Friday, 27 December 2013

The Playlist: London Grammar

A nice bit of end-of-year listening for me has been London Grammar's stunning debut album, If You Wait.

All the right people have been talking about the their new brand of soulful trip hop all year and I have been falling in love with the tracks as they filtered into my playlists. I thought they would be a nice band to feature in my final post of 2013.

Plus, my parents very kindly granted my wish for a record player this Christmas, and If You Wait is at the top of my list for building my collection of vinyl.

This album is such a treat. Hannah Reid's vocals are deep, sultry and beautiful. The music is melancholic and spacious, with no shortage of tracks to have a little dance to. Among my favourite tracks are Wasting My Young Years and Help Me Lose My Mind, the collaboration with Disclosure. Lovely stuff.

With that I am off to eat a bit too much (again) and spend as much time with my family as I can before returning to Bristol and getting ready to fly out to Jersey to welcome in the New Year.

– HAPPY NEW YEAR and thanks for reading. R x

London Grammar | Photo: Julian Broad

Sunday, 22 December 2013

The Golden Age of Burberry: How Angela Ahrendts and Christopher Bailey saved a great British Brand

Cara Delevigne walks in Burberry Prorsum, spring/summer 2014

In the summer 2013, when Angela Ahrendts was announced as the first ever female to be the highest paid executive in Britain, I was commissioned to write an extended piece on how she had worked magic to transform the iconic British fashion house Burberry into what it is today.

Originally intended for the first ever issue of De Facto magazine, an aspirational student lifestyle publication, the article has yet to be published due to the magazine's launch deadline being extended. 

However, I have been granted permission to publish it on my own blog and would like to thank editor Dominic McInerney and his team for laying the article out.

Read how Burberry became a case study in the difference one individual can make.
NB: Social media statistics correct at time of writing (August 2013)


Sunday, 15 December 2013

The Playlist: Agnes Obel

When Agnes Obel's second album Aventine came out at the end of September, it was a widely praised and celebrated follow up to the stunning debut record. The Danish singer has been keeping me company recently with her dreamy soft voice, shimmering piano melodies and enchanting lyrics. 

Dorian is a beautiful song and the title track Aventine truly charming. The classically-trained singer and pianist makes exquisite arrangements, many on this record calling on cello and violin to accompany her vocals and idiosyncratic piano passages.

I loved the debut album as well. Philharmonics from 2010 includes the gorgeous Riverside and Louretta, notable for its music box-style sound. Such gorgeous stuff – understated, considered and wonderfully delicate.

Agnes Obel | Photo: Kate Malcolmson


Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Sugar Blind: Marika Hackman

Marika Hackman | Photo: promotional

The second EP from Marika Hackman was released yesterday (9th December) on Dirty Hit Records. Entitled 'Sugar Blind', the brilliant lyrics that Hackman can be relied on for are wholly present throughout. As are the enchanting melodies and beautifully delicate harmonies. 

This record adds a new layer of sensuality to the kind of material we saw in her debut, 'The Iron Taste'. Take the first track Cinnamon. How can the opening lyrics 'Honeybee / fill me with that sticky stuff / golden in the light / disc of sweet delight I'm sugar blind' be described as anything but deliciously sensual and seductive? It is a striking and affecting song that gets under your skin.

The second track Itchy Teeth contains characteristic Hackman-esque darkness in its heart-wrenching melodies and – at times – disturbingly visceral lyrics. The singer is bold with the space she takes and melancholy she allows into the music. This is powerful stuff and Hackman at her best.

I've been left to lick my wounds for too long / I'm down to bone / calloused tongue / itchy teeth

The third track Wolf also taps into the darkness that the 21-year old singer never seems afraid to show us. With reference to love, pain, suicide and destructive relationships the song contains the experience of ages and again has gorgeous melodies.

You're taking me down / with every crease in your frown / The folding of your skin is making me feel queazy 

The forth track is a cover of Joanna Newsom's 81. Hackman has made a lovely new version of it, but I think I would have preferred more of her own stunning original lyrics to end the record.

All in all, as with the rest of her music, Hackman is utterly unafraid in her use of harmony, melody and abstract lyrics in this EP. I never fail to be utterly astounded by the songs the young artist comes up with. She is definitely one of the best things to have happened in British Folk music recently.

Now all I have left to say is that I can't wait for the first full-length album.


