bad weather, bored couples, and mushy peas…

For me, Martin Parr captures all that is great about the British. His photographs are bold and unashamedly honest; a far cry from the edited and posed photos that grace most glossy magazines (and let’s face it, most of our Facebook pages). His pictures are a believable and comical view of Britain as it really is. We can see ourselves in his work; we were the children with ice-cream all over our faces, we are the ravenous beach goers fighting over the tomato ketchup…and we’ve all been the bored and awkward couple.

Parr’s work is a refreshing take on what it is to be British – wobbly bits and all. He treasures the mundane and the ordinary; capturing our eccentricities with an affectionate touch.

This is no perfect postcard. This is the cricket tea, the WI, and the British summer at its most honest. And somehow, in spite of his sometimes gross and garish portraits, Parr’s colour saturated, paint-box pictures still make me feel oddly patriotic.

Let’s don our baggy swimming costumes, tie handkerchiefs on our sunburnt heads, and go and shiver on the beach…

To see more of Martin Parr’s work, visit his website

[all images copyright to Martin Parr]

 

Published on http://www.razzmag.wordpress.com on November 8th 2010.

 

 

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is romance dead?

Deceiving others. That is what the world calls a romance” – Oscar Wilde

I grew up believing that girls should sit with their legs crossed, politely ask to “excuse” themselves, and never EVER burp. Girls are supposed to be elusive and mysterious because, as Peter Andre so eloquently put it (oh oh oh mysterious girl, I want to get close to you), men like mysterious girls.

As a generation, we are much more straight-talking than our parents and grandparents ever were; the unmentionables in society twenty years ago are now common place in conversation. We talk about our problems and our medical histories; we’ll candidly discuss sex, love, and even the inner workings of our digestive systems. However, I am a firm believer that there are certain things you should never share and that with certain people you should share even less… When it comes to relationships, some things should stay mysterious.

My love of books and romcoms has only perpetuated my belief that in relationships you should be spared the unsavoury details. My housemates’ collective assortment of DVDs all have the same conclusion; boys always wear Calvin Klein boxers and smell forever fragrant, whilst girls wake up with a full face of makeup and perfectly blow dried hair. These rose-tinted, butterflies-in-your-stomach moments have cemented (in my mind at least) what romance should aspire to be. Plenty of my friends have refused to take their makeup off for months at the beginning of a new relationship, trying to preserve the image of their feminine perfection. Of course we all relax as relationships progress, but why do we purposefully ruin the illusion?

Those of you who are familiar with BBC3’s Him and Her will understand what has prompted me to write this post. Unashamedly called an “unromantic comedy” and described by the British Comedy Guide as a “forensically honest…comedy about what really goes on behind the bedroom doors of today’s 20-somethings”, Him and Her portrays a relationship proud of its imperfections. Becky and Steve’s relationship centres around their unmade bed where they eat, have sex, and fart in front of each other. I won’t deny that the frank portrayal of a relationship free of pretence is funny, but it is at times stomach turning (and this time not in a good way)

When Steve declares his love for Becky over an unflushed toilet, is it even romantic? Could that situation ever be? I think not. Maybe Him and Her does actually paint a more realistic picture of our relationships (Men don’t always change their pants and our hair, shock horror, does get greasy) but is their attitude really the grubby fate of all modern sexual relationships? Because I’m not seized by desire when I hear a man fart, and I certainly wouldn’t expect a man to fancy me while I was sat on the loo with the door open.

Some people might argue that it’s healthier for us to watch more realistic relationships…but I disagree. If all our relationships are doomed to this unpleasantness, then why portray it on TV too? I’d rather BBC3 just kept up the illusion and let me pretend.

Published on http://www.razzmag.wordpress.com on November 16th 2010.

rosie and razz

Razz arts coordinator, Rosie Grindrod, drew these lovely portraits to cheer Emma and I up. We announced the new Razz committee for 2011-12 this weekend and, although we are sure the new team will do us proud, we are still feeling a little bit sad.

