Newly pregnant and onsite in Miami

In March this year, when heading out to Ultra Festival in Miami as a production assistant, I found I was pregnant. Most of the people I know who work in festival production are women yet during my frantic googling sessions between shifts I couldn’t seem to find anything written by a person in the same situation as me. Which is part of the reason I’m writing this now, months later.

There must be more women out there, who love working in live events and when they find out they’re pregnant, continue to work. Being pregnant at a festival can be tiring. Being pregnant at a festival and working I found exhausting. However, when you work in this industry because of the hours and the intensity you are often shattered. It’s definitely manageable. Also, for me, it is worth it. This is my experience.

In Feb of this year I successfully applied for a production assistant position with Arcadia Spectacular. This was a complete dream come true for me. I’ve admired Arcadia’s work for years. They are innovative and completely creative, I love what they make and how they do it. All of my friends who had encountered them in a professional capacity spoke about how they were hard working, efficient and well organised. Actually, some of my friends said their efficiency bordered on scary but that just appealed even more to me! If you aren’t familiar with their work, check them out here.

They bring their fantastic beast out to play with amazing DJs all over the world as well as British festivals, most famously Glastonbury. And I was going to get to be part of that. Amazing. After they offered me the position, they then asked if I would like to join them in Miami at their show for Ultra Festival. YES. YES. YES. I fly out to Miami, ready to work my socks off and make the absolute most out of this amazing opportunity when, of course, life spots me making progress in my career. I find out I’m pregnant. I am happy, a bit frightened and also 1000s of miles away from my loved ones.

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I arrive. Onsite in incredible heat, trying to remember 50 people’s names, doing my best to be useful and do my job well, and trying not to vomit into suffocatingly hot open portaloos. And I’m tired. So tired. Me, who usually wakes up at 7am like a Disney princess and then can party for days, who loves running about and has loads of excess energy. I’m falling asleep in the shuttle back to the hotel. Dragging myself out of bed in the morning. On top of this sudden urge to take 3 naps a day, jet lag has also decided to make an appearance.

It turns out that all the reasons that I wanted to work with Arcadia are true, and more so. Every person on that team is incredibly hard working and shows complete dedication to what they are doing. It is genuinely wonderful to see. It made me want to be better at what I was doing, and in my opinion they wouldn’t be able to achieve the crazy inspiring shows that they do if it wasn’t for the people behind it working their hearts out. I was completely exhausted (if you haven’t been pregnant before for some people, me included, the first trimester is like being given a load of valium and then strapped on to the teacups all day) but I worked as hard as I could and had a huge rush of satisfaction watching the show come together and knowing that I had contributed to it.

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I hadn’t really told anyone that I was pregnant, I was only a few weeks, so I didn’t feel I could share it with the people I was working with. I hadn’t had long enough to process it myself. In MANY other environments working on an event it would have become pretty obvious pretty quick that I was pregnant but because Arcadia are completely hardline on drinking either before or while you’re working it wasn’t really noticeable. Which was nice, because I wasn’t ready to have that conversation with new coworkers yet.

I found that being pregnant didn’t mean that I couldn’t do as good a job, but it did mean that I had to think strategically about my energy levels and work a lot more efficiently than I have before. It took me nearly a week to get used to it, by the time show day rolled around I was into a good swing. There was I learnt a lot there that I have since taken forwards with me into later shows. Instead of getting to know everyone by having a wind down with a few beers after a shift, I took the time to spend time with people before work when I had a bit more energy. When jet lag didn’t let me sleep, I went downstairs and if anyone else was also awake we’d go and watch the sunrise. It meant I got to connect with people, but I wasn’t staying up past when I was capable.

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For anyone that finds themselves in a similar position, it is difficult – especially, if like me, it is your first time working a gig with everyone and you don’t have anyone you’re particularly close to with you. However, if you want an easy going stress free job, you’re in the wrong industry. You have to work harder than usual, but that’s okay. Many people have to work harder, or work smarter because of elements completely outside their control. For me, having to get better at how I work because of what should be an unrelated circumstance isn’t something to get frustrated at, it’s an opportunity to improve born out of necessity.

