In a time where money is pouring out of art budgets instead of into them, when people are being urged to choose tech careers over arts educations and when the importance of the arts as a craft is undermined as something a bit silly, just a bit of fun, Wendy Richardson was the driving force behind this documentary where she asked 54 arts workers (mainly in the UK) to answer these three questions:
What do the arts mean to you? How did you get into the arts? Are the arts accessible for everyone?
The answers were filmed on phone cameras and compiled into an hour and a half long celebration of the arts, of the different occupations within the arts, and of the great variety of disciplines the arts provides. It’s a celebration of lives lived a little richer, skills hard-earned and won, and winged moments created.
I love how different all the artists’ answers are and what sort of different tangents people go off on, even though everyone started off with the same three questions. That in itself feels like a testament to the arts’ variety and significance. I won’t take up your time rambling – the documentary participants prove their points with so much more elegance and wisdom than I could ever hope for, so I’ll just leave you in their safe hands.
The whole documentary is rather long, so if you feel up for it, this is the perfect chance to proper settle down in the corner of the sofa with a blanket and a big mug of tea. It’s snowing in Norway again (and I’m feeling thoroughly done with winter, at the moment) so I’m definitely enjoying all this summer footage.
I also really love how Wendy’s cut Marilyn’s and my footage together at timestamp 19:10-21:42. Marilyn is an educator who braved a pair of ballet slippers for the first time at 47 (and a half), and as everyone else in the documentary, she talks with that glimmer in her eyes that the arts really do bring out in people.
I hope you give this documentary a watch – it’s definitely worth it!
January has come and gone, with new national lockdowns, cups of tea and a really lovely amount of snow and frosty mornings. These past few years I’ve really enjoyed using this blog as a way to track the months passing, and this year I’ll attempt to do so in books read and (hopefully) enjoyed. Maybe it can be a source of “hm, that looks like an interesting read,” or “oh gosh, nope, never picking that one up,” for someone?
The Starless Sea – Erin Morgenstern
“Far beneath the surface of the earth, upon the shores of the Starless Sea, there is a labyrinthine collection of tunnels and rooms filled with stories. The entryways that lead to this sanctuary are often hidden, sometimes on forest floors, sometimes in private homes, sometimes in plain sight. But those who seek will find. Their doors have been waiting for them.“
Beautiful novel, beautiful language – just the right blend of poetic twists and turns and well-written prose. The seemingly (but definitely not) random fairytale stories linking the chapters together piece by piece, creates a really interesting ambience for the entire book, and the feeling when the different plots and storylines start weaving together is delightful. The huge character gallery sometimes makes the story a bit difficult to follow, and it’s a bit of a slow starter, but all in all, definitely worth both a read and a re-read.
Equal Rites – Terry Pratchett
“On Discworld, a dying wizard tries to pass on his powers to an eighth son of an eighth son, who is just at that moment being born. The fact that the son is actually a daughter is discovered just a little too late. The town witch insists on turning the baby into a perfectly normal witch, thus mending the magical damage of the wizard’s mistake. But now the young girl will be forced to penetrate the inner sanctum of the Unseen University- and attempt to save the world with one well-placed kick in some enchanted shins!”
I always find Terry Pratchett’s books to be all about the journey and very little about the destination. I love how he dances and plays with lanuguage, and his characters are a lot of fun, but at the end of a Pratchett book I often find myself wishing for the resolutions to be done a bit more center-stage and get a bit more focus. Equal rites was a very interesting and good read, with love-to-be-annoyed-at-characters, gender discussions and politics, and that wit and heart that Pratchett’s books are always properly infused with. 10/10 would read again.
The Magicians – Lev Grossman
“Quentin Coldwater’s life is changed forever by an apparently chance encounter: when he turns up for his entrance interview to Princeton University, he finds his interviewer dead – but a strange envelope bearing Quentin’s name leads him down a very different path. Instead of Princeton, he finds himself invited to study at Brakebills – a secret college of modern-day sorcerers.
Quentin plunges deep into a secret world of obsession and privilege, a world of freedom and power; and for a while, it seems to answer all Quentin’s desires. But the idyll cannot last. There are others powers than sorcery, powers that are as seductive as they are dangerous – and when the illusion of safety shatters, Quentin is drawn into a world far darker than he ever imagined. After all, power corrupts. No exceptions.”
