Archive for the ‘LONDON’ Category

REVIEW: Clothes, Music, Boys by Viv Albertine

Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys by Viv Albertine

Note the chant of that title and how long it takes to type: that’s just the beginning of the uncompromising life story that Viv Albertine shares in her new book. Guitarist in The Slits, Laura Ashley model, musician, director, actor, artist, mother – she has had a fascinating fifty-nine years and there’s a lot more to talk about than being a girl in the punk world (but that’s a good place to start).

In CCCMMMBBB (Faber, £14.99) she scrapbooks her vividly recalled memories together and tacks on a helpful appendix at the end detailing the most crucial bits of her biography – what she was wearing, listening to and who she was seeing during each of her eras. Her unconventional path through creative careers, various lovers and finally motherhood makes for compelling reading and her story illuminates some of life’s joyous feminist contradictions.  It’s also worth mentioning that I haven’t read a book which so unashamedly and refreshingly reveals the secrets of the female bedroom since Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman, bedsheets, wardrobe, dressing table and all.

Albertine laments the fact that she had no female role models as a would-be guitarist in the late seventies, but luckily for us with this book she’s shown why she should be a heroine to every music-loving, clothes-obsessed, outsider girl out there.


Interview: The Little Book of Lunch

Sophie & Caroline

Sophie & Caroline at Somerset House (2 minutes from Penguin HQ)

Last month Penguin editor Sophie Missing and ex-Penguin now Kew Gardens-publicist Caroline Craig‘s first cookbook was published. The Little Book of Lunch is full of ideas from the raw (‘Rainbow Rescue: your five-a-day in a jar’) to the baked (salted caramel brownies in the ‘Bribing Colleagues with Sweet Treats’). These are recipes for office people with imaginations because even if you can’t usually manage more than one take-in a week you will love flipping through this gorgeous collection of inspirations and amusing asides on al desko etiquette and lunchbox-styling tips. 

What was it like being on the author-side of the project as current/former publishing-employees? Did you experience any (un)pleasant surprises?

SM: It was actually really fun to see the other side of the process. And an eye-opener of course, because I was used to seeing things from the publisher’s perspective. I think I was terrified of annoying our publishers though!

CC: Yes, it was really interesting. As Sophie says we were mainly trying to be the kind of author we enjoy working with… Hands-off and letting the experts do their jobs! Don’t know if we always succeeded though…

What’s been your favourite part(s) of the process?

SM: It’s all been pretty exciting… doing the shoots was incredibly fun (though hard work) and a bit of a whirlwind. Seeing the proofs (and having what you’ve written suddenly look like ‘a real actual book’) is always exciting too. Mostly though, it’s been amazing to hear that people who aren’t our friends or our family like it, and enjoy the recipes. That’s the best. And a massive relief.

CC: I loved writing it so much! Sitting at my laptop in the kitchen at the crack of dawn with a cuppa… It was also wonderful writing as a partnership: Sophie and I would bounce off each other and I think our writing was all the better for it.

I loved the section on lunchboxes which made me feel inspired as well as deeply ashamed of my own scrappy Tupperware boxes. What are your favourite lunch receptacles and where did you find them?

SM: Caroline is the queen of the attractive lunchbox. She inspired me to buy a rather chic (if I do say so myself) aluminium one from Objects of Desire. It could double as a handbag. Muji is also good and practical.

CC: To be honest there are some mornings when I’m in such a rush I’ve been known to grab the first thing to hand to transport my lunch… a plastic  bag… a tea towel. But yes, I do love my enamel tiffin tin too! Read More…


WOW on the Southbank // International Day of the Girl

Friday 11 October marked the third International Day of the Girl. The team behind the Southbank Centre’s WOW (Women of the World) Festival celebrated the occasion by hosting an early morning speed-mentoring session on the nearby London Eye, connecting mentors from a range of professional backgrounds with school-aged mentees. The first WOW Festival was in 2011 and it’s happened each year since then, celebrating the achievements of girls and women over a long weekend of talks, debates, discussions and ideas-sharing to coincide with International Women’s Day in March.

I got involved in the event after I attended a planning meeting (‘think-in’!) and talk by ridiculously inspiring SC Artistic Director Jude Kelly for next year’s WOW Festival. A few weeks after the meeting I was emailed with a speed-mentoring invitation to which I immediately replied YES.

WOW badge

Read More…


Generation F: What Went Down at Our Flappers Salon

1Last Wednesday saw us hosting the third and final of our sold-out summer season of Pamflet salons at Drink, Shop & Do in Kings Cross. Our special guest speaker, Judith Mackrell, talked about her brilliant book Flappers: Six Women of a Dangerous Generation and answered our questions afterwards. Judith is the Guardian’s dance critic and has written several books including The Oxford Dictionary of Dance. Her biography of Lydia Lopokova, Bloomsbury Ballerina was shortlisted for the Costa Biography Prize.

Judith spoke with incredible eloquence about why she’d written the book, what the six women whose lives she told meant to her and why they were so significant in defining the age in which they lived. Then she answered questions from us and from the audience and revealed that her favourite flapper was ridiculously chic heiress, poet, political activist and muse to many (including Ezra Pound, Aldous Huxley and T. S. Eliot), Nancy Cunard.