 

 

 

 

 

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Life Drawing with the East London Stripper Collective

Life Drawing with the East London Stripper Collective

I am a terrible drawer. I have no eye for it, no natural flair. I’m really terrible.

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As you can see from the above, I’m not joking.

I do enjoy life drawing. I first got into it thanks to Miss Louise Challinor and her ‘That’s Life’ life drawing sessions. She was very encouraging and made me see that what I put on the page didn’t have to be perfect, or accurate, or flattering. It was just my impression and I should have fun with it.

I first read about the East London Stripper Collective a few months ago and decided that these women were right up my street. Strippers challenging accepted norms and empowering themselves. Brilliant.

Stripping is one of those professions that comes with a mountain of preconceptions and mythologies. A lot of these are negative, partly because it is not a profession that most of us will at some point in our lives dip in to. We have less empathy and understanding because it is less likely that we, or someone we love, will experience it. The other reason it is a highly loaded term is because it is one of the professions that revolves around female sexuality. There are of course male strippers, I am referring to our stereotype of the term.

It is part of the reason that I was drawn (excuse the pun!) to this class. I love the idea of stripping being put back where it belongs, next to and part of, art. In today’s society it can sadly be seen as something sordid and cheap. Even destructive. However other forms of dance, for instance ballet, are correctly viewed as performance art. I think the main difference between the two is that stripping is titillating, far more so than ballet. This negative view of stripping is backed up by the legislation surrounding it, leading to women being disrespected and a cycle of exploitation.

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The East London Stripper Collective are setting up their own events to help to challenge stereotypes and are hoping to eventually create their own working conditions and make business decisions. A massive undertaking for this group of political activists. It is a huge struggle because female sexuality is something that intimidates a lot of men and women, leading to them attempting to control and suppress it. It is an ocean of psychological power, evoking things in us we do not fully understand and often are not capable of rationalising.

The class was held in the upstairs of the White Horse Pub in Shoreditch. The girl who was posing for us was beautiful (made me regret my beer and burger) and strong looking. The stage area was back lit with a red light, which gave the whole thing a slightly naughty vibe. The class kicks off with some quick poses during a routine, and then as the evening progresses the poses get longer. I loved it. The way everyone there was staring at her, really paying attention to the way she moved, her strength and flexibility. I allowed myself to get caught up in the eroticism of it, and that is part of the magic of the performance.

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The drawing element of the event tinted the actions of the girls’ performance and helped the audience see it in a new light. Incredibly stimulating performance art.

If you are London based, check them out and head down to an event to show some love

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National Portrait Gallery – Grayson Perry and almost William Morris

National Portrait Gallery – Grayson Perry and almost William Morris.

Last weekend Matt and I went to the National Portrait Gallery. It wasn’t a planned trip, we’d been doing some errands and were in the area. I have been to the café areas in the V&A and the Natural History Museum, and so thought it would be a lovely place for a bit of coffee and crossword.  It was a bad shout on my part, the café area looks a bit like a nice McDonalds.  We decided to have a wander around while we were there. I’m really trying to make the most of the fact we have all of this fantastic culture on our doorsteps whilst we’re living in London.

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I love bright clothes.

As we walked in there was a sign saying ‘Anarchy and Beauty – William Morris and his legacy’. I like all of those things, so meandered over towards it. We come to a large room, and there is information about Morris, as well as examples of his work up. The more I start reading, the more into it I get.  Although I learned about his work in school, and how it had influenced interiors and art during the Victorian period, I hadn’t been taught that he was a socialist. To be fair, I think the entire class was more about us cutting up potatoes and using them to create prints, political context can often be lost on eight year olds. What I particularly got a kick from was his idea of ‘art for all’. For me personally, the arts have been instrumental to my understanding of myself and the world around me. Exploring emotions and concepts that are often extra-linguistic. Art should be for everyone.

We get to the entrance of the exhibit and are turned away because we haven’t purchased tickets.

