Wednesday, 2 September 2015

The Playlist: Aldous Harding



It's rare for a musician to have the ability to transport you instantly; to be able to silence a room with the very first note they play. Aldous Harding is one of those musicians.

I discovered the New Zealand folk singer when my housemates, folk noir duo Jep and Dep, supported her set at The Vanguard recently. Her voice is instantly beguiling – comparable to Julia Stone, or Joanna Newsom perhaps, but much earthier.

Her debut eponymous album is melancholic and gothic, opening with the heartbreaking 'Stop Your Tears', which references small domestic details as naturally as it does dark gothic imagery. The album continues in an austere, fairytale-like manner; all strange beasts and brave hunters, and trying to find peace in a world of dusky metaphors.

By all accounts Harding was determined not to follow in her musician parents' footsteps, but came round to songwriting at the age of 15 anyway. A few years later, the story goes, she was busking on a pavement in Geraldine NZ to earn enough money to attend an Anika Moa gig when Moa herself walked past and ended up inviting her to open the show. It's not an implausible story at all when you hear Harding's voice and the way she writes songs. Anyone would want her supporting their set (and then ruling the stage in a headline tour).

Now she is getting a name for herself, having recently toured Europe and returned to the Southern Hemisphere for gigs in Australia. You have to try and see her. Or listen to the album via the link below. Happy (solemn) listening!




Visit: www.facebook.com/AldousHarding






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• Some thoughts on what it really means to be gay


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Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Some thoughts on what it really means to be gay

This article originally appeared on Medium on 16 August 2015




"I like to look at how people work together when they are put into
stressful situations, when life stops being cozy"
– Jeanette Winterson –



A friend of mine recently said, "when you are queer, you have more empathy because you have already been through more than most people just to accept yourself."

What she meant is that gay, transgender and other queer people have usually been on a journey to discover, learn and accept who they are before they even get to where your average, happy-go-lucky straight guy or gal is through conforming naturally with normative social influence – that is, 'the influence of other people that leads us to conform in order to be liked and accepted by them' (Aronson, Wilson & Akert, 2005) – which they happen to do much more easily just by being themselves. 

"When you are queer, you have more empathy because you have already been through more than most people just to accept yourself"

Before they even leave their house to walk down the street, then, a queer person has discovered they are profoundly different from what they are expected to be, accepted that they are different and learned what it means to be different, for both good and bad.

Think about what that really means for a moment.

Small talk is another forced opportunity to out yourself (something that is so big some people never have the courage to do it) or, at best, a new opportunity to tell a lie. Even if you are 'out' as queer, it is still an awkward subject that will come up again and again with every new friend, interviewer, interviewee, colleague, manager... And so on through every network of humans you ever connect with. 

A lunch with your extended family is a farce in which your sister is asked about, and congratulated on, the newest Prince Charming while you sit quietly in the corner, picking paint off the side of an old wooden table.

A walk to the bus is a torrent of verbal of abuse, a heavy fist to the eye or a thick kick in the ribs. 

All of this, a possibility – and reality for so many – before you are even at the same level as average Joe, remember. It teaches you a world of compassion, insight and comprehension that some people never have the opportunity to even comprehend.* 

Small talk becomes another forced opportunity to out yourself

Eventually us gays just get over it and stop caring what people think. But take a moment to imagine what living with this fundamental difference really means. It means before you even have to worry about being different in a way a 'normal' straight person might – like the way you speak, the way you style your hair or what colour skin were born with – you still don't fall into line of what you 'should' be. In a society that quietly demands you wear similar clothes to everybody else ("stand out, but not too much"), prepare your body as close to perfection as you can to meet the 'right' man or woman to marry, and be as friendly-yet-successful an all-rounder as you can before planning your career around when you raise a family of two relaxed, but high-achieving children, you are already a huge step behind. But at the same time, it teaches you a set of invaluable lessons in acceptance, survival and how to really think.

Some people reading this will start to be saying, "Yes, but it's different now, being gay isn't that hard; get over it!" Of course I agree with this to a certain extent: I can live with my girlfriend and introduce her to all my friends and family, and even walk down the street holding her hand without causing too much of a stir – but I am privileged; many are not. 

