Thursday, 10 December 2009

Christmas card

Merry Christmas!

This is my version of a Victorian christmas card - I'm thinking of making some cards depicting a more contemporary christmas scene but in a similar style.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Everyone's a winner

Gair rhydd went to the Guardian's student media awards on Wednesday 25th and we didn't leave empty handed! But we didn't win either, shame.

Excuse the boring picture, unfortunately the photos of the night itself are either hard to make out because of the amount of dry ice they decided to pump into the place or are well, a little, uncivilised.

It was a raucous night at Proud in Camden largely due to the amount of free booze available which was being necked by nervous nominees as if their lives depended on it, including us lot. Us lot, from Cardiff had gair rhydd up for best paper and Quench up for best magazine, which won last year.

But alas, neither came out on top. Gair rhydd was pipped to the post by The Leeds Student but we did claim runner-up so still got our moment with Colin Murrary up on stage...reward enough some might say.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Top 5 Twitterers to Follow for Music

(published in November issue of Running In Heels, here

You may have just caught the Twitter bug, or perhaps you’re already a pro and know your FF from your RT, but who should you be following if you’re into music? Whether you’re a fan of Radiohead, Black Sabbath orthe X-Factor, these are our top tips on who’s saying what and who to follow on Twitter.

The Hypemachine watches music blogs all over the world for the latest musical scoops and opinions so that you don’t have to. Hypemachine tweets about its favourite new bands as well as everyone else’s and recommends interesting blogs, reviews and music videos.

Follow Hypemachine on Twitter @hypem

The top British music magazine brings you frequent updates on new releases, details of upcoming gigs and reviews. They also have breaking news stories and announce secret gigs and tours. If you like NME’s tweets, you can follow various members of the NME editorial team and journalists who often tweet anecdotes about the so-called darlings of the music world.

Follow NME on Twitter @NMEmagazine

As well as your standard music news, reviews and links taking you to the newest music videos on the net you also get all sorts of other music-related goodies -such as guitar lessons from indie bands such as Vampire Weekend. Follow Stereogum for music-related trivia such as stars birthdays too.

Follow Stereogum on Twitter @StereoGum

The Line of Best Fit
In their words: Attacking the bastions of all that’s unholy and impure in the seedy but delectable world of online music news, reviews and features. The girls and guys of TLOBF are relentless in the updating of their site and in tweeting – expect honest and sharp reviews of seemingly every kind of new music out there.

Follow The Line of Best Fit on Twitter @TLOBF

Pop Justice
With its focus firmly fixed on pop you may think these guys are not for you but with their witty and highly scathing tweets on everyone and everything in the music world you will not disappointed. If you’re a British X Factor fan then these guys are a real must – you can download their hilarious ‘play sheet’ and play along with the show.

Follow Pop Justice on Twitter @popjustice

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Bob Dylan is good for you

Like the rest of the current population of London I have been suffering from a particularly nasty breed of cold recently. Try as I might I haven't been able to shift it - and I tried. I was particularly hopeful about the Echinacea tincture drops that were recommended to me by a coursemate. Said coursemate claimed that at the first sign of a cold she takes it and voila - no horrid cold. I think maybe it was too late for me.

Not being able to sleep very well has also not helped things. And as I'm prone to having trouble with drifting off and therefore prepared I immediately consulted my magic supply of many soothing teas. Chamomile wouldn't cut it so I brewed a strong venarian root tea which usually has my mind twirling slowly into sleep mode, in a bizarre alice fallling down the rabbit hole kind of way, extremely quickly. But, alas! Not this time.

So, almost on the verge of dispair I happily came across Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour - you can hear a bit about it here. I had read about the award winning radio show in which Dylan meditates on a particualr theme, which includes everything from money to cats to baseball, but hadn't ever heard it. The music is handpicked by the legend himself and is mainly blues or jazz and from bands which I would probably never think to seek out myself. He also litters his show with anecdotes and slang - in his intriguing voice, well, to me it sounds poetic. So it must have been fate then that I found it now because since unwinding with old gravel tones himself I drift off to sleep no problem - and I mean that in a good way. And my cold is now nothing more than a sniffle, well almost.

I thoroughly recommend giving it a listen - every single show (and there are a lot) can be found here.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Album review - Up From Below, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros deliver an enjoyable debut album and all without the help of anyone named Edward Sharpe.

The merry band of 10 or 12 — in a recent interview the band couldn’t make their minds up, bring together a choir of different instruments and voices to produce a veritable love-in of hippy folk-rock.

Alex Ebert, formerly of Ima Robot formed the band a couple of years ago and it appears he hasn’t had to look far to find inspiration for songs. His girlfriend Jade is also in the band and their apparently perfect and therefore slightly nauseating love for each other is all over songs ‘Home’, ‘I Come In Please’ and, well, ‘Jade’, in which he claims “Jade is the girl of the hour” over and over again…I get it, he likes her.

The sound in parts is as retro as their album cover and you may find yourself checking that you haven’t inadvertently switched onto something by The Mamas & The Papas or The Beatles.

But there is evidence of more forward-looking songs — ‘Brother’ for instance has hints of KOL and Fleet Foxes. In fact there are elements and influences from a whole range of bands which have all come together in this album to make it, well, brilliant quite frankly.

