pure water to dive into? Spanish plume or wetsuit weather, there's nothing quite like it.

Gormire Lake

One of only two natural lakes in the county, Gormire Lake sits below Sutton Bank (which I wrote about here).  There was a slight chill in the August air as we disbanded our vehicles and walked up, through the trees. The myth goes that there's an underwater city located at the bottom of the lake, which I'm not so sure about but it certainly feels incredibly mystical. While we were there, another group had set up an amazing camp, complete with canoes and a launching seat - to force those not so keen on a wild swim in, perhaps! 


Wain Wath Force

Wain Wath Force is fairly near to Richmond, North Yorkshire, out in the Dales past Reeth and the beautiful village of Low Row. It looks like the perfect place to take the plunge!


River Wharfe

This river has everything you need for a wild swim. I've been reading in particular about Loup Scar, a short limestone gorge, just by the village Burnsall which is apparently best for jumps! Where the river meets Collingham is apparently a great place for a paddle.


Have you been wild swimming in Yorkshire? Where would you recommend? 


A Sunday Kind of Love #1

21 August 2016

A  S u n d a y  K i n d  o f  L o v e




I'm starting something new - a series of posts I'd like to call 'A Sunday Kind of Love.' I've experimented with doing a weekly Sunday post before, but it never quite went to plan. I've also noticed a bit of a lack of personal content on here. So, here goes! Maybe this will be the perfect combination of the two. Every Sunday I'll be listing five things I've been loving, whether it's something I've been up to, a song, a book, a podcast, a person a place, or maybe even a dreamy photo.

- Brighton I haven't visited my hometown in over a year now, and I feel a pier-shaped hole within my soul. This week I got the news that my little brother got in to the University of Sussex (where I went) and I'm insanely excited for him! And also for the excuse to visit once I have the money and the time. I sometimes feel like an invisible thread ties me to the Pebble City.

- Festival vibes Last weekend I had a lovely one in North Yorkshire. The sun was shining, and we marauded around the countryside, before settling on Saturday night at what can only be described as a mini-festival. There were some super funky bands at Boomfest. There were gorgeous pork baps with crackling. There was frisbee and badminton. There was enough gin to shake a stick at. Ow, my head. This week, then, I've been loving old friends, new friends, and camp fire songs.


- Gifting and Gratitude This week I've been enjoying picking out gifts for people, thinking about aforementioned friends, and delving into the idea of gratitude. I'm someone who can often get swept up in feeling overwhelmed by things, especially if they're not going to plan, so I'm making a conscious effort to step back and really appreciate what's good. What I'm thankful for. I wrote about this is in a post about escaping the urge to escape.


- The Girls - Emma Cline Set in the hellish heat of 1969, Cline's debut is a coming-of-age story centered around girls on the fringes of a cult. I've just started it, and already I'm hooked. Ever since I listened to You Must Remember This podcast series focusing on Charles Manson and his followers, I've been completely intrigued by the psychology behind this phenomenon. Have you read this book? What did you think?


- Sister Act at Leeds Grand Theatre Last month I popped along to Leeds Grand Theatre to see Let It Be, which was a grand old time. It's so nice to enjoy the fruits of Leeds' theatre scene. Next week I'll be seeing Sister Act starring Alexandra Burke - I'll let you know how it goes!

See you next Sunday x

A Rainbow Weekend in Leeds

18 August 2016



The weather was hot, and outside our flat rainbow flags were hanging triumphantly. It was Sunday and Pride fever had well and truly hit Leeds.

My friend Steph had come to visit from Canada, en route to Edinburgh where her family are staying for the summer. We hadn't seen each other in three years, which was both wild and magical at the same time. Our last encounter had been on the pebbly shores of Brighton, when we leisurely got up and ran over to the Seven Sisters cliffs without factoring in winter's 4pm blackout -- this led to us sprinting to the coastline, taking some grey photographs, and tottering back in the dark. I remember how we stopped off in Lewes for some mulled ginger beer on our way home, with the overhead lights guiding us to the train.

Seeing Steph again, in the crisp warm air of a British summer, made me so happy. It's funny how with certain friends, you can go without speaking for months and yet everything's still exactly the same. It will always be the same. She arrived on Friday, and I sought out to find her after work, which proved difficult when she told me she was 'in Caffe Nero.' Three Neros later, and we were reunited! It was all fun and games after that, starting by taking a jetlagged Steph to Roland's to try Aperol Spritzes, and then ending at Headrow House dancing to Greg Wilson with all our friends, before a few of us rumbled back to ours, ate cheesy chips, drank wine and pranced around.

Saturday we grabbed some brunch at Sheaf's Cafeteria, which is where The Big Disco was held! Poached eggs on toast, with a mug of coffee. Always a winner. After this, we headed briefly to The Tetley and saw the new exhibitions by Jem Finer and Jonathan Trayte. Very impressive, if not a little phallic. Then it was time for home, the Olympics, some lovely gin, and feast of fried foods made in the deep fat fryer we found in one of our cupboards. Thanks old tenants!

We awoke on Sunday to the sounds of hubbub from the city centre, echoing from the rainbow lined walls of the Calls. We poured ourselves some drinks, and went downstairs to watch the parade go past our street. It was a beautiful thing to watch, and the sense of community radiated right through the city. On Lower Briggate, they'd assembled a stage on which a number of musicians played. There was also a drag re-telling of Mary Poppins. Loved it!

