Browsing Category

Music

Articles, Community, Music

Josh Savage – Living Room Tourist

January 19, 2017

Josh Savage Photo: Common Spark Media

Last year,  TTDOG featured one of  London’s finest troubadours, Josh Savage as he was releasing his 2nd EP, a first french-language offering: Quatre Épines.

Savage creates a direct connection with his ardent followers through the vulnerability of his lyric, the poignancy of his voice and his virtuosity as a musician. What sets Josh apart from others in the industy is his absolute committment to intimate living room performances throughout the world.  When we last saw Josh, he had completed his living room tour of Europe to promote Quatre Épines and was awaiting the release of a film documenting his unprecedented tour.  The film, The Living Room Tour, by independent filmmaker Duncan Trevithick, follows Josh Savage as he plays 44 gigs throughout the summer.

We caught up with Savage to discuss The Living Room Tour,  a Winchester Short Film Festival Official Selection, released last month.

 Sofar Sounds inspired me with the concept.  Living Room Tours are the only way I can tour independently on a large scale and guarantee an attentive audience.

TTDOG asked Savage whether filming the tour impacted on the intimacy his audiences have come to expect in his concerts.

Being documented takes some getting used to.  it didn’t feel like it impacted the intimacy of my shows however.  I guess cameras are more commonplace in today’s society.

Did Savage have a single favourite moment captured in the film?

My optimism about chewing gum when my car was broken into.  At the time, I was in shock so I can’t remember what I said but I’m glad I’m able to see the light at the end of the tunnel in nightmare situations.

Just 24, he reminds dreamers of all ages to follow their hearts.  In a message to his fans at the launch of the film, Savage called The Living Room Tour:

A short documentary about choosing yourself as an artist.  About not waiting for the gatekeepers to say yes.  About finding your own path to your own definition of success.

.

 

TTDOG asked Savage whether there was something for which he was particularly grateful in the making of the documentary.

I’m most grateful for the wonderful people I met on the road who supported me and keep me going to this day.  It’s lovely to have a documentary to reflect back on the adventure and I hope it will inspire new artists to take the plunge and follow their passion.

 

Savage has inspired thousands through his performances and music.  His latest single, Whisper in the Snow, featuring Alice Pearl will launch tonight in London before Savage heads out on the road for his 2017  Living Room “Whisper in the Snow” Tour this Friday, 20 January.  

 

 

Follow Josh Savage on his Website,  Facebook, Instagram, Soundcloud, YouTube and Twitter

Articles, Music

Josh Savage – Lost and Found

May 29, 2016
Josh Savage; Photo: Common Spark Media

Josh Savage; Photo: Common Spark Media

Anyone familiar with the acoustic music scene in London will have heard of singer/songwriter, Josh Savage.  In their ‘Ten Artists to Watch,’ The Huffington Post says:  “Fantastic song writing and a resonant, rich voice, Josh exhibits real skill as a musician and singer.”

At just 24, Savage has garnered himself an international following, performing his own acoustic rock and folk compositions in the UK, USA, Europe, Canada and the Middle East, despite being unsigned and without representation.  The self disclosure of his lyrics, coupled with unexpected phrasing and emotive musical composition engages the ear, and once heard, lingers like the scent of French perfume on a silk scarf.

Listen to him once, and it is easy to get hooked.

Following the success of his first EP, Savage recently launched himself as a bilingual singer/songwriter with his 2nd EP, the french-language Quatre Épines. To promote the EP, Savage booked his own “Living Room Tour,” packed up his guitar and a bag, and with his cameraman, set off for a dizzying schedule of shows in living rooms across Europe. The tour culminated in a sold out EP launch at historic Winchester Guildhall, surrounded by friends, family and fans from across England and Europe.

 

 

We caught up with Josh Savage shortly after the launch of Quatre Épines.  He had just moved to London and was working on writing his first full length album.  We asked him about his sound:

“When I get asked, I say my sound is Folk/Rock but I don’t really know. I don’t believe it truly represents my music but it gives an idea. I don’t like labelling my own sound. When I write music I don’t aspire to sound like someone else, I write songs to get things off my chest. I am obviously influenced by other people’s music but more on a subconscious level.”

Savage’s voice, sometimes soulful, sometimes innocent, has a clarity that blends and contrasts with his instrumentation to generate a timbre of perfect harmony.   Vocal purity, delicate features, floppy curls and a gleaming smile mix with evocative lyrics, to create a cocktail that earns Savage a place in the tradition of medieval French troubadours:

“I would say ‘troubadour’ is an accurate summary of what I do, perhaps not what I sound like. I definitely travel a lot! In time, I’d like to tour with band and more ambitious arrangements.”

Ambitious arrangements are well within Savage’s grasp.  As a child in Paris, and a youth in the UK, Savage stretched and refined his voice, performing as a choral soloist in France, the UK, Australia and New Zealand. A piano player from the age of 4, it wasn’t until Savage began to sing that his passion for music was born.  After school, Savage went on to complete a music degree at University of York in the UK.

The influence of classical choral and orchestral arrangements is clear in his music, as Savage moves with virtuosity between guitar, keyboards, trumpet and vocals, and glides from ballad to rock with ease.

“I recall Henry Purcell was a favourite of mine when I was singing in choirs when I was 10 and Coldplay influenced me into writing songs. I’m a sucker for melodies and I love all sorts of music like Bonobo, Bear’s Den, Olafur Arnalds and Yann Tiersen.”

For Savage, writing is something that begins with melody and composition.  A piece will run through his mind and he hums out the chords, refines and rewrites the melody before he begins to work the lyrics into his melody.  Yet time for composing can seem difficult to find:

“To be fair, I’ve done very little writing since releasing Spaces EP. When you’re managing, booking and tour managing yourself and couchsurfing, it’s very hard to find the right balance and unfortunately it’s difficult to find time to write songs. That’s why after 3 years since university, I decided to move to London to focus on writing.”

Part of the urban myth that has grown around his music is the story that Savage chose to write his final University thesis in French, in order to prevent his professor from grading him on his lyrics.  Those who understand French will know that he is equally versatile as a French and an English lyricist.

Sais-tu je rêve toujours aux mémoires de nos baisers
Mais tu m’as brisé le coeur car tu préviens du malheur
Avant que rien n’ai vraiment commencé

Translation:
Do you know I still dream of the memory of our kisses?
But you broke my heart because you foresee misfortune
Before anything really happened

Lyrics © Josh Savage, from ‘Quatre Épines’

 

Even those unable to understand French cannot fail to be moved by the title song from his EP, Quatre Épines, inspired by the devotional love of the Prince for his ‘Rose’ in Antoine de Saint Exupery’s famous parable, The Little Prince.

 

 

We asked Savage about his influences, as a writer:

“My granddad has an endearing habit of muttering random lines of poetry to himself. I ask him about his favourite poems and borrow his poetry books from time to time and they sometimes inspire me to write songs but other than that I know little of poetry.

Of course, I aspire to get better and better. The danger with art is that success tends to have an influence on your creativity. You can end up taking less risks and trapped in creating what you think you should create rather than what you want to create.”

Savage manages to keep taking risks, writing emotionally complex and mature lyrics with authentic vulnerability.  Deeply personal, his unguarded songs invite the listener to visit their own private places of love, loss and hope.


New bonds won’t stretch thin
In this high tech world we live in
I could see ours rust across our shores
Then I stumble upon clues
And I see them haunt you
You’re so scared to tell the truth

Lyrics © Josh Savage, from ‘Your Lips’

 

Being an affable and optimistic young man, we wondered how Savage managed to achieve such melancholy in some of his lyrics:

“…When I hit rock bottom, I write a song about it and it gets it out of my system. I always aim to add an optimistic spin on my sad songs though. When I’m happy, I tend to be too busy making the most of it rather than writing about it, unfortunately.”

An old soul in a youthful form, Savage achieves a wide range of lyrical moods.  He is a musician that is hard to categorise.

“My demographic is actually pretty spread out and I’m not sure why. I have an international fanbase and my music seems to suit older audiences as well as younger ones. When I first toured the US, Poland and Germany for the first time, I often had people coming up to me after the show saying they’ve been listening to my music for a while and it blows my mind!”

Savage is particularly beloved in Europe.  While in Poland this spring, Savage was invited to participate in his first TedX performance.  The performance has helped to showcase him to a large crowd in Warsaw, and to a larger, worldwide, TedX audience.

Savage has striven for every bit of exposure he has achieved.  As a teenager in Winchester, he worked the summer music festival circuit, studying the bands and meeting people in the business.  Over time, he has been steadily invited to play more and more of these same festivals which are so important for showcasing musicians.  His summer tour schedule is already filling up with festival gigs.  Large audiences, according to Savage, bring a great energy and unpredictability to his performances.

But perhaps it is in intimate settings where his poignant music is best experienced.  Savage holds the worldwide record for performing the most shows (over 40 shows as of last month) with Sofar Sounds, the secret-location, indie gig organiser that was founded in 2010.  Taking the ethos of Sofar to towns even without a local group, Savage booked 44 living room concerts across the UK and Europe in the summer of 2015.  The previous year, Savage undertook a similar living room tour of the UK and France.

 

 

TTDOG has had the pleasure of hearing Josh Savage perform in both large and small venues, but the living room concert is a uniquely intimate experience.

“If I had never played my first Sofar Sounds show in Oxford back in January 2013, I might not still be doing music today. It was the best show I had ever played and it was such a breath of fresh air compared to demoralising shows playing to drunken audiences who talk over you. Sofar Sounds has been a great way to introduce my music to new audiences in new cities where you don’t have the pressure of bringing an audience and can actually focus on playing a good set.”

Savage doesn’t just show up and play Sofar concerts.  This enterprising musician took the idea of these gigs to his own town, organising local acts and venues.  TTDOG wondered how Savage, a singer/songwriter, manager, performer, promoter, and tour manager found the energy and time to take on the committment of organising a concert series involving other bands.

“The energy and hard work I’ve put into setting up Sofar Winchester has never been an issue. Hampshire in general doesn’t have a great music scene and I felt it needed something like Sofar. It’s made me really happy to see Sofar Winchester flourish in the last 3 years and supporting other struggling acts I’m passionate about. I’ve had people help me in my music career and it’s my way of giving back.”

