photography

Winter is Coming – Finally!

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The time has come, the nights are getting longer, the days colder and the spiced lattes are out in force…and I’m loving it!

I have always loved autumn and winter, it’s the time of year I’m always excited for; the crisp frosty mornings, seeing your breath as it hits the air and not sweating from blinking are particular highlights. However, not everyone is as enthusiastic as I am about freezing their butt off for months on end, so here are a few ways in which you can try and make the autumn and winter months that bit more joyful and enjoyable and I’m hoping that I can convert at least one person.

1. COSY JUMPERS AND GIANT COATS

This is potentially my favourite part, as people who know me will know I have a minor obsession with both of these. The more jumpers and coats I get to wear the better in my opinion. So instead of being a classic Brit and whining about the cold, seize the chance to be a real-life Yeti and embrace the jumpers…and hats…and gloves…and scarves, basically anything warm and fluffy.

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2. NIGHTS IN

Lots of people say that they find it more difficult to socialise in winter/autumn because people don’t want to go out. So you could switch it up and have a night in instead. Organise a movie night with lots of snacks, or have a games evening – as long as you’re prepared to lose friends over Monopoly or a finger over Irish snap!

3. FOOD!

There are some great foods that come out at this time of year. Lots of amazing veggies come into season, the roast dinners are in full force and it’s the perfect time to bake some sweet treats and eat all the cheese and all the pies (you see why we need such big jumpers).

4. TEAS

Obviously, you can drink tea at any time of year, this is Britain after all. However, I feel like, at least for me, teas really come into their own at this time of year. Aside from the traditional builder’s tea, I love a mint tea or anything with ginger in – it really helps to add to that cosy feeling and is super warming inside.

5. SPORT

I love a winter sport (I play hockey), as it’s a great way to get out of the house, make friends and keep warm – you may get soaked through by the rain occasionally but you’ll have fun doing it, so it’s worth the hypothermia right?! Also if you’re lucky and pick the right sport you may well get free food at the end of it. If an outdoor sport in the middle of winter doesn’t float your boat then there are plenty of indoor sports you can try out either with friends or a club, such as badminton, table tennis, squash, basketball or an exercise class. What’s more is that sport is perfect for battling the winter blues, not only can it be social but also the endorphins released can help boost your mood.

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6. ENJOY THE OUTDOORS

Autumn (in my humble opinion) is one of the most beautiful times of the year. The colours are changing, there’s that crisp fresh smell in the air (unless you live where I do – surrounded by fields – then it’s mostly just manure), and if you’re into photography then autumn and winter offer up some great shots – even grey skies can have their charm.

7. CULTURE

If you’re looking to do something at a weekend, other than lay around wrapped in a blanket, then it’s always worth being a tourist in your hometown and visit some museums and galleries. Yes, you can do this at any time of year but the advantage at this time is that the summer crowds will be long gone – making for a more relaxed visit. Alternatively, if you’re not still full from all the pies and cakes you’ve already eaten you could check out that restaurant or cafe you’ve been meaning to for ages. Not only does this make you get out of the house and experience something new, or learn something new but you also get to be warm and toasty whilst you explore.

8. TREAT YO’SELF

When it’s really grim outside (or you’re just feeling extra cosy), bundle yourself onto the sofa with a mountain of blankets, pillows and the odd duvet. Stock up on snacks and tea galore and relax into your marshmallowy pit with a stack of DVDs or a Netflix binge and maybe a face pack if you’re feeling lavish. This is made all the better when you think about all the poor sods who are outside braving the rain.

9. BOOKS

Now, I couldn’t write this whole post without mentioning books in some way. This time of year is great for reading books, the long cosy nights in front of the fire, or the long trips you might be taking to visit friends or family (please don’t read and drive). If you’ve had a long list of books to read or you had ‘read more’ as one of your resolutions but you haven’t made too much of a dent yet then why not set yourself a challenge; write a list of books that you want to read by Christmas, or New Year (realistically) and take advantage of the opportunities to snuggle down. Or, whilst you’re cocooned in your duvet on the sofa – or in your bed- take out an old favourite and travel back to Hogwarts or Hobbiton.