From the lilting anthem ‘40 Day Dream’ (above), which so over-brimming with joy it could have been purpose-built for a raucous summer festival crowd who with cider in hand would happily chant the chorus “it’s a magical mystery kind, must be a lie iiiiie.”

‘Home’ is another standout track albeit so unashamedly country it makes you want to don dungarees and take up the banjo, while ‘Om Nashi Me’ provides a few minutes of psychedelic quiet.

Personally I'm inspired to either; invent a time machine and go back to the '60s (quite keen on that idea already to be honest) or rent a big truck and drive around the southern states with ‘Up From Below’ blaring, or both. It certainly keeps me smiling through a dreary British winter. 9/10

Thursday, 12 November 2009


I heart these guys and their album 'Up from Below'. I'm inspired to either invent a time machine and go back to the '60s (quite keen on that idea already to be honest) or rent a big truck and drive around the southern states, or both. Album review to come!

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

It was all one podcast - remembrance day

My first attempt at a podcast - and yes, I know the sound is really bad, the levels are all wrong and my speaking is too loud. But it was just an experiment really and an exercise in some in productive procrastination (paradox much?)

I mention Remembrance Day at the beginning and the truly sad fact that Harry Patch - last of the WWI veterans died earlier this year. I watched some of the services going on around the country and was struck by what a momentus thing this was - there are no soliders left who fought in that war. It has really passed into the realm of history.

Anyway, I'd really love to follow this up and make a short 10 minute podcast every week featuring some new tunes that I like to seek out on a regular basis and some general favourites of mine. I'm more trying to teach myself some new skills (and remember some old editing ones) than produce a totally groundbreaking podcast but if anyone listens to it and enjoys it along the way then hurrah! It's a bonus.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

New music to my ears

(published in November issue of Running In Heels, go to

We’ve all been there; 4,000 songs saved on your computer but not a single one you feel like listening to. Sure there are your favourite songs, maybe sing-a-long songs, or even listen-to-when-heartbroken songs. But with the entire internet stretching out ahead, around and through your very being these days – where do you go and what do you do when you want to find new, exciting, ear-pleasing and inspiring music?

As we all know in the beginning there was MySpace but this veritable antique of a music site is now a little out of date. If you’ve actually heard of a new band and want to give them a listen, then their MySpace page is still a great place to look but actually searching for new music on it cold can be laborious to say the least. The days of chatting to Lily Allen and getting invited to secret gigs by Pete Doherty through their MySpace pages are certainly over, so what other online musical treasure troves are out there for us to rummage through? can be a brilliant option for those of us who do not have a clue where to start because it essentially does all the hard work for you. For a really simple snapshot of what relatively unknown bands are being listened to, then the chart section on can tell you who is most ‘hyped’ or the ‘most listened to’. Alternatively just landing on the page of a band or artist gives you a whole selection of similar artists, or if you have a favourite song… try searching for that and see what related tracks come up.

For anyone who wants to know which European and American bands have all the kids excited on the other side of the Atlantic then listen to the great and varied selection of songs which feature on Little Radio you can read about them on the blog too if you like.

Then there’s The Hype Machine which follows blogs and discussions worldwide and then streams you the music that is the most talked about. You can even apply specific filters – just in case you’ve ever wondered what the most-talked about tracks are on Twitter, for example.
Pitchfork is a reviewing site with a focus on independent music including electronic, pop, hip hop, dance, folk, jazz and experimental music -you are getting literally some of newest music available which you can read about and of course listen to on the site.

A must for those wanting to be totally ahead of the crowd is Stereogum – another outlet for brand new music but usually indie and alternative music. Stereogum regularly champions new artists and bands way ahead of anyone else and they often go on to make it big.

Now, with the songs of your new favourite bands still ringing in your ears you can log in to Spotify and listen to their entire back catalogue for free. Also worth watching out for are other people’s Spotify playlists – these could be friends or perhaps some muso’s you follow on Twitter. Or you can visit Spotify Playlists and download any number of other Spotify users’ playlists – you are bound to find something new that you like this way.

And now perhaps you want to show off all the new music you’ve been listening to? Then why not create your own playlist and post that on your social networking site of choice or share it on Spotify Playlists? You never know, you may be helping someone else discover their new favourite band!

Flashpacking: the best boutique hostels

(published in November issue of Running In Heels, go to

Forget everything you thought you knew about hostels. Banish all thoughts of overcrowded dorms, of paying for the privilege of borrowing distinctly off-white towels and of eyeing your new suspicious-looking roommates who will inevitably roll in at 5.30am and turn all the lights on while they try to work out which bed is theirs. To say staying in a hostel was ‘roughing it’ was usually an understatement of epic proportions, until now.

There has been a recent explosion of boutique hostels all over the continent. These ‘poshtels’ are fast becoming the accommodation of choice for the traveller in search of style, quality and comfort on a budget. The glamping trend has been on the up and up over the last couple of years and who wouldn’t want to spend Glastonbury in a cosy cushion-filled, lantern-lit tepee? However, not all of us can afford the hefty price tag, especially in the current and woeful economic climate; flashpacking (as backpacking with style shall now be known) is certainly the next logical and somewhat cheaper step.