Ellie

Ellie

Emma

Emma

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Look at more of Rosie’s art: http://artisticrosie.wordpress.com/

back to britain

Visiting the unspoilt town of Alresford, surrounded by undulating Hampshire countryside, is a bit like stepping back in time. Celebrated for its watercress, the traditional market town is situated in between Alton and Winchester, England’s ancient capital. Rows of pastel coloured Georgian houses, quaint shop fronts, and postcard-perfect views make Alresford an ideal day-trip destination.

Boasting a mix of modern up-market boutiques and an array of quirky gift shops, Alresford would please any shop lover. Retail highlights include the designer clothes stockist Moda Rosa (recently graced by none other than Kate Middleton), the country chic Susie Watson Interiors, and a gloriously dusty second hand book shop. If you are searching for something to satisfy your taste buds, Alresford offers a selection of high quality traditional stores including a patisserie, a bakers, two butchers, a greengrocers and a fishmongers. As well as this, there are two sophisticated and irresistible delicatessens selling locally sourced treats. The weekly farmers market also sells fresh local produce and, if you’re lucky, you could catch the WI selling homemade cakes and jams in the town hall. If it’s a return to nature you seek, the popular millennium trail is a must; the walk guides you through Alresford’s famous watercress beds and along the sparklingly clear river Arle where you can feed the ducks (let’s face it, you are never too old!) If after all this you need a rest, as well as hosting an impressive six pubs, Alresford has a number of classic English tearooms; the quirky Tiffin Tearoom, currently the proud recipient of a Tea Guild Award for excellence, is the perfect place for a clotted cream tea or a spot of lunch.

If you were to visit Alresford in May, you might witness the annual watercress festival; an eccentric event which attracts thousands of tourists, along with the odd celebrity. This popular day boasts a watercress parade, Morris dancers and an eclectic mix of stalls. Here you can sample various watercress themed culinary delights such as the strangely popular watercress chocolate. During September, the town plays host to the Alresford Show; boasting vintage tractors, livestock parades, over 150 trade stands, and a spot of ferret racing, the day is the highlight of the South’s farming calendar. Other autumnal musts are the old-fashioned one-night street fair, held at Michaelmas when the town’s roads are closed and everything comes to a standstill, and the annual torch light procession on November the 5th. Visit in December to see the streets lit up by individual Christmas trees and you might even see Santa when late night shopping; this popular evening brings the locals out to sing carols around the Christmas tree and sample the free mulled wine offered by the local independent wine stockist The Naked Grape. One of Alresford’s year round attractions is the Watercress Railway line, starting at the charmingly time-warped station in the heart of the town and ending in the nearby Alton. Lovingly preserved steam trains (including the famous Thomas the Tank Engine) take tourists between the two towns. The nostalgic Watercress line holds various themed days, including a 1940’s day where people from across the country travel to Alresford, with WW2 tanks and vintage buses, for a day of costume, drama, and war themed fun.

The slow paced Georgian town of Alresford is undoubtedly one of Hampshire’s prettiest; voted Country Life’s favourite market town in the south-east, whatever time of year you visit, a trip to Alresford is sure to be a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

Published in the Travel section of The University of Exeter’s student newspaper, Exepose, on March 9th 2009.
(re-edited in 2011)

mending and making do

In a world of throw away fashion and identical high street shoppers, should we regain our sense of making do?


We live in a financially challenging age; especially as students, either struggling to manage our money or about to step out into the real world already burdened with more debt than we’d care to admit. Could the answer to our financial fashion woes be found in the thrifty mentality of our ancestors? Over the last hundred years, the price (and quality) of clothes has dropped whilst the rate at which we as a nation buy clothes has substantially increased. Discount high street stores have kept the fashion consumer in style throughout the recession and allowed those with lower incomes access to instant and affordable fashion – but this consumer driven cycle is proving to be a false economy. As an environmentally aware generation, can we continue to buy and throw away clothes at the rate that we have been doing so? The natural products used to make clothes in the past were durable, and designed to last a lifetime; these high quality fabrics were the only ones available when our grandparents were our age. In comparison, the quality of clothes churned out by bargain high street stores has become so poor that much of what we throw away is utterly unrecyclable. As a result, textiles are now the fastest growing waste product in the UK.

