oh comely

Day Off: The Skateboarder

words Tamara Vos

17th April 2014

In the second installment of the Day Off series, I talked to our craft editor Hannah Bailey about her new-found obsession: skateboarding. 

When did you start skateboarding? 

I took up skating a couple of summers back. It was always something I had wanted to do, but no opportunity had forced me to start. All of a sudden I realised: what am I waiting for, I've got to do this now! Since then I've wheeled about most weeks, finding adventures as I go.

Was it difficult to learn? 

I'm still learning, but I think the majority of skaters, or in fact every skater is. I'm not trying to push myself to learn all the tricks or be better than anyone else, I just want to get confident on a board, cruise round the bowl and eventually pop a nice ollie. Skating takes time and commitment, but once you have started your addiction, it's easily fuelled!

Tell us a funny story that's happened while skating. 

So many bails! So many scabby knees and ripped jeans! And many an interesting chat. You can meet some real characters at skateparks. Last summer, I was skating in Clapham Common and a rollerblader asked me if I'd like to join his skate team. I was flattered, but I passed. As a girl you get all sorts of weird stuff, but the positive encouragement outweighs it all!

What do you love most about skateboarding? 
It makes me feel free. That might sound cheesy, but it's spot on. I love so many things about it: the actual skating, but also the people and culture that come with it. It's an amazing thing to be a part of and I really value the friends I've made through skating. I also enjoy it's accessibility, being able to just grab a board and go, and the fact you're outside in fresh air, flinging yourself about. Nothing beats a nice sunny day and a warm concrete bowl.

How would you introduce skateboarding to someone who might like to try it? 

The great thing is that there are so many female sessions and crews popping up all over the UK, so there's a great support network if you did want to try it out for the first time; it's not simply about heading to a skatepark with a board and running away scared. Buy a board, find a skate friend or two and just skate as much as you can. Simple.

Photos: Hannah Bailey. 
Video: Shade Media.
Read more in this series: The Allotmenteer

Pick Me Up Graphic Arts Festival: Ticket Giveaway

words Tamara Vos

14th April 2014

Who needs a Monday morning pick-me-up? 

Pick Me Up is an arts festival with a difference: it's a fun and informal showcase of the work of both budding and bonafide graphic artists, featuring quirky studio spaces where you can shop for real, affordable art. 

Now in it's fifth year, Pick Me Up is bigger than ever, with more events, late nights, and a wider range of design and illustration represented. There'll be a record sleeve workshop, a Monster Marathon, and a pug-drawing workshop to name just a few, plus talks and screenings from illustrators and producers. 

"Ti adoro Ivan Cattaneo". Carine Brancowitz

The festival is running from the 24th April - 5th May, at the Embankment Galleries of Somerset House. Day tickets are £10 (concessions £8), and a Festival Pass is £17.50. 

We are giving away two tickets to one lucky Oh Comely reader, to visit the festival on a day of their choice. 

Simply share the work of your favourite illustator with the hashtag #pickmeupOC on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, and we will announce the winner next Monday. 

I Would Rather Just Hang Out With You, Julia Pott.

Flowers on a Car, Annu Kil.



Harvard, Thibaud Herem

Some T's & C's:

The pair of tickets can be used on any day during the festival. However, the winner is required to advise what their day of entry will be in advance of their visit. The pair of tickets are valid only when used together. The winner and their guest are able to stay as long as they like, but please be aware that there is no re-admission. Entry is subject to capacity and during busy periods a queuing systems may be in place.


Five Questions And A Song: Jacob Allen

words Linnea Enstrom

14th April 2014

Jacob Allen grew up on a council estate among what he calls a nice mix of concrete and soft English countryside, writing songs on guitar until late in the night. A few weeks ago he went for a walk with photographer Nicolette Clara Iles among trees and old stones and ended up with this beautiful series of images to go with his sound. We talked to Jacob about finding inspiration in passing moments.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I'm a music degree student currently playing around London with my live band. I love music and art, laughing, sunshine and I’m interested in dreams. Unfortunately I'm also a bit of an old romantic. It’s a blessing and a curse.