I am privileged; many are not

And while I am writing this from my home in Sydney, the largest city of the last English-speaking developed country not to have legalised gay marriage, I can't help thinking how important it is for people to not say "it's different now, the battle is won; get on with it." While I and other queer people have had to learn myself in a more profound way than someone who more naturally complies with the norm, the leader of this country won't even allow a free vote in parliament to legalise gay marriage. It makes for a powerfully complex symbol of repression. The whole picture isn't marriage itself, of course. It's choice and fairness. People shouldn't be penalised for being themselves and for loving the people they love. It's as simple as that. Experiencing this kind of discrimination first hand is as profound a lesson as anyone will learn in a lifetime. Anyway, Australia will get there. It's just a matter of time (and saying 'adios!' to a certain Liberal party leader, no doubt).

Experiencing this kind of discrimination first hand is as profound a lesson as anyone will learn in a lifetime

It's a desire to live as normally as possible that drives us. When you realise you're queer, you don't feel different. It's like when somebody asks you how it feels to turn 30. It doesn't feel like anything in particular. It's after making the realisation that you're queer that you feel it.  The force with which external forces push you into questioning every ounce of your being is crushing. And then you rebuild and emerge stronger than ever.

I am a gay identical twin and when I was interviewed by Gay Star News recently, I was asked if I find it weird when people start bringing DNA into the gay debate. Of course I do. "It’s funny, people don’t say ‘you’re born fancying tanned men, let’s do a test’ or ‘it’s in your genetics to fancy ginger haired men, that’s why you married Mike!" is how I responded. 

But it got me thinking: when will being attracted to the same sex – or indeed identifying as gender queer – become part of Aronson, Wilson & Akert's normative social influence I have already mentioned? The answer is: when we have enough role models – role models who have the empathy of the profound experience of learning themselves deeply simply to exist in society – to make 'queer' the new norm. People are doing wonderful things every day to make this look more and more possible – we're just not quite there yet. 


____________________

* This statement is not supposed to negate the hundreds of straight people I have met that are unendingly supportive, inspiringly empathetic and endlessly intelligent to the hopes and dreams of the queer community


Read further thoughts of mine on this subject on The Debrief and Gay Star News.


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Wednesday, 5 August 2015

The Playlist: Jamie xx




Before I connected him with The xx, I knew Jamie xx (AKA Jamie Smith) from a fantastic remix album he had produced of tracks by legendary soul and jazz poet Gil Scott-Heron. XL Recordings approached Smith to remix Scott-Heron's 2010 album We're New Here, which he apparently did while on tour with The xx, writing to Scott-Heron for approval and advice every so often. The end result is pretty mesmerising – I urge you to give it a listen.

Jamie xx was back in a big way when he dropped his debut solo LP, In Colour, at the end of May this year. It opens with a real belter, Gosh, which is all soaring synths and glitchy beats. Other highlights on the album are the ethereal Hold Tight, Loud Places featuring Romy from The xx, Obvs where the steal drum is king, and Stranger In A Room, which features Smith's other xx chum, Oliver Sim. But don't just listen to those – it's all good.

Smith seems to really break music down and enable us to appreciate all of its disparate elements – melody, rhythm, texture, timbre, etc – in an isolated way, while at the same combining them in a perfectly balanced whole in beautifully produced, polished tracks.

Good vibes for the summer.








Visit: jamiexx.com



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Thursday, 16 July 2015

The Playlist: Alpine



Apart from the fact that the album art (above) is fantastic, Alpine's new album, Yuck, deserves some huge praise. Tracks like 'Foolish' and 'Shot Fox' are instant crowd pleasers, with choruses that are as catchy as they are uplifting. And 'Jellyfish', 'Much More' and 'Need Not Be' are all beautiful and insightful in equal measures.

I was lucky enough to see the indie six-piece live at Sydney's Metro Theatre last Saturday. You don't usually expect electronic artists to match the sound of their studio albums note-for-note when they perform live, but Alpine really does. It's a rare skill, I think. They even invited brass and string players to the stage when needed.

