Saturday, 26 October 2013

Planning a make do and mend living room make over

woodchip wallpaper; right move; rightmove; buy a house in London; interior designers; interior design; gplan;
Our living room is horrible. There is no getting away from it, magnolia woodchip and grubby cinnamon alcoves. Not our taste at all, but we have to save up lots and lots of pennies to get the ceiling replaced, the walls skimmed, after we have stripped them, and to have a fire place fitted. So after some niffy calculations we have decided we are broke and the rest of the house is more pressing.  So our living room will be done last - which means a make do and mend make-over in the interim using with furniture we already have or can buy really really cheaply.

This is another living room in our street (via Rightmove), if only our walls and ceiling were this smooth. But the rooms, as you can see are super bright which makes me really happy. The sun streams into our living room and its one of the many things I love about our home. 

This leaping zebra wallpaper from Scalamandre is my (sorry our) inspiration for the living room, a palette of black, white, brown and gold.  Some cushions in this print would be awesome.

We are stuck with our sofa, when the room is done properly we will have it recovered, but for now a brown leather corner suite a bit like this one is what we have.

There will be gallons of white paint and I can't decide if the chimney and the alcoves should be painted black or just chimney breast. 

The tv will be stuck up and I hoping to find fire place to lean up against the wall. With some fairy lights in a heap on the floor the focal point of the room won't be a massive television. We're keeping the brown roman blinds, they work, they fit and they match the sofa.

The rest of my (our) ideas are gathered on a Pinerest board - I am sure Pinterest has saved lots of couples from many many arguments, it has us. Now instead of piles of magazines I can just leave the husband to flick through online pages and show him how what's in my head would look in the house.

With some careful precision planning the aim is to have to make over done by December so we can finally relax, I just need to find a sideboard, paint the armoire we just brought via eBay (black of course) and paint all those walls.

Friday, 25 October 2013

A wander round our endz

Photoshop Express, Italian leather handbag, vintage jewellery, vintage jewelry, Hackney
This week me and the boy went for a ramble round the neighbourhood. The day job means we just don't get enough time to have a wander around and just see what we happen to stumble across. On our walk we found some absolutes treasures at the Hackney Downs Studios which are just a short stroll across the park from our house.

Image via Hackney Downs Studios

First we went into Smoking Gun Vintage which is hot - full of quality clothes and many many good priced trinkets - I got this Kryponite ring for £15.00. 

A shop or so down is Portamento - my dream shop, and yours if you like Italian handbags and shoes. There are two bags, including that zebra print clutch, with my name all over them. I defy anyone not to fall in love with a pair of shoes from this store which is one part shop, one part gallery, one part Hackney cool. Sara, one of the owners, of course oozing her street-style Italian glamour, told me she is recruiting for the new monthly market - if your stylish enough - get in touch with Sara directly - the first market is 3rd November. I can already see a trunk sale taking place in my living room - when its decorated of course.

If only shoes grew on trees
And then we went for cake at The Russett, a licensed cafe and creative space tucked away at the end of the car park.  From the outside I though it looked a bit hmm really, but the inside is enough to make any lover of up-cycled industrial interiors go weak at the knees. The cake is fresh and healthy - I had a courgette number - part of my 5 a day. The Russett got its name for the orchard planted by The Tree Musketeers in Hackney Downs Park, seriously how cool is that and they source local food for local people to come and enjoy. Simple and satisfying and I am heading there for Sunday lunch very soon. 

The Russett of course has a giant apple, which made me smile.

The best car park space reservation signs I have ever seen.
I know some people are intimated by spaces like The Hackney Downs Studios. These types of creative community run hubs are sometimes seen as follies for the middle classes who have moved into an area as a result of gentrification. These pre-conceptions make me really sad. You don't need to have a university degree to enjoy hanging out in a nice space with nice shops, you just need to like browsing (and eating cake). I live in Hackney, I am not from Hackney and I love my new neighbourhood. And I am sooo not middle class which is why I love my street; a real mixture of all social classes and people. There is one man who owns at least three of the houses in our road, there is a council estate at one end of the street, there are two halfway hostels, there is a special needs school and there are flats and houses in between that are a mixture of privately owned, privately rented and social housing. This is Hackney today, like it always has been, a mixture of people rubbing along together and I just love it.