What inspires you?

Anything can inspire me. Jeff Buckley, Radiohead, Nirvana, classical guys like Rachmaninov and Shostakovich, film scores, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, stunning things that haunt me. I have also taken a liking to old jazz, hip hop and funk music. New sounds or beautiful visuals, even imagery I get from writing or poetry. I love tragedy too.

Describe your first performance.

My first performance was actually on drums in a school hall. I played along to This Love by Maroon 5 and the drums were falling apart and I couldn't hear the track because the CD player was on the other side of the hall. But I didn't care at all. I was having such a good time thinking I was the best drummer in the world.

What's for tea? [Asked by previous interviewee David Ward]

Literally tea. I can't get enough cups of tea at the moment.

What can you tell us about this song?

House of Wool draws a lot of influence from two Radiohead songs. And Jeff of course, always Jeff. But lyrically it's about unhealthy attachment and a nightmare I had last year. In some ways it’s also a tortured love song.

Photography: Nicolette Clara Iles

Day Off: The Allotmenteer

words Tamara Vos

10th April 2014

We all have that something that makes us tick.

In this series, I'll be interviewing the Oh Comely team and contributors about the interests they pursue outside of working hours, be it baking, knitting or the major battles of World War II. I'll also ask them for some tips on how you could get started yourself, and who knows: it might lead to a new hobby of your own. 

I began with our Deputy Editor, Rosanna, who spends her weekends on her allotment and is always full of gardening stories come Monday morning. 

View from the allotment. 

What inspired you to start your own allotment? Was it easy to obtain one? 

In May 2007, during my second year at university, I put myself down on the waiting list for an allotment. On 2nd January 2013, I got a telephone call letting me know that I was top of the list. Today, the waiting list for a plot on our allotment is projected to be twenty years short. As soon as I had a plot, I decided it was only sensible to try and keep it.

How often do you go to your allotment? 

I spend every Sunday on the allotment and like the rainy days as equally as the sunny ones. In the summer, we'll spend Saturday and Sunday there too.

What sort of things do you grow? 

We've got many berry plants, other perennials such as horseradish and rosemary, and have just planted a bed of globe artichokes. I'm trying to convince the friends I now share the plot with to grow my favourite vegetable, Jerusalem Artichoke, but that's an ongoing battle since it has a rapacious root system, is an acquired taste and a nightmare to peel.

Rare Lewis Black potatoes from 2013's crop. 

What are the difficulties in keeping an allotment? 

It's a lot work, there's no denying it. Our plot is 20m x 6m. So far, we've not used a drop of weed killer, which means there's a huge amount of weeding to keep on top of and soil to feed and dig. Plots are inspected once a year, and if you're not growing enough then you get booted out. Our approach has been to go every week of the year, if humanely possible, and to do something however small.

What do you love most about your allotment?

I spent the best part of my younger life proclaiming--privately and sometimes publicly--that I never wanted to work in an office. Now that I find myself doing just that, arriving to work on Monday morning after a weekend of gardening and digging London clay makes me very happy indeed. 

The site does feel quite rural, and that's really the best thing about it: the sense, upon arrival, of having left the city and its computer screens far behind. On the 18 acre site of approximately 450 plots, there's a well-supplied heap of horse manure, a scrap metal dump and a wee community shop selling soil and tools. Our plot is at the top of Knight's Hill, giving us one of the best views I've had of London, ever. Looking up in the middle of weeding, we see The Shard, Canary Wharf, and the Millennium Dome ostentatiously decorating the horizon line.

Mouldy allotment boots.

Tell us a funny story about the allotment.