TTDOG asked Savage if he had further plans to work with other musicians in their own careers:

“I would love to produce other musicians but there are only so many hours in the day. That may be something for a later time.”

 

What strikes everyone about Josh Savage is his unwavering hope, both for himself and for others. Perhaps the most personal piece he has written is ‘Mountains in Hurricanes,’ a track from his first EP, Spaces.  Savage explains that the song is about someone close to him, who was suffering psychosis.  The way this person managed his psychotic episodes was to take long runs along a path that led up a local hill.  His lyrics reveal a man willing to go to almost any length to overcome, and to help others overcome adversity.

If it’s too much, give me a call
But I doubt that too much will be enough

You can take it all
You can take on mountains in hurricanes
And if you fall…
I’ll give you my bones to break ’cause I have faith
I’ll give you my bones to break ’cause I have faith

Lyrics © Josh Savage, from ‘Mountains in Hurricanes’

 

At many of his gigs, Savage tells the story of his talented friends who have given up practicing their art, because it is unlikely that they will succeed in the business.  Josh Savage is not so daunted.  He is a man of passion and determination to pursue his dreams and that serves as an inspiration to other musicians and to his audience.  Savage relates a story of a former heroin addict, who, upon hearing his music, decided to walk to the South Pole and achieve his own dream.  TTDOG admits that on days when it seems difficult to be inspired to write, the memory of Josh Savage quoting Nelson Mandela to inspire his audience to never lose sight of their dreams is enough to shake off any lurking defeatism.

Josh Savage is no starry-eyed dreamer.  He knows the odds and yet, he persists:

“I have 3 part-time jobs to keep me going and the reality is that you may never be able to make a living solely in the music business, which is why if you go down that path you have to be very very passionate about it. If it never leads to anywhere, I can safely say I’ve had a fantastic journey and no regrets.

…I don’t see any point in thinking that far ahead. If it feels right to move on from being a singer/songwriter, I will know. However, I have a feeling that whatever I do will always involve music.”

Savage has begun work on his debut album and plans to release another English language EP, shortly.   Yet, he knows that everyone must have a Plan B.  Should he fail in the pursuit of his dreams, Savage’s plan B is to get lost in his childhood city, Paris.  The thought inspired this song and video from his Spaces EP.

 

 

Whether at a Sofar gig, in the recording studio, on a festival stage, or lost in Paris, we at TTDOG are grateful that Josh Savage has found and continues to share his passion:  Music.

 

TTDOG asked Josh Savage:  For what are you most grateful and where do you find your greatest joy?

 

“My friends and family who keep me grounded and have helped me on my journey.

I find my greatest joy after finishing a song, performing or losing myself in a beautiful place.”

 

 

To hear more of Josh Savage’s music, buy his EPs , attend a gig, send him jars of honey, or fresh roses, click the links below:

 

Josh Savage Website

Josh Savage of Facebook

Josh Savage on Twitter

 

 

 


Art, Art, Articles, Community, Music, Nature, Oneness, Service

James Wheale and Nomadic Community Gardens – Creating Community through Meanwhile Use

May 2, 2016

High costs and chemical contamination of fresh food is leading more and more individuals to seek to grow at least a portion of their own food, themselves.  But as global populations continue to shift from being rural to city dwellers, gardening can be a challenge.

 

Artwork by Monsù Plin in Nomadic Community Gardens. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Artwork by Monsù Plin in Nomadic Community Gardens. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Urban gardening seeks to fill this void.  Urban gardening is the practice of growing food within a city environment and can involve animal husbandry.  It is a way of mixing urban style and design with nature and can reduce food miles by growing foods local to their use.  Urban gardens help improve biodiversity, reduce urban rainwater runoff and help to mitigate the”heat island” effect caused by the concentration of infrastructure and lack of passageways of cooling air in cities. While most cities are far from the ideal envisioned by forward thinking urban planners, it is possible, with vertical farming, hydroponics, various agricultural technologies, and visionary architectural design, to conceive of a future where cities grow most of what the residents need, within the city confines.  In the meantime, current urban gardens, like those on the High Line in Manhattan, provide relaxing green spaces for residents and revitalise business in the area.

 

Artwork in the Nomadic Community Gardens by Artista

 

Making the most of this growing trend is Nomadic Community Gardens, situated in the heart of the hip East End section of London known as Shoreditch.  Nomadic Community Gardens works with city developers to care for disused urban spaces in a “meanwhile” use as they await planning permission to build.  The space provides a venue for not only gardening but for community gathering of all kinds.  The gardens are called “nomadic” because everything is portable and can be moved to a new location. Beds are built on pallettes to be transportable and to prevent contamination of and by the ground.

 

image

 

On Sunday 1 May, Nomadic Community Gardens celebrated a first birthday.  The joyous celebration comes after several years of hard work to gain land use permission and a year of tenancy in the garden.  The success of the community garden is largely due to the vision and dedication of James (Jimmy) Wheale, co-founder and Director of Nomadic Community Gardens and the next in our series of individuals using their skills to make a difference.

 

James Wheale, co-founder and Director, Nomadic Community Gardens

James Wheale, co-founder and Director, Nomadic Community Gardens.  Art by drzadok.

 

We met with Wheale earlier in the spring to discuss the social enterprise that has brought new life to a disused space off Brick Lane.

 

image

 

“I came across and idea in Berlin, when I was living there several years ago.  It was a meanwhile use of space in an old carpark that they’d gotten the permission to use and so they created a cafe and a garden in a sort of foresty area and I thought: ‘Wow! There’s no reason this kind of thing can’t happen here.'”

image

 

Wheale admits “Continental Europe are light years ahead of us in terms of using space for the meanwhile time period and with a concentration on the creation of communities and the qualitative benefits that they bring to people’s lives,” yet, he was determined to turn his idea into a reality, in London.

When Wheale returned from Berlin, he described the idea to his friend, Junior, who had moved into a flat near to a disused space.  Over the next couple of years,  the two developed a winning proposal for the disused land, and when the land was sold to London Newcastle, they pitched the idea to the new owners.

We’re attempting to act as a conduit between a corporation that finds it difficult to reach communities and the communities who need resources and who need space.  Our project is there to find space and organise it so that communities can make use of it and if local authorities support what we’re doing it becomes more attractive to development companies who are trying to get permission from local authorities to do developments.   If they can subside something in the meantime it almost offsets the damage that can happen in development.”

 

image

 

“Luckily for us,” Wheale says “their leadership has vision and believes in social responsibility and so they allowed it.”

London Newcastle quickly gave approval and although the team hoped to have access to the space in February 2015, in order to prepare the land for the growing season, they only gained access in May.  This meant that there was a tremendous push to get garden beds ready for the remainder of the growing season.  Fortunately, they built over 100 beds, and because of the position of the garden between two railway lines, without overshadowing buildings, the conditions were perfect for growing vegetables.  In a densely occupied city like London, Wheale notes, this “breadth of horizon is unheard of.”  With such a great deal of sunlight, the vegetables grew quickly in the first season and gave the residents the boost they needed to their enthusiasm for urban gardening.

 

image

 

The space was initially leased to Nomadic Community Gardens, to act as caretakers, on an initial 6 month lease.   Wheale admits that he couldn’t demonstrate to the owners that he had done this sort of work before and that the plan would work, and he credits London Newcastle for their faith in the team.

“They took a real chance on us,” he says.

The lease has now been renewed, but the garden could be given 2 months notice, at any time, to vacate the space.  

“But, you know, that’s part of the deal,” he adds.

In anticipation of this, Wheale has been talking with other landowners about taking the garden elsewhere, when London Newcastle begins to develop the land.  Wheale explains that the intent of the project has never been to reclaim land from development but to make use of the resources, for the community, in the meantime.

Beds in the garden are free to residents and the garden is self supporting through the hosting of events that generate a minimal income to cover basic running expenses.  Wheale hopes that in future gardens, development companies could subsidize start up costs to allow gardens to focus on being self sustaining once they are operating.  In this way, the garden does not need to apply for funds from limited charity funding sources.

“Obviously we’ll never be earning big bucks,” Wheale says “but it doesn’t need it.”  

For the Shoreditch Nomadic Gardens, Wheale used in his own savings for start up costs to get the ball rolling.  Some of his investment has been repaid, though he admits that not all of it has.

“The boss always gets paid last,” he says, smiling.

 

image

 

At present, the garden is tended by volunteers, but Wheale has plans to pay certain key roles in the garden and if the garden concept spreads to other areas, he hopes to be able to provide employment opportunities, training and skills development along with community garden resources.

 

image

 

Wheale has a degree in Cultural Studies and has developed an eclectic set of skills.  He worked in construction, and gained problem solving skills and determination in his time in the theatre industry. He has managed bars, where he learned to create ambiance and to nurture the social relationships of a community.  Wheale also has prior experience with organic gardening.  He argues that bringing vegetation into the urban environment is important for increasing biodiversity, and allows wildlife to flourish.  The gardens also provide habitat for bees, which are currently under threat in many countries.

Vegetation, Wheale says, “softens the urban environment so you’re not always facing hard, impenetrable surfaces and there is a sort of therapeutic and health benefit to vegetative life, whether it’s just walking around it or growing it and tending to it and reaping rewards from it.”

image

 

Whilst Wheale likes the idea of offsetting carbon emissions with more vegetation, his main reason for creating the garden, was the social aspect and potential to improve urban quality of life.

 

image

 

“One of the most important things for people is quality of life.  We are the sum of our relationships, and I saw that spaces in cities were being restricted with austerity measures and space is really where we get to build those relationships.  Creating a community garden I thought was important, with the idea of growing vegetables because I felt that was a universal language that would create more cohesion as they all share in an activity.  And that grew into trying to meet the more diverse needs of people in the community.”

 

image

 

In our trips to the garden, TTDOG experienced the great ambience of camaraderie and community.  Friendships have been established and grown through the experience of being a part of the community garden.  TTDOG asked Wheale how community became so important to him.