And whether you’re a flashpacker who is all about modern, sleek and minimalist spaces, or like your interiors flavoured with vintage linen, antique furniture and bric-a-brac, there is a poshtel out there for you. Some boast swimming pools, sun terraces, a la carte menus and private en suite rooms – and all for half the price of a hotel. Here is a selection of Europe’s best…

Miss Sophie’s - Prague, Czech Republic
Situated in the new town, Miss Sophie’s is ideal for those who want to experience the modern side of Prague as well as the old. You’ll be staying in the new cultural and social heart of the city – or in other words, where all the locals hang out. This hostel provides a peaceful refuge from the hubbub of the tourist-trapped old town but is still only a few tram stops away from the famous Wenceslas Square for when you are stepping out for some sightseeing. With the rooms and communal spaces so beautifully decked-out in etched glass, brushed steel and modern linear furniture, you can easily forget you are not in an upmarket hotel but in a hostel where a private double room with en suite will cost as little as €30 (£27) per person per night. And, if the glare from all that glass gets too much you can always chill out in their brick cellar lounge (above), which has an altogether cosier atmosphere, or head out to some of the trendy hangouts that line the surrounding streets.

Red Nest – Valencia, Spain
The Red Nest is another modern and colourful hostel located on one of the city’s most beautiful streets in the very heart of Valencia and many of the rooms boast great views over the historic old town. Guests can catch up with each other and enjoy themselves in the vibrant communal areas or relax on the sun terrace after a long day on the beach – or if it may be shopping in the city’s pretty boutiques which has you worn out, you can certainly afford a blowout with prices like €41 for one of the uniquely decorated private ensuite rooms.

Palmers Lodge – London, UK
If you’re looking for some authentic English Victoriana then Palmers Lodge certainly will not disappoint. Located in affluent and cosmopolitan Swiss Cottage the building has enjoyed many incarnations throughout its rich history, beginning life as the Palmers’ private residence, before becoming the Home for Incurable Children and then enjoying a long run as a college of nursing after the Second World War. Nowadays it is a stunning boutique hostel full of character and original features. The grand and large rooms have been opened back up, allowing a feeling of tremendous space. There’s an in-house bar too and even Wii players for you to challenge your fellow flashpackers! Continental breakfast is included in the £50 price tag – the steepest on our list, but still a very reasonable price for a room in London.

Mleczarnia Hostel – Wroclaw, Poland
Mleczarnia or ‘the dairy’ is almost impossibly kitsch: the rooms which contain pretty little dark-wood beds are accessorised with a variety of carefully chosen clutter such as floral lamps, oil paintings, vintage gramophones, old black and white photographs and handmade curtains. This place looks like it belongs to a century ago. A more modern feature however is the swimming pool – a rare but brilliant facility for a hotel let alone a poshtel – that’s as well as the library, the café and the bar, which sells speciality local beers and delicious home-made cakes. Situated in the Four Temples Quarter it is 5 minutes away from the picturesque old town and will set you back around £40 per night for a private room.

Lisbon Lounge – Lisbon, Portugal
Modernity and commodity are brought together in the Lisbon Lounge, possibly the trendiest boutique hostel on our list: some of its rooms have even been decorated by the country’s leading artists. Other features include fully-equipped kitchens and lounges featuring DVD projectors for cosy screenings on every floor. The hostel could not be in a better location for the city’s best cafes, restaurants, shops, all major transport and more importantly the buzzing nightlife of the Bairro Alto area, which can all be found within walking distance. Fancy getting out of the city? The train can take you to the nearest beaches in a matter of minutes. All this comes in at a positively meagre £24 per person – no wonder it’s won a couple of Hoscars – the hostel equivalent to the Oscars.

So if you’ve decided that a cheap, chic and cheerful city break is what you want then why not give a boutique hostel a try and change your mind about hostels once and for all?

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Holidays are coming?

On Monday evening - yes that was the 2nd of November - I spotted this.

I was still reeling from the shock of being wished a 'merry Christmas from Tesco' on their newest ad while I was watching X Factor on Sunday (I was recovering from our Halloween festivities) so spying the famous coca cola lorry had me really spun out. I stood, open-mouthed like a goldfish for a few moments, the billboard is huge, almost across one whole side of the glamorous Elephant & Castle shopping centre - and it lights up.

It's a shame really because having no choice but to gawp at this billboard every day is really going to take the thrill out of seeing the Christmas coke advert properly for the first time - "holidays have been coming for 2 months already!" I'll shout when the excitable 'holidays are comin'' tune pipes up. Bah Humbug!

Which reminds me the Christmas lights have indeed been switched on in Oxford Circus - I didn't go to the big button pressing ceremony but have heard, that in a typically British fashion - we ballsed it up. Jim Carrey (because all the lights are promoting his new film A Christmas Carol) punched the big red button and about two lights came on...can anyone say Olympic opening ceremony?!

Ellie and the Machine

So this is Florence and the...oh wait! I mean Ellie Goulding, silly me!