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10. ENJOY THE FESTIVITIES

Autumn and Winter are full of some of the most festive times of year (Halloween, Bonfire Night, Christmas). Even if you’re not a big fan of some (or all) of these, you can still embrace the spirit in some way or another. I love Christmas (possibly to excess), and I love a good bonfire, but I’ve never really got Halloween. In the past, I have tried to actively avoid it and I’ve also tried to force myself into it – neither of which I have truly felt comfortable with, so now I’ve found my happy medium. I get a good pumpkin to carve (which is a great work out if you’re struggling to think of a sport you might like to do), I get a good selection of sweets and instead of dressing up in costume I dress up in my pyjamas and watch a Halloween-y film with pizza – always with pizza.

A FEW FILM SUGGESTIONS:

  • Beetlejuice
  • Nightmare Before Christmas (this is a perfect transitional film between Halloween and Christmas)
  • Hocus Pocus
  • Labyrinth (Bowie, not Pan’s)
  • Coraline

 

Words and images by Eleanor Manley for Anthem Online.

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#Cam4Art

Let’s just state the obvious here; we’re glued to our electronic devices. Even if you consider yourself someone who is not glued to an electronic product, you probably still use one to make life a bit easier. But this article is not about how you might ignore your Grandma to check on your Instagram likes, this article is about a new movement in the art world called #Cam4Art!

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#Cam4Art is a product of our time, an event responding to digital intimacy and our intense internet culture.

#Cam4Art is a live-streaming performance art event created by my home-dawg Kia Nicole Noakes and Nicholas Tee. #Cam4Art will be taking place between the 25th-30th of November 2016 and is possibly the most accessible piece of performance art you could ask for, and you should not miss out on this opportunity! Here are just a few of its benefits:

  •   #Cam4Art is completely free!
  •   Even if art is unlikely to gain a double tap from you, #Cam4Art includes over 30 artists from across the globe who produce different forms of performance art. So there’s a chance you’ll find someone you will enjoy!
  •   #Cam4Art is online! No matter where you are or what device you are using; you can watch and enjoy performance art without the hassle of leaving your house!
  •   If you miss the #Cam4Art event, it’s not a problem! The performances will be recorded for you to look back on!

Before you grab your diary and save the date, I’ve selected four female artists who I’ve taken an interest in and who will hopefully interest you also, and may even feed your feminist appetite!

Emily Roderick
“Microscope Performance II”
Friday, 25th Nov. 21:00 (GMT)

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Emily Roderick uses technology such as digital microscopes and screens to explore her body and surroundings during a live art performance, and you can see more of her work here: http://cargocollective.com/emilyroderick

Why did you choose performance art to express your work?
I find performance art one of the most interesting art forms for both the artist and the audience. With quite a strong interest in the senses, the body, and digital identity, performing my ideas felt like the most suited form. I am relatively new to performance but it already feels like a very valuable decision that I have made within my work.

What responses do you get from the feminist community?
The feminist community have been very supportive of the work that I make. I think what has been most intriguing is the interest and support of the technology that I am integrating into my performances and videos. It is great as a woman to be working with code and physical computing. Embracing a male-strong industry within my practice has brought me nothing but respect as an artist. Due to only recently getting my face into the art world, most of the support resonates on social media, which is great when I am referencing cyberfeminism and networked feminism. I hope that this support continues to build within the artists community.

Do you ever get any negative responses from people who claim to be feminists? If so, how do you respond?
I personally haven’t received any negative responses about my work or ideas. I’d like to think that people approve of my ideas and like to promote feminism, more recently cyberfeminism. If I were to receive anything negative, I would be interested in hearing their view and why they feel that way. I am not here to preach but would express the ideas of equality, and that art is a great platform to express these views to a wider audience.

Why have you chosen to participate to #Cam4Art?
I first saw mention of #Cam4Art through my university. I was attracted to the fact that the organisers were pitching their ideas to a wide range of artists and were keen to get students involved. The ideas seemed fresh, and looked to celebrate the online platforms that we have access to today, as well as suggesting new platforms for exhibiting work. Despite having a digital aspect to my work, I was yet to experiment with the online world to display my live performances. #Cam4Art seemed like the perfect way to explore the online community and give an alternative output of my current work.

