Arts | Culture | Derby | Events | Gender | Leicester | Lifestyle | Mental Health | Nottingham | Race | Sexuality

Leicester Riot Grrrls

By on 23 August, 2016

635850213947912225-1257980412_rgworldlogo[1]

Leicester pretty much has everything: excellent food, lovely people from everywhere in the world, high-quality sports, and an ever-growing cultural scene. A significant chunk of this rise in arts, music, performance, spoken word and dance is not funded by the establishment, the government or big corporations. You can find these underground acts whispering in the corner of an open mic event at the pub or exploding on an improvised stage at an independent gallery. It could be considered punk in principles and D.I.Y. in aesthetic: if you want something to happen, make it happen in your own terms and flipping the bird at “gatekeepers”. If they don’t let you in the building, make a raucous party on the streets.

il_fullxfull.851438737_mzcd[1]

We would assume that, with such notches under its belt, Leicester would also have a social activist scene. People questioning authority on behalf of certain cultural groups, ethnic groups, gender groups, those who are often unheard or afraid to share their voices even in the independent cultural scene I love and praise so much. How many middle-class baby-booming white men have to spread themselves like Marmite all over workshops, open mics, performances and other events when they could easily knock the door on the BBC and get their own show any time? How many topics are avoided and unquestioned, experiences left unshared, injustices being ignored? For a start, where are the women? The young people, the queer, the unemployed and underemployed, the working class, the cry-myself-to-sleeps, the disabled, the large-and-unashamed, the anarchists?

Where are the Riot Grrrls?

It’s the same thing Gemma Wicks and Meri Everitt were wondering. There have been Riot Grrrl or Riot Grrrl-inspired communities in several cities and countries, either tangent or online, ever since the manifesto was released in 1991 on Bikini Kill’s zine; some of them expanding, updating and improving the lifestyle and the scope of who is allowed in and what to fight for. Today, intersectionalism is key, and all women are real women, all non-binaries are non-binaries. People are what people are. But at least nowadays, there wasn’t a movement like this one in Leicester.

s-l1000[1]

Leicester Riot Grrrls started as an idea on Facebook. It has its own closed group, a safe space to ask questions and help each other through sorority. There is now a public Facebook page where we share news, pictures and cute/enraging/edifying things. But what would a geographically-specific group be like without – gasp – human interaction?

The group meets ideally once a month. The first meeting was in July, upstairs at Firebug. It was quite successful and people came all the way from Nottingham and Derby to participate and maybe make something like this happen in their towns. So I guess we’re pioneers in the East Midlands? We had a bit of an open mic and I am amazed by the quality and passion of all the performers; some of them regulars in the local and regional circuits, some of them shy and terrified kids who had never done it in public. This is an excellent opportunity for them to practice, share, and keep doing things here, there and everywhere.

thejword

There are a few smaller groups within the group, and they each specialise in one kind of activity or project. The music jammers, the book club, the film club, the zinesters, and anything else that comes by. You’re all welcome to perform, share your writings and your readings.

The next Leicester Riot Grrrls meeting is on the 31st of August at Duffy’s, a very friendly Irish pub just around the corner from Firebug. If you want to be part of it, organise stuff and believe in the ideals, feel free to join! We’ll also be hanging out at that thing called Leicester Pride at Victoria Park on Saturday 3rd of September.

letskeeptalking

Continue Reading

Culture | Gender | Lifestyle | Nottingham | Poetry | Race | Sexuality | Spoken Word

Cutiepocking Notts Pride 2016

By on 26 July, 2016

nottspride

After Coventry Pride, and after all the gross stuff going on with the world, I felt it was my responsibility to get more involved with Pride and speak out as a member of the community. So, going the extra mile, I’ll be performing not once but TWICE at Notts Pride this year.

queerzinedeanatta

First, at the Mouthy Poets Queer Zine launch. The zine was conceived by Dean Atta at his Queer Poetry Masterclass, as a way to show the resulting exercises and similar material. It was a very fruitful experience, and I can’t wait to hold it in my hands. It features work by Atta, Alex Bond, Denise Dee, Petra Mijic, Neal Pike, Barbara Schaefer, Beccy Shore, Milla Tebbs, Joni Wildman and yours truly. The launch and readings will be at Lee Rosy’s Tea on Broad Street, 2:30pm. But please, be there from 1:30pm to enjoy the full Poetry Corner and see regular performers from Write Minds Wiff Waff.