That's very unfair of me actually as I do quite like Ellie Goulding but her latest song 'Under the Sheets' does seem to be uncannily similar to Florence's 'Drumming Song', but I suppose music comes and goes in trends so it was just a matter of time before Florence's trademark harp and big synthy choruses started popping up all over the place.

I think I prefer Goulding's 'Starry Eyed' which at least distinguishes her as being a little bit different from other female artists and has given rise to a ton of really great remixes. None of this really matters however, she is definitely going to explode in a really big way very soon - her tour sold out uber quickly for an artist is who is still relatively under the radar, and despite my reservations I would still like to check her out live.

Monday, 2 November 2009


A very late happy Halloween to you all! We celebrated in the usual style with dressing up in various ghoulish guises and of course, carving pumpkins. My housemate Lily totally outdid my traditional triangle-faced effort with this spooky portrait of a young Michael Jackson - absolutely amazing! I think next year she should start up a 'your face on a pumpkin' business - it was certainly a great talking point at our Halloween party and her talents should be put to use.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Son Lux

I stumbled across this guy the other day and have been slightly obsessed with their blissed-out sound (does anyone still say that?) ever since.

'This guy' is Ryan Lott who made his name through collaborating with and remixing other artists, such as Beirut. The above songs are from the 2008 album At War with Walls and Mazes which was his debut as Son Lux, it took 4 years for Lott to record and produce in his attic studio. I love it!

Living album art

Sky Arts recreated Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon album cover last night to celebrate tomorrow nights screening of Pulse: Dark Side Of The Moon Live, which features the band's famous 1994 performance at Earls Court.

I wish I'd been fortuitous enough to have been on Primrose Hill last night in time to see it in the flesh! I love how it appears to dwarf the London landmarks in the background.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009


As well as stopping to take a few snaps around Carnaby Street and Piccadilly station I also went for a few drinks with friends and impressed them (including a zoology student) with my knowing that the Portugese Man O War is not a jellyfish but in fact made from a colony of four individual creatures (it's true - check it out on wikipedia) and I bought wasabi from a crazy japanese supermarket at about 10.30pm. I heart London!

Monday, 19 October 2009

The sound of clothes

The amazing 'Sound of Clothes: Synaesthesia’ was created by composer Nick Ryan and inspired by Nick Knight's photographs of a Balenciaga jacket - I was certainly put under its spell last month, even if I didn't totally appreciate the rest of the show.

I have been looking for some footage of this amazing piece since visiting the ShowStudio Fashion Revolution exhibition in Sepetember (apologies for the quality but it was the only video I could find!). Ryan was asked by prolific fashion photographer Nick Knight to consider the texture of the different parts of the jacket and recreate these textures and the feelings they evoked through colour and original orchestral scores.

I went along to the Somerset House show with my fashion-enthusiast sister (she studies fashion at the Arts Institute, Bournemouth) who lapped-up some of the more 'out there' exhibits which seemed to my untrained eye to come straight out of the film Zoolander.

It's not that there weren't some amazing and thought-provoking exhibits because there were -such as the 'Synaesthesia’ and the giant Warhol-inspired sculpture of Naomi Campbell which visitors could decorate with their own art or thoughts (below) ...It's just that there was also a range of images created with the help of a CT head scanner which produced pictures of models with parts of their heads missing and the contents of their skulls on show...then again, maybe I'm the one missing something?

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Monsters, Ink

These are my designs for a competition to make a cover for the guys over at Little White Lies. The brief was based around the upcoming release of The Wild Things in that we had to design our own 'wild things' and include the words that feature on my covers above.
I am not an illustrator by any means but, as anyone who has sat next to me during a particularly long lecture, bus journey or even a short lecture, will know - I am a doodler! And I have to admit this was a way of being productive with my doodles and I quite enjoyed doing it!

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

The Low Anthem 'Charlie Darwin' review.

For those listeners who are currently enjoying the near tidal wave of folk bands that are spilling over into the mainstream on both sides of the Atlantic (think Fleet Foxes from over there and Mumford and Sons over here) will inevitably like The Low Anthem.

The minimal and acoustic production on ‘Charlie Darwin’ brings the band’s three unique voices to the fore. Really it’s these skilled and beautiful harmonies which steal the show on this particular track which stands out as the most mellow on their 2009 album, ‘Oh My God, Charlie Darwin.’

And ‘Charlie Darwin’ gives the listener a chance to reflect back on the folky sounds of old – there’s more than a hint of Neil Young in the guitar finger work, and the mouth organ and close harmonies certainly evoke a ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’ era Bob Dylan.

The sound is unmistakably American and will undoubtedly start cropping up all over any US show when a soundtrack is needed to convey the magic of a harvest moon spraying light over the cornfields of the Deep South...or something!

So then, ‘Charlie Darwin’ is not an example of some of the more forward-thinking progressive folk around but is instead a lovely track which attempts in it’s looking back to nod to some of the best folk-rock songwriters in history. Well worth a listen I give it 7/10.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Write what you're told

The BBC Trust has launched new draft guidelines especially aimed at online content today but many of them seem reactionary rather than totally necessary.