You'll find the Hackney Downs Studios at Amhurst Terrace, Hackney, London, E8 2BT.

And here is a random picture of bikes, edited using the free Photoshop Express app which I have only just found - yeah I am always late!

Get your bike fixed at the workshop while you eat cake at The Russett

Sunday, 20 October 2013

The week that was!

This blog is called Life Behind Strange Fruit, so I thought I would share what has happened this week, which has been a total monster! 

Monday brought the first day of the Technology Innovators Forum, a two day conference at Broadcasting House. I have been working on this event for the past three weeks and there have been lots and lots of late nights. The outcome was perfect. The speakers including some flown in from LA all arrived on time, the delegates were excited and the talks I managed to sit in on were inspiring. Howard Stringer, ex CEO of Sony was my favourite speaker of the event. 'Ex' anythings always tell the truth, they have nothing to hide - the videos will be up soon. 

The day event was followed by a Reception. The number of people it took to turn the National Portrait Gallery into a venue suitable for canap├ęs and speeches was impressive - we had a thirty minute window! But we did it and after the speeches, which I missed as I was dealing with something or another, our favourite X-Factor judge sang us a few tunes. It was like a gig in a living room. Then, long after the guests had gone we tidied up and fell into an entourage of cabs.

Gary Barlow sings in a crowded room

On Tuesday, after finishing up at the BBC I went to into the office to collapse on my desk for a bit while I got the energy together to go and listen to Gary Younge read from his new book. How pleased am I that I went. I have long admired Gary's work and as he lives in Chicago you know - we don't see him to often. And I finally got to meet Hannah Pool, in the real world and off Twitter, that was brilliant too.
Wednesday I took the day off the job to a) recover b) make sure I picked the kid up from school and take him to the library - we have a monthly library date and c) get my cards together for Ladies Day at Stratford Old Town Hall on Saturday. I haven't done this event before but I figured it was local and the chance to try out some new illustrated flat notes and invitations would be a good thing. 

Thursday and Friday are a blur of the day job, rubbish transport links, cellophane wrappers and washing my hair. Thursday was also our wedding anniversary, to celebrate, I didn't take any work home with me.

Saturday, Ladies Day was so much fun.  The 2Inspire Network did a great job organising the day, we traders even got a refreshment pack - how thoughtful was that. Organisers of bigger markets take note, being valued as a customer makes a trader want to come back. I am looking forward to getting my own ankara fabric necklace from Afrinze - the pink one is so pretty. What a day of sisterhood and it was great to met so many people I have chatted to online and I was able to test out new products. For me markets are the best way of getting instant feedback, customers will tell you exactly what they think of a product in a way friends and family won't. Top tip, always take a couple of your press packs with you - you never know if you'll need them - I gave out two on Saturday which was unexpected but of course welcome.

Sunday has been a pyjama day, I finally managed to watch last weeks Downton Abbey, clear emails and relax, I even watched The Lorax with the kid. Next week won't be as busy but it will be equally exciting I'm sure.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

A space to call my own

my craft studio; craft studio; craft studios; paper craft idea; photo book
This weekend I will finally be able to unpack my craft knife. It is typical that just when I am ready to get busy with some paper craft ideas and when I can actually reach the box that contains all my vintage photographs that I am super busy with the day job. We have been working on a massive event and I have to go on the last sight visit on Sunday. But I have the room I want, it is grey and it is calm. I am really happy with how the fireplace has turned out too. I have my own craft studio, I am going to have to make time to celebrate, this is after all why we moved.

