Showing posts with label London. Show all posts
Showing posts with label London. Show all posts

Monday, 3 March 2014

'The National Student' work experience

'Love the office interior here'

So far 2014 has begun rather successfully, both in my studies and with this work experience I began a fortnight ago. The National Student is the largest independent student publication in the UK, with contributing writers from all universities. I've written for them briefly before, however, after asking them if I could come into their offices on a weekly basis and help out, they happilly welcomed me in. So far it's been a great experience and I'm looking forward to learning everything they throw at me; from writing and editing to interviewing: both in music, culture and beyond.

So far I've covered all sorts. You can check my profile here.

'First day at this work experience went swimmingly'.

Friday, 8 November 2013

New room, new times.

For the third (and hopefully final) time during my university years I've moved once again, this time - I'm proud and privileged to say - to a much nicer area and certainly not so far from my university campus at all! Since the start of term several student publications have beaten me to the game of how to decorate your student room but nonetheless I thought I'd share what I've done this year to hopefully spark some ideas.

When I moved in my room was pretty bare. Nothing but my bed, an inadequately sized desk and one chair was provided thus my first port of call was furniture and, being a student, cheap and cheerful is paramount. Ikea, you are a saviour.

A bedside table is probably the most helpful piece of bedroom furniture with it being a common host for your lamp, books and, for me, copious amounts of tea. For £25 this guy is an absolute pleasure; easy to assemble, nice looking and plenty of space.The same goes for my bookcase. Being an English Literature student and Kindle sceptic, I have a forever increasing book collection. With no shelving provided in my room, this item was also an absolute necessity on my list. At just £15 I'm flabbergasted at its size and sturdiness. I went for a randomised approach to my shelves as I've always thought natural (but still sensibly placed) clutter can be quite attractive. I bought the hanging ivy from a plant sale on campus and with little attention, this little beauty has grown out really nicely to accompany my collection of books. Candles (£5, Tk Maxx), incense sticks (£2, Amazon) and a clock (£10, Tk Maxx) also made this area a bit more homely.

Wall space is something that I took a long time to figure out how to fill. Whilst posters are a cheap way to beautify your room, when they're simply stuck up I always feel it takes the power out of the picture and looks a little tatty. After a little research I found some cheap poster frames online (£10 ea, I can't remember where from...sorry!). Posters are a great way to express your interests and passions and these frames make them much tidier and gives that treasured music and art much more authority.

Above my bed is probably the most intriguing feature. I bought this vinyl art off eBay for £30 (inc. postage) and I haven't regretted it since. I didn't want my walls to lack variety and another couple of posters might have been slightly monotonous. My room in my old house used to have a really great mural wall and I considered something similar (see here) so after some research I came across these vinyl prints. Ok so perhaps it was a tad pricey but it gave my room a lot more personality and considering the amount of hours I've spent staring at it I think I've got my money's worth already. Plus, it's a great conversation starter. They're a bit of a mission to put up, so you might want another pair of hands if you're out for one.

I spend so much time in my room so I thought it was worth spending some money to make it my own. It might not be your style but, however you want your room, Tk Maxx, Dunelm, and online are the places to look. Not only are they affordable, but if you take some time looking through a lot of their stuff you can make some really interesting looks. The most cost-effective purchase? The canvas shelving in my wardrobe; only £3.99 and it's made such an organisational difference. Best buy irrespective of price? My bean bag: so, so comfy.

You might also want to check out some of these articles that I used when setting up my room. I thought some of the advice was crap, but it definitely sparked my imagination initially;

The National Student;

Student Beans;

The Telegraph;

Saturday, 29 June 2013

'Underground London', Stephen Smith

Aside from what can only be described as a literary mountain of books that I am slowly but surely working my way through for my degree, it's always nice to also get some of your own leisurely reading in as I'm sure you all well know, (this blog for can hope).

Over the last couple of weeks I've been dipping in to the journalist and travel writer Stephen Smith's 'Underground London'. Whilst an informative insight into what lurks beneath the city streets that we all accordingly love and loathe, Smith also develops an abundant array of characters, quite cleverly accompanying and complimenting the necessary cold, hard facts with the quirks of his meetings: the rather unforgettable personalities alongside their tales and mishaps. Every chapter tells a different tale, of a different time of London and at different locations. Whether Smith is knee deep in human slurry or learning a rather interactive version of Guy Fawkes' tale under the Palace of Westminster, for every trip and tale, you become the journalist doing the wading, the exploring. You meet the people and become part of places that unfortunately a lot of us wouldn't be able to - or wouldn't dare to - visit.