Some ideas appear on the surface to be common sensical, advice such as, 'Audiences should not be able to tell from BBC programmes or other BBC output the personal prejudices of our journalists and presenters on such matters.' But there could be another reason this particular guideline has been rushed through - as the Guardian points out this has already been dubbed by some in the industry as the 'Jeremy Bowen clause' due to events earlier this year which saw Bowen, the beeb's middle east editor, disparaged by the Trust after playing fast and loose with his online version of a potted history of post-war Israel.

Far more reactionary though are those new measures which could be construed to target the broadcasting styles of particular names. The cutting-out of swearing, even after the watershed for example, would certainly affect the presenting style of a certain Jonathan Ross who has obviously gotten in trouble lately for his part in the Sachs/Brand furore.

'Sachsgate,' as it was dubbed at the time, was almost certainly the point of origin for another and perhaps the most strange of the new rules. The BBC said, 'Some comedy can be cruel but unduly intimidatory, humiliating, intrusive, aggressive or derogatory remarks must not be celebrated for the purposes of entertainment. Care should be taken that such comments and the tone in which they are delivered are proportionate to their target.'

This appears to be approaching dangerous grounds to me. Censorship of art forms like comedy smacks of a more old school and conservative beeb. I rather thought that by now we had left behind the days of banning these entertaining and even controversial forms of free expression.

All in all I wonder about the true motive behind these new guidelines, and can't help but think they are not there to benefit the real audiences of programmes at all. More likely they were put together to placate those angry-letter-scribbling, and more importantly license fee paying Daily Mail readers who were so outraged at the treatment of the elderly Mr Sachs - not that they actually heard the Russell Brand show going out, not that particular and fateful night - not ever! And who exactly are these people? Who revel in writing into various media, calling Offcom and generally getting riled up about something which in reality is not directly offending them or indeed really soiling their apparently previously utopian lives at all - and afterall, hasn't anyone told them? If they don't like it they could always try turning the filth off?!

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Red Hot Radiohead?

As a big fan of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Radiohead I was surprised and excited to hear about the prospect of Flea joining Thom Yorke's latest project.
So far without a name, the Guardian's Tim Jonze dubbed them "one of the scariest-sounding groups in pop history." I think that's possibly unfair - Flea may be famous for his furious thumb-slapping funk bass rhythms but he is also a contributor to composing melodies on some of the Chili's sweetest songs, (think Don't Forget Me) and he can also play a haunting blues trumpet. Therefore giving nothing away as to what sorts of sounds we can expect from the collaboration.
This meeting of great and musical minds appears to be all the rage at the moment. Johnny Marr perhaps kicked the latest phase off with his joining of the Cribs on various occasions and then the Crooked Vultures and their epic line-up comprising of Dave Grohl, John Paul Jones and Josh Homme started popping up in support of the Artic Monkeys and making guest appearences at Reading and Leeds.
None of these recent collaborations have exactly set the world on fire but the Yorke/Flea project should yield something totally new to both musicians creatively, and that should at least make for interesting listening.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Good news

Gair rhydd 2008-2009 has been nominated for the Guardian's student media awards as best student newspaper. As one of the full time news editors during this time I am totally thrilled! The results are announced at a swanky awards do here in London some time in November...

Cartography matters

Tourists and Londers alike have had their knickers in a twist since the recent changes to the tube map, can't think why...

The decision by the mayor's office to remove the travel zones and the Thames from the new maps is apparently an attempt at 'decluttering' as the London transport network becomes more extensive. I'm presuming this decluttering is to make the map easier to read? Well yes,that blue squiggle slashing through the middle was rather an eyesore wasn't it? And those grey concentric circles did almost used to induce an immediate migraine if you so much as glanced at them. But hmmm...I suppose they were rather handy for working out where you were going. Oh! and how much you might have to pay to get there and if you had the right ticket.

As one of London's newest inhabitants I am hanging on tightly to my old battered pre September 15th map when the authorities didn't insult our intelligence by removing (allbeit rather important) clutter and expect us (newcomers and tourists included) to have an extensive knowledge of London's waterways already commited to memory.

What Fourth Plinth?

I finally made it down to Trafalgar Square to see the fourth plinth on a very sunny September afternoon yesterday. Turns out I didn't time my visit very well.

The main reason for my trip was to see the fourth plinth in action - I had watched the live stream of the Antony Gormley art project which places a member of the public on the plinth every hour and around the clock for 100 days but I hadn't seen it in the flesh. Trafalgar Square was alive with a mass of people as usual but not so usual was the music from singers, performers and catwalk shows - all going on to celebrate London Week of Peace. I sat on the steps outside the National Portrait Gallery for over an hour taking in the scene and oops! I didn't glance up at the fourth plinth - not even once! When I did eventually remember to walk over to the plinth the middle aged man on top of it - who on any other occasion would have been enjoying being centre of attention and perhaps enlightening me in a way that I will now never know - had apparently given up and was instead choosing to use the remainder of his time to sit, sunbathe and enjoy the talent concert with the other couple of thousand of people in the square. Poor plinth man!

Friday, 22 May 2009

Songbook 8

Is it just me or does there seem to be an almost ridiculous amount of really good new bands flowing out of the States at the moment? I have been really enjoying these guys recently, this is Grizzly Bear and this is definitely my favourite song, Two Weeks - it's been stuck on repeat since I heard it last week. Also I wouldn't mind tracking down this film, La Ballon Rouge with which this guy has made this beautiful video, I'm intrigued.