As soon as I have unpacked I will post some pictures but in the meantime here is a mash up of places and spaces that have inspired me most, all via Pinterest.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

I may be controversial in saying this, but I won't miss Choice

Black women; lifestyle; Maya Angelou; Pride Magazine
So Choice FM (owned by Global) has gone from our sound waves and apparently some people are upset about this. So upset The Voice newspaper has understandably put it on the front page this week. 

You'll know if you read my tweets that I didn't like Choice. I didn't see the point of a radio station that played music unfit for my six year olds ears at 4 pm in the afternoon. And I had a major problem with a female presenter suggesting "any girl wearing a bikini or tight dress needs to tweet a picture of themselves to Wretch32 right now". Please, she didn't need to be on the radio chatting nonsense she needed to be home reading Maya Angelou.

Some listeners have complained to Ofcom about Global Radio group closing Choice. 

So lets look at Global - a privately run company that has shareholders. They broadcast Heart, Capital, Classic FM, Xfm, Gold and LBC and they do what they do very very well. Making money through radio advertisements and partnerships is not easy. You are dependent on your listeners engaging with your advertisers and you have to provide your listeners with good content. 
So if some listeners of Choice are switching off because the music is past the watershed and the presenters are less than self aware what to do? Flog a dead horse because some people won't like it or scrap it and focus on what is working well? I know which I would do.

Ashley Tabor via The Guardian

What many ex Choice listeners probably don't know is that Ashley Tabor, the under 40, owner of Global left school at 16 to yep, work in radio. He then launched a talent agency which discovered Corinne Bailey Rae. He did a stint in bookmaking too. So I think we can safely assume that Ashley knows his music, is not afraid of risk and knows how to make money.  I hope The Voice told its readers that complaining to Ofcom was futile; there will be a polite response and not much more as Global is a private company, they can buy, sell and close what they like so long as they follow the rules of making people redundant. The advertising revenues at Choice have been dropping year on year - what's a millionaire to do?

Now I don't know Ashley Tabor, he could walk past me in Leicester Square and I would have no idea a man worth zillions had just done so. But I do respect what he has achieved and personally I think getting rid of Choice was a brave but the right thing to do. 

I do of course recognise the want / need for a radio station that plays music representative of society, my expectation would be to push harder for the BBC to do this - they after all are funded by the tax payer, you and me, and therefore are far more likely to, eventually, give the people what they want.

What am I listening to? I like to think of myself as an honorary New York City girl so I get my kicks from Hot97FM - they even market themselves as a station for adult listeners so I know the kid can't listen to it - simples.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Ghosts of advertising

stoke newington; mobile advertising; advertising posters; london accommodation
I have been fascinated by ghost advertising for ages and the book I'm reading about the street furniture of London has made me look at those faded painted adverts on the side of buildings in a whole new way. Fortunately many people love these faded hand-painted signs and in 2009/10 The History of Advertising Trust catalogued over 800 examples of advertisements painted directly onto our buildings.

Glimpses of advertisements that have faded into the fabric of our city warm my heart, they may be weathered and hard to read but they are here reminding us that we are not forever, we will fade and wither and the buildings, mostly, will outlive us all.  

On a walk on Saturday afternoon we passed loads of ghost signs in Stoke Newington and these are the most obvious ones. I know there are many more! 

Crane House decorator, Stoke Newington
Brown bread, Stoke Newington
I'm wondering how long it will be before we go full circle and ditch billboards all together and return to painting directly onto walls. Everything comes back round, I'm sure this craftsmanship will too. 

Although I have yet to see one on a Stoke Newington wall, Hovis ghost signs can also be found all over London. This was and still is a brand who knew about branding! They would pay for a baker to have a sign in return for wall space to promote their product. As a result there are many Hovis signs but, in all cases, sitting alongside them are the names of bakers (such as J.T. Turner and A.H. Fryer) that once used their flour. Developing this relationship with the bakers was not only a strong distribution strategy but it also allowed the brand to lodge itself into the public consciousness as a localised business rather than an anonymous, corporate brand. How clever? And well before the advertising and branding books were written! I wonder if Simon Middleton (he of Build your brand in 30 days) has written about Hovis?