Looking for somewhere to eat, we stumbled across Trader Dan's Surf Shack -- the new incarnation of the Hedonist Project, the giants of Leeds' pop-up scene. Before TD, this building housed The Rum Kitchen, The Whisky Parlour, and more recently Old Tom's Gin Kitchen. Trader Dan's encapsulates a tropical meeting of West Yorkshire and the West Coast. Quiksilver surfboards adorn the walls, and there's red cups! Woo! We got a couple of sharing platters between us, that came served with coconut polenta, sweet potato fries, gorgeous fried prawns, kale slaw, and fish tacos, to name but a few food stuffs. Everything was really tasty, and really casual. After the meal, we sipped Sols, played dominoes and listened to the sounds of Pride from inside the California cocoon.

All in all, it was a lovely weekend - one of old friends and new places. Showing Steph around the city of Leeds made me realise how much great stuff we have here, as having visitors always does. I feel proud to live here.







Escaping The Urge to Escape - La Cavale

17 August 2016


It's always been in me; I always remember having that feeling. When things get rough, or static, I want to flee.

Run. Soar. Leave.

Itchy feet lead to an itchy mind, with thoughts running through it like sharp, fiery vines.

I think moving around a lot when I was younger has instilled in me a sense of frantic adventure, like if things are calm then things aren't right. Like if things are settled, they need to change. I call it 'La Cavale', which is the French word for escape.

I know I'm not the only one to feel this way. A friend of mine and I joke often about our daydreams that revolve around running off to Rome when life is getting us down, with a book and enough money for a glass of Pinot at the other end. It's hard not to romanticise a life abroad when life is a bit dull, or you're beginning to feel your routine simmering away to reveal a sense that maybe something's been lacking.

Sometimes it's not even a physical escape we fall into when we're overcome by this feeling, this longing for The Grand Departure. Sometimes it's spending all of our money on booze on the weekend, then spending every Sunday shaking with hangover and guilt because of it. Sometimes it's acting with abandon, and stumbling into a mild form of self-destruction.

'La Cavale' is the curse of the twentysomething, with high ambitions but low opportunities. The nomadic soul that wants to see the world, with the suited body tied to the deskchair and keyboard. Wide globe-like eyes, a mix of green and blue, spending eight hours a day looking at a screen. But it's also the curse of the problem-procrastinator. Nope, not today we say, putting our issues off until tomorrow. It's sometimes easier to leap off into the unknown than it is to align our lives better at home.

I'm not saying here that travelling can't be a catharsis. I'm not saying that we shouldn't be spontanteous, throw our fears to the wind, and jump. I'm not saying we shouldn't be independent on our search for who we are. All I'm saying is, from personal experience, sometimes our desires to separate from our current environments originate from worrying sources we need to recognise and heal. Sometimes it's not just a casual case of wanderlust. But sometimes it is, and sometimes for those 'lusters, when it's time to come home and get back into society, it can be bloody hard when all you want to do is wander off again.

It can really bring us down when all we want to do is fly up.

Here, then, are some ways we can escape the urge to escape:

- Embrace the calm Life has a tendency to be unstable, which is why we should relish it when things are going well. If you find yourself waiting for a wave to rock your placid lake, remember the damage a storm can bring, and be thankful for the serenity of stillness -- this may involve finding peace in the mundane.

Book little trips away Even if it's a staycation (I had one in Centre Parcs recently, which was exactly what I needed), getting away from things even for a weekend can do you the world of good. Sometimes all you need is a spritz of something exciting to get your creative juices flowing once again. Doing the same thing day in and day out can dampen anyone's free spirit, so dot things in your diary that you can look forward to, that you can plan, and that will make you feel good.

- Assess your life What's causing you to feel this urge to run away? Is it a job you don't like? Is it a city that you're tired of? It's good to always question why it is we're feeling the way we're feeling -- scared, sad, or happy. When something's wrong change can be good, and change can be necessary. Instead of whiling hours moaning about it, change it. Fix it. Stay in the moment, and craft it to fit you better. This could be getting yourself a new job, mending a relationship, or planning future travels. Equally, if things are good we need to recognise why, and what we're grateful for. I need to heed my own advice a lot with this!

- Find a creative outlet Whether it's writing, reading, exercising, or (if you're lucky) in your own work -- finding a hobby that can take you places both physically and mentally can only be beneficial. We all need a form of self-expression. Creating can take us all kinds of places.

- Look after your body & mind Problems and anxieties have a tendency to snowball when we're tired, or emotionally drained. Looking after ourselves, and having clear heads, can help us decipher the decisions we should be making. Listening to our bodies can give us an insight into our minds, and give us more control over our lives.

- Make plans for a big Cavale! This is a way to escape the urge to escape for the time being, to sit down and actually plan your travels. If you want to see the world, go see the world! Book a flight, save up money. Make sure it's for the right reasons and you've got the right resources to do so. And in the interrim, be present and enjoy the life you're living instead of residing within that beach resort in your head.

x

With Anthropologie: A Whirlwind Trip to London

11 August 2016


Last week I headed to London for the day. It was a fairly last minute whirlwind visit, but one that injected some much needed vitality into my daily routine. I met some great people, I saw friends, and I ate some fantastic grub. 

Tramlines Festival - Review

7 August 2016


Tramlines is a festival name that through connotation screams ‘connection'. Over the weekend not only were we physically transported by the famous steel carriages, but also by the genre-bending artists who played on a variety of stages (some inside, some alfresco) dotted around Sheffield.

Yorkshire Lady Love #1: Hattie Crook of Mauds House, Skipton

4 August 2016

For a while now I've been wanting to start a series on my blog that celebrates women and creativity in Yorkshire. I know I always feel incredibly inspired after reading interviews with ladies who are killing it when it comes to their careers, or their creative pursuits. So, here we go! Starting off I'd like to introduce you to the super talented  Hattie Crook, who at the tender age of 25 has just opened her own independent shop in Skipton, North Yorkshire. 
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