Lead vocalists Lou James and Phoebe Baker both have powerful voices that more than endure their stage antics (Baker often leans right down over her microphone, making regular contact with the stage floor, while James leaps across the space unhindered). They performed a good mix of old and new stuff as well, which is always good.

They're Yuck album is a brilliant collection and I implore you to have a listen. It's proper summer soundtrack stuff.







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Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Keep up with my life 'Down Under'




I have been living on the other side of the world for exactly two months now. From meeting koalas at Featherdale Wildlife Park to experiencing the bright lights of Vivid Sydney, I have seen enough to make me start falling in love with this amazing place.

I have to apologise for going quiet here, but I would like to invite you to read about my adventures on my dedicated Aussie blog, A Year in Australia, and see it all on my travel photography Tumblr, The Explorer.

Whilst I have been adventuring and settling into my new home, I have also enjoyed my work interviewing inspiring business owners for Sydney-based business communications company Business Switch Pty Ltd. Read my most recent published work at blog.honcho.com.au.

In the meantime, follow me on Twitter for all my updates and find me on Facebook for a chat. Thanks for reading!

R x


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Sunday, 26 April 2015

A week in Sydney

I have been living in a suburb in the north of Sydney for two weeks now. In those fourteen days, in between job applications, interviews and discovering new running routes, I have adventured into the CBD to witness the glory of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge, enjoyed thrills and spills at Luna Park, indulged in my first Australian beach day at Coogee and visited the nearby Blue Mountains. 

As friends, family and regular readers of this blog will know, I take my Pentax MV1 every time I go exploring – I wanted to take this opportunity to share the snaps I took in my first week of living in Australia. Enjoy.

View of Sydney Opera House from Harbour Bridge | © Rosie Pentreath

An emu spotted | © Rosie Pentreath
Kate in Sydney | © Rosie Pentreath

An Australian white ibis, Royal Botanic Gardens | © Rosie Pentreath

State Library of New South Wales | © Rosie Pentreath

Projectile turtle | © Rosie Pentreath

Sydney CBD | © Rosie Pentreath

See more photos on my travel photography blog, The Explorer, and don't forget to sign up for email updates from my new blog about the year-long Australian adventure I'm embarking on.



Rosie Pentreath



Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Art: Pulp Confidential, State Library of New South Wales



During periods of hardship in the 20th Century some previously respected publishing houses around the world turned to producing ‘pulp’ publications. Quickly- and cheaply-produced populist publications, often sexed-up comics with very basic story lines and as much cleavage drawn in as possible, pulps were considered to be trashy and of no artistic value. Now they are cultural artefacts revered by fans, collectors, art scholars and cultural historians alike.

A fantastic selection of original drawings, comic book covers, letters and contracts from Frank Johnson Publications (Australia) are currently on display at the State Library of New South Wales. Pulp Confidential: Quick & Dirty publishing from the 40s & 50s offers a wonderful insight into quick comic book publishing in Sydney during World War II and afterwards, detailing fascinating contract arrangements for freelance artists and writers and explaining the approach to Australian superheroes compared to those coming out of the US industry. 

It was particularly interesting to discover that the heroes of Australian comics were far more ‘modest’ than their American counterparts. While US fans snapped up stories of invisible men and supernatural women, the Australian market was flooded with the adventures of characters like Wanda Dare, girl reporter, and Barty Malone, taxi driver. Also a strong part of FJP’s output was the Famous Detective Series, which turned 2000-3000 words written about real crimes, often readily-available in newspapers, into luridly-illustrated pulp comics.

The papers in the exhibition were brilliantly illustrated with an accompanying documentary explaining the industry and introducing some of the freelance illustrators that produced 'pulp' for Johnson in their teens and twenties. An inspiring and illuminating insight into a niche but prolific part of 20th-century publishing, the exhibition was brilliantly curated and balanced.