“It really came from my studies.  It opened my eyes to the way society is structured and the way that structure affects people’s experiences, and I think that there is something to be said for support networks.  We need to feel like people are caring for us and know our name.  Anonymity is a really dangerous kind of experience to fall into and the way that society is organised and the way it atomises people not only affects their quality of life but also means that they’re under a level of consciousness that isn’t really benefitting them.  They’re sort of really propping up something that is benefitting out of them.”

 

image

 

The garden has a wide reach through what Wheale calls various “spheres of influence” from the sphere of the immediate community that tends to their beds to the wider community that comes to the garden for workshops and social events to an even wider sphere of tourists who visit the garden and take ideas back to their own communities. And, because they have so much manpower and materials now, the team at the garden has been able to help other community projects, building beds for other gardens, and hosting workshops for other community gardens.

Nomadic Community Gardens currently hosts skills training in pallete furniture building, pallets bed building and basic DIY skills. There is also knowledge sharing in gardening.

Individuals experience a sense of satisfaction from the relaxed atmosphere and previously frictious relations between different communities have been eased and bridges built between members of these communities who have come together in the garden.

 

image

There are cafes in the garden and market stalls can be established to accommodate people’s enterprise.

image

 

The garden plays host to street artists who paint the walls with beautiful murals, musicians who jam on music nights and interactive theatre events.

 

image

Art by Fanakapan provides a backdrop for an impromptu market stall in the garden

 

TTDOG wondered how the community might respond when the landlord chooses to develop the land, removing this wonderful oasis for gathering, learning, sharing and gardening.  Wheale philosophised that there may be a saturation point for community resources, when their impact begins to ebb.  This may be because people have had the benefit of it, learned the skills they wanted to learn, or the limit is reached in terms of the number of beds.  At that point, the garden can become more exclusionary than inclusionary and moving to a new location allows a new community to reap the benefits of the life cycle of the public space.

And, when there is a void that is left behind, this can create the impetus for the community, who has had the benefit of the space, to create it for themselves.  His hope is that this can create a kind of community activism to rejuvenate and develop their own public spaces.

 

image

 

TTDOG asked Wheale’s advice on creating a community garden using meantime use:

“Come to me and I’ll give you the lowdown.  I underestimated what it was going to take to get this project off the ground.  There is a whole world of stuff that you have to do from writing literature that inspires people to having the practical knowledge of how to build things to the social knowledge of how to manage relationships, create and hold space and see yourself as the gatekeeper and not the possessor, how to relinquish control and allow stuff to happen organically, and, how to have discipline to turn up and work and inspire.  One of the things is also creating the relationships with the PLCs and have them believe in you.  You have to come with a proper proposal and a plan and some sort of strategy.

It’s no mean feat.  You need to have a bit of self confidence and self love, because there’s been so many times when you think:  ‘Should I just walk away?'”

Wheale looks around at what he and his team have created, and continues:

“It’s not an easy task and it looks great because it’s come through the really hard work of people that believe in it.  But the only way to have more of these gardens is if the communities run them, themselves.  I’d like to provide consultancy and maybe have some sort of a manual and some Youtube videos.”

 

image

 

“You’ve got to be the change you want to see in the world.  One of the beauties of consciousness is that you can learn by doing.  You don’t have to necessarily know how to do, before you do.  There needs to be a certain conviction and a direction of purposeful intention that you go towards a goal and stick with it.  Appreciate the down times and have gratitude for when it’s all coming together.  You just have to start and you’ll find your way.  And you may have a couple of false starts but it’s about the personal journey.

We’re all destined for greatness as long as we tread that road.”

 

image

 

As is our practice at TTDOG, we asked Wheale:

For what are you grateful and where do you find your greatest joy?

 

“I’m grateful for the experience to experience life. We are eternal spirits that have entered a soul to experience this space time.  And I’m grateful for the tools that I have to experience it.  I’m just happy to try to make the most use of them as I can in my lifetime and hopefully encourage others to live to the maximum of our potential and the fullness of our being.”

 

James Wheale, enjoying the community gathering at Nomadic Community Gardens’ 1st Anniversary Party

 

“My greatest joy is in that experience: the emotions that come from the sensory communications that we have in our life.  As much joy as I can feast myself on, really.  And not without sadness.  I think sadness is as valid an emotion as joy and happiness is.  You need to sit with your pain and work through your demons and I think that everybody has insecurities and everyone has something traumatic happen to them and those are the two defining experiences of our lives, and those are the important things to work on.  

Once you work on those, the door is open for more joy.”

 

Nomadic Community Gardens is located off Brick Lane and is open Monday – Sunday 10 am to 10 pm.  The garden hosts special events and workshops daily. Meeting of Styles UK will hold a major event on the UK bank holiday 27, 28, 29th in the garden with dozens of artists gathering in an annual Paint Jam. The public is welcome to come and watch live painting, enjoy food, music and drinks in a relaxed community setting.

 

image

Meeting of Styles wall organised by artist Jim Vision and End of The Line. Various artists are represented.

 

For other events, and to follow Nomadic Community Gardens or to contact James Wheale, click the links to be directed to the Facebook page, Twitter account, or Website.

 

Art, Articles, Meditation, Music, Nature, Oneness, The Practices

Why I choose Art in times of crisis

November 16, 2015
Inside the Musée D'Orsay, Paris France. Photo by Tania D Campbell

Inside the Musée D’Orsay, Paris France. Photo by Tania D Campbell

In 2001, I was living and working in Lower Manhattan. My boyfriend, my social circle, and my spiritual community were all in Manhattan. It was home.

My home came under attack.  I was consumed by the news.  It ate away at my insides.  And then, I turned it off.

Two days after the attacks on New York in 2001, my boss closed the studio and we went to look at art on the upper west side. I can’t even remember what art gallery we went to that day, but I do remember being on the roof and in the presence of incredible sculptures and seeing a sky not filled with smoke, for a change.

That day began my experience of communion, through art.

The very nature of art is to interrogate our perceptions of reality, to question what makes us human, to strip away all that is unnecessary in order to find the essence.  The ultimate aim of art is simply one thing only: Truth.

 

Truth, it has been said, is the preserve of the artist, the poet and the mystic.

 

Some would say that Truth is also the preserve of religion and the press.   The spin doctors of political agenda use the media to incite and divide the public.  Our press is owned by corporations with profit motives that dictate certain agendas.  Information is delivered in reductionist snippets and hashtags. There is neither discourse nor freedom in most of the ways we consume “news” from the press.  How can a media so constructed deliver the Truth?  I question whether it can ever even deliver the facts.

I have not lost my faith in the power of the word. I do believe in discourse and the power of the word to persuade. I believe in being informed and taking reports from a wide variety of sources. I believe in listening to scholars and experts and in discussing what is being said. But all of that simply delivers opinion.

Oh I do believe in words.  Words, like all art, can approximate the Truth.  But it is not their content which provides our insight.  Words may only have the power to approximate Truth through the ambiguity of the spaces between those well chosen words.

As in music, it is the silences that give words their meaning.

 

As for religion, it has long been the organising force around which wars have been fought.  Religion became the rallying force for a political agenda driven through the media. Since 2001, the combination of religion and the media has lead to wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, and violent acts of terrorism in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Europe and North America.

It remains so, now, as crusade and counter crusade strike a chord of familiarity in our collective unconsciousness, whose shared history is one of bloodshed and violence as much as peace and progress.  Currently, there is a lot of talk about the crusades and apocalyptic thinking of a certain group of terrorists.

I am an Interfaith Minister and I chose that path because I believe in the Truth of Oneness that lies at the heart of all of humanity regardless of belief.  It is a rejection of the divisive power of Religions to embrace all faiths and all paths of light whose aim is to seek the Truth  – including the paths of atheism and of science.    There are some that call this a nonsense path in the face of opposing ideologies born in the Middle Ages.  They are entitled to their beliefs, as well. And beliefs are simply that: they are not facts and they are not Truth.

And the argument goes: But how can we stand aside and do nothing when one side has already set up camp on the battlefield?  It is a good argument, if we look at the logic and the rhetoric and if we choose to believe that our God takes sides.

And yet, setting up battle camps on either side of this line, will surely, with today’s technology of killing, usher in a bloody war that we may well wish would unleash the apocalypse.

 

The mystic knows that in every religion, there is one way to know God. It is not from the pulpit nor on the battlefield.  God, in all religions, is revealed in the silence of the heart.

And if we choose to kill God and all concepts of God, we find that it is in the silence of meditation, contemplation, and communion with art and with nature that we can experience what we might call Oneness.

 

As the world struggles to make sense of an outer existence that has once again shown itself to be chaotic, distressing and unpredictable, I choose to turn off the media barrage and seek the one unchanging Truth of Oneness.

I meditate, I send healing to the hearts of family and friends of the dead and for the passage of the souls of the dead, and of course, I cry.  I make inquiries of friends who have been impacted and I listen.  I select my news and I engage in discourse with a variety of sources.  And, with a meditative stillness, I turn to contemplation and communion with art.

On Friday evening, as events were beginning in Paris, I was leaving the Giacometti exhibition in London.  It was an uplifting and deeply moving exhibition.  In describing his own process, Giacometti referred to the material from which he formed his sculptures as the illusion, itself. He sought to pare down the superfluous to reveal the presence of the living essence of being – not of any particular person – but of us all.

In the spaces between the words, in the silence of our hearts, in quiet contemplation with nature and with art, the Oneness of being calls to us constantly because we are a part of it.  We can choose to enhance its light or to shroud it in darkness by what we bring into our collective unconsciousness, our very essence of being.

 

What will you choose, this week?

 

 

Articles, Joy, Music

The Joy of Jesse Cook

September 30, 2015
Photo: Marcin Nowak

Photo: Marcin Nowak

 

Widely regarded as one of the world’s foremost Nuevo Flamenco guitarists, Jesse Cook wrapped up the West Coast leg of his Canadian tour on Monday night at Chilliwack’s Hub Theatre And Cultural Centre.  With a seating capacity of 550, this intimate venue was filled with an ephemeral upsurge of joyous energy as Jesse Cook and his band threw a rollicking rumba party.