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It was interesting that for both of us, Tamara was one of the most impressive characters in the book – she achieved so much, ensuring the survival of her family through sheer bloody-mindedness, while it felt like Nancy was one of the least ‘successful’ in terms of her professional attainments – her life felt the most unfulfilled and painfully chaotic. She dabbled in so many different ‘careers’, from poetry to publishing, but never achieved the dizzy heights she aspired to. However as a stylish, beautiful woman who lived her life fearlessly, without caring about society’s rules or constraints, she was sublime – and why can’t that be enough?

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4I noted that while we’re astonished and impressed by the progressive attitudes and boundary-smashing stances that these six women adopted – to our eyes they seemed seriously ahead of their time – perhaps to the girls who were aware of them in the 20s, they were nothing more than glamorous celebrities of their time whose exploits fascinated people in the papers.

Judith agreed that this might have been the case with some of the women in her book, but for a figure like Josephine Baker, her influence on poor black Americans following her dramatic exploits back home, you couldn’t underestimate how much her achievements inspired them to think that anything was possible.

I think lots of us may have felt at some point “who am I going to BE, what am I going to DO?” and the women who came of age in the 20s faced these existential questions for the first time. Many of them didn’t have to do anything, but they felt – like, I suspect we do today, that choosing a career or profession (and making a success of it, obvs) is a statement to the world about your character. Today when we ask someone “what do you do?” we’re really asking “who are you?

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After Judith’s talk and Q&A, we had a cake break, then regrouped to discuss Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler. It’s always a challenge when you’re writing about a real life character who had her own incredibly vivid, unique voice, to recreate that in fiction – and its even riskier when she’s got a protective and obsessive cult following all of her own too. I don’t know if the author necessarily pulled it off, plus you can find all of the same information in Zelda’s own writing and her biography. But the story gathered pace towards the end of the novel.

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We broadened out the discussion to include (forgive me for using this nauseating term) ‘literary wags’ of the period – Zelda, Hadley, June Mansfield (Henry Miller’s wife). While reading Z, Flappers and other books about the time, I’d been wondering, would it be better or worse to have literary ambitions of your own, like Zelda, or to stand deliberately outside that world and dominate the domestic sphere like Hadley?

We need to talk about Ernest…
We asked the audience if they’d read any Hemingway, because I haven’t and I’m fascinated by the way he’s (unfavourably) portrayed in both these books. It’s starting to feel like the women rewriting the history of this period are reassessing Ernest’s reputation, moving away from the hero-worship he’s perhaps been traditionally afforded and aligning their sympathies more with Zelda and co. They’re not falling for his macho man schtick  (I love the fact that Pablo Picasso didn’t buy it either) and are highlighting his misogyny.

I can see why Zelda found this incredibly frustrating – especially when Scott’s name was put on her stories. My sympathy for her increased towards the end of the novel – she seemed well aware that she was a ‘dabbler’ and there’s a sinister section (which may or may not be true) where she has to pretend to accept that she must subsume her ambitions to those of her husband in order to be released from a mental hospital – very disturbing.

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The salon will return in the spring – just keep an eye on our Twitter and Facebook updates or email us at [email protected] to join the salon mailing list for news.

Recommended reading (and watching) around the Flappers theme – and beyond:

Singled Out, Virginia Nicholson. As one historian wrote, ‘in 1914 the door of the doll’s house opened’ for many young women in terms of opportunities to have a life outside the home, but while our Flappers had various husbands and lovers, they were almost the exception in the twenties – the lucky 10% if you will. Many women were not able to marry and this book tells their story…
How the Girl Guides Won The War, Janie Hampton
Girl Trouble, Carol Dyhouse
Bachelor Girl, Betsy Israel
Diana Cooper, Philip Ziegler
The Edwardians, Vita Sackville West
The Paris Wife, Paula McLain
The Well of Loneliness, Radclyffe Hall
The Dud Avocado, Elaine Dundy
Midnight in Paris
The House of Eliott
and one I really want to read: Superzelda: The Graphic Life of Zelda Fitzgerald by Tiziana lo Porto


Pamf-LIT: Evie Wyld

evie wyldThe multi-awarded, fiercely talented young novelist Evie Wyld co-starred with her friend Katie Kitamura at our Birds in the Wood salon earlier this month. Here she shares her bookshelf dos and don’ts in our latest Pamf-LIT:
Do you read paperbacks or Kindle?
I read paperbacks – I had a go at reading on an electronic device just to see what it was like, but I kept accidentally pressing things and losing my place. It made it feel like research rather than reading. And I run a bookshop (Review Bookshop in Peckham), so I’m in favour of actual books.
How do you organise your books?
Initially we organised them alphabetically, but we’ve bought so many in the past 5 years that it’s gone out the window. Now books are lucky if they find a shelf to sit on rather than being piled up by the steps in the fashion preferred by hoarders.
What’s the book you reread more than any other?
Ethel and Ernest by Raymond Briggs

What’s the book you own but have never read?
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell – I really wanted to read it and then some friends very sweetly gave me a signed first edition, all wrapped up and so obviously I didn’t open it.

What’s on your nightstand?
About 9 half full mugs of water and A Natural History of Ghosts by Roger Clarke

What’s in your handbag?
Sudafed, handkerchiefs, leaking biros, scratched sunglasses and unpaid bills.

What’s the book you foist on people?
The Gamal by Ciaran Collins

Name the four books that mean the world to you
Cloudstreet by Tim Winton, Maus by Art Spielgelman, The Dog of the Marriage by Amy Hempel and The End of the Affair by Graham Greene.
Evie Wyld’s second novel All the Birds, Singing is out now.

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