People needed matches, how else would you light your pipe?

John Hawkins and Sons, Stoke Newington
John Hawkins and Sons were based in Preston, they had 60 or so outlets across the country selling household linens and dresses. Mail order was popular too.

Of course you would take your pen to get repaired! Apparently there was a stationers on this site since the 1890's. The people who lived in my house would have gone to this shop to buy and repair their pens, this makes me very happy.

Walker Bros Fountain Pen Specialists, Stoke Newington
And this is just Stoke Newington. How many great signs are fading on the side of buildings? I need to go on a ghost advertising walk, if one knows of one please share, I'd love to go along and learn more about the faded backdrops of the city, before they disappear forever.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Why Black History Month is still relevant

Every Black History Month I dream of a plan where I give everything up and run off to take a culture and history studies MA at the University of London. To soften the blow this year I have signed up to see a few exhibitions and readings and I am so looking forward to them. I embrace all culture and history and I am certainly one of those who looks forward to when Black History Month is what 'we used to do in the old days when black British history wasn't recognised, valued, or part of the national curriculum' but in the meantime I support the cause and will continue to do my bit to champion the people from history and from today who make me proud to be British. And quite frankly while we still have people watching and not challenging programmes that stereotype people of colour as uneducated drug dealing street kids who if they are lucky get a job in a cafe in Albert Square than we need Black History Month!

This is one lady I would have loved to have met. 

Image via the BBC

Una Maud Marson was the first black programmer maker at the BBC. In the 1940s she would bob up the road from Broadcasting House to the Langham Hotel. The Langham was far more than a five star hotel at this time, it was the place for any self respecting broadcaster to be seen.  I read somewhere that Una used to make her evening dresses out of her curtains, and I am sure they were fabulous.  But of course her experience was not all fancy parties. Her most famous poem, 'Nigger' addressed her experience of life in London. You can google it.

If you read my post a few weeks ago you'll know Stuart Hall - the cultural theorist is one of my hero's. I like social history and semiotics. Time spent critically thinking about art and film, for me time is time well spent; I have Stuart Hall to thank for all of that.

When I look back at my interests it was obvious really that one day I would end up designing greeting cards that reflect social history.  It is a love of analysis that made me learn more about Lenny Henry,  more than maybe is healthy. I could be his number one fan from the critical thinking posse! 

His documentary '"Finding Shakespeare" on ITV recently was an open dialogue into what shaped his views and his passion for the stage and more crucially why he made the career decisions he has. I am so happy I have never and will never see Lenny Henry on Eastenders - which by the way I think is the worst programme on TV. I gave it up in the 90s a short time after finding Stuart Hall.

So black history month may be tiresome for those of us with a little age on our side or with a long relationship with cultural pride but its not all about us is it? It's a ladder for those who are aren't in this special place yet so they can be inspired to learn more about the richness black people have and continue to add to the fabric of British history. It's still a reminder to schools especially those outside London to talk about John Blanke And surely those conversations are for everyone, we all know one of the biggest discussions we need to have more openly in this country is the one of race - doesn't Black History Month also provides a soft platform from which to do that? 

My thoughts are set against my six year old asking, just last week, why there are mostly white people on TV? That's a good question son I said, lets talk about it. Inside my heart sank as there were more black people on TV in the 70s and 80s than there are now. I don't let him watch crap TV, it's damaging for his impressionable and developing mind. For me his question sums up why Black History Month is still relevant. My son is not with me 24 hours a day, he is exposed to people who's views are not the same as me and his Dad's. I hope a TV executive somewhere has a bit of an inward think. I hope a life story like that of Una Marson ignites a film idea and I want TV producers to remember that the kids of today, especially those who belong to a growing ethnic middle class, are the innovators and business leaders of tomorrow. I expect that when my son is an adult Black History Month will be outdated but, in the meantime, if just one person recognises the damage programmes like Top Boy and Eastenders do to our impressionable minds than yes I will be a happy Strange Fruit!