Having worked in an arts venue, I understand the need for an entity to be able to generate an income for itself. However, I find it absolutely laughable that they are charging entry for an exhibit based around a socialist who believed art should be for everyone. The tickets were £11.70. That might not sound like a huge amount, but when you compare it with weekly benefits allowances it seems ridiculous. It is a wonderful thing about the UK that so many of our museums and galleries are free of charge.  I am grateful for that, especially when I come back after being somewhere with lots of interesting but financially draining institutions, like Rome.  However, I feel that when curating an exhibit you should be respectful to the original artist’s views. It isn’t like they weren’t aware of them, they proudly announce them in the anteroom. It would be like insisting women are accompanied into the suffragette exhibit upstairs.

We laughed about the irony and moved on. As I said, I am grateful for the fact that there are many interesting free exhibits. Like  Grayson Perry: Who are you? Absolutely killer, really enjoyed it. My favourite two pieces were the hijab and the giant cash note. The hijab is beautiful. It tells the story of a young woman converting to Islam and leaving behind a life based on commercial values and booze. I particularly like the fact she is being supported and led by the women she has met. The shopping centre and mecca seem to be directly compared, both as distributors of identity. I don’t feel like one was being portrayed as any better than the other, although it did seem like the main character was getting more human support by converting to Islam. She seemed to be happier in her new direction as well.

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The idea of the exhibit is to challenge and attempt to define British identity through a series of portraits of individuals at some kind of crossroad or transition. Identity was often strongest in the people or groups who had it repeatedly challenged.  I like the fact that although Britain is far from perfect, we are in a place which allows large variety in values, families and other cornerstones of identities that we end up with such diverse groups.

If anyone is around London I would recommend going and checking it out, it’s on til the 15th March.

Disobedient Objects @ The Victoria and Albert Museum

Disobedient objects exhibition

I fucking loved this. I went to see this with my friend Georgie a few weeks ago. The Victoria and Albert is housing the exhibition, which is made up of objects used in protest. I loved the contrast between this grand, traditional building, which was made possible by a monarchy, and items of disobedience against established systems being luxuriously displayed for us to see.

I can’t determine my own feelings, whether I liked the fact that these ideas and concepts were being presented to the public by an entity as established as the V&A or whether the irony was too much. The contrast added to naughty feeling you get from being disobedient. In my mind, making it obvious to people the other ideas we should be disobedient to – I found this quite daring. I especially liked that when you are looking for the exhibit in the building they had the sign for it ‘disobedient objects’ underneath a sign directing you to ‘wedding dresses’.

In the exhibit itself the objects were testaments to human ingenuity and necessity being the mother of invention. These items were designed most often by a group of people with a lot less resources than the system they were protesting. This meant that there were folk arts in there, which I really enjoyed. Weaving and painting.

The first two items I saw were a battered pot lid from an Argentinian revolution and a teacup and saucer from an Edwardian tea set supporting the Suffragettes. The contrast was effective. People have to use whatever techniques they can to get attention and support for their cause. They have to be loud and quiet, and use all methods available to them.

The exhibit was good for highlighting to me lots of different protests and movements that I wasn’t aware that had happened recently, and how successful these had been. It reaffirmed to me how controlled our media is, highlighting certain issues and not wanting us to be aware of alternative systems of managing ourselves that can work.

Running around the exhibit were lots of excited school children with workbooks. I was pleased that kids at a young and impressionable age were being shown the possibilities bound up in protest. There was a strange moment when a young girl (10 or 11) asked her teacher what ‘Page Three’ was in response to the ‘ban page three placards’. My first reaction to this was to try and stop giggling, watching an adult explain anything with sexual connotations to a child is usually good for an awkward laugh. Listening to her halted explanation, I was pleased that the exhibit has such a modern focus. Most of the items are from the 1970’s onward and that fact demonstrates that there are still lots of systems we should be disobedient within, and lots of methods of achieving this.

If you can get down to this exhibit, try and make the effort. It is killer, gave me a lot to think about as well as being free!

If you want to read more about how they put the exhibit together – click here

Party in the Park – New Cross

Party in the Park

This year I was involved with the arranging of the local Party in the Park festival in New Cross’ Fordham Park. The experience was very enjoyable and I met lots of interesting people. I also learnt a lot as it was the first time I was involved at the planning stage of a festival of that size. One of the things I particularly liked about it was meeting so many people from local businesses. When I was in Manchester my job was so demanding I never really got to get outside of that particular bubble. Although New Cross does have a somewhat deserved bad reputation there is a real sense of community, of people being proud of where they are from and looking to help each other out and support each other.