Arriving in Canada from France and Barcelona as a youth, Cook was recognized as a guitar prodigy, and trained as a classical, flamenco and jazz guitarist.  Cook has always sought to work with the world’s finest jazz, flamenco and world-beat musicians.  His newest album, “One World” includes a worldwide mix of such talent and achieves a blend of world music, flamenco and gypsy sounds, weaving new and ancient rhythms from east and west into what has been hailed, in the Whole Note Magazine as “a joyous celebration of alpha wave stimulation and artistic globalism.”

Cook’s band are equally some of the world’s finest musicians in the genre, and many have played with him for over 15 years.  Cook generously featured them throughout the performance and opened the show with each member layering note upon note until Cook took the stage. Violinist Chris Church opened the evening with rapid and crisp string fingering virtuosity.  Church was soon accompanied by one of the other finest flamenco guitarists Nic Hernandez and  shortly Dennis Mohammed took the stage on bass, until the band was completed with Alberto Suarez on percussion.  When Cook took the stage, the audience erupted in adoration for one of the world’s finest musicians that Canada has been quick to claim as their own.

Cook moved the audience with his melancholy Three Days and held them spellbound with Baghdad, following tales by Cook of the impact of 6th century persian music on all music in the world today. Cook lured the audience to their feet with an up-tempo rumba jam in the second set, and built to a joyous crescendo with such favourites as Shake. The  highlight of the performance, however, came in the second encore when the band performed an acoustic version of their 15 year old and greatest hit,  – a cover of the Crowded House ballad, Fall at Your Feet.  Without urging, 550 voices softly sang the chorus back to the band members.  It was a moment of Oneness as if the audience was expressing gratitude to the band for all the years of wonderful world music.

 

A quick survey following the show confirmed that this was, for those interviewed, the best performance they could remember, from any band.  Some claimed it to be the best concert of their lives. Smiles on all the faces were testament to the joyous celebration that only a Jesse Cook rumba party can bring.

Cook and his band now head south of the border for a USA west coast tour and return to the east coast of North America in late autumn/early winter.

In a world where joy is sometimes hard to find, “One World” delivers.  Tour dates and further information are available on Jesse Cook’s website.

Art, Art, Articles, Community, Music, Oneness

From social phenomena to Social Movement: Food of War

September 25, 2015

Amidst the refugee crisis in Europe, the UK visit of the Dalai Lama, and the celebration in Trafalgar Square of UN World Peace Day, last night, a new Social Movement, Food of War, celebrated its launch event to raise awareness of the linkages between food and war.

Visitors to BSMT space in Dalston were greeted with a multi-media and multi-sensorial event.  Music and films played in various alcoves, while paintings and photography challenged the viewer to interrogate the relationship between food and conflict while food and drinks piqued the taste buds as well as the collective unconsciousness.  The aim was to make connections between the sensory experience and the intellectual understanding of the represented conflicts.

In the statement by the collective, we are reminded that:

 

“Above all, food is about power”

 

Visitors saw this power-play in the intersections of the various food and art to be experienced.  Sugar cane juice enlivened the taste buds with the familiar but richer, more essential, flavour of South America as we gazed on Omar Castañeda’s painting “Raped Seeds: Farmers vs Government – Sugar Cane” which depicts farmers greeting police with the traditional Colombian drink.  Peasants opposed the Colombian government in 2013 for offering no protection to small farmers under Free Trade Agreements or against big agri-businesses like Monsanto.  This opposition, depicted as violent in the press, began as a peaceful but political protest through the universal act of hospitality – sharing of food.

 

"Raped Seeds: Farmers vs Government - Sugar Cane" by Omar Castañeda

“Raped Seeds: Farmers vs Government – Sugar Cane” by Omar Castañeda

 

Unlike the Colombian farmer who battles to compete and preserve their heritage seed, Food of War aims to metaphorically plant the seed in the minds of the public and other artists to begin to engage in thought and dialogue around both the current relationships and heritage of Food and War.

Other works evoked different conflicts.  A short film by Omar Castaneda and Monica Rubio about the traditional Spanish food, Las Gachas,  combined with the taste of the food itself, evoked, for visitors the hardships and resilience of the people during the Spanish Civil War.  In another alcove, a documentary film by Quintina Valero accompanied by Italian salad represented the triumph of local communities despite long standing conflicts with the Mafia.  Finally, an offering of hummus sat upon a cloth embroidered with a hummus recipe in several languages, representing the conflict in the middle east.  All visitors were treated to a slice of cake which bore the edible inscription of the Food of War Manifesto

Photography from the ‘Maiden Women’ project by Omar Castaneda and Quintina Valero documents the role of women and food in the conflict in the eastern Ukraine.

“Maiden Women” by Omar Castañeda and Quintina Valero. Photo by Quintina Valero, courtesy of Food of War.

 

In the final room, a short film by Omar Castaneda  juxtaposes violent images of police assault and peasant protest with haunting and powerful music by Carolina Munoz.  Work by the opera singer Hyalmar Mitrotti was also represented.

Upon entering the gallery, the visitor was confronted by the painting “Food Inc. Refugees” by Omar Castaneda, which challenges the viewer to make the connections between the way in which our humanity has been called into question over the refugee crisis in Europe.  This is represented by the desperate refugees found dead in a lorry normally used to transport dead battery farmed chickens.

 

Omar Castañeda With his painting "Food Inc. Refugees"

Omar Castañeda With his painting “Food Inc. Refugees”

Before the launch, I had the opportunity to discuss the Food of War with three of the members of the collective, Omar Castaneda, Hernan Barros and Quintina Valero.

 

Tell us about your organisation, how it was founded and what are your aims?

image

Omar Castañeda

Omar:  In 2010 we travelled to Palestine and Israel and we saw this connection of food.  It was really important in those areas.

For example, to go to a checkpoint you have to leave all your food, if you’re going from the Palestine to the Israeli territories but going the other way,  it is no problem. So we thought okay, there are pretty interesting objects and subjects and ideas that we can develop.

We saw all these problems that they had with food and how they managed to appropriate Western brands and make their own in Palestine.  There was this kind of ‘fight’ in a way.  I  want to be a part of it but the world doesn’t want to let us be a part.  So we thought okay there’s something important happening around these foods.  We – Monica Rubio and I – spent three weeks there.  We started working with the project until Monica became busy with having a family and Hernan Barros came on board as part of the art collective.  We started developing the whole idea, as a group, and we started writing The Manifesto.

 

Hernan Barros

Hernan Barros

Hernan:  There was a lot of discussion with Monica in the beginning because she is a documentarian, Omar is a visual artist and I work with visual effects and I write.  So, in the beginning we were thinking this could be a documentary or this could be a cookbook or an exhibition and then we started debating and we thought this could be a Movement so everyone would be welcome to contribute in different ways.  And, now we have associated artists.  At one point a singer approached us and I thought: “What?” and then Omar said “Of course she can, she can be a part of it!”

Omar and I collaborated and then Quintina joined the movement, once we decided this could be a movement.  Quintina is a photojournalist which brings a completely different angle to the work.  She is more “hands on” –  like a street fighter.  She is the type of professional that goes out, takes pictures and interacts with the community and so she brings that quality, which was a little lacking in us, until then.

When she came along, she really liked the idea and she said let’s go to the Ukraine – something is happening in the Ukraine – and so Omar and Quintina went there and worked for over a month.  The way that she has really influenced the movement is to be more hands on and interacting with the community.

And so, we welcome everyone who can, in a creative way, explore the relationship between food and war through art, ideally under the principles of our Manifesto, and raise awareness of ongoing and past conflicts.

 

Omar:  For us its really important to have the experience from the people; from the situation.  Quintina has the press card so she can travel to places that I cannot, but I’d like to.  So it was really interesting the way we collaborated because she is a photojournalist and I am an artist and so sometimes we clash because we have different approaches but I learned a lot from her and she learned a lot from me and we learned how to work together and how to do a project as a collective.

We want to plant the seeds in the minds of people to think that every time we eat something, there is something behind that.  Nowadays its so easy to go to the supermarket and we don’t think where food comes from so that’s something we want to do – to make people aware of what’s behind the produce that we eat.

 

Tell us about your name: Why Food of War and not Food of Peace?

Hernan:  We were just discussing this yesterday and we were saying that it is in times of peace that we appreciate the consequences of war and we are grateful that we are not at war.  But it is when we are at war that there is this power play, all the time, and that is what we like to explore because food, above all things, is about power.  In war, there is a clash of power.  We are not pro war, we just like to observe it and dissect it, through food.

Omar:  Through our research for our projects we have realised that the things we have nowadays have come from the times of war.  We don’t think these two things (food and war)  belong together but actually they are really linked.  Many of our ‘fast foods’ comes from war – tinned food which came from the Napoleonic war.

Hernan:  Think about Spanish food! Where would we be without all the ingredients the Spanish took when they invaded Latin America?  They took spices and even potatoes so there would be no patatas bravas without that conflict.  It wasn’t a war initially, it was an invasion and then it was a war with the Latin American uprising.  And before that, when the Muslims invaded Spain and continued to influence them for some 800 years, it really influenced the food.  The Moors were powerful so they took what they wanted from the farms but they didn’t eat pork so the pigs were left for the farmers.  So the peasants maximized what they could get from the animal.  That’s why we have chorizo and all the pork based foods from Spain.  They used everything – they even ate the ears.  All the food that remains when we go on a gastronomic tour of Spain is a direct consequence of war.  We eat these in times of peace but they come from times of war.

 

What wars are within scope of interrogation in reciprocal relation to food?

Omar:  I’m obsessed with food.  I’m really passionate about food.  All my projects began because there was a fight between my father and my mother to get control of the kitchen.  In order to show that they had power they decided to buy a fridge.  My mother bought a fridge and then my father decided to buy a bigger fridge to show: “I’ve got money, I’ve got the power.”  And then my mother did the same.  In the end, we had 7 fridges.  And we weren’t allowed to eat the food inside the fridge.

I know its weird.  But that’s an example of how domestic violence can start it off.

Hernan:  We haven’t explored that since we created the movement.  We started working with wars between countries and religions but we are open to do a piece like that.  So far we haven’t but that doesn’t mean we aren’t interested.  We are open if an artist comes with an interesting proposal that isn’t about war between two countries or two religions, but maybe conflict between two communities or neighbourhoods.