Lindsay Dye
“Variety Show”

Friday, 25th Nov. 22:00 (GMT)

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Get ready for Lindsay Dye’s “Variety show”, where the clue’s in the name: webcam mutations, readings, and visuals. See more at: http://www.lindsaydye.com

Why did you decide to use your job as a Cam Girl in your art?
I was making art about internet relationships and Miami strip club culture while I was in graduate school in NYC. My research about sex work brought me to cam culture. I became a camgirl to analyze the community and to understand conceptual projects like the Camgirls Copyright Infringement Dress that cannot be worn in public, and the Buy Me Offline Shop, an e-store where you can purchase physical screenshot prints, originally used as blackmail from my chatroom clientele. Three years later, it’s my full-time job and continues to be a source of artistic fodder.

Do you ever get any negative responses from people who claim to be feminists? If so, how do you respond?
Disengagement is the most harmful response I receive from anyone. It’s painful when another human disregards your intellect because of your occupation. My long-term response has been the integration of my two jobs: camgirl and artist. This has made a smoother entrance to talk about sex work and feminism to both men and women through the art I make, and the chatrooms I inhabit. The response is that women and feminists are more than this one thing that supposedly defines us; we are complex and attach ourselves to many identifiers, by choice and by experience.

Why have you chosen to participate in #Cam4Art?
This show represents the exact space in which I’ve been working for the past few years, an autonomous one. Autonomy is the silver lining to camming and #Cam4Art’s fundamental concept, that is to exhibit work on the artist’s terms. The juiciest part is that performative work online becomes mutated immediately just by using the medium of the internet. The layering of audiences on multiple platforms becomes innumerable and lost. There’s a level to live-streaming that can’t be perceived.

Kate Durbin
“The Supreme Gentleman”
Saturday, 26th Nov. 20:00 (GMT)

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Kate Durbin will be streaming her pre-recorded work “The Supreme Gentleman”, which was created in response to the tragedy of the Isla Vista shooter, Elliot Roger. See more here: http://www.katedurbin.la

Why did you choose performance art to express your work?  
The Supreme Gentleman was initially commissioned for Yes All Women, an art benefit in Los Angeles created by Jessie Askinazi and emceed by Rose McGowan, with the proceeds going to the East Los Angeles Women’s Center. The Yes All Women benefit was inspired by the hashtag #YesAllWomen, which was created in response to Isla Vista shooter Elliot Rodger’s 2014 killing spree. Rodger espoused misogynist and racist beliefs on YouTube and gamer websites prior to his shooting rampage in my home state of California, and no-one did anything about it.

The Supreme Gentleman is a re-enactment of Rodger’s final YouTube address. It was important for me to physically embody Rodger’s words as the type of body he felt so entitled to: a white woman. I wore a long Lady Godiva wig and BMW panties because he objectified blonde women and cars (BMWs were his favourite). I spoke his horrible words out of my own mouth in order to diffuse their power; the change in tone of the voice reflects that these are not even Rodger’s words, but the words of a white supremacist patriarchy, a collective belief system larger than individuals.

What responses do you get from the feminist community?
A lot of people who consider themselves feminist like my work. The Supreme Gentleman was commissioned for a feminist project, the Yes All Women art auction benefiting the East Los Angeles Women’s Center.

Do you ever get any negative responses from people who claim to be feminists? If so, how do you respond?
I do, at times. I listen to critique but when it mischaracterizes my work
 or becomes hateful, I tune out. I don’t feel obligated to personally respond.

Why have you chosen to participate to #Cam4Art?
I want the work to continue to have an online viewership, especially now with a Trump presidency looming in my country. One of the things I was thinking about when I put the work back on YouTube, along with the addition of the karaoke sing-a-long text, is how we turn mass shooters into gods through the media. I was thinking of how we help that process along through clickbait. I am thinking about how we have done something similar with our current presidential election. As artists we can draw attention to this process, can try and interrupt it.