We need to find a way to make modern day fashion sustainable. Arguably, we can shop “green” by buying what already exists. Vintage and charity shops are great places to find affordable clothes with the added bonus that they stand out from the high street crowd. Second hand finds have histories and their quality means they can continue to be loved and passed on. Alternatively, buying clothes on eBay is a way to save money whilst helping the environment, and by selling your own unwanted garments online, you could also make some money being green!

Our modern desire to buy into the swift successions of fashionable trends has been challenged recently by Sheena Matheiken’s stylish and socially conscious experiment in sustainable fashion – The Uniform Project. Matheiken’s project ended last May, after she completed her challenge to wear the same dress for 365 days. As well as raising money to help buy uniforms for children living in Indian slums, Matheiken intended the Uniform Project’s catalogue of outfits to inspire us to ditch our groaning wardrobes in favour of fewer, more versatile garments. By adorning the dress with vintage, handmade or reused accessories, Matheiken wore the same black dress for an entire year whilst still looking chic. Surely with a little creativity and imagination we could all turn our old wardrobes into something that looks and feels new?

Many companies, such as recyclemydress.com, whose inspired tagline is “Do your part to save the environment, one dress at a time”, are selling reworked vintage clothes. This is a brilliant way to prevent waste, but there is nothing stopping us from doing it ourselves. We need to learn how to make do with what we already have and adapting old clothes will give them a new lease of life. Unlike our generation, our grandparents thought nothing of darning their stockings and making their own clothes. I think we can learn a lot from our grandparents’ attitudes towards clothes and waste. If we learnt how to fix a ladder in our tights, or sew up those holes in our socks we could prolong the life of our clothes and reduce the number sitting in landfills. The modern mentality that the amount we throw away is acceptable has got to change. As consumers, we should all consider the victory pledge printed in Make and mend for Victory in 1942 “I will buy carefully- I will take good care of the things I have- I will waste nothing”. At the very least, next time you go to buy a three pound top, think about what you are going to do with it when it’s no longer in fashion or when it shrinks after its second wash.

Take a look at The Uniform Project and be inspired… www.theuniformproject.com

Published in the Autumn 2010 issue (issue four) of Razz My Berries Magazine.

quick thinking, award winning, and knicker-wettingly funny

Quick thinking, award winning, and knicker-wettingly funny; the cast of Showstopper never perform the same musical twice. Each night this talented group of all singing, all dancing actors and comedians carefully concoct a brand new musical. Led by both shout outs from the audience and an innovatively interrupting director, the actors flawlessly piece together a performance of comic and musical genius; with the cast having little or no control over the storyline’s direction, the possibilities are limitless. Fuelled by the audiences’ ridiculous suggestions, Exeter’s being a sisterly struggle over a handsome archaeologist set in a deathly-curse and lustful-Arabic-tourist plagued Egyptian tomb, each performance is unlike the one before.

Prompted by a telephone call from the show’s fictional producer at the beginning of each performance, Showstopper director, either Sean McCann or Dylan Emery, ask the excitable audience for a setting, a title, and a number of musical styles. Shouts from the audience determine which direction the performance will take (in Exeter’s case the cry “Yes! Exeter says yes!”), a raucous concept saved from mayhem only by the quick wittedness of the director and the cast. Not even when the shouting is over and the action is underway are the Showstoppers in command of their own musical. Just as the cast get into their stride, somehow turning the audience’s absurd suggestions into a feasible plot, the ingenious director will stand and house lights will come up. With a mischievous grin he will halt the performance, instructing the actors to embellish, rewind, or redo something in the style of, say…Lion King the Musical. After a brief pause for the inevitable giggles, the Showstoppers propel the musical on, never faltering in spite of the undeniable potential to; moments of tension transform into glorious moments of inspired creation.