Omar:  So its not just war,  its the relationship between food and conflict.  For example I can have a problem with Hernan and probably I can sort it out over sharing food.  In the gallery we have a film with a song about the conflict between the peasants and the government and Monsanto in Colombia so its not just about war between countries, in this case it was within my own country.  We like to explore all of that.

Quintina Valero

Quintina Valero

Quintina: Yes, carrying on with the same theme, we are exploring a future project around conflicts around water.  I have some experience from Spain and how the government and communities are dealing with shortage of supply of water.  We can see that the same issues are going on in other countries.  So, it is not just food, either.  It is food and water and the interactions.  And its great to get to work together because everyone brings ideas.

We get so many people sharing things we’d like to explore.  At least it gets people starting to think about it.

Hernan:  Yes, its like therapy.  Last time I was here in this space at the gallery opening, I was talking to people and I say what I do and everyone says – “Oh well, in my country…”

Omar:  It’s when you say the two words together that people make the connection.  That’s why we aren’t called Food of Peace, because when you put the two together, people say their personal stories.  “Food and War?  Oh, my brother dah dah dah…”

 

Your manifesto refers to your group as a movement and that you don’t take sides in your works or have any party affiliation, the word movement implies evolution and change at the level of civil society.  How does this manifest with your movement?

Quintina:  What we try to do, where there is a conflict, and it is possible, we try to see both sides and document both sides of the story.  For example in the Ukraine, there is a conflict in the East.  We try to show both sides.  At the moment there is only one part in the show but the other part is coming.  Without being on one side or the other, we try to raise awareness of the issues.  We want to show both sides so they see that the same problems are shared.

Omar:  However, we document the wars and the issues but we want to go further and we are planning to do more about those issues.  We see ourselves as helping those people that are in conflict,  building bridges between the parties that are in conflict.  We think we have a social agenda.

Quintina:  But, we are also artists…

Hernan:  We’re people!  We’re always going to have a side, whether we want it or not,  and maybe it leaks into the work.  You try to be impartial but maybe they don’t even let you go there to the other side .  If  we tried to do something on North and South Korea, we probably couldn’t go to North Korea and then people will think hmmm…

Quintina:  Yes, even in the Ukraine I had that problem.  I was with the journalists and as soon as someone was publishing on social media, they would decide you were working with the rebels and wouldn’t let you go to that area.  So its quite difficult sometimes.  At least if we can only cover one side we try to have someone else cover the other.  We try to be neutral.

We work in different ways and we are always learning.  We are learning about the issues, we are learning about each other and we are learning from the food.  We want to make others aware as well.

Hernan:  Yes, it’s like people can go – “Oh, I didn’t know there was something happening there.  I didn’t know there was an issue with food in Western Sahara”

Omar:  We are working on something now for the 30th anniversary of Chernobyl.  We did an exhibition with photographs and propaganda but we are also doing a documentary from different countries.  That is coming.

 

How and why have you selected the dishes and pieces in the show, today?

Omar: We are showing 7 works here tonight and we decided to take the works from artists that have been working with us for a long time and that have most relevance to our message.  We chose the food that is familiar to the audience coming today so that they can understand what we’re talking about.

Hernan:  Like for instance we took the Las Gachas, Hummus and Italian salad, we have a cake with our manifesto and we have a sugar cane drink to represent the Colombian conflict.  And I will ask people to write on edible paper with edible ink.  So we cover the Spanish civil war, the middle east conflict, the mafia control in Italy, Colombia peasant opposition and also the Ukraine conflict and the European refugee crisis.

 

What would you like visitors to take away from this event?

Omar:  This is a multidisciplinary art collective so there are multidisciplinary things going on.  There are no borders.  Food is part of the art, food is part of the cooking, food is something to help you think about the works while you’re eating.

Something is going to happen to them like:  “Oh really, I didn’t know about this conflict…wow, hummus…is that going there?  Oh the immigrants…”  And this idea of  carrying away the dead immigrants the way they carry away dead chickens.

I think people are going to start making links through all of these connections.

Hernan: We’re aiming at that connections that normally you don’t make when you are tasting something.  I call it the forgotten sense – tasting.  The other senses you use for basic survival but you also use them for aesthetic pleasure.  But with food, there is very little sense of intellectual connections of something happening behind this or the consequences that brought this dish here.  A dish is like a biopsy of what has happened.  It’s like cutting a slice of time and space and anything – financially, culturally or socially – can be reflected through a dish.

We are aiming for that to happen if not in this exhibition then it will be the seed for it to start.

Omar:  This is our seed and we want to plant the seed for the movement in every person that comes today and make them think.

Quintina: We are open, we are looking for people to come into the group or even some ideas for future projects.  It’s just the beginning.

 

What is the role of community in the themes you address?

Quintina:  The way we work is we do research on the problem or conflict, the food related to it, and then when we go there, we interview people from all aspects of the community and then, when we can, we offer a workshop to give back to the community and to include food and drawing and art.

We try to bring a seed to open a door to come back and also to work with local artists.  It’s very interactive way we work with the community.

Omar:  Also, we contact NGOs or people working in the countries to be able to go to places we need to go, or to give us ideas of where and how to work in the area.  Thanks to one of the NGOs we got to go to one of the refugees camps in the Ukraine and that was really powerful.  We want to be part of the that to understand the whole situation.

 

What is the greatest hope for this collective movement? What would be a dream-come-true?

Hernan:  To work with as many artists as we can, to increase our knowledge and to raise awareness of as many conflicts as possible.  To reach as many people as   possible.

Omar:  Yes, that’s exactly it.

Quintina:   Yes and there are many ways of collaborating.  When we went to the Ukraine, they arranged a translator for us, sometimes they give us accommodation, we also hope to be connected to other artist collectives, and people from galleries who want to exhibit our work.  There are many ways we can work with people together.

Omar:  Yes but at the moment it is just ourselves funding the project…

Quintina: …and we’ve had to delay our second part of the Ukraine project because there isn’t enough funding.

Hernan:  We are looking for applying for funding for our projects.  We are just at the beginning and we are proving ourselves, still.

Omar:  Today we are making our statement and people can talk about us for better or worse and we are putting ourselves on the map.

 

And finally, because it is the nature of this particular magazine to ask:  For what are you most grateful in relation to this work?

Quintina:  I am very grateful to be invited to be part of Food of War and the first time they spoke to me about the collective 2 years ago I was very interested and excited and I was pleased when they invited me to be part of the collective.  Since then, I have learned a lot from the way they work and the way we work together and the possibilities I’ve had to work on very interesting projects so its very exciting to be part of the group and doing what we do.

Hernan:  For me, it is the opportunity to rescue the forgotten sense – taste – and to take it to another level.  Every time that I meet someone and I see the way they eat and their cultural background,  I am seeing the world through a different lens.  I am very grateful because I had that in me  but I didn’t know how to channel it.  Food of War has given me the excuse to channel it and to pursue it.  I don’t just have Vietnamese food because it tastes so good.  There is a whole story about how Vietnamese food has evolved through all different wars, through the French invasion, through the Chinese invasion and through the war with the Americans.  When you find a eureka moment, when you make all these connections, it makes you happy and you want to share it with everyone.  And it’s not just past conflicts; when it’s about current conflicts its even more powerful.

Omar:  I’m grateful to understand that food is a very powerful tool to communicate with people and communities.  It’s something we take for granted.  I don’t know how to explain it.  I’m so pleased that working on these projects has given me the ‘salt’ to be happier and to learn more about war as well.  Food has that other meaning.

And I would like to thank two of the artists in the show who are not with us today, Carolina Munoz and Hyalmar Mitrotti.

 

Food of War exhibition is on until 30 September at BSMT Space, 5 Stoke Newington Road, N16 8BH, London.

 

“Tantrum” courtesy of Food of War

 

Follow, engage and collaborate with Food of War at:

Website:  http://www.foodofwar.org/

Twitter: @foodowar

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/foodofwar?fref=ts

Articles, Gratitude, Music, Oneness

Centre Stage: Dan Shears & The Velveteen Orkestra

September 9, 2015
Dan Shears featured on Ten Thousand Days of Gratitude.com

Dan Shears & The Velveteen Orkestra (Photo by: Plainview Media)

“While weaving tales of love, heartache and fantasy in his intensely dark and mystical style, Dan Shears is proving himself to be one of London’s more interesting and captivating artists…”

(www.danshearsmusic.com)

I first encountered Dan Shears in 2012 at Union Chapel. He was opening for another folk singer, Charlene Soraia.  Charlene was riding a wave of popularity following a successful commercial campaign for Twinnings tea which used her cover of The Calling’s song “Wherever You Will Go.”

When Dan took the stage, the room fell into an awed hush as our senses were captivated and our hearts were lost.   His bio describes his sound:

 

“Beautiful, flowing vocal melodies, with lyrics that bring to mind carnivalesque lullabies written by a much older soul, cascade over delicate and intricate guitar work and songs so immersed in passion and pathos that they’re sure to haunt the memory long after the first listen…”

Dan Shears has played gigs throughout the UK and Europe and has garnered himself a loyal following.  Quirky, witty and waif-like, his angelic voice floats through dark lyric and complex melodies causing audiences to swoon as he sings of longing, loss and revenge.  Sometimes playing solo, often accompanied by Megan Affonso’s enigmatic harmonies and cello, and by Sarah Boughton on the violin, the sweeping orchestral richness of his sound is fully realized when the full Velveteen Orkestra takes the stage.

 

This evening, London will be treated to such an event at the Karamel Club (Chocolate Factory, 2 Coburg Road, Wood Green, London N22 6UJ ) as part of a Pledge Music event.  I caught up with Dan about tonight’s gig and his upcoming first album, Shadow & Whimsy and asked him about the process of crowd funding his first album.

 

You’ve had a really great crowd funding campaign!

I was very nervous about launching a crowd funding campaign in the beginning.  There is a real risk that you could look really silly in public if you don’t get the interest you were hoping for.  When we launched and people started pledging and sharing the campaign online, I was thrilled but also a little relieved.  We reached our target 2 weeks before the deadline which was great, because now it means we can continue running the campaign right up until we release our album.  It is wonderful to have had so much interest but most importantly, I am so excited to get the album finished and hear it complete, all the way through for the first time. 