Everyone has an 'explorer' side within them. Some wish to see it themselves, others do not. The beauty of Smith's tale is that whether you daren't or you can't, for at least the brief time that you read his accounts, it's the closest you'll get. From all the non-fiction I've ever read, Smith really knows how to cleverly combine the best differences between the necessity of fact and the delight of his personal touches. His informal, lucid and imaginative prose sets the scene remarkably and, not only explains objectively that these places exist, but he then subjectively takes it so much further. We might never be fortunate enough to go to secret underground government tunnels, or to Churchill's war time havens, but Smith's story is certainly a little closer.

Therefore, any Londoner, and one with a particular passion for the subterranean level (like myself) should definitely give this little gem a read. I also recently discovered that this book part of his 'Underground' book series (where have I been?!).

And on a slightly related note, you might also want to check out this short documentary series of some guys that do get to go to these kind of places, albeit in not so legal ways. It's a passion and craze known as 'Urban Exploration'. A few of my friends are really into it, but I'll let the video do the explaining. I've been meaning to write a piece on these guys for some time (watch this space) as, most importantly, I think they sum up the reason why Smith amongst many of us want to delve into the past, closed off and out of bounds. Whilst these guys might be the ones that take that extra step, there are still plenty of us who wish we had the courage to do the same.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Mr. Brainwash - 'Life is Beautiful' Art Exhibition, (20/10/2012)

Also published in Brunel University's Le Nurb. Find it here

Serendipity is a great word which I don't often get to use. However when my friend Jon and I accidentally stumbled upon this exhibition in High Holborn I think my opportunity finally arose. Wow. Just wow.

Theirry Guetta, aka Mr. Brainwash, was someone I had only ever briefly heard of before Saturday. Since 2008, his 'Life is Beautiful' exhibition has captured the hearts and imaginations of many internationally. His idiosyncratic but refreshing touch to urban pop art attracted as many as 30,000 to his first exhibition on Sunset Boulevard, an event that seemed to not expect such recognition1. Again, Guetta appeared to have under-estimated his limits and, to my fortune, his exhibition in central London was re-opened on the 12th October after its first successful launch in the UK during the London Olympics.

Guetta once again has taken over the vast ground floor of a former multi-storey Royal Mail postal depot, cleverly and strategically placing his pieces in a style of his own in the very rustic location. The Zone 1 venue, considering its aforementioned previous owners, gave a real theme of quintessential 'Britishness' but nonetheless Guetta still cleverly ties in and revives much of American sixties pop art with multiple homages to Warhol. But it wasn't just the inside that Guetta seems to have captured; he's embraced the surroundings and outer walls of his lugubrious host, continuing his work onto the nearby streets. This is, for one, I suppose to draw people in; but also I feel it's to really extend his art outside of his official display thus bringing home the true values of freedom of expression and that art is a free and public enjoyment, not one that is costly and locked away.

Topically, my experience with this building didn't begin with this exhibition. Two years ago upon this forthcoming weekend one of the biggest illegal raves of the noughties decade was held here. Titled 'Scumoween', the rave is an annual event which is held in a different abandoned building space each year around London, generally on the outskirts. In 2010, thousands attended this particular rave including myself and friends for an experience that no official or legal club can replicate. It is sad to say that the publicity of the event was rather negative, (considering some confrontation with the police and its very central location), however this was unfortunately a rowdy and unwelcome minority that tarred us all with the same brush. Walking around the same building space nearly two years later was rather nostalgic. Upon discussing this event with one of the exhibition representatives on Saturday I found that much of the remnants of the party were still left on the building's other floors and he also told an interesting story of how the rave organisers were cleverly able to originally occupy the building and compromise its security.

Notice the difference?
I used the very same entrance for both events2

So it seems that Holborn is the home to a rather cult building. There's that saying "if walls could talk..." but, for me, having had the lucky oppurtunity to have attended both of these significant events in modern London culture, I daresay I wouldn't have much to ask them.

1 Who Is Mr Brainwash? ,, (Accessed; 22/10/2012)
2Photo courtesy of James West Photography;
3Thanks to Jon Line also for supplying many of these photos and for what was a cracking day.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

The British Museum, (20/10/2012)

This has got to be one of the most visited places in all of London. With it's free entry and vast and fruitful array of donations from antiquaries I had no surprise as to how busy this fantastic attraction was on a Saturday afternoon. Although having been to several of all the prestigious museums around London, unbelievably, I had never got round to visiting the British Museum until yesterday.