The Showstoppers didn’t disappoint when they graced our very own Exeter Northcott last week, impressively managing to seamlessly incorporate an ABBA themed wedding, the body of a (questionably) dead explorer, a spaghetti western-esque harem and a religious-proverb spouting camel into an hour and a half of improvised triumph. Complemented by resourceful and imaginative musicians, the award-winning cast’s wit, skill, and wholehearted enthusiasm undoubtedly leaves each member of the audience with a grin on their face and the persistent urge to break into improvised song.

Published in  the Arts section of The University of Exeter’s student newspaper, Exeposé, on February 21st 2011.

from classics to crime fiction…

Alongside much bubble bath, many pairs of socks, and some obligatory chocolate coins, I received two very pleasing gifts this Christmas. The first was a teapot; a replacement for the ill fated blue spotty one that met it’s sticky end somewhere in Reed Hall gardens during the Alice in Wonderland shoot for Flights and Fantasy. (This new shiny one, I hasten to add, will most definately not be accompanying me on any future Razz shoots.)

The second was a set of ‘Postcards from Penguin‘ – One hundred iconic book covers in a box. Of all the Penguin book designs, I personally have a soft spot for the orange covers. With hopes of one day having my own library (or perhaps, more realistically, a shelf), filled with those three bold stripes, I’ve started my own collection of the design classic. I’ve begun scouring charity shops and book sales for them and as far as I’m concerned, the crumblier they are the better.

“over seventy years of quintessentially British design in one box.”

Over the summer, I did a couple of weeks work experience for Pearson Group, the publishing house which owns Penguin. As part of my placement, I was shown the Pearson distribution centre where, to my delight, there is an archive of every Penguin book ever published – everything from the original paperbacks published in 1935 to the new (RED) Penguin classics.

The set of postcards I was given this Christmas is a hand picked selection of the most loved of the Penguin covers. The collection is a celebration of the book designs that have defined the literary world and graced our shops’ shelves over the last century. Ever since the creation of the first Penguin paperbacks 75 years ago, their jackets have been a constantly evolving part of Britain’s culture, creativity, and literary history. Showcasing influential writers and designers, Penguin covers have reflected the changing face of British design over the decades.

In fact, the publishing giant has recently published a range of decade inspired book covers.  The Penguin Decades collection consists of five ground-breaking, generation-defining novels from the 50′s, 60′s, 70′s and 80′s. Each cover has been re-designed by a distinguished artist (the 70’s set by fashion icon Zandra Rhodes).

Pleasingly, the inside of my postcards’ box informed me that, all those years ago, Allen Lane decided to found Penguin Books whilst waiting for a train back to London from our own beloved Exeter (admittedly because he was disappointed with the poor selection of reading material on offer, but still!) Next time you are standing at St David’s station faced with a gruelling train journey home be thankful that nowadays, because in 1935 Allen Lane launched the now internationally loved brand that to this day provides us with affordable and beautifully designed paperbacks, unlike him, we’ve got plenty of good books to read!

So, although my poor primary school teacher spent years telling me not to, I’m going to continue judging these books by their postcard-worthy covers. I think it is safe to assume that the care and quality that goes into Penguin’s book covers continues past the front cover.

Published on http://www.razzmag.wordpress.com on December 29th 2010.

eleven characters, two men: kupenga kwa hamlet

 

Everyone thinks that they know Hamlet, but no one knows it like this. Hamlet is probably the most produced (and most quoted) of Shakespeare’s plays. It is the archetypal tragedy, covering all bases: murder, revenge, potential incest, doomed romance, and of course a climax which results in the demise of pretty much the entire cast.

The latest offering from Two Gents Productions is the clever and captivating Kupenga Kwa Hamlet. The name fittingly translates as ‘the madness of Hamlet’; theirs is certainly a unique take on the Shakespearean classic. Performed in a tiny space with only a musical instrument and a mat as props, this Hamlet adaptation is staged by two orange-jumpsuit clad Zimbabwean actors. Between them, Denton Chikura and Tonderai Munyevu share all the roles, seamlessly flitting between playful and grief stricken. Although the ratio of eleven characters to two actors should be confusing, their energy, alongside a simple hand gesture which indicates a change in character, is more than sufficient. Their performance is both amusing and engaging – most so for the unsuspecting audience members who are dragged up on stage during the infamous play within a play (thank god I didn’t sit on the end of the row). The tiny Ustinov theatre has an intimate feel which effortlessly involves the audience; we become the missing characters, the blanks in the conversation, and part of the play itself.