When it comes to books and stories I really enjoy, I’ve got to admit I can grow a bit hyperfocused. Stories with heart and characters that really draw you in, a storyline that keeps you on your toes and that little extra nerve I’m still trying to identify what actually is (after years of recognising this habit but not being entirely sure what causes it) has me falling completely in love. The SYFY-show The Magicians (season 1-4, at least, I’m trying to forget about season 5) is one of those stories. The book didn’t do it for me as the show did, though – the characters felt a lot more negative and destructive, the casual charm I fell in love with in the series was just not there in the book, and I felt like the story didn’t feel as cohesive. It feels like the story Grossman was constructing while writing this book, definitely needs a longer format (like for example a TV series), where you get more time and chance to really explore both the characters and the main and minor themes. Thumbs up to the show, but not sure I’ll be rereading the book anytime soon.
Also, in true blog fashion, at the end of the month, here’re my seconds of January, a quaint month of working at the library, getting into studying part time, breathing in snowy air and reading in front of the fire place.
What a year it’s been. The good, the bad and the unexpected. Looking back on these almost 8 minutes of rather shaky every day footage left of 2020, has taken on a bit more meaning this year. In a year where a lot of the days have blended into one, where home office and not seeing people has made weeks pass without us really noticing they’ve even arrived, looking back on this feels like an exclamation of “this year has come and passed, in minutes and in seconds and in days, and I swear I was a part of it”. Every cup of tea, every little walk – I was there for it all, even if it doesn’t always feel like it.
It’s definitely been a year for contemplation, of decision making and for change. November and December has been a time of looking at what I’ve managed to accomplish this far and what I want to still go on to do, and I’ve realised I need to make some changes. These months have been months of frustration, of worry and of celebrating every little victory I could find, just like it’s been for everyone else.
Rambles done and dusted, here’re the seconds recorded from the 1st of September to the 31st of December this year. I want to post the entire 2020 video on its own in a minute, but it also feels like the last four months of 2020 deserve their own post. They’ve truly done their best with the days they had, no arguing there.
In January I fell in love with the album Love, Run by The Amazing Devil. It’s a haunting experience of an album and the kind of music that can comfortably accompany you on days both good and bad.
Looking for something else on my laptop today, I found this little thing. It’s a cover of The Amazing Devil’s “Elsa’s Song” – a project I started (and forgot about) in March, when everywhere started closing down due to Covid, and everyone had to more or less self isolate. Watching it now honestly feels a bit like an accidental time capsule. The video is from before I cut my hair and when I was still wearing my old glasses, and this was before I did my last exams, handed in my dissertation and before I moved and started the job I’m working now. It was also at the very start of lockdown and it reminds me of how overwhelming and uncertain everything felt at the time, and how, in March, we were still waiting for a deadline on when what we kept referring to as “these special times” would be over. Now we’re mid-October, and looking at at least another year of this, and everyone’s just doing their best. So yeah, an accidental time capsule in many ways.
The videos were recorded by an old dam quite close to my uni flat. It was a place I often went to when I just needed some space and some air, and initially I muted the rain sounds in all the clips. I decided to keep the rain however, kind of like a tribute to how The Amazing Devil often use ambient sounds and surrounding noise to add to the stories in their lyrics. There is something to the lyrics in this song – they’re about love and connection and being remembered, and humanity really not being the best at learning from past mistakes. Feels rather relevant at the moment, to be fair, with everything that’s going on around the world.
the night we hid our childhood memories in drawers and cupboards and make believe-safes?
How we wrapped secrets and fairy tales in the blankets our five-year-old selves couldn’t sleep without.
Whispering, we gently placed them all in unforgettable treasure chambers.
Do you remember how the shoes that blinked when we walked slowly faded, greying like streets heavy with rain, as electricity bills ate all our ice cream pennies.
Our hiding places got more secret, and as we walked past them yelling Marco, they stopped replying, as deadlines and invoices and parking tickets called louder than memories ever dared.
If you do, then please let me tell you how last night I found that childhood drawer, and today I’m sat here on the floor, flicking through dusty sweet wrappers wondering whether I should give them back or not.
I almost throw them away.
Stamps are expensive and memories are heavy. I’ve learned it’s not cheap, to wrap nostalgia up in polaroid pictures and Royal Mail envelopes.
I won’t throw them away though. I don’t think I ever will.
Most years I hold onto summer like it’s the railing of a bridge I’m not entirely sure whether to trust or not – fingers clenched around long summer evenings, oceans to swim in and the sun never really setting.
Now it’s September 1st and the fog is rolling in over the hills and the fields of my little hometown. This year something is different. This year, I can’t wait for long dark evenings enveloping us, blankets on the sofa and thicker jumpers in the office. I can’t wait for mugs of tea and warm woolen mittens, for lighting candles and having to turn the lights on in every room I enter. Maybe life’ll slow down a bit around autumn time this year, and I’m excited about that too. Spring brings life and summer brings energy – maybe this autumn can bring a sense of calm. I’m excited for books and for blankets, for sitting inside while September paints the sky with the sun rising and setting.