Pulp Confidential: Quick & Dirty publishing from the 40s & 50s, State Library of New South Wales










Pulp Confidential: Quick & Dirty publishing from the 40s & 50s, State Library of New South Wales

Pulp Confidential: Quick & Dirty publishing from the 40s & 50s, State Library of New South Wales





Pulp Confidential: Quick & Dirty publishing from the 40s & 50s runs until Sunday 10 May 2015. Visit: sl.nsw.gov.au


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Rosie Pentreath


Saturday, 11 April 2015

Film: I Origins




Imagine a film with a love story that inspires the protagonist to say "You ever feel like when you met someone, they fill this hole inside of you, and then, when they're gone, you feel that space painfully vacant?" (and another protagonist to say "When I saw you that night, I had the feeling that I had known you. Actually, I felt like you knew me"). And one that at the same time details and questions different types of scientific discovery against a spiritual or religious context. All this with superb performances from the actors, beautiful cinematography, an explosively emotional script and a multi-national setting.

This is what Mike Cahill gives us with I Origins. Released last year, I Origins is the story of  how molecular scientist Ian Gray's (Michael Pitt) life is changed by a 'chance' meeting with Argentinian model Sofi (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey). While he conducts epoch-defining research with his brilliant lab partner Karen (Brit Marling), meeting and falling in love with the enigmatic Sofi results in both scientists coming across a theory neither thought they would ever believe in. 

The synopsis I have given doesn't really do the film justice though. It's not just an interesting plot that makes Cahill's feature so incredible – the perfectly balanced way it emotes whilst probing human experience of life on earth, the human brain and the science of evolution is subtle but extraordinary. I came away from it feeling shocked, sad, uplifted and enlightened – it's rare for a film to do that.

I urge anybody with an interest in spirituality and what life and unexpected adventures can offer us to watch I Origins. And I think everybody else should as well – if only to peak their interest in those things. Aside from the more meta aspects of the film, it is just an extraordinarily moving experience of human love (and how enduring it is) and the impact a single person can have on a life. Beautiful stuff.



Visit: ioriginsmovie.com



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Rosie Pentreath

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Follow my year in Australia





Visit my new blog, A Year in Australia (rosieinaustralia.wordpress.com), to keep up with my adventures in Sydney. If you want my updates to land in your inbox, just enter your email address at the bottom of the page.

In the meantime, you can return to this blog for occasional posts about new music or any exhibitions I've been to, and go to my photography blog, The Explorer (rosiepentreathphotography.tumblr.com), to see the pictures I have taken on my travels.

Thanks for reading,

RP x


Rosie Pentreath


Wednesday, 1 April 2015

A drive through North Cornwall

While I am spending a few days in Cornwall before I move to Sydney for a year, I decided it was time I visited some parts of the county I haven't been to before. With the purpose of seeing one of Cornwall's most famous tourist attractions, Tintagel Castle, we spent Tuesday driving up the north coast, taking in picturesque harbours, dramatic cliffs and breathtaking beaches.

Our first stop was the tiny coastal settlement of Port Quin. An incredibly charming collection of well kept buildings overlooking a small beach, it was an icy wind trap when we visited so we didn't hang around long!

Just one hop up the coast is the picturesque fishing village of Port Issac, famed for being the filming location of the popular British TV series Doc Martin. There are signs everywhere saying things like 'this is Doc Martin's House' and 'this is where Doc Martin enjoys a pint'...

Next we visited Trebarwith Strand, a village located above a stunning golden beach which was being bombarded by violent white weaves and a terrific wind on the afternoon we visited. We sought refuge in the Port William Inn where we could stay warm and enjoy hot food while looking out at the stunning views.

From Trebarwith, we made the drive up to our intended destination – the much-hyped Tintagel Castle. The location is unquestionably stunning, but as someone who spent their childhood running past the proud old mine buildings at Bottallack (Poldark fans out there will know these) and jumping in and out of ancient stone circles it was incredibly underwhelming. Of course, had the sun been on our side and the wind given us more of a chance, we would have ventured closer to the ruins and experienced their full glory. As it was, we held our scarves in place around our cold ears and looked from afar, marvelling only at the hideousness of the 'Camelot Castle' hotel.