Seren Metcalfe
“Laying Within a Bed of Spring Greens”
Monday, 28th Nov. 22:00 (GMT)

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Seren Metcalfe’s performance focuses on the relationship between a person expressing emotion onto an inanimate item. Find out more here: http://www.serenmetcalfe.co.uk

Why did you choose performance art to express your work?
I wanted to convey a sense of intimacy and discomfort within my work as this just wasn’t being conveyed through the videos and photographs I was creating. I am a performer because I realised the only way for me to truly be intimate with the viewer is to be present. There is something amazing about a viewer being able to watch my body move,  hear the sound of my breath, and watch the emotions on my face in real time!

What responses do you get from the feminist community? Could you give an example?
I’m not sure about using the term ‘feminist community’ so exclusively but I guess my work is very self-empowering, and when I perform I put myself in a very vulnerable position. It’s strange when I get comments saying “you’re so brave for being able to do that”. I wonder if I would get the same reaction if I was a man performing? But then to flip that around, I think maybe the performance would be a greater success if I was a man portraying myself as vulnerable.

Do you ever get any negative responses from people who claim to be Feminist? If so, how do you respond?
I mean, I don’t think you have to be a feminist to understand my artwork. My artwork isn’t exclusively for a feminist audience, it’s for anyone.

Why have you chosen to participate to #Cam4Art?
I’ve done performances through webcam previously and they’ve been less successful so I’m really excited to develop something better than I have done previously. Its really great to be part of a network of so many unique performers. There’s a real sense of togetherness about it.

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If you are an artsy-fartsy individual like myself, it’s now time to consider: “Is live streaming the future for performance art?” (Huck Magazine). I believe that the #Cam4Art event will most definitely answer this question, so make sure to tune in between the 25th– 30th of November 2016 here: http://www.cam4art.com

 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cam4art/
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/cam4art.cam4art/?fref=ts

Images courtesy of #Cam4Art, Emily Roderick, Lindsay Dye, Kate Durbin and Seren Metcalfe.
Words by Courtney McMahon and external opinions from Emily Roderick, Lindsay Dye, Kate Durbin, and Seren Metcalfe.

Q&A: Laura Pettitt’s Gap Year

Hi Laura! Thank you so much for speaking to Anthem about your gap year. I definitely feel like a gap year wasn’t seen as an option as I never found out anything about them, so I’m hoping speaking to you might help other people see it as one!

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BMP Farmhouse on Elephant Care Day

So to begin, you’ve been back home for a little while now, what’s it been like settling back in after a 3 month trip?

It was crazy how quickly I adapted to being back actually. I’ve been home for just over 2 months but within a few days of being home I’d settled back into old routines and full time work. I was really worried about getting proper post-travelling blues and even cried on the plane coming back, but as much as I loved travelling, there is something so comforting about being home that you can never properly replicate in a hostel, especially as I spent the last few weeks travelling on my own. I don’t think I’d realised how much I missed my friends, but the second I look back at my photos or someone mentions somewhere I went, the prospect of booking a flight for the next day becomes very tempting.

 

Is there anything you miss?

Ah so much! Probably the most prominent thing was how cheap travel is over there; we did a couple of internal flights in Malaysia for £8. I’d pay that for a 20 minute train journey here. Obviously living costs are cheaper in the parts of Asia I visited but even relative to that travel was seriously cheap, and it makes it so easy to do and see more. Asia especially was so chilled and laid back. You run to get a bus that’s due to leave and end up sitting on it stationary for 2 hours. In India we asked about paragliding and 2 hours and £25 later we’d been driven up a mountain in a Jeep to paraglide off the Himalayas. It’s weird because it felt like life was moving at a much faster pace while we were travelling but it was also like the calmest and most stress-free time of my life.

 

Is there anything you’re glad to have back?

It is so nice to not sweat all the time. Honestly between landing in Bangkok on March 2nd and flying to Singapore at the end of May I’m pretty sure there was just a constant layer of sweat on my skin (which resurfaced a month later when I returned to Asia). The heat was great when lounging around on the beach but it was borderline unbearable at times so I don’t miss that. Although there’s obviously poverty in England, it’s so much more blatant in parts of Asia that it’s almost nice not to see it. That’s the most awfully privileged sentence I know, but it becomes depressing seeing all these people living in unimaginable conditions who you just can’t help. Sure you can buy them some food or sponsor a child or whatever but it just becomes a bit depressing knowing you can’t sustainably change their lives. You kind of have to detach yourself from it after a while or you’d just spend the whole time deeply depressed over it

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Halong Bay, Vietnam

Could you walk us through the trip?