I was talking to one of the older plot holders who's been gardening on the site for decades, and has multiple plots. I commented that sometimes I found it difficult to keep up with all the gardening work. He said, "I have plenty of thyme." I nodded my head vigorously, thinking his comment was in sympathy with my own, until I realised that he was talking about all the patches of thyme he'd planted on one of his plots. 

How could I get started with allotmenteering? 

If you want an allotment of your own, put yourself on the waiting list. Ten years down the line, you might be very glad you did. And if you want to visit an allotment, come on by! We only ask for 30 minutes of digging or weeding in return for chocolate biscuits.

Photos: Rosanna Durham. 

Exhibition of 20th Century Japanese Prints at Henry Sotheran's

words Tamara Vos

7th April 2014

Here at the Oh Comely office we're busy polishing up Issue Twenty, which will be out at the end of April. 

We're especially excited to include a feature on Studio Ghibli by our film editor Jason Ward. After the success of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind in 1985, Studio Ghibli continued to shape the global progress of anime, with 2001's award-winning Spirited Away becoming the highest-grossing film in Japanese history. Hayao Miyazaki - the director and creative force behind Studio Ghibli - announced his retirement last year, and the feature will be a retrospective on the three decades of his work. 

With that in mind, we'd like to present an exhibition of 20th century Japanese prints at Henry Sotheran's, the longest-running antiquarian bookshop in the world. As well as featuring a range of traditional woodblock prints and original watercolour scrolls, the exhibition will include prints of original Studio Ghibli storyboards and hand-drawn anime. 

The exhibition is running from 10th April - 1st May at the Henry Sotheran Print Gallery in Picadilly, London. Admission is free, and all artwork will be available for acquisition. 

Images from top: An original anime illustration from Studio Ghibli's My Neighbor Totoro, as published in Japan, 1988.

Original woodblock print by Teru Kuzuhara.


The Joys of Improvisation: An Interview With Amira Kheir

words Matt Lewis

4th April 2014

With two sonically diverse albums already under her belt, Sudanese musician Amira Kheir is certainly no stranger to experimentation. Drawing upon a wide range of musical sources and genres, Amira’s jazz and soul-inflected songs are often anchored in the traditional music of her homeland. On the 11th of April, she will perform an improvised live score to Ernst Lubitsch’s 1920s silent film Sumurun for Birds Eye View Film Festival; an Arabian Nights­-influenced tale of love and laughter featuring the iconic Pola Negri.

We talked to Amira about the movie, her craft and the joys of improvisation.

Did you enjoy the challenge of writing a soundtrack?

Definitely. It’s not a straightforward soundtrack as it’s not something that was written and fixed. It was very much based on improvisation. Every time we performed it, the music was different. It was a score that was alive and moving throughout because it was based on us reacting to the film on the spot and us interacting with each other as musicians. It was very challenging as the film is almost two hours long.

Were you happy with the results then?

I was very happy because it’s not something we could have predicted. The results were something that very much came from how we were that day. That’s how improvised music works – it will change every time you play because you’re different each time. And especially when there are five of you, since you get a response from five different musicians, five individuals. It was a very inspiring experience.

What are the biggest influences on the music you normally make?

I’m obviously influenced by jazz and soul and by traditional Sudanese folk, Sufi and Haqeeba – African music generally. But Middle Eastern and South American music also inspires me. I don’t have boundaries. Everything influences me when I listen to it.

Music is just a reflection of your life. If you’re living in a vibrant place and you connect with many different people, the fruit of those connections are things that you constantly explore and discover.

How do you incorporate such diverse influences into your songs?

I don’t have a method. Songs get written because there’s a particular thrust or push for it. The melody is the first thing that comes to me and then I build on that.

The lyrics of your most recent album, Al Sahara, are written in Arabic. Do you usually sing in Arabic?

I sing in Arabic, English, Italian - whatever comes. After a melody comes to mind, the next thing is an idea or concept or feeling that will go with that melody. Some ideas or themes that I sing about will make more sense in a particular language. Sometimes it’s more natural for me to sing in Arabic because what I’m singing about just happens to speak to me in Arabic.