qtipocalypse

Later, the end (or the beginning?) will be near at the QTIPOCALYPSE, an open mic for Queer Trans and Intersex-Identified People of Colour (or like you can pronounce the acronym, Cutiepock). It’s organised by QTIPOC Notts, a group that was just set up last November and aims to give space to people of colour with diverse genders and sexualities who may not feel comfortable in the average mainstream LGBT community. Allies are welcome to watch and listen. Hosted by the grand Dr Angela Martinez Dy, better known as El Día. It will be upstairs at Rough Trade Nottingham, also on Broad Street, 7pm.

So yeah, come to one. Or the other. Or both. I recommend both. Also, everything else at Notts Pride. Marching, listening to music, making music, looking at pretty things, getting pretty things, celebrating our identities and fighting for recognition with words and glitter.

Continue Reading

Film | Films | Internet | Media | Mental Health | Poems | Poetry | Spoken Word | World

The Tube of You

By on 22 July, 2016
All these tubes are yours. Image: MorgueFile.
All these tubes are yours. Image: MorgueFile.

Dunno if I’ve mentioned it already, but when my therapist found out I was trying to do “poetry stuff”, she told me to film myself and upload the videos on YouTube. It sounded terrifying. I mean, I’m going to therapy and stuff. Why would I want to be so “exposed” to mockery and disdain? That’s why I uploaded most of my film work and footage to Vimeo instead. No chance of sick comments, very niche, from filmmakers to filmmakers. Plus, none of that soul-selling copyright nonsense. I didn’t know YouTube let you register your films under Creative Commons!

Image: MorgueFile
Image: MorgueFile.

Then, Pangaea World Poetry Slam came. Submit your videos, people can vote, you may win money, and will definitely get to be known internationally. However, you have to upload them on YouTube. Nowhere else. Get naked. Also, there are some cool free workshops on Hangouts that will help you to improve your game.

Thank you, Pangaea, for making the impossible, possible.
Thank you, Pangaea, for making the impossible, possible.

So I followed my therapist’s advice and here goes nothing! The official Cynthia Rodríguez YouTube channel. I’ve been uploading pieces for Pangaea once a week for the past three weeks, and will upload one very likely next week. From live footage to just talking to the camera from interesting places to full-blow film montage, I’m just looking for different ways to share stories and messages as they might benefit, amuse or *inspire* others. It’s already helping me improve and become less camera shy, and people have already started doing their own spoken word/films and looking for open mics to share. Sharing is caring!

Last week’s delivery was “How to Leave the House in Times of Trouble”. I want as many people as possible to see that one because the world needs you, obvs. Before that, it was footage of “Pepper Spray” from the open mic at Coventry Pride.

This week, the weather was so nice I sat on the grass at Victoria Park and relaxed a bit. I was so chilled out that I ended up filming and uploading my entry for Pangaea right there and then. An old-ish poem, from three months ago or so. It’s called “Frivolous”, and I wrote it after the Open Stage at The Y where I read a lot of my hardcore pinko shit and then came the adorable Anna My Charlotte with an ukulele (she plays harp too! <3) and said she would see a bit frivolous after all my stuff, and then proceded to sing and play the most charming and nostalgic stuff ever. The perfect songs to play in the park on a peaceful sunny day.

So yeah, follow, like, share, whatever, and if you have videos and words, share them to the world!

Continue Reading

Culture | Films | Gender | Internet | Mental Health | Poems | Portfolio | Race | Sexuality

VIDEO: How to Leave the House in Times of Trouble

By on 15 July, 2016

leavethehouse1

The world sucks sometimes. You’ve read on “Craig David” about a lot of the boogers that happened in the world, and that was just for ONE WEEK. The following weeks kept getting worse and worse in small and great scale: police brutality, terrorist attacks everywhere, your parents damning this country to hell and validating those who hate us to be more outspoken about it, horrible people inside and outside taking sneaky pictures in the changing rooms and laughing at those who don’t exactly please Grandpa Hugh Hefner’s rotten standards, etc.