 

You’re headlining tonight at the Karamel Club as a result of that campaign – Can you tell us more about that?

I think it’s more to do with us having more band members than the other acts, if I’m honest.  There are other people playing who seem on far more people’s radar.  I certainly won’t get carried away by the fact that we’re playing last, it’s just nice to have been invited to play off the back of our PledgeMusic campaign.  We’ll put on a good show and hopefully let a few more people know about us. 

I understand you’ve had a challenging journey to get this album made?

Actually, since we began making this album, it has been a joy.  The lead up was hard though.  Our third EP was recorded and pretty much complete but then was lost.  A great deal of time and energy was spent trying to get it back but to no avail.  It got to a point where I considered knocking music on the head and just spending my spare time going to watch my football team instead… perhaps if Millwall had been having a better season at the time, things might have turned out differently.  After all that time we decided to draw a line under the music that we lost, put a load of new songs together and make our first album.  Although it has taken a while, making this album has felt very liberating and has definitely brought us together even more, not only as a band, but as a group of friends.

 

How does the new album differ from your previous EPs? 

The new album (Shadow & Whimsy) is heavier than the previous EPs but there are still a lot of elements that have remained in our music.  We are always influenced by European folk music and Americana but with some of these new songs, we have added a bit more bite that I guess is reminiscent of bands we love like Queens of the Stone Age and Masters of Reality.  The horrible situation with the lost third EP bred a lot of anger and frustration, so some of the new songs started to come out a lot more aggressive.  We have really tried to use the instruments to add drama and paint pictures.  The strings and brass instruments add a real elegance in songs like ‘Pound of Flesh’ and ‘Waltz in Viscera’ but there are also songs such as ‘Hook in Your Head’ and ‘The Bloody Anthem’ where they sound like a horror soundtrack.  The last 45 seconds of ‘The Bloody Anthem’ sounds like a thumping gypsy dance around the roaring fires of hell.

 

 

That sounds amazing! I’m curious to know more about the band and how you chose the name? 

Quite a lot of things about our band are juxtaposed.  Musically, artistically and sonically we are both: – elegant yet unrefined; noble yet savage; pompous yet inferior.  We have a sound that some might consider to be nodding towards the baroque composers, yet we do it with a degree of venom and snarl that somewhat tarnishes or humbles that ornate, gilded beauty.  Our lost EP was going to be titled ‘The Street Urchin Opera’ which was kind of leaning on the same theme.  Velveteen is a very cheap material made to look like something very expensive and luxurious so we thought it was a good way of describing a group of penniless musicians playing passionate, operatic music.  The album title of  “Shadow & Whimsy” is another reference to those opposed themes.

 

How did you first get into music, Dan?  Mandolin is rather unusual – How did that come about? 

Joining a band was always something I wanted to do even when I was very young.  I sang in my first band at school when I was 12 just doing Beatles and Kinks songs.  I began teaching myself the guitar soon after that and began writing songs as soon as I could put a few chords together.  Writing songs was always the goal, right from the beginning.  I think I was always drawn towards those dark, melancholic folk sounds but it took a lot of time to actually discover that was the case and where I could find that kind of stuff.  When I began finding out more about the folk music that I liked from various parts of the world, I realised that the mandolin was quite often used so I bought one and decided the learn.  If you can play the guitar then it’s not a difficult transition to the mandolin.

What is your writing process and your inspiration for the haunting melodies and lyrics that are a Dan Shears signature?  What part does the Velveteen Orkestra play in the writing process?

I can’t really be mechanical when it comes to writing, I could never force a song out of me.  Sometimes a song will be complete all but for the lyrics for months before it gets finished.  Suddenly the melodies and word spaces that I’ve been “humm”-ing or “la la”-ing for several months, will align with each other and the words come.  I want people to form a relationship with our music in the same way that I have with my favourite artists.  For me, a compelling melody is your first line of communication. Your melody is like your first kiss with your listener and your lyrics are the warm embrace and the flutter in the heart that says they want keep you in their life.  The Velveteen Orkestra is wonderful at enhancing the aesthetic of the songs.  Illuminating the mood and imagery that emanates from the lyrics or the chords.

 

Well, you’ve certainly fluttered the heart of this fan!  Your lyrics are rather dark.  Should we be worried about you, Dan?  Worried about those who live with you? 

You should all be worried… I’m coming for each and every one of you haha.  I’ve always been drawn towards art that is darker in nature.  I wrestle with the darker thoughts that reveal themselves in my head and exorcise them by putting them on the page rather than letting them fuel anything destructive.  I find being onstage, quite liberating as well.  I share things in songs, I’d be far less inclined to share in life.  I can be a me that I’m a little frightened of being out in the world.

 

Are there any other collaborations in which you are engaged and any other media in which you’d like to work that you haven’t yet?  Why does that interest you?

I have sung vocals on an album with Woody Woodgate from Madness which has been my main collaboration in recent times.  Woody used to teach at my school when I was doing A-Levels so we’ve known each other for a long time.  I hadn’t spoken to him since I left school however, so I dropped him a message one day and he said how spooky it was because he was actually trying to find me so he could ask if I would sing on his album.  Charlene (Soraia) and I have talked about maybe doing a duet one day, that might be fun.  I would envisage it to be something similar to that song Nick Cave did with Kylie.

 I would very much like to get involved in film.  Our music kind of veers towards the cinematic so I think it would be great to get involved with a film project.  A song from the new album is being used in a film over here but it would be great to try and compose some music especially for a film.

Your Pledge Music campaign is still running and there are all sorts of goodies and special offers including a pre-order of your new album, Shadow & Whimsy.  Where can people find those offers ?

Yes!  I have done a little video appeal you’re welcome to share and people can find the album pre-order and other offers at my Pledge Music site:

 

http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/shadowandwhimsy

Can we give the readers a little sample of your music?

Sure, our video for ‘Dressed Up in Sables’ from Shadow & Whimsy is still in editing but will be out soon.  We have a video by Plainview Media of our song ‘The Rest is Silence’ from our first EP, The Eternal Mystery of the Human Heart.  It is softer than our current album but it will give you a flavour of our sound.

 

Where can people follow you?

Everything is under Dan Shears music – that’s Shears like the shears you cut with, because nothing says Rock n Roll like gardening equipment. 

 

Facebook:  www.facebook.com/danshearsmusic

Website:  www.danshearsmusic.com

Twitter:  @danshearsmusic

 

And my final question for you, Dan is this – For what are you most grateful, in this moment?

I am most grateful for my family.

Art, Articles, Community, Gratitude, Milestone, Music, Oneness

Celebrating 365 Days of Gratitude

August 16, 2015

QrXgXMhCSouyhU7idq7g_IMG_8402

For those who could not attend Sunday’s milestone celebration of reaching 365 Days of Gratitude….

I am not one for big speeches but I wanted to just take a moment to thank you all for marking with me the passage of a milestone of 365 days of Gratitude practice. Well that’s Actually a year of Gratitude, Joy, Oneness and Service.

I realise that some of you have followed me on Facebook some have followed my blog and some had no idea I was doing this at all. It really wasn’t something I set out a year ago to do but as is the nature of the process, it kind of snowballed.

What began as a Facebook meme to post 3 things daily for which I am grateful quickly became a daily practice of appreciating 3 good things and noticing moments of joy. I felt the positive effects of the practice quickly and soon added a component of daily service and a daily practice of nurturing empathy, connection, compassion, awe and purpose.  What started as a 7 days commitment snowballed into 21 days, a month, 3 months, 6 months, 9 months and now…a year of Gratitude, Joy, Oneness and Service.

And while we celebrate this milestone of a year, I am happy – and a little scared – to commit today to Ten Thousand Days of Gratitude practice and to continue to write about it. For you keen mathematicians and accountants here today, you will already have calculated that by the time I reach that milestone I will be more than 27 years old….er. 27.2 to be exact.  If I am still around at that point, I will renew my vows, then.

You might wonder why I am making such a big commitment…well, it’s simple… After studying to write drama and fiction, I quit writing stories several years ago because I just couldn’t find my way to writing a happy ending.  Writing about gratitude (and joy, oneness and service) has given me both the experience of and the ability to write about happiness.  I think those who have been on the whole journey will agree that I have blossomed and I intend to see it through to the end.

I have already written a year’s worth of gratitude journals and observations on the practice and now it’s time to focus on shaping that into a book. I am also launching a new web magazine Ten ThousandDaysofGratitude.com and I am working to find a way to use my skills to work with the UK charity Action For Happiness.

My wish, if I can put it out there, is that others will pick up the practices and this will spread. So please, do spread the website far and wide.

I want to thank Ruth from Canvas café for giving us this space, Street Art curator, Greg Key (Instagram: @speckles76) for leading our lively street art tour, Dan Shears for providing us with some of his music, Luke Harvest for his work on setting up the website, C Michael Frey for the logo design, Faith Amy Romeo and Natasha Westover for being gratitude wall guardians, Debbie Heath for the original 7 day Facebook challenge, Paula Montgomery for prompting me to add Joy, all the street artists of London for the beautiful art that gave me so much joy, and Louis Masai for agreeing to be my first interview on my focus for the year ahead – Service. It hasn’t happened yet so watch for it in upcoming posts.  A big thank you to all my readers here and overseas.

And of course I want to thank You all for being a part of my life. You have each been a part of my daily practice. Without you, I wouldn’t have much to say.

So, here’s to you. Thank you.

 

 

A Street Art Walk in Celebration of all the Street Art of London that has been part of the Joy of this year!

Greg Key, Street Art Exhibition Curator and Photographer took us around today and highlighted some of the works that have meant so much to me over the last year.  Greg has been one of my street art mentors this year, helping me to get to know which artist is associated with which works and to find the works I’d like to see.