Somehow, from the doom and gloom of Hamlet’s story, they manage to pull out some humour. As well as their giggle-worthy depictions of a sassy Ophelia, and inspired re-imagining of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as witch doctors, the introduction of African rhythm and song makes theirs a lively production of this tragic tale.

The final scene is handled skilfully; the action being retold by the gravediggers as the actors fall in and out of character, killing each other in succession to the soundtrack of a catchy African song (four days later, it’s still stuck in my head).

The ‘two gents’ perform the first quarto version, cutting the running time down to just under an hour and a half. Whilst losing a lot of the dialogue, this actually makes sitting through Hamlet a much more enjoyable experience! Kupenga Kwa Hamlet is an original and thoroughly enjoyable play; the actors’ faultless and charismatic performance left me wondering why you would ever need more than two actors.

Published in the Arts section of The University of Exeter’s student newspaper, Exeposé, on November 22nd 2010.

an illustrator’s profile: gemma correll

Alongside my co-editor Emma Vince, I interviewed artist and illustrator Gemma Correll for the Winter issue of Razz My Berries Magazine.

When did you first start drawing? “I have been drawing for my whole life, really. At school, I was the go-to girl for making posters, flyers for fêtes, etc. and I even made my own comic called “The Chatterbox” when I was 10.”

We love the quirkiness of your illustrations! Where do you get your inspiration from? “I find inspiration everywhere. Often an overheard conversation, or a book that I’m reading, or simply someone that I see in the street. Sometimes I’m not even really conscious of these observations, but they’ll crop up later in a drawing.”

Our favourites have to be your “kitties”. Are they based on real-life cats, or real-life people? “I always have my old cat, Olli, in mind when drawing cats. He was my pet from age 11-22 and I adored him. So the actual drawings are often based on him, but the interactions are more likely to be based on people.”

Some of your work feels really personal. How much of your work is based on your actual experiences and how much of it is fictional? “Quite a lot of my work is based on real experiences, but sometimes I’ll embellish those experiences to make them funnier. Although, often I don’t need to- there’s so much humour in the simple exchanges and conversations that I witness every day.”

We enjoy your daily dairies. Is it easier to draw about your real life? “Yes, drawing about my life doesn’t require much thought, so I like writing/drawing my diaries at the end of the day- it helps me to gather my thoughts and really process what happened to me that day. Otherwise, I’ll go through a day working madly in my own little world and not really taking in the things that happen.”

Marmite. Love or hate? “Actually, I’m on the fence about Marmite. I do like it, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say “love”. My spread-related love is reserved for peanut butter.”

We couldn’t help but notice the recurring theme of pugs in your illustrations. Do you own one… two?… three? “I have one. His name is Mr. Norman Pickles and he is my favourite.”

The photos of your studio look really cool. Do you need to be in a certain environment to be inspired? “The most important things for me is that the environment I work in is quiet and warm, with internet access. It’s nice to be surrounded by pretty and inspiring things but I could work in a cupboard as long as it was comfy… well, it would have to be fairly spacious too.”

What advice would you give to budding illustrators? “There are a lot of would-be illustrators out there these days. The ones that succeed are those that work really, really hard and know how to market their work. It isn’t easy to begin with, but it does get better as the years go by, so don’t give up too quickly.”

Would you rather… never be able to draw again or only be able to communicate through drawing? “To only be able to communicate through drawing… that’s pretty much all I can do, anyway.”

What is the last thing you ate? “Tandoori prawns with rice and naan bread, cooked by my boyfriend, Anthony. It was delicious.”

If a stranger asked you to razz their berries, what would you reply? “Not today, but thank you for asking.” ▪

To see more of Gemma’s work visit www.gemmacorrell.com

Published in the Winter issue (issue five) of Razz My Berries Magazine.