I'm hopeful that as Grizzly Bear stop touring in mid June they are going to be hitting the festival trail this Summer, I would love to seem them, preferably while I sip cider in the sunshine...hmmm, forever an optimist!

Monday, 18 May 2009

The future

Having finished (yes finished) my degree last week I am left with a lot of free time at the moment. I'm hoping this will be filled productively with more blogging, spending more time at gair rhydd and making plans for both summer (Argentina is beckoning) and the inevitable move to London.

I really hope it's inevitable - unfortunately it does depend on my getting a 2:1, which due to handing in my last assessed work last week is now out of my control! If I do achieve the revered 2:1 I will be heading off to the LCC (London College of Communication - as pictured) to study their MA in Print and Online journalism.

The decision to go there was a difficult one, having been offered a place on the postgrad courses at Bournemouth and here in Cardiff too. I dismissed Bournemouth fairly early on, not because I didn't like it but because I felt if I was to make a fresh start somewhere it may as well be in London. The Cardiff/London debate went on for some time - I'm sure irritating housemates, parents, friends and a couple of contacts from work experience, all of whom I was hoping would make the decision for me!

In the end I decided Cardiff's diploma in newspaper journalism, despite its fantastic reputation, was too narrow-focused for me. I've had a good amount of experience in newspapers: I was a volunteer reporter in Honduras, had a two week placement at the Times and of course three years in student media at University - and I have realised that I'm not sure I want to write the news!

The LCC is much more modern in its approach to teaching journalism - not requiring its students to choose to take the path of investigative or features journalism until the end of the course. I also like their general attitude towards their students - Gary Horne, the course director told me that just as he and the other teaching staff are working journalists he regards his students as such as soon as they walk through the door.

There are also the obvious advantages of being in London, not only home to many of the UK's biggest media companies but also a place where a vast amount of smaller ventures will be starting up and trying to find their place, all-in-all I think the big smoke will provide me with more opportunities.

I'm relatively blase at the the moment about the whole thing - my time at Cardiff coming to an end, starting a new university, moving to London (which must be twenty times the size of Cardiff!) I think it's because most of my friends are yet to finish their courses here at Cardiff and we are all looking forward to enjoying our last weeks at Uni without being burdened with scary thoughts about the future, many of us are also going to be descending on Glastonbury en mass to really see out three years properly!

Songbook 7

Some days, such as this one, when the weather is really awful and you have nothing better to do - the only option is put on a beautiful but melancholic song (Cat Power's version of Sea of Love preferably) and stare out the window at all the possibilities that could have been, had it not been raining!

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Songbook 6

I always find lots of amazing tracks when I'm sitting in front on my laptop all day, especially when I'm meant to be writing an essay or four... This is a pretty interesting tune from a French band, see what you reckon.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Decisions, decisions...

I haven't written in a while as I have been very busy being probed, pushed and pulled at interviews for postgraduate courses in Journalism at Bournemouth, Cardiff and London...I've been accepted everywhere which is obviously lovely news but means I actually have to make the decision now! I think it's between London and Cardiff at the moment.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

I'm 22

It was my 22nd birthday on Friday and I truly had a wonderful time! Mainly due to my lovely friends Alex, Kelly, Jamie and Dan coming to visit but helped along too, by the sun which meant we spent all day sitting outside the Pen and Wig supping pimms!

Getting political

I recently ran in the student elections at University under the ridiculous alias of Emma 'Burgundy' Barlow (see one of my self-designed logos above) aka. Anchorman, the role made famous by Will Ferrell. I was running for the position of Head of Student Media and gair rhydd Editor, unfortunately I did not win!

Despite the end result being incredibly disappointing, the whole process was a fantastic experience as well as exhausting! The very nature of student politics means you have to leave all inhibitions at the door - donning a ridiculous outfit and adopting a gimmick is a standard requirement and unfortunately decent policies and experience seem to feature as rather less important.

However, I really did throw myself into the week and a half long campaign. Presenting a speech and dealing with some difficult questions in an official 'hustings' evening was a great opportunity to start flexing my self-promotion muscles and was in fact my first experience of proper public speaking. I also visited the various schools throughout the University to make announcements at lectures and speak to fellow students while they sat in cafes and refectories - taking me totally out of my comfort zone. It was testing too, when students wanted to question my ideas and ask me about my own political views but at the same time was also immensely satisfying to learn that people were interested enough to talk to me about it.

One of my main policies was to get all of our fantastic student media, Xpress radio, CUTV and gair rhydd, working together. I felt this was important as other media-savvy students would then be able to work together and share their skills. It would also raise the general standard, for instance Xpress and CUTV could benefit from working with the more experienced writers of gair rhydd. It is of course, also exactly the way most professional newsrooms now operate and I really think my experience at the BBC and at Honduras This Week would have helped me to get a more convergent media department up and running.

However, one my fellow News Editors, Emma Jones was elected and I'm sure she will do extremely well. I had been really unsure about nominating myself for the job a few weeks ago but even though I lost I am convinced just the experience of campaigning itself was worth its weight in gold.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Jade 'Goody Goody'?