It had a really great atmosphere and captured the interest and imaginations of all ages. With Britain's massive colonial expansion in the 250 years following the museum's opening to the public in 1759, the variation and quantity of artifacts and information to absorb is somewhat boundless. From embracing the history of the earliest of civilisations to the more modern elements of human culture, this museum really did have a lot to teach me. My personal favourite had to be the the section dedicated to the 'Enlightenment' period (c. 17th and 18th century). Being taught about the chronicles of Captain James Cook and his advancement on geographically mapping the earth as well as Joseph Bank's development of botany gave me a new found interest in this area, leaving me with questions that I eagerly want to answer; did such extensive and significant work like this lay any foundation for Darwin's controversial theories to follow in the 19th century for example? I think this section really placed a sufficient emphasis on what was one of the significant developments in human thought and leaving with questions I think is the right thing to do.

Botanist Sir. Joseph Banks
King George III's library where the Enlightenment gallery is located

But this was section was merely a personal preference and I'd be lying if I was to say that I enjoyed all of the museum as much. Yet I never saw a lot of the museum (the place is huge!) and I hope I'm making a well founded assumption that most people would find something that really appeals to them amongst the museum's entirety.  Irrespective of whoever you are, this inspirational place is definitely worth a visit...if not several - I know I'll be returning before long. 

Wenceslaus Hollar, ‘The Long View’ of London, c.1647.
A free event for visitors to collectively recreate Hollar's 'View of London'
Hoa Hakananai'a; one of the more famous features of the museum

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Hugh Laurie at the 100 Club, Oxford Street (21/11/11)

Someone told me not so long ago to never underestimate the power of Twitter. At first I really didn't 'click' (forgive the pun) with how it worked let alone the actual point of it. But its true beauty revealed itself to me last Thursday night. Being a fresh 'tweeter' I'm still building a decent list of people to follow, one of which I'll never regret following; '@HughLaurieBlues'. A simple announcement that Hugh was performing in London on short notice blessed me with one of the best and most influential nights of my life. Having just released his debut album 'Let Them Talk', an album of which I'm extremely fond of, I knew that I'd already made my mind up about going.

So there I was at 9.29AM on Friday morning, sat in front of my computer hitting F5 continuously until the words 'Buy Now' graced me with their presence. I was lucky to get two tickets and my friend and I were excited from then on. But of course the real excitement came when I was stood in the queue on Oxford Street surrounded by bustling festive shoppers and christmas lights. I felt privileged, VIP if you like, when I saw the amount of people that were in the queue and almost wanted to question whether we were in the right place. We were.

I would certainly go to The 100 Club again. Underground, dark and gloomy meant atmospheric and certainly characteristic. Hundreds of pictures of famous past performances virtually wallpapered the walls. Mr. Laurie himself commented between songs that it was a true honour to play in such a musically significant place and I can certainly say it was an honour to merely be part of an audience there. He played around 2 hours with his extremely talented band and it was no surprise that the addicted crowd went wild for an encore which was soon to be welcomed with a massive applause when he returned with his band.

I could go on further and explain his set list and so on, but what I feel I should document is not so much the specifics, but the pure feeling of community and friendly atmosphere. There was no pushing and shoving, no impatience at the bar; just being at this place I think was already enough for everyone. There wasn't this attitude that you had to be so close you could feel his breath. A row in front of me sat Rowan Atkinson, but no one pestered him during the show for autographs and hand shakes. It seemed to me that everyone just respected that, collectively, we all wanted to have a good time and appreciated what I think everyone already knew was going to be a memorable evening. Of course, Mr. Laurie's impressive wit and personality made his performance very sociable, joking and chatting with us and his band. A lovely touch also was that, out of his own pocket I must add, he provided everyone with a nip of scotch so all could be involved together in a toast (thanks Hugh). Such a sociable and warming performance I imagine is hard to find these days and there are not many of these opportunites, making my friend and I feel truly privileged.

As I mentioned in my first post, London is an exciting city to me and this puts the icing on the cake. I think subconsciously this is why I even thought about blogging. It's because now I'm in London I feel that I've actually got something decent to write about. A completely distinctive night but hopefully not the last time I'll feel this reflective during the rest of my time in this town. So thanks Hugh; maybe one day I'll return you that drink.