So I flew out to Bangkok with 2 of my best friends from school on March 1st, we spent a couple of days there looking around markets and temples, and then got a night train to Chiang Mai. We spent about a week there, did a 2 day jungle trek and an elephant care day (it was so great we got to feed them and swim with them), and then spent 20 hours on buses to Laos. We stayed in Luang Prabang for a few nights which we loved, right on the Mekong River where there was a really good night market and waterfalls. They also randomly did such good baguettes in Laos! Then we got a bus to Vang Vieng, also in Laos, the most bizarre place with loads of “happy bars” and everyone goes tubing (going down the river in a massive rubber ring). Just a really bizarre place! We then had a 32 hour adventure on buses (on my birthday so that was fun) to get to Hanoi in Vietnam. It was the craziest place which was just constantly loud and we almost got run over so many times.

We spent about a week there and then flew to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) for a week. There was so much to do and see and we went on a lot of day trips to places like the Cu Chi Tunnels, and Halong Bay. It was really cheap, and a nice mix between traditional and western, and the street food was incred. Then we got a night bus to Cambodia where we stayed in Pnomh Penh. We went to S-21 and the Killing Fields and learned about Cambodia’s horrible history (would definitely recommend a quick google or a watch of the film The Killing Fields to learn more) which were so shocking and sad but definitely worth learning about. Then we went to where there are loads of temples, the main one was Angkor Wat, and we went to them at sunrise. After Cambodia we headed back to Thailand, this time to the south islands. We went to Phuket, Krabi and Ko Phi Phi which were all idyllic honeymoon type places where I went scuba diving. Then we headed to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. We basically booked our main flights in England so we just knew we had to be in Singapore by the end of May, and so ended up with a couple of weeks in Malaysia. I knew nothing about it but ended up loving it! After a few nights in KL we got a bargain internal flight to a little island called Langkawi. We spent a few days lounging on the beach and then flew to Penang, which is described as Malaysia’s food capital. It was amazing and we ended up missing our return flight (it was only £12 to be fair) on purpose because we weren’t ready to leave.

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Monkey Island, Thailand

From there we got a coach to the Cameron Highlands which were so much cooler (in temperature) than everywhere we’d been previously, and we spent a couple of days doing a bit of walking and visiting the tea plantations. We got a coach back to KL and after a couple of nights got a coach to Singapore. We spent 3 or 4 nights here, looking at the quirky little shops, food halls and a trip to Universal Studios before an overnight flight to Melbourne. Here we had a week in a vile 16 bed dorm but spent the days looking round the city before being joined by my friend from work, Abi. We then picked up a camper van and set off on a 2 week adventure. We went to Great Ocean Road where we saw koalas up close (they’re so soft!) and then drove to Sydney. We made a spontaneous decision to go all the way to Byron Bay which made a couple of long days of driving and some nights parked at the side of the road (and one in a stranger’s back garden). We only stayed in Byron for 2 nights but all loved it and then headed to Sydney. Abi flew home and we went to spend a week with Lauren’s (one of the three original travellers) family friends in a place called WoyWoy. We had a really nice week living in a proper house eating home cooked meals exploring the little town and also spent a night in Sydney and one in the Blue Mountains before the others flew home.