I do not wish to in any way, join in any of the Jade Goody 'bashing' which can be currently found on the internet. Personally I think anyone who can start up websites apparently celebrating the suffering and pain of another person is totally evil and I don't share any of those kinds of ugly views at all. However, I do want to raise a few questions and vent some of my thoughts on the situation which has quickly become one of the most reported on stories of the last few days.

Firstly, one of the coverage's most disturbing aspects is just how much the whole thing smacks with an almost incomprehensible level of unashamed fickleness, albeit largely a construction of the press. Jade Goody has managed to go from wicked witch to a 'princess-of-the-people' type persona in the space of a just few months. Universally abhorred after the comments made to Shilpa Shetty on Celebrity Big Brother, Goody had pretty much exiled herself to escape the media coverage and the nationwide feeling of uneasiness towards her amazingly stupid and blasé attitude to racism when the news broke of her unfortunate diagnosis of cervical cancer.

With the deeply sad news that the cancer had spread to other parts of her body Goody was told she had only weeks to live and so understandably began thinking about her family, especially her young children. At this difficult time came some happiness for Jade when her boyfriend proposed to her - giving her the wedding she had been planning and presumably a more stable financial and custodial situation for the children.

Their marriage brings me to a point I would like to raise after the news broke yesterday, that Jack Straw has lifted Jack Tweed's (Goody's fiancé) curfew tomorrow night so he will able to spend his wedding night with his bride. Tweed has been in prison and is currently electronically tagged after assaulting a man with a golf club last year and has now been allowed to ignore the sentence placed on him so he can marry his sick fiancé. This would all sit a lot easier with me, as I think Goody probably deserves to be allowed to spend one night with her husband, if the same treatment could extended to everyone who also experiencing such exceptional circumstances.

But of course, it does not, nor ever will happen that way. I have a particular problem with this special treatment and the other 'perks' which Goody is receiving in exchange of her openness about her illness because I know of a family who went through a very similar experience to that of Goody's and yet received no perks or government intervention to make one young Mum's battle with cancer any easier. This family grew up knowing that Mum wasn't going to be around for long, and despite being constantly given only months to live this young woman fought on for a couple of years. Although not especially helped by her alcoholic husband, the family planned what the funeral would be like together and Mum picked out suits for her two young boys to wear. When she got very ill she spent as much time as possible as she could with everyone who was close to her and eventually passed away at home in quiet dignity. It really saddens me that Jade will not be doing the same with her family but instead seems to have her sights set on raising more cash.

I have a lot of sympathy for the so-called celebrity and understand that she is planning for her children's futures but why part of this master plan includes the documenting of her probably quick and incredibly painful decline for a television programme I can not even begin to comprehend. She claims she needs the money but I cannot help but question this point and wonder if this is more a case of Goody getting greedy.

Carol McGiffin gave her views earlier in the week, when the topic was being discussed on Loose Women - not a show I would normally look to for a serious insight into anything, but she actually made a very good point. Carol explained how she had to watch her own mother die from cancer and how terribly hard it was for everyone in the family and a process she would not wish to repeat. She was aghast at the thought of anyone wanting to view someone dying and questioned how she would feel if she knew her experience with her Mum had been recorded and the possibility was there of reliving the experience by watching it all on television - a possibility which will be a reality for the Goody children.

I also question who would really want to watch such a programme. Not wishing to seem hypocritical I am a fan of some the more 'gritty' documentaries aired on television, Channel 4's 'body shock' series for example, but I always find these tend to give incredibly powerful insights into humanity as a whole and are often uplifting stories of normal people coming through great adversity. A happy ending is unfortunately, not a possibility for Jade.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Keeping my PMA towards journalism

PMA or 'positive mental attitude' is a mantra which has followed me around since my school years and has often been the only useful bit of advise I can recall when trying to cheer or console a friend with a case of the down-in-the-dumps. It seems a bit of PMA is going to a be especially useful in getting ahead in journalism.

Ben Bryant the editor of gair rhydd organised for some of the paper's 'old boys' to come and chat to us about getting into journalism on Saturday and I have to say thankfully, there are still things to be positive about.

They weren't old at all, of course, but only graduated a couple of years before I began at the University and so it was immensely encouraging to meet three Cardiff graduates, who not so long ago were just a part of another group of journalist hopefuls (a situation which I am soon to be finding myself in) but have gone on to do so well. Greg Cochrane now works for the music section of Radio 1's news service, Newsbeat and previously wrote for NME magazine. Will Dean works at The Guide at The Guardian and Gary Andrews is involved in PR at itv.

In a time when you can't view a news programme or open a newspaper without getting 'recession', 'credit crunch' and 'job cuts' shoved down your throat it was really great to hear how these three guys were getting on.

They painted a refreshingly positive image of the media industry, especially Greg, who without doing any postgraduate studies had gotten so far with hard work and an obvious enthusiasm for writing about and being involved in music.

It is though, as Gary reminded us an especially bad time for any graduate to get a job but I suppose it is useful to have learnt about myself - that even though it is going to be tough I have not lost the enthusiasm or drive to get out there and give it my best shot (PMA, PMA, PMA).