After a career in the entertainment business and in hospitality, Greg’s passions for modern art and particularly street art have created the hottest new curator on the London Art scene.  He is curating his first show, “Underhand,” in London, opening 10 September, with a dazzling array of some of the finest talent on the London Streets today being represented.  Check out the show:

“Underhand”
(10-21 September)
BSMT Space
5 Stoke Newington Road
N16 8BH

Follow Greg on instagram: www.instagram.com/speckles76

 

1. Louis Masai (paint)

Louis paints about endangered species, he says, in order create awareness for beings without a voice.

Louis went on to art college in Cornwall and was rather discouraged by his teachers not to pursue art as a way to make a living.  In 2010 he moved to London where he has proved them wrong. While Louis does not like the image that the term ‘street art’ conjures and prefers to think of outdoor art as public art, his outdoor paintings in London, and particularly his campaign to save the bees (with Jim Vision) led to massive exposure of his work through social media.  Since 2010 he has had at least 3 solo shows in London and has been included in several group shows.  He continues to paint a combination of indoor and outdoor pieces with a focus on animals, giving them a human trait as human beings like to anthropomorphise animals.

  Personally: Louis Masai holds a special place in my heart.  In the midst of the first few days after leaving work, a friend posted an article about Louis.  My friend and I are both champions of environmental issues and both have a special interest in water.  I was aware of the dangers facing the honey bee, but seeing Louis work made me take street art a little more seriously than I had done.  I started following him and his work to find that he not only was concerned with the bee but also with endangered species and biodiversity loss.  Louis has worked with activists like the IUCN on the RED Endangered Species List to raise awareness through his paintings and of course he and Jim Vision created the whole bee project and worked with beekeepers, honey users in manufacturing things like candles, honey, beer and with seed companies who provided seeds that were distributed where he painted in order to help the public re-conceptualize where and how to plant seeds to protect the bee habitats.  Louis doesn’t really sit comfortably with the idea of being an activist per se.  The intersections between art and music are another area that interests him.   He considers himself an artist, but does recognize that his paintings and his visual language have a power to raise awareness and make people engage emotionally with the issues and he does make visits to schools to talk to young people about art, the environment and about music.  When it became clear to me that my friend’s mother was unwell, I made it a mission to find whatever murals still remained of Louis’ bees.  I contacted Greg here on instagram and asked the location of the murals.  I wanted to send some cheer in a very dark time to my friend.  Greg kindly offered to show them to me but given the reason why I was photographing them, I decided to go alone.  I didn’t know how serious the illness was and within hours of sending the photos, my friend’s mother passed away.  So Louis (and also, Greg) will always be a part of that tender moment. Later, I had the good fortune to be able to attend a solo show of Louis’ and I found what I already knew would be the case – a passionate, purposeful and open hearted soul with a heart breaking sensitivity to the decline in biodiversity and loss of species that is accelerating around us today.   That night,  I bought my first piece of street art as a gift to myself for my birthday.  It really was quite accessible for a painting.  Of course, it was a bee.  And I plan to buy more and support his work in the future. Follow Louis online: www.louismasai.com Follow Louis on Instagram: www.instagram.com/louismasai Follow Louis on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/louismasaimichel?fref=ts       2. Anna Laurini (paint, paintedpaste up) Anna Laurini, is an Italian painter from the abstract expressionist school who works in acrylic,collage and mixed media.  On the street her paintingsreflect a cubist style.  Her work ranges from cubist to non-representational expressionist and touches on a kind ofneo-plasticsm with abstract and vibrant geometric shapes.  Shehas been painting for more than 20 years.  She  has studied at Central Saint Martins in London and at the Art Student League in New York City and the F.I.T. in New York.  In case you’re wondering that is the Fashion Institute of Technology. For that past 10 years, she has lived and worked between London, Milan, and New York City.

  Personally: Our paths have criss-crossed for those 20 years but we only met this year.  She is Italian, as I said, but she lived in New York around the same time I did in the mid to late 1990s.  She moved to London about ten years ago and her paintings have been sold in London, New York, Australia, I asked her why she paints on the streets and she told me it was for fun and also because of the same experience I’ve mentioned from the other artists – it gets exposure.  Her street paintings currently feature the face of a woman and a man – although she has told me that if you prefer, you can see in them two women or two men.  She uses the faces and the couple because they are very quick to paint on the street and as I’m coming to understand, all artists seem to have a character that is associated with them and is in a way – their brand – though this she did not tell me, I’m just figuring this out. When I first saw her faces, I fell in love with them.  There is something very different about these pieces to the rest of the paste ups or paintings on the street.  They’re cheerful.  She must have hit the area I was walking hard because when I first noticed her faces, I suddenly saw three in one day and I was on a mission to find out who painted them.  I was certain the person behind the faces was a very interesting person, indeed.  Anna often adds the text that inspires the painting to her works – sometimes it is a quote from a philosopher and sometimes it is a song.  To me, the reason I love her paintings are that they are so vibrant and positive – something that isn’t popular in art but I think should be – her work enlivens my spirit while making me think.  You can’t get better than that as a result, from a piece of art. A sample of Anna’s paintings:  http://www.saatchiart.com/annalaurini Follow Anna on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/anna-laurini/45169637820 Follow Anna on Instagram: www.instagram.com/annalauriniblue         3. ALO (painting, hand painted paste up) The Saatchi gallery, where ALO had a solo show in 2014 describes ALO this way:

“ALO is an Italian artist based in London. His first works appeared in the streets of Perugia, Rome and Milan. Subsequently, the artist expanded his practice to include works on canvas and found materials as well as continuing to install works on walls in London, Paris, Berlin and elsewhere in Europe. The artist describes his style as ‘Urban Expressionism’.”

As mentioned, ALO was the focus of a solo exhibition, Hail to the Loser, at the Saatchi Gallery last year.

 

 

Personally:

I had taken a street art tour in 2010 and I learned some of the main artists around at that time who Greg may show you today – names like Stik, Cityzenkane, and JimmyC.  I remembered being delighted to see JimmyC paint while we were walking around Shoreditch and so when I decided to go out and find something to shoot for my new Instagram account last year, I set out to find a JimmyC painting.  Across the street was this very interesting paste up of a person that drew me from across the road.

The piece struck me as conveying the angst and energy of German expressionism between the wars with a very modern feel.  I looked all around it because his pieces often have words embedded as part of the art as if jar and force the viewer out of any intimate engagement with the representational form and designed to make you think about the image, rather than simply feel it.  At least that’s what it does for me.

I remember looking at the writing on the side and thinking AILO?  What is AILO?  I didn’t realise it was ALO but it was one of the first pieces I posted in an attempt to identify the artist.

Recently, I saw another piece of ALO’s work near Liverpool street and I noticed the word ribbon in the hair of the figure.  I really hadn’t noticed those details when I was looking at the art on the street.  Anyone who knows me knows that I like to look at art very very slowly and I take my time with a piece so you don’t really want to go to a gallery with me…I will spend the whole day there.  On the street, however, I look quickly.  I snap the shot and move on because I am influenced by the hurried feeling of being on the street in London.  When I saw that detail, I realised that I wasn’t giving these pieces their due and I decided to go out and find a piece by ALO and when I did, to let his work remind me to slow down and really take in the art on the street as if I were in a gallery.  It was a wonderful lesson for me.

Follow ALO online: www.aloart.org
A sample of ALO’s paintings at Saatchi:www.saatchistore.com/74-alo
Follow ALO on Instagram: www.instagram.com/alo_art
Follow ALO on Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/aloartofstreet?fref=ts

 

4. Skeleton Cardboard (paint)

The bio on the website for Well Hung Gallery as this to say about Skeleton Cardboard (https://wellhung.co.uk/artists/skeleton-cardboard/):

This anonymous artist has littered the streets of London with his skeleton figures for the past few years. Painted on walls around the east end of London and on discarded pieces of cardboard free for passers by to admire or to take – These macabre yet playful figures on one hand remind us of our own mortality and on the other show a whimsical take on our existence.

Like Basquiat, Skeleton Cardboard uses primitive images to challenge the consumer culture that alienates the individual in a world where technology creates the perfect image at the expense of intimacy.

Skeleton Cardboard’s recent show in Shoreditch was a smash success and he currently has installed a piece in a group show at the Lollipop Gallery in London.

 

  Personally: When I was walking around the streets in East London, I found these cheerful skeletons that looked like they were dancing and making fun of the consumer culture of the 21st century.  They made me laugh and as I anonymously appreciated and photographed the street art around town, I found the skeletons became like friends, meeting me here on Redchurch street, popping up over on Sclater street and then surprising me with a big fat hello on Bethnal Green Road.  The first ‘secret location’ show I attended (at the invitation of Savant) was Skeleton’s show in London.  A delightful man, I ventured to tell him what I thought about his art and I mentioned another famous street artist.  I hoped he wouldn’t be offended that I had to resort to a comparison, but it was the right thing to say.  He had been greatly influenced by the other artist and I was happy that the way I had interpreted his work aligned with his intent.  He has given me confidence to say what I think when I engage with art.  His work makes me smile and it also makes me think.  A sample of Skeleton Cardboard’s paintings: https://wellhung.co.uk/artists/skeleton-cardboard/ Follow Skeleton Cardboard online: www.Skeletoncardboard.tumblr.com Follow Skeleton Cardboard on Instagram: www.instagram.com/skeletoncardboard Follow Skeleton Cardboard on Facebook: Scot Bared Kolanerd / Skeletoncardboard           5. PLIN (paint) PLIN is an anonymous US based artist who works with paint and paste up.  His figures create a whimsical look at modern man in all his angst and joy.  PLIN’s art celebrates the potential of positive images to create a more thoughtful, engaged and happier community and society.

 

 

Personally:

There is a running theme in a lot of the art that has been part of my life and my practices this year has been that which is cheerful, intelligent, makes me laugh or becomes a ‘friend’ on the street.  I started noticing PLIN’s toothy faces some time ago, and for the longest time, the piece on Quaker street made me smile every time I passed it.  Like a friend saying hello on Brick Lane, the face on the corner told me to have a great day photographing art or wished me to get home safe when I was heading down to the night bus. They look a bit ferocious these faces, but to me, like an older brother that looks out for you, they are comforting.