Yeah, I’m ready for autumn to roll around, but before that I’ll have a think about the months that have passed. May to August of 2020 have been months of moving flats twice, moving away from some very good friends, wonderful summer weekends, boat trips, cutting most of my hair off, starting an internship and seeing that internship turn into a permanent position. They’ve been months of not cooking as much as I’d like, of scouring town for a picture frame with three slots, and of nephew cuddles galore. They’ve been months of corona testing and quarantining and chewing your bottom lip wondering what the future holds. They’ve also surprisingly enough been months of woolen scarves and thunderstorms in July, but hey ho – this year’s a strange one anyway, so who’s to be surprised about having to don a bikini one day and a knitted scarf the next.
We’ve made it through the first half of 2020 – let’s get on with the next one!
The first poetry stage I ever experienced, and my favourite to this day, is Winchester’s Poetry Platform. A monthly open mic-poetry night, hosted in the attic space above the Railway Inn in Winchester — this vibrant spot of poets and writers who travelled in from (very) near and (a little bit) far, was the most wonderful introduction to live poetry. I loved it from the get go; the vibe of “everything’s okay here”, the little stage that welcomed everyone, how there was always room for one more person. It was like one of those big round tables where you can always pull up one more chair. I spent the first couple of months just listening, sat in awe taking in the words of the brave people on the stage, before I worked up the courage to join in myself. After that I never missed an event.
Moving away from Winchester meant moving away from a lot of things that meant the world to me, and Poetry Platform was honestly one of those things I was so sad to let go of. It was truly a space in which I found myself grow, both as a writer, as a listener and as a person.
Looking at this video though, you can tell I’m still as awkward a bean as ever. Gosh, I need to up my performance game, especially now that performance means talking to your own laptop screen and not the expectant darkness of an audience.
One of the very few good things to come out of this global pandemic, is the Poetry Platform going online and moving locations from the Railway Inn to Zoom. Poetry readings in your Living room aren’t the same as being in that attic space above a pub, with the smells and the sounds and the textures of pub chairs and cider bottle condensation, but it’s a hell of a lot better than no poetry readings at all.
I read two new work-in-progress poems on August’s poetry platform, from the safety of my temporary central Oslo living room. How strange to sit in this flat who represents everything that’s new and a little intimidating, reading poems about the sea outside my parents’ house, to people still living in the city that will forever hold my first proper adventure.
I suddenly find myself in a situation I haven’t been in before. I’m sat in a borrowed fifth floor flat in the middle of the biggest city in Norway, looking out over the sun setting over Oslo, shrouding the parks and the buildings and the castle in mid-July nighttime. This is a fairly quiet part of the city center, but compared to my 2000 people-hometown, everything seems grand and loud. People are wandering on the streets below me, and I am both in the middle of more bustle than I’m used to, and also so incredibly on the outside of it. Not a bad place to be, really.
Big cities are strange. It’s in the cities stuff is happening. Big cities mean life, big cities are synonymous with energy, big cities smell of adventure, new foods and bright colours. People gather in big cities, huddle together in big cities, but people are also incredibly lonely in big cities. Big cities are for dreams and worries and ambitions and nails bitten short.
At the moment I’m so very new to this city. I’ve never lived with the sounds of trams passing outside my window, and it’s a new experience. Maybe the best way to get used to the city bustle is to sing with it. I tried that; a song about how no matter what else you have or haven’t got, at least you’ll always have tomorrow. Maybe the city is a little bit more mine now than it was this morning. Maybe it’ll be a little bit more mine tomorrow. Like I said, I’m so incredibly new to this city. I don’t know it properly and it certainly doesn’t know me, yet. But maybe one day. Maybe this city will lead to small changes that will lead to big changes, maybe this first temporary stay will lead to some sort of personal growth I’m not prepared for and certainly not aware of at the moment. This feels like the beginning of something – I’m just not sure what.
I brought one of my favourite mugs, filled it with tea and now I’m sat overlooking the buildings and the trees in the park. Cars, trams, taxis and electric scooters; meters below me life is going on and on. I can’t wait to join in, but for tonight I think I’m just going to feel oh so very fortunate to suddenly find myself on the rooftops of the capital, to see the city from above, to be in the middle of what feels like everything, and still be a little bit distanced from it. I’ll learn and grow and get to know this city tomorrow. I’m very excited about it.