Originally we were all due to fly back together on June 2nd but I wasn’t ready to leave so flew back to KL, spent 2 nights there, and then went to Delhi. I was met at the airport and spent 16 days volunteering, helping women learn English and helping slum children with their English and Maths, and the evenings and weekends visiting Delhi, the Taj Mahal, and an amazing place called Dharamshala. The whole thing was incredible and so surreal, we were followed round a water park like celebrities, asked for photographs by virtually everyone we met, and I went paragliding in the Himalayas. Sadly after 16 days it was time to leave, and I had 2 flights to get to Bali. This was my first proper extended solo travelling, and I spent a couple of nights in a place called Ubud. I saw lots of monkeys, did some yoga, and ate a lot of green vegan food. It was so chilled out there, but I spoke to virtually no one and it was all just a bit surreal. I then got a mini bus and a boat over to Gili T, possibly one of the nicest places on earth. It’s such a small island that the only public transport is horses and carriages. The sunsets are amazing (though I never witnessed them properly because I got lost). It’s beyond beautiful and I spent a couple of nights there, went out with people from the hostel I was staying in and also got practically adopted by a lovely Indonesian family I met on a snorkelling trip who kept taking me out for food and said I was welcome to stay with them any time. On June 25th I had to head to the airport which I was very sad about, and had my final 2 flights to get home. I finished off my 4 month adventure on a trusty national express coach driving through rainy England.

 

How did the idea to travel these places begin?

I’d always had a strange fixation with India and Vietnam (which ended up being among my favourite places). India became a bit of an obsession after a year 8 Geography project, but I remember discussing Thailand/Laos etc in the common room at school in year 12. A couple of my brother’s friends had travelled a similar route a couple of years before, and then we spoke to people at STA and came up with a route, but pretty much everyone does the same thing. Everyone you speak to out there has stayed in virtually the same places as you – it’s almost funny.

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Torquay, Victoria

 

Did everything go to plan?

Amazingly yes! I was constantly expecting to miss a bus or a flight, be scammed out of all my money and so on, but everything was fine! I feel very lucky because a few things could have ended in disaster; I left my card in an ATM in Bangkok and someone shouted after me and gave it back, I left my passport in a hostel in Singapore and managed to just hop on a bus to get it back. I even managed to get on the metro in Delhi and have the doors close before my friends could get on, but even during rush hour when it was packed, nothing bad happened to me.

 

What was it like travelling with friends?

Most of the time it was great, but I just think being with the same people all the time is always going to cause a few minor disagreements. We never really argue at home but obviously you’re not spending every moment together. I mean, we shared a room for 3 months, and sometimes you just won’t all agree on something, or someone will just be in a bad mood. I definitely argue a lot more with my family at home. It was really nice to be able to experience everything together, and laugh at funny stories both at the time and now. I did enjoy the little bit of travelling I did on my own, but I’m really glad I was with them for the bulk of my trip.

 

Could you tell us about the preparation for your trip?

So I told my family I wanted to take a gap year back in about year 11, no one took much notice and just kind of assumed I’d change my mind. When it came to UCAS and stuff suddenly they all got a bit like “is this a good idea, should you be doing it” but I’m very stubborn and I think they probably realised I was going to go regardless of what they thought. In August after year 13 we went to STA and booked our flights to Bangkok, from Singapore to Melbourne and Sydney to home (I ended up changing my last one) and started discussing stuff like budgeting. My summer job let me stay on and I worked until February with the goal of saving £4000 to spend out there plus the initial £1500 for flights and loads of other little costs. We had to start getting vaccinations about 4 months before. We needed Hep A (and a booster after we flew home), 3 Hep B ones (they’re meant to be around £100 but for some reason I wasn’t charged…), and a typhoid vaccination. We also had to get malaria tablets – you just book an appointment with a nurse, tell them where you’re going and they advise you on what to get. You can get other optional vaccinations like rabies but after a bit of research I opted against it. Also just a tip for anyone going travelling; malaria tablets are about half the price of high street pharmacies if you go to the ASDA pharmacy. Don’t pay double for the same drug!

I didn’t start packing until a couple of weeks before, and I basically bought loads of back up stuff for my phone and camera because I was so paranoid about not being able to take a million photos of everything. With packing it’s definitely a case of less is more, and I wish I’d taken less clothing, especially as a lot of what I packed was too warm to wear. You just need a couple of thin cotton tops, dresses, and shorts. We took a lot of medical stuff though you can buy everything out there. I would advise anti-sickness and Imodium just because you don’t want to find you don’t have any on a long bus journey, trust me. I also really recommend a portable phone charger for the same reason. Packing isn’t too difficult because everything is so cheap out there that if you’ve forgotten something it doesn’t matter.