Just a stretch up the coast is the gorgeous village of Bostcastle, famous for the Museum of Witchcraft and, sadly, for flooding disastrously in 2004. There we braced ourselves against the wind one final time to walk along the zig-zagging harbour wall and try a couple of scoops of Heslett Farm ice cream, 'the best ice cream in the world' according to a sign. It came close...


Trebarwith Strand | Photo: © Rosie Pentreath
Trebarwith Strand | Photo: © Rosie Pentreath 
Trebarwith Strand | Photo: © Rosie Pentreath

Trebarwith Strand | Photo: © Rosie Pentreath

Remembrance at Trebarwith Strand | Photo: © Rosie Pentreath 
Trebarwith Strand | Photo: © Rosie Pentreath

Camelot Castle Hotel, Tintagel | Photo: © Rosie Pentreath

Tintagel  Castle, Cornwall | Photo: © Rosie Pentreath

Bostcastle, Cornwall | Photo: © Rosie Pentreath
Ducks fight the stream at Bostcastle, Cornwall | Photo: © Rosie Pentreath

The sun on Bostcastle, Cornwall | Photo: © Rosie Pentreath

Bostcastle, Cornwall | Photo © Rosie Pentreath






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Rosie Pentreath


Wednesday, 25 March 2015

So long, farewell, Bristol...

Photo © Rosie Pentreath
By now, most of you know that I'll soon be flying to Sydney, Australia, to spend a year living, working, travelling and photographing things on the other side of the world.

With such a move comes a strong inclination to look back. What a fantastic two-and-a-half years I have had living in the vibrant and artful city of Bristol, setting off on my path in magazine and online journalism, and discovering new places and new music. Before that I relished living and learning at the beautiful campus of Royal Holloway, University of London where my mind was opened up to new ways of thinking about music and new ways of thinking about friendship.

After nostalgia and excitement comes the flood of questions and the invasion of a bit of self-doubt: "am I doing the right thing?"; "will I find another job I enjoy as much as my last while making ends meet?"; "how will I know if I've done all I can to prepare to move to the other side of the world before it's too late?".

I am lucky, though, to have a close group of friends and a loving family that has been endlessly supportive of my move, more often than not saying things like: "you're doing absolutely the right thing and you'll love it!", before reeling off anecdotes of an aunt, older sister or distant cousin who did just the same thing and never looked back.

While we're on the topic, then – and probably more for me than for you – I'd like to take a moment to revisit some of the best things about living in Bristol for the past two-and-a-half years.

*

Finding inspiration in unexpected places

Bristol is famous for its street art, liberal thinking and welcoming population. I have found inspiration in the most unexpected places, from photographs taken on walks (the wonderful colours in the picture below are from the entrance to The Canteen, one of my favourite places in Bristol) to conversations conducted in the smoking areas of busy bars. At the age of 23, I have only lived in four places, but none of them has felt as welcoming to return home to as Bristol.


Photo © Rosie Pentreath




Starting a career in journalism

The reason I moved to Bristol in the first place was to take the job of Office Assistant at BBC Music Magazine. The opportunity presented itself during a work experience placement there and was the right one for me to get my foot onto the bottom rung of the journalism ladder. From there, I was promoted to Editorial Assistant, before throwing my hat in for the Digital Editor & Staff Writer role at the end of 2013. The stories, training and contacts I have been exposed to throughout the journey have proved invaluable. This is the brilliant cover the team made for me as a leaving present...





Discovering the joys of summer

I'm not exaggerating when I say a festival takes place every weekend in Bristol during the summer. Whether it's a day at the International Balloon Fiesta, two at the free Harbour Festival or an effort to 'Make Sundays Special', you're never far from the next outdoor event. Highlights for me also included the chaos of St Paul's CarnivalLove Saves the Day at Castle Park and two days of dub, reggae and drum 'n' bass at Tokyo Dub.