Documentary Review: Pine Ridge

words Liz Bennett

3rd April 2014

Ahead of Bird's Eye View Film Festival, which opens next week, Liz went to an early screening of Pine Ridge, by Danish documentarist Anna Eborn. 

An Oglala Lakota Native American reservation in South Dakota, Pine Ridge is the poorest county in the US. Shot against stunning Midwestern landscapes, Anna Eborn's first feature-length documentary is an unflinching snapshot of its daily realities.

There's something disquieting right from the start of Pine Ridge: you feel too close to everyone's faces. Anna Eborn's documentary is set on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and explores the lives of young Native Americans. The camera crops quite tightly around the faces of the film's interviewees, faces filmed at rest or absorbed in a task, while the interview is only heard as a voiceover. You see pores and facial flaws in intimate detail.

The film consists of moments of daily life observed without comment: two teenagers killing time at a petrol station, a toddler absentmindedly hitting a kitten, a woman tossing heavy bags of rubbish up onto her flat roof. She appears cheerfully intent, and unconcerned by the camera. Again comes the discomfort of voyeurism: why should we be looking at something as undigified and private as the rubbish bags on her roof?

Pine Ridge is a film that raises questions and pointedly does not answer them. The interviewer's voice is never heard. There is no apparent narrative. It rarely comments on the causes of the poverty it shows, even in the words of its subjects. The history of dispossession of the Sioux people of South Dakota is assumed background, and little is touched on explicitly.

Instead it presents unfiltered words and actions. People speak about their lives, pasts and expectations. Their voices and the rocky, infertile prairies of South Dakota have a knack of worming their way into your brain.

The UK Premiere of Pine Ridge will be screening at BFI Southbank on the 9th of April. 

We are giving one lucky Oh Comely reader two tickets for the closing night screening of Swim Little Fish Swim, on the 13th April. For a chance to win, simply share this post on Facebook or Twitter - we will be announcing the winner tomorrow.

Head-to-Toe Tie Dye: The Crumple Coat

words Hannah Bailey

3rd April 2014

Our tie dye series is from Issue Nineteen of Oh Comely. You can buy the issue here, or subscribe here.

In the last post of this series, we will show you how to transform a sad old raincoat into a piece that's ready to party come rain or shine. We chose to dye a coat, but this method can be applied to pretty much any piece of clothing; the trick is to keep the crumples tight. 

You Will Need: 

A light, spring coat, or a garment of your choice
Two dyes in different colours
Two squeezy bottles with nibs
A plastic sheet or large bucket
A plastic bag
Rubber gloves

One. Soak your coat in a salt solution, following the instructions on your dye packet.

Two. Prepare the dyes in squeezy bottles according to the instructions on the packet. We used a quarter sachet each of Dylon's Antique Grey and Dylon's Tropical Green, each mixed with 100ml of warm water. Shake it up well. 

Three. Remove the jacket from the salt solution and wring out any excess water. Place on a plastic sheet or large bucket. Shape the material into a flat circle (not a ball), tightly crumpling it in places. The tighter the crumples, the better! 

Four. Cover the crumpled circle fully in the lightest dye colour first. Flip over and do the same with the other side. 

Five. Open the crumple out. Carefully recrumple it, exposing as much white fabric as possible. Grab your second colour, apply the dye, flip and repeat. 

Six. Have a little peek in the creases of your coat to see if there's much white remaining; cover it with dye if there is. Maintaining the crumple, place your garment in a plastic bag and leave it somewhere warm. 

Seven. After 24 hours, remove your coat from the bag and rinse thoroughly until the water runs clear. Hang to dry, and get ready to wear! 

Read more in this series: The Bleached Black Jeans, The Swirly Pocket Tee, The Stripy Scarf.

Photos: Liz Seabrook