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Taj Mahal, India

 

Were there any surprises?

I was surprised by how western everywhere is! Walking down the road in Cambodia and coming out of the airport in Delhi to see Costa Coffee or Domino’s is so surreal, and that took some getting used to. Also nearly everyone we encountered spoke such good English which I kind of expected but like crazy good! It was so impressive and made me feel a bit stupid!

 

What were the highlights? What wasn’t as good?

Oh God I can’t narrow it down! I did some crazy things like seeing the Taj Mahal, scuba diving in Thailand, paragliding in the Himalayas. All of those were so amazing, but just lying on a beach with friends and even just bus journeys through such interesting landscapes were fun too. Getting street food in Vietnam and the curries in India also just stand out in my mind. But it was just so good. Night buses are definitely not something I miss, though. They’re cheap and convenient but honestly after spending a couple of hours trying and failing to find a comfortable position, and the one time my friend was sick all over my stuff at the start of the journey… That I wouldn’t mind skipping. I also found the heat difficult to deal with, it made it hard to do things during the day and I was tired a lot as well. It was great again for beach days but that was about it.

 

Would you do it again? Where would you like to go next?

It’s practically all I think about! I would love to go back to where I volunteered in India to see the children again, and stay for a longer time, but I would also love to revisit Vietnam and Malaysia. I wouldn’t turn down a trip to anywhere I went though! Eventually I would like to travel around South America but I don’t feel like I’ve seen enough of Asia yet!

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Chiang Mai, Thailand

 

What’s next for you now that you’re home?

I’ve spent my summer working full time at my old job, now I’ve just got a couple of weeks left and then I’m off to Bath to study psychology.

 

Do you feel you learned anything from travelling that’s affected you or changed you?

I have definitely relaxed with money a lot. I used to kind of fuss over spending but I’ve just calmed down and realised that spending a bit more for something fun is worth it. And after you see the conditions some people are living in you realise how fortunate you are to be able to do stuff like go out to eat and plan holidays. I haven’t gotten crazy generous but definitely more so. I also feel more appreciative of pretty much everything. Even just appreciative or the place I live, and having a house, and healthcare system. It isn’t until you see first-hand what it’s like not to have those things that it hits you how lucky you are.

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Penang, Malaysia

Finally, do you think it was worth the money you spent?

I really do. I know we could have done things for cheaper and in future I would book flights myself, and skip the luxury Contiki holiday, but I still think we budgeted well. I was very fortunate to be in the position of living at home, not paying bills or having financial obligations which meant that almost everything I was earning could go towards travelling. Although the 12 hour shifts in the run up were a bit hellish, it was so so so worth it when we were out there. It’s easy to limit yourself, and not do expensive activities but I definitely think it’s important to find the balance between travelling on a budget and missing out.

 

You can read even more about Laura’s travels on her blog: http://the-perks-of-being-laura.blogspot.co.uk/ 

 

Words by Briony Brake and Laura Pettitt
Photos by Laura Pettitt

 

 

 

Why I Got My Boobs Out For Feminism

“Alright. Tops off then.”

It’s a Monday afternoon and I’m stood in a church in Sidcup wearing only my black skinny jeans and favourite pair of shoes. The ones that make me feel powerful. I’m staring down the lens of a camera, thinking of all the times I ever felt like I couldn’t do something because I was a woman, or got spoken over, or made to feel like I wasn’t pretty enough, or skinny enough, or that any of those things even mattered. My boobs are out for the stained glass windows to see, but in this moment they’re completely desexualised. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt as okay with my body as I do in this moment.

The other girls having their photos taken (and MJ, directing the photos, who has got her boobs out too) have different body types to me, and it strikes me that I don’t know the last time I saw a normal girls body; that wasn’t stick thin, or model level hairless. We’re all just feminine bodies, together, in this space. And it feels fantastic.

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When MJ asked me to be a part of her exhibition, Stuck Up Cunts, which she devised with Ellamae after female sanitary products were labelled as a luxury under the Tampon Tax, I said yes in an instant. When she asked how I felt about nudity, my answer took a bit more thinking about.