Photo © Rosie Pentreath




Drinking cider

Being the largest city in the South West, Bristol is the home of proper cider. The drink of choice for many Bristolians, it is found in dedicated shops (Bristol Cider Shop), restaurants (The Stable) and every establishment serving alcohol. When I visit London nowadays I find myself taken aback if there isn't a good Thatcher's on tap before remembering it just isn't the 'done thing' outside our little South West city.


Seeing lots of lovely boats


As well as the SS Great Britain and The Matthew (below), Bristol Harbour is bustling with ferries, fishing boats and sailing students. During Harbour Festival you can enjoy a tour of the harbour with champaign in a narrow boat.


Photo © Rosie Pentreath




Dancing shoes? Try walking boots...

The great thing about Bristol is that you can walk from one side of the city to another in about half-an-hour. A night out in Clifton in the west, say, can go on for as long as you like even when you live on Gloucester Road in the east, because you don't have to rely on a tube, bus or taxi ride home – you can almost always walk. It would be a challenge to count on one hand the number of late nights out that transitioned seamlessly into early-morning walks...


Having a room with a view

While some friends of mine were fighting over tiny corners of crowded rooms in house shares in London, I was able to enjoy relatively reasonable rental prices in Bristol. My first flat was a damp little studio in Clifton, but a studio all the same, and one with access to a garden. My second was a gorgeous two-bedroom flat share with my best friend overlooking the whole city. And my third was another studio, this time with the same glorious views and no damp. I will always appreciate the freedom and happiness these spaces afforded me.


Photo © Rosie Pentreath




Finding the best friends anyone could ask for

Moving to a brand new city is always daunting and I went to Bristol believing I knew nobody. Very soon, though, friends began emerging out of the woodwork. First a former housemate from university, then my sister's former housemate, an old college friend... very soon a close group of supportive friends had grown around me. I will never forget the incredible memories we have all shared.


Enjoying all the green space

From Clifton Down and Ashton Court (below) to Queen Square and St Andrew's Park, Bristol has no shortage of lovely green spaces. My friends and I wiled away many a summer's day eating hefty picnics, drinking cider and lighting up disposable barbecues in the city's open areas.


Photo © Rosie Pentreath






It never rains

I'm being ironic. Bristol's location in the South West next to mountainous Wales and the Severn Estuary means it rains a lot, as you can see in the picture above.


Visiting a cat pub

That's right – I said CAT PUB. The Bag O' Nails in Hotwells was home to about 12 kittens and several grownup cats last time I visited. These critters spend their afternoons sprawled across the bar ready and waiting for a stroke. Yes, the cat smell is almost off-putting, but two pints down and you won't notice.


Photo © Rosie Pentreath








*

Tomorrow I will pack my belongings into assorted boxes and leave the city I have proudly called home for two-and-a-half years. Something tells me I will be back here before I know it...





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Rosie Pentreath



Monday, 9 March 2015

Arrival in spring

Saturday was one of those out-of-the-blue glorious days that make you think you've seen the back of winter for good. The sun was out in full force, kept in check by a light breeze and hint of chill in air, so we walked along Bristol's well-kept harbour to find the sunniest pub garden. And, of course, I took my trusty Pentax.

A gentle amble took us over to The Cottage Inn on Baltic Wharf where we sipped cold ciders and stared across the gentle water at sailing boats, lone canoeists and multi-coloured rows of cottages. With the sound of children's laughter in the background and the occasional duck floating past, you can imagine the kind of idyll we were in.

Of course, the slate skies and itchy drizzle came back this morning, but I did have the memory of the beautiful spring day stored inside a roll of 35mm film. I would like to propose that this is a glimpse of what's to come...

© Rosie Pentreath

© Rosie Pentreath

© Rosie Pentreath

© Rosie Pentreath

© Rosie Pentreath

© Rosie Pentreath

© Rosie Pentreath

© Rosie Pentreath

© Rosie Pentreath

© Rosie Pentreath

© Rosie Pentreath

© Rosie Pentreath

© Rosie Pentreath

© Rosie Pentreath
© Rosie Pentreath
© Rosie Pentreath

© Rosie Pentreath

© Rosie Pentreath






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