The meetings were held at New Cross Learning, which if you are based in New Cross I do recommend you check out. They are a volunteer run library and provide all sorts of useful resources for local people. They also had very nice biscuits.

After a lot of emails, spreadsheets, cups of tea, stressing out, lists and discussions it somehow got to a few days before the event and set up began.

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I was working on the day of the festival but managed to get out early and have a wander round.  The bands were great, I really enjoyed Rhiannon and the Nightmare’s performance. There was a real mix of people as you can see from the pictures.

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The event has its origins in the Deptford Free Music Festival, which started in 1989 and grew into a massive open air party. A lot of the people who help arrange its modern incarnation have memories of this and so it was quite nostalgic. With south-east London being an absolute hotbed of musical activity, it makes sense to have a free festival that is celebrating the local music scene.

There was a deliberate effort to make this event more family friendly and there were traditional games, storytelling and face painting.

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The Bird’s Nest made their presence known with their own stage, as well as cooking up some of their delicious burgers.

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Cally Fest 2014

Cally Fest

I was invited here by Mangoseed, and as they are an absolute pleasure to see live made my way down despite a raging hangover. I don’t see London as a city. I see it as a massive conglomerate of villages joined together by the coloured lines of the underground. Until you’ve visited a place it has no meaning to you, it is just a word on a map. Caledonian Road will now take me back to smoky BBQ chicken clouds, vibrant music and summertime.

Cally Fest is a massive street party down Caledonian Road. There is music, art, performances and so much food. They have managed to create an inviting environment and it is obvious from how respectful and friendly everyone is that this is a massive community effort. It’s well worth it. Being there will be one of the things that most stands out to me from summer 2014.

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We checked out a few bands while we were here, one that particularly stood out for me was Lazytalk. Perfect thing for a summer evening, warm music with a ska-punk base. Their original songs are really well written and seem made for the dance floor. This feeling was further compounded by the fact that I kept getting tunes of theirs in my head weeks after. Carefully crafted for you to have a good time to.

This one especially –

The energy of the whole street party was really positive. Although there were people daytime drinking the presence of children meant that everyone was on their best behaviour. For me, the only break in atmosphere came when local councillors came to speak. This was after Lazytalk and before Mangoseed. My feelings towards my previous local councillors are quite negative, having been involved in a live music venue they tried to shut down repeatedly and having bad experiences dealing with various different departments. I have an instinctive distrust towards people in positions like this. When they came on stage, I felt it was to try and bask in some of the success of the event and make it about them. A lot of people switched off and left the area where they were speaking. I actually felt sorry for them to have such a response. Although I thought it would have been better to be more modest about their involvement, they obviously were some way responsible for the fact that the event went ahead. They were doing something positive and it was a good day for the local community.

The food was amazing, lots of different stalls and I tried as much as I could. I was heartbroken when I made it round to get some pulled pork as I was leaving and they had ran out. I made up for the disappointment by getting my face painted by the lovely girls at Face-My-Paint. It was a two person job as I was giving odd concepts I wanted expressed with the paint without giving any helpful advice (please make me look like my leggings but with more summer and also a unicorn and glittery).  You can tell that by this stage my hangover was being eased and transformed with cider…

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Then we went to see Mangoseed. After the local councillors had cleared out most of the crowd (sorry but it’s true) they had a bit of a challenge on their hands with getting everyone back into  a dancing mood. Fortunately they nailed it. Mangoseed’s music is difficult to define with heavy rock-dub-funk influences, it melts together to create something that is both exploratory and fearless.  Lyrically it is switched on both politically and emotionally, exploring different concepts in a way that is insightful and accessible. More than that, it makes you want to move with it and pulls you in. Their music blended well with an event like Cally Fest, a celebration of community and diversity.

Check out Brix-Tone –

Thanks to everyone involved with Cally Fest for putting the whole day on (local council and all 😉 ) you created something awesome.