I had always assumed that everyone has issues with their body, and that absolutely no one was okay with how they looked. I thought that this was a given; that it was just something unspoken across all women. It took quite a long time for me to realise that this is utter bullshit, and that even if this was the case – it didn’t make it okay. It’s not okay to not like how you look, it’s not okay to be uncomfortable in your own skin. It’s not okay to not want to wear a swimming costume, to be seen looking anything less than perfect, to not want to look in the mirror.

So when everyone started taking their tops off in a free the nipple frenzy of feminism, and I found myself joining in without much of a second thought, I was the most surprised of all. But I did it, and you know what? It felt fucking excellent. I posed and stretched and looked straight down that camera, and truly felt like I was living inside my own skin, like it was mine, and like I was proud of it.

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Myself and my experience aside, the shoot did something bigger – it made all the women who saw it feel like they weren’t alone.

“A lot of people have said they also found it quite liberating, that we’ve done this, that we’ve put it on. They said that they needed this kind of radical input, because they’d never seen anything like it” Ellamae told me on the penultimate day of the exhibition at Rose Bruford College, where her and MJ are just finishing their degrees in American Theatre Arts. “A girl came in here and said ‘I don’t think I would have liked this exhibit if it was just one person modelling, I don’t think it would have made a difference to me, because I’d still feel really insecure about myself. But the fact I’ve seen so many diverse women as a collective, working together on this; I feel like it’s made an impact on me.’”  And as other students came in and out of that room, and disappeared behind a curtain to print their vaginas with paint for the vagina wall, it did feel like a very diverse collection of women coming together for something special. Everyone who came in and looked at the photos seemed to be revelling in one thing –bodies, just being bodies.

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The images that have sparked the most attention so far, including an article in an Icelandic magazine, are the ones that are inspired by the tampon tax. When I asked MJ about where the idea for these came from she told me “It’s the irony of it being taxed as luxury – I was like ‘we should just totally get loads of massive dresses and wear tampons as earrings and all that kinda stuff, just to highlight the sheer fucking ridiculousness of luxury products. Like, no, no it’s not, I’m not shoving a Ferrero Rocher up my vagina.”

And so a shoot was born. Born out of a rage at things still not changing, at still having to put up with the system being forever stacked against women.  

MJ told me “I like shouting about it. It just excites me. But I think that’s just me because I’m a bit naughty and I like having fun like that, getting into trouble. I want to do stuff that in no way is quiet, because I think we can’t be quiet anymore; we’ve been quiet for so long.”

For me in particular, this struck a chord. I’ve always been privy to a bit of a discussion, an angry tweet now and then. But that’s not enough is it? It’s time to shout. And taking part in these photos, exposing my body, for me, felt like shouting. And I was shouting at myself just as much as at anyone else.

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For someone who has lived a life uncomfortable with how they look, it’s important to realise that it took a grand acceptance, to make me love it. I spoke to Ellamae and MJ about being a teenage girl, and asked what they would tell their 14-year-old selves about Stuck Up Cunts.

Ellame: “It’s really difficult because at that age I was getting into the age of trying to sexualise myself and flirt with boys. Those are the ages where you’re like ‘oh my god my boobs are growing, and I’m starting to look like a woman’”

MJ: “I mean I never experienced that – I did experience five padded bras”

Ellamae: “Your body shape changes though, you would have had a very straight figure, then your hips come in-”

MJ: “-and you’re like what the fuck is going on?”

“What we do now, I don’t think I could have done if I’d grown up in this perfect feminist world.” MJ went on to say. “All of this is reaction, and I think that this is my reaction to how I felt when I was 14 and what I think about it now. This whole thing is ‘why the fuck did you ever think like that?’”

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And what next? Where now? “I don’t think I’m finished fighting” MJ told me.
And as for me? I’ve only just started.

Stuck Up Cunts is going to the Edinburgh Fringe, and Ellamae and MJ have asked me to help develop a piece of theatre to go with it that will be headed to Summerhall at the beginning of August. Stay tuned for more information!

 

Words by Sian Brett.

Photos for Stuck up Cunts, by Ellamae Cieslik and MJ Ashton.