Friday, 6 December 2013

The Playlist: S O H N

I recently discovered producer/singer/songwriter, S O H N. Based in Vienna (via London), he produces all his own vocals and music singlehandedly. It is melancholic stuff, heartfelt and moving with great synth melodies and soulful beats. You could compare him to James Blake, but his voice is softer and the music less fragmented than Blake's. Think sweeping lines rather than glitchy beats. And I don't think he is as edgy and distinctive as Blake.

Contract Killer Prose / Calmly walks away as blood flows/ Open, the wound grows / Melts away the water froze – S O H N, Bloodflows

But it's reflective stuff, good for a contemplative mood. It's suiting me very well whilst I write away in my cosy flat, looking out over icy rooftops. This is music that encapsulates wide spaces, so take it travelling.

Sohn | Photo: Christian Pitschl


Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Freeze Festival, 2013

I have just spent the weekend at Freeze Festival on Clapham Common, sampling the very best in hot cider, alpine cheese sauce, national ski competitions, deep house beats and a perfectly splendid indulgence in 'The Christmas Jumper'.

For the sixth year running Relentless brought us Freeze, a winter festival in the middle of our mild-climated capital, complete with après ski and a good dollop of snow for those competing on the ice. This year was special for several reasons, not least because Freeze broke a world record in – wait for it... having the most Christmas jumpers in one place at one time. Brilliant.

One highlight was the opportunity to clad ourselves in the finest of ski-wear from the 1980s and groove to retro beats at Krazy Kangeroo. Another was catching Eton Messy at The Metro Lodge.

And there I was thinking that outdoor festivals were a summer pursuit and that I had been to plenty already this year! What a fantastic weekend spent with good friends, good music and good après ski.

A competitor takes a tumble on the bars | Photo: Rosie Pentreath

Clean Bandit on the main stage |  Photo: Rosie Pentreath

Après ski |  Photo: Rosie Pentreath 
BMX, Sunday |  Photo: Rosie Pentreath 
 Photo: Rosie Pentreath

 Photo: Rosie Pentreath

 Photo: Rosie Pentreath

 Photo: Rosie Pentreath

The bobble hat reigned. The brighter, the better |  Photo: Rosie Pentreath

We stayed at the Crown hostel where I found this gorgeous typewriter |  Photo: Rosie Pentreath 
The Crown |  Photo: Rosie Pentreath

Instagram calls |  Photo: Rosie Pentreath 
Photo: Samuel Stokes 
 Photo: Rosie Pentreath

 Photo: Rosie Pentreath 
The band stand, Clapham Common |  Photo: Rosie Pentreath

A casual 'up-date' |  Photo: Rosie Pentreath

 The dusky Sunday at Freeze 2013 | Photo: Rosie Pentreath

Monday, 25 November 2013

Food: The Thali Cafe, Southville

On Saturday a friend and I endeavoured to go for a long bike ride in the bright autumn sun, only to find ourselves distracted as soon as we got to North Street in Bedminster (very close to our starting point of Bristol's harbourside, trust me!). I hadn't yet been to North Street with the arty independent eateries and exciting performance spaces it offers (The Tobacco Factory theatre is here). I was very excited to see the glittering front of The Thali Cafe, recommended widely, so we decided to pop in for light afternoon refreshment. 

The Thali Cafe opened its Southville branch – the fifth in the chain – in March this year. With a large floor space and retro design, it has a great atmosphere. The food is gorgeous to match – I enjoyed herby chicken and delicious sticky paneer skewers, washed down with a fresh lime soda. And if that wasn't enough, we drew the afternoon out and I couldn't resist a delightful lemon sorbet – yum!

Now I'll have to check out the other four branches, starting with my local in Montpelier.

Afternoon nourishment at The Thali Cafe, Southville | Photo: Rosie Pentreath

Vintage photography, old radios and retro design at The Thali Cafe, Southville | Photo: Rosie Pentreath
No shortage of bright primary colours here | Photo: Rosie Pentreath

Vintage sound | Photo: Rosie Pentreath
The Thali Cafe, Southville | Photo: Rosie Pentreath

We stayed long enough for the atmospheric lighting to come out... | Photo: Rosie Pentreath


Friday, 15 November 2013

Literature: Things You Should Know

I believe that there are things in life that everyone should know, should be aware of. Things that all should ponder and contemplate, and – above all – be respectful of. Writer A.M. Homes may have had a similar thought when she compiled and titled her 2002 anthology of short stories. Or maybe I am projecting my own values on this collection (it does contain a central story entitled Things You Should Know after all), but I am happy with that.