I had the pleasure to meet the artist recently and discovered an intelligent, poetic soul.  I will never forget what PLIN said to me:  ” Street artists have a duty to paint every day here” because of the relative freedom that artists in London enjoy.  It made me think of my own writing and the fact that I have lived in reasonably free societies.  I think its a duty to write every day and maybe sometimes to say some uncomfortable truths.  That is how we defend our right to free speech and truth – by exercising it.  I am grateful to PLIN for that insight.

Follow PLIN on Instagram: www.instagram.com/monsu_plin

 

6. Fanakapan (graffiti artist and painter – paint)

Fanakapan is a British artist best known for his realistic yet whimsical and luminescent balloon animals and letters.  He is a pop artist, using commonly known images in uncommon and unexpected ways.  His images often evoke memories of childhood, sometimes evoking happier times, sometimes injecting a dark sense of humour to his images of innocence. Fanakapan works throughout Europe and in collaboration with other artists.

     Personally: It’s no surprise that these cheerful and sometimes darkly comic figures would appeal to me.  When you see Fanakapan’s balloon figures lighting up the streets, its like there is a birthday party going on everywhere.  In a difficult time in my life, Fanakapan’s art made me happy.  My favourite piece that I had the good fortune to see has been painted over but that is the beauty of photography.  In fact, when I saw it for the first time, Pharrel’s song ‘Happy’ came to mind.  I know its not a deep analysis of his work but I don’t care.  It moved me and it made me feel good.  We need more of that in this world. The very first live painting event I ever attended was because I saw that Fanakapan was advertising it on Instagram and I wanted to see the artist paint.  I was still too shy to say hi, but I loved watching the artist paint. Follow Fanakapan on Instagram: www.instagram.com/fanakapan           7. Savant (painting, paste up and collage) Savant is an anonymous British paste up artist whose art is of the original political genre of art with disruptive messages.  Savant’s work challenges the structures of society and the loss of critical thinking.  His works include both images and words and displays a wry sense of humour.  His images depict the sinister side of complacency and the death of the “individual” in the modern world.  His paste ups which use words, on the other hand, prompt the viewer to stop and to think, and moreover, to question the process of thought itself, thereby saving themselves from the oblivion that is the modern consumer culture.  Being paste up, these works are more transient than paintings and are part of a street conversation where other artists and viewers contribute to the dialogue with their own disruptive messages.  In this way, Savant is one of the artists on the London streets that is upholding and defending free speech and political discourses of the “common man on the street.”

 

 

Personally:

The first day I went out photographing street art to do something with my instagram account, I encountered several artists that I would continue to follow in the future.  Savant was one of these first.  The first piece I saw by Savant was a collage paste up that said “Art is Dead” but it had been degraded and hit by a graff who had ripped off the “Dead” and had written in the word “Jesus.”  I liked that:  Art is Jesus.  I really liked that.  It not only spoke of a dialogue between Savant and the anonymous graff, but it challenged me to think – what did I believe? – Is art dead, or is it a spiritual salvation.  For me, I knew it was the latter.

Savant was really the first artist who invited me to meet other artists.  I had given the artist a positive quality of them and their work on my How to Fall in Love with Anyone photo series on Instagram and I received and invitation to a Skeleton’s show with Savant’s partner and friends.  I felt very warmly welcomed into a world full of wonderful, creative, intelligent and positive people.  I am grateful to Savant for that and I love to find new pieces that make me think.


Follow Savant on Instagram: www.instagram.com/seanussavant
Follow Savant on Facebook: www.facebook.com/seanussavant

 

8. WRDMSTH (paint stencil and paste up)

WRDSMTH is an American artist.  He is a street artist and writer living in LA and he posts a new piece daily around the world.  His signature is a stencil painted typewriter with a pasted up saying above it.  Each of his paste ups are inspirational or romantic in nature and are designed with the feel good factor.  He began pasting up the street art in November, 2013 and intended only to continue until he had 1K Instagram followers. He currently has just shy of 50K followers and continues to post daily.  WRDSMTH has always loved street art and as a kid was intrigued by the graffiti messages he would see on walls.  After a good year creatively (ie in front of the computer) he took up street art as an active and creative outlet that would give him a daily break from the relentlessness of sitting in front of a computer screen, writing.

He was born in the Midwest, worked as an advertising copywriter and then moved to LA to pursue his dream of writing.  When asked why he has taken up street art, he has said:  “I write things on walls that I wished people would have said to me when I first moved here.” (TheLAgirl.com)

When asked for his mission statement, WRDSMTH has said “WRDSMTH aspires to inspire others on a dialy basis with colourful and well-chosen words crafted into indelible thoughts that are temporarily tattooed onto walls around the world…” (hdfmagazine.com)

  Personally: For me, WRDSMTH is extremely dear and speaks to the writer in me as well as the person who has struggled from a rather beaten down and physically unwell individual a year ago to who I am now.  In the course of trying to get well this year, I dusted off the old writing pen and paper and tapped the keyboard for months until the rust was gone and things started working again.  For me, both my writing and my sense of positivity has grown in the process and along the way, this anonymous fellow writer was sending out positive messages that, some days, I needed so very badly.  I follow him on Instagram and Facebook because I don’t always see a new piece in London but I can see a new piece daily on social media.  WRDSMTH has come to be a little bit of a cheerleader in my head and really represents for me, personally, what PLIN talks about – the positive power to street art to change the world. Follow WRDSMTH on Instagram: www.instagram.com/wrdsmth Follow WRDSMTH on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WRDSMTHinLA?fref=ts           9. D7606 (paste up) A relative newcomer to the London street art scene, anonymous paste up artist D7606 juxtaposes vibrant crayon box coloured images of iconic objects with iconic star personalities to create pop art paste ups that brighten the city streets.  A pop artist, he collaborates with other artists and has made a name for himself for being a great collaborator.  Most notably, his work is usually seen with painter and paste-up artist C-3.  The name D7606 is taken from the model of a British train engine from an era when he was a train photographer, but he is quick to note that he is not a trainspotter.  He is not an artist by trade or training but his passion for the street art he was photographing on his rambles in East London took him into creating his own works.  He takes great joy in seeing his work up on the streets of London and being seen, enjoyed and photographed by thousands of people a week.

 

 

Personally:

I knew D7606 on Instagram before I had ever seen a piece of the artist’s work.  Mr. D kindly tagged the art that I was photographing and posting on Instagram and quickly became a street art mentor to me.  When I photograph a piece of art, I am well aware that the beauty of it is all in the artist’s hand, not my camera.  My job is to hold the camera straight and still, not to add weird photos and then to give proper credit to the artist.  Mr. D helped me to do that.  I don’t actually think I would have become so interested in street art this year if it hadn’t been for Mr. D.  The day I spotted my first piece by D7606, I was so excited – here I had found a treasure left behind on the London streets by Mr. D.  I went to Upfest specifically to meet Mr. D and say thanks for all his help this year.

Follow D7606 online: www.d7606.co.uk and www.d7606.bigcartel.com/
Follow D7606 on Instagram: www.instagram.com/d7606art
and www.instagram.com/d7606
Follow D7606 on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/D7606/395466227213600?fref=ts

 

10. Zabou (stencil and freehand paint)

The Upfest Website describes Zabou (http://www.upfest.co.uk/artist/zabou)

Originally from France but based in London, Zabou is an exciting street art talent who, since bursting onto the scene in 2012 has been gaining a growing reputation for her striking art. Her images are a mixture of stencil and freehand technique, combining both sharp lines, colourful shades, dripping and splashes of paint. She plays on stereotypes and pokes fun at conformity, from spray painting nuns to satirical takes on the surveillance state.

A photo posted by Tania Campbell (@pinkstarpix) on

Personally: You will recognize Zabou’s art from the image used for the milestone event today.  Zabou’s work makes me smile and is bright and cheerful and that’s why I like it.  She is irreverent and that aligns with my own sense of humour.  I had the pleasure to briefly meet Zabou artist at Upfest and like many of the street artists we finally meet, she was nothing like I expected her to be.  Firstly, I thought she was a he.  I somehow thought that her large scale murals were the work of a man.  It was a delight to find that she was a charming young woman with the courage to be so wonderfully outspoken through her images.  There are a couple of pieces by Zabou on the streets of Paris that I hope to see.  They are much more poignant and beautiful.  I’d very much like to see that side of her art. Follow Zabou online: www.zabou.me Follow Zabou on Instagram: www.instagram.com/zabouartist Follow Zabou on Facebook: www.facebook.com/zabou.artist

 

The Music of 365 Days of Gratitude

Dan Shears EP’s were available for those who attended as a little thank you for coming.    A little taster from Dan’s Youtube channel for those who could not make it:

As you know, Music is one of the things for which I am most grateful.  And, over the year, I have written many times about how much I am grateful for music.  Many times it has been for certain artists that have meant so much to me like Jesse Cook, Dan Shears, DJ Sheb i Shabbah, Jai Uttal and Krishna Das, but over the year I have posted happy songs as well, and so I put together a playlist of music that meant something to me this year for the party.  I have to thank Milo V- for adding a few updates to my music taste which tended to run from sappy housewife to runaway yogi to 50 year old gay man.  You’ll still find my personality all over it, don’t worry.  I chose all the songs and their order. DJ Pinkstarpix Lola Sumangali in da house! Don’t be put off with the Sanskrit at the beginning.  I have played Jai Uttal to invoke Ganesha because it is good to invoke Ganesh at the start of any new venture (oh I dunno – like TEN THOUSAND DAYS OF GRATITUDE, perhaps?) and I have closed by thanking the patron God of all Bhaktans like me – Krishna.  I have had the pleasure to sing with both meant at kirtan and they fill my heart, always.  If you couldn’t be there, I hope the videos will give you a sense of the spirit of the day.   As always, please buy the music.  I have chosen youtube videos rather than Spotify simply to encourage you to support the artist by buying the actual songs.   DJ Pinstarpix Lola Sumangali’s 365 Days of Gratitude Mix

 

Spreading the Practice:

I want YOU to be happy.  No strings attached.  I just want you to be happy. Please consider taking up some of this practice into your own life? Almost everyone attending today’s celebration wrote something when asked for 3 things for which they are grateful.  Here is the result:

 

Won’t you add your three things in the comments?