All three spoke a lot about the importance of the Internet and I think were slightly mystified when, upon asking, 'who here writes a blog' it was only mine and my housemate Ellie's arms who went tentatively upwards. It is because of the animated way in which Gary especially talked about such 'new media tools' that you might have noticed the addition of Twitter to my blog. I have to admit at first I thought it utterly pointless, similiar to the 'status updates' on facebook but I think now after a couple of days, I might actually get it! I'm following a range of people, instituitions and services and therefore get news headlines, weather forcasts and gig details mixed in with the ramblings from a couple of friends and hilarious quips from Stephen Fry and Charlie Brooker. Yes, I should probably 'fess up, "my name is Emma Barlow and I'm addicted to Twitter."

All in all it was a really helpful exercise, I am reassured, yet again, that journalism is what I want to be doing and reminded too, that it is going to take an awful lot of work to get there but so long as I keep that in mind as well as my ever trusty PMA, perhaps it won't be as scary as I previously thought it would be.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009


It was great to catch Emmy and her band, if you're in the right sort of aching-heart/life-pondering mood her almost sickly-sweet songs can really hit the spot. The night at Clwb was apparently the first sell-out of the tour, affirming that which I have often thought, that the Welsh are a melancholic lot and, of course, appreciate a pretty tune or two.

The new album First Love seemed to go down a treat and were soaked up by the nodding heads and tapping feet as if they were already firmly planted favourites in the minds of the hushed audience. MIA was a standout tune for me and well worth checking out if you feel so inclined. I mainly knew of her from the work she did with Lightspeed Champion on his very pretty debut album (Falling Off The Lavender Bridge) but she definitely proved she is more than just Dev Hynes' backing singer.

Sunday, 1 February 2009


This is just so fantastic, and was apparently made from 3,225 individual still photos. I could watch this all day, thanks Ed for showing it to us this morning - it made my sore head a little easier to bare! The song by the way, is Her Morning Elegance by Oren Lavie.

Songbook 5

Furr by Blitzen Trappper, I really like their lyrics and am sure they are heading for big things, especially as they sound quite similar to Fleet Foxes who are going to be huge this summer! They also happen to hail from Portland, as do the Dandys.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

My new favourite night


I headed here for Owen's birthday, dressed up as a hippy - I think I pulled it off, even with the daisies I had painted on my cheek! The music, the venue and of course the company ended up making it a very special night.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Songbook 3 & 4

I suppose the good thing about sitting at a desk all day trying to finish 3 essays and a play is that sometimes, while procrastinating and looking at all sorts of stuff on the net, you stumble across some really lovely music. Coconut Records is Jason Schwartzman's new band, he was previously in Phantom Planet and is also one of my favourite actors. (You might know him from I Heart Huckabees and The Darjeeling Limited, both great films.) Hector Projector is totally new to me, but I loved his video, which he animated himself. Two very talented guys!

Saturday, 3 January 2009

"Yet across an immense ethereal gulf..."

The 1938 radio broadcast of Orson Welle's version of War of the Worlds is famous throughout the media and art world for allegedly causing mass panic amongst all those who heard it. According to wikipedia there were 12,500 newspaper articles about the broadcast or its impact, while Adolf Hitler cited the panic as "evidence of the decadence and corrupt condition of democracy."

Whether you believe in the panic or not it's a truly brilliant piece of radio. It utilises its own form, including newsflashes, weather reports, the opinions of experts, the voices of an outside broadcaster and ordinary people, to make an intense and suspense-filled drama. I especially like the ending, where after the studio broadcaster finally falls silent, (after reporting people running and diving into the East River 'like rats,') another voice is heard, an amateur radio operator: "2X2L calling CQ ... Isn't there anyone on the air? Isn't there anyone on the air? Isn't there ... anyone?"

I'm currently using the broadcast in a stage play I'm writing for my creative writing portfolio. It takes place on Halloween, October 30 1938, the date when the broadcast went out and will use only one location, the living room of an American family living in New Jersey where the Martians land. The play is really going to focus on the different reactions of the family members when they believe a real Martian invasion is happening outside their window.

Friday, 2 January 2009

This is it

Cardiff University's student paper, to which I have dedicated a lot of my spare time over the years! If you squint you might be able to make out my name on the byline. I'm currently news editor, which is hard work but allows me to get really involved, perhaps more so than some of the other section editors because it is such a large section. We have 7 pages to fill with (hopefully) interesting stories and totally design ourselves each week.

By the way, in case you're wondering gair rhydd means 'free word' in Welsh. If you like you can check it out here: I will probably publish some of my articles on here in the future.

Songbook 2

I'm a massive fan of this song, Buckie High by Boards of Canada, mainly because it reminds me of the truly blissful time I spent hanging out in West End on Roatan, one of the Honduran Bay Islands where I spent my gap year.

Happy new year

I saw in the new year with the help of a lot of champagne and surrounded by friends. It was a ridiculous night with our lovely hostess Alex having to scrub cat poo out of the carpet at one point, she lives with four cats so it had to happen some time!

My thoughts have rested on new year resolutions this morning and this year I think I'm going to make a very simple one - to enjoy and appreciate my last term of university as much as possible. It's going to be over before I know it and I'll certainly miss it when it's gone.