Things You Should Know is a goldmine of eloquent and striking commentaries on the desires, fears, dissatisfaction and peculiarities of everyday life. Homes builds colourful snippets and windows into entire worlds so fully in the imagination that you can almost taste them. And she is rare in her talent for writing equally convincingly from both the female and male perspective, not to mention her ability to construct a protagonist of any age. This is strong stuff.

Her writing beautifully communicates the pain of things not said and emotions repressed. Also – young voyages of discovery and the painful awkwardness of adolescence. Rules to live by can be found hidden in the luminous prose.

The central story, Things You Should Know, has a simple and lovely wisdom (you must read it) and in Do Not Disturb a frank voice states 'Expect less and you won't be disappointed.' There is something in that and it doesn't have to be cynicism.

Reading this set made me think back to the exhibition at Arnolfini contemporary art gallery I saw last Saturday – Mierle Laderman Ukeles Maintenance Art Works 1969-1980. The same maintenance of creativity is implied and Ukeles' assertion that 'The mind boggles and chafes at the boredom' can be applied to the mental states of many of the Homes's frustrated characters. And along with the stunning poignance of Homes's prose is the gorgeous use of metaphor, such as in The Weather Outside Is Sunny And Bright (again, you must read it). 

An eye-opening and affirming collection, this is one I know will chance my life a little bit in the way that some books (and films and art and music etc) can.

NB: The book's cover photography (above) is by Thomas Grünfeld.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

The Playlist: Young Galaxy

Catherine McCandless of Young Galaxy | Photo: Promotional

What better way is there to bring warmth into these chilly dark evenings than revisiting something a bit summery? I reviewed Young Galaxy's latest album Ultramarine back in April and that is what I have picked up again recently.

Filled with dreamy riffs and gorgeous descriptions of summer days, love and sleepwalking, every track has great energy and irresistible appeal. And upon regular listening I have discovered hidden gems, not least the concluding section of In Fire, emotive and beautiful as it is, appearing rather unexpectedly when the song seems ready to end.

Another Young Galaxy album I love is Shapeshifting. It includes the ethereal For Dear Life and the brilliantly uplifting We Have Everything. Brilliant dream pop.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Art: Mierle Laderman Ukeles Maintenance Art Works 1969-1980, Arnolfini

Arnolfini is currently showcasing the first solo exhibition of the early works of artist Mierle Laderman Ukeles. Born in Denver in 1939, the artist was particularly interested in everyday routines in her work and in 1969 wrote a Manifesto for Maintenance Art to question the place of art and aesthetics in the task of keeping the basic systems for survival maintained.

A large portion of this exhibition focuses on her project following the working lives of New York's sanitation workers, displayed in letters, photographs and film footage. Ukeles dedicated eleven months to working alongside 'sanmen' and getting to know their hopes and frustrations as workers surrounded by taboo and social hierarchy. It is moving to experience the passion and efforts she devoted to communicating the men's personalities through this exhibition. Her thanks is genuine and her art respectful.

I was worried that her attempt at hands-on experience in the sanitisation department of America's largest city would come across as patronising. After all, here is an artist that will dip into this way of life for a matter of months before returning to the relative comfort of an artist's studio and the limelight with which it can become lit.

But coupled with the other main part of the exhibition – an exploration of the mundane and everyday routine in her own life through Art (with a capital 'a' of course) – Ukeles comes across as a rather humble and unpretentious enquirer.

'I am an artist. I am a woman. I am a wife. I am a mother. (Random order). I do a hell of a lot of cleaning, cooking, renewing, supporting, preserving, etc. Also, (up to now separately), I 'do' Art. Now I will simply do these everyday things, and flush them up to consciousness, exhibit them, as Art.' (Manifesto for Maintenance Art, 1969)

Ukeles' Maintenance Art seeks to challenge everyday life. 'The sourball of every revolution', the manifesto states, '[is the question,] after the revolution who is going to pick up the garbage on Monday morning?'

This is hugely poignant for me. We may dream, imagine, create, celebrate and fall in love in our lifetime, but what about everything in between? The mundanity becomes a real struggle, indeed according to Ukeles 'The mind boggles and chafes at the boredom'. It is something I have often contemplated and fought against, and I doubt I am alone in that.

'Development: pure individual creation / Maintenance: keep the dust off pure individual creation'

This exhibition perfectly captures Mierle Laderman Ukeles' experience of the fundamental questions surrounding human existence and the difficulty of confronting the tasks that fuel civilisations' advancement. Her's is a powerful achievement.

Mierle Lademan Ukeles, Touch Sanitation, 1979-1980 | Photo: Mierle Lademan Ukeles/Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York

Mierle Lademan Ukeles, Transfer – The Maintenance of the Art Object, 1973 | Photo: Mierle Lademan Ukeles/Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York

Mierle Lademan Ukeles, Washing, Tracks, Maintenance – Outside, 1973 | Photo: Mierle Lademan Ukeles/Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York
Mierle Lademan Ukeles, Art Interviews at A.I.R Gallery, NY, 1973-1973 | Photo: Mierle Lademan Ukeles/Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York
Mierle Lademan Ukeles, Maintenance Art Works 1969-1980, installation view, Arnolfini | Photo: Stuart Whipps/Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York
Mierle Lademan Ukeles, Maintenance Art Works 1969-1980, installation view, Arnolfini | Photo: Stuart Whipps/Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York

Mierle Laderman Ukeles Maintenance Art Works 1969-1980 runs at Arnolfini, Bristol until Sunday 17th November. Visit:

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Film: The Broken Circle Breakdown

On a windy and rainy Wednesday I decided to seek refuge in my favourite cinema in Bristol. Among the usual compelling choices on the bill at the Watershed was The Broke Circle Breakdown.

The Broken Circle Breakdown is an intoxicating Belgian drama that traces the demise of a relationship when a couple lose their daughter at the age of six. Following a non-linear narrative, Felix van Groeningen's film is adapted from a stage play by Johan Heldenbergh, and focuses brilliantly and intensely  on personalities and emotional experience.

A very beautiful film, it conveys the frustrations, passions, loves, disappointments and losses that are rarely avoided in a single life. On top of the fantastic acting and gorgeously fluid transitions between scenes, the energetic Appalachian music – something I grew up watching my dad and, later on, my sister play at folk sessions in my 'local' – that provides the soundtrack and part of the plot made it all the more relatable for me. Set in rural Belgium and centring around the shared lives of two bohemians (her a tattoo artist, he a bluegrass musician), the plot throws up no shortage of stunning photography.

This is a powerful and heartbreaking watch. Vivid colours and incredible tattoo designs by Marie Brabant accompany the music to make a very visceral depiction of a life as it falls apart. Veerle Baetens and Johan Heldenbergh give unforgettable performances, not to mention the young Nell Cattrysse as Maybelle.

Visit: for screening of European films. 

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

The Playlist: Lorde

I reckon if Lana Del Rey and I Blame Coco made musical babies together, they would sound a lot like Lorde. The New Zealand-born singer's Royals from the debut album, Pure Heroine, is currently sitting at the top spot in the UK singles chart and has already reached number one in both New Zealand and the US.

At the tender age of 16 the singer-songwriter muses on growing up, the excesses of lavish living and breaking glass in her 10-track record. There's quite a bit of teenage angst in there, and it may be a little derivative, but she is undoubtedly a bright star on the rise.

'Don't you think that it's boring how people talk? / Making smart with their words again, well I'm bored / Because I'm doing this for the thrill of it, killin' it' – Lorde, Tennis Court

Lorde has a cool edge and a fresh voice against the generic dance tracks filling the chart. I am enjoying having the sound of this brand new album cutting through the dark evenings. Give it a listen.

Lorde | Photo: promotional/Garth Badger


Wednesday, 23 October 2013

OAE: The Night Shift, The Hatchet Inn

Violin at The Night Shift | Photo: promotional/OAE

Tuesday evening was one of those impenetrably dark, wind-and-rain affairs that takes strong will power to step out into. Nevertheless, I did step out. And I tumbled down the hill to the oldest pub in Bristol, The Hatchet Inn, which has been licensed to serve alcohol since 1606.

The pub's age made it rather appropriate for the staging of chamber music in an informal atmosphere. As part of The Night Shift, a project that aims to bring classical music to new audiences and break down formalities and pre-conceptions of the concert hall tradition, members of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment gave us a 'set list' full of Haydn string quartet movements, as well as the treat of a beautiful new work by composer Satoko Doi-Luck.

The project has gathered a strong following in London and is now branching out to different locations across the country.

It was nice to be able to sit back, slouch slightly in our chairs, occasionally fidget and clink our glasses against heavy wooden table tops as Haydn's complex fugues and rich harmonies reached our ears. The OAE is certainly achieving a wonderfully informal and much more interactive atmosphere with their Night Shift concerts, even if the audience didn't stray that far from the usual concert hall crowd on the Bristol leg of the tour. A very pleasant evening.

Members of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment play The Night Shift | Photo: Joe Plommer

The Night Shift Pub Tour: The story so far from OAE on Vimeo.

Visit: •V