It can be awful daring to step outside with the piercing fear of being attacked one way or another, but then there’s also the fear of ourselves that, if we stayed indoors all the time, we might never be able to come out and our voice will be muffed and lost. The fear of not coming home alive, the fear of not leaving house alive. This is for you, for us.

leavethehouse2

It’s a poem/film/guide thingie called “How to Leave the House in Times of Trouble”. For those of us trouble by agoraphobia, being members of one or many “minority” groups and seeing our worst fears come through every day. There’s still a world outside, and this world still needs you. So get ready and earn some courage however you can, if possible.

The poem was written as an exercise at a Writing Poetry Google Hangout Workshop with Dean Atta. He gave the queue of making a how-to poem on any topic of our “expertise”. Later, I turned it into a short film for the Pangaea World Poetry Slam, who organised said workshop. It was lovely to merge three of my loves — writing, filming and sharing — and use them for a good thing.

Here comes the fun part: click, like and share with as many people as possible. Particularly people who would benefit from the message. You never know the ordeals someone could go through just to live a “normal” day. If I ever make money out of the streams, shares and likes (LOLS), I’ll give it all to a mental health organisation, particularly one which helps queers, POC and/or people who may not speak English and need someone to advocate for them. It comes with subtitles/captions if you don’t understand my accent, and I’m working on a Spanish translation. Subtitles in any other language are more than welcome. <3

There are a couple of things that might be misunderstood. The “wear something that doesn’t attract negative attention” is not slut-shaming. We should be free to wear whatever we want, but some people don’t know or don’t want us to know this, so they attack. On low “spoons” days, you don’t even feel like fighting or defending yourself, so you keep your energy levels to a minimum and just try to roam by in a way that attracts as few bigots as possible.

Also, the “you’re still a woman on trainers, you’re still a man on stilettos” bit includes cis and trans people alike. A lot of trans people I know fear wearing items that are associated more with the gender they were forcibly assigned at birth. They don’t want to be “read” as “impostors”. A trans woman is still a woman on her Nike Air Force Ones. A trans man is still a man on his Louboutins. An NB is still an NB on whatever they want. Also, the fear of fragile masculinity or the fear of not being “seen as a woman” even if you’re cis because your exterior doesn’t match the “desirable standards” (women of certain colours not recognised in feminininininity, fat chicks like us seen as “one of the boys” by our crushes, et al). So yeah. I love you. If you find any fuckups in my work, let me know.

Continue Reading

Arts | Coventry | Culture | Gender | Lifestyle | Sexuality | Zines

Coventry Pride 2016

By on 23 June, 2016

covpride

On Sunday, two ideas/stereotypes/internalised misconstructions were torn apart out of my mind forever: the idea that Pride festivals are now mainstream bacchanals far away from their original meanings, and the idea that Coventry died after the Blitz and that since then it’s been nothing but — The Specials dixit — a ghost town. Coventry is, in fact, more galvanised than ever, and Coventry Pride is queer in every sense of the word. Weird, open, beyond the norms.

covpride_crowd
Image: Coventry Pride.

Coventry Pride took place last Saturday and Sunday at FarGo Village, a comfortable hip area in Far Gosford Street recently devised as a creative hub where young and/or alternative people can hang out, exchange ideas and establish connections. It is a bit like a compact version of Leicester’s Cultural Quarter, but more focused on startups and independent stores. It seems pretty cosy, and offers anything from American sweets to books, comics, clothes and pop culture collectables. With a coffee shop and a tap house almost next to each other, I think I would spend a lot of my waking hours in this area if I lived in Coventry.

The most glamorous Dalek.
The most glamorous Dalek.

This is the second year in a row in which Coventry Pride takes place, last year being nominated as Best Live Event 2015 in Coventry Telegraph People’s Choice Awards. It is organised by people intensely active in the local LGBT+ community, a registered charity since October 2015, and it has kept organising events in preparation for every Pride all year long. I was originally invited to perform for ❤ Music, Hate Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia in May, but times were complicated. It looks like it was an amazing event full of quality music, poetry and performance in general. Would love to go next time they do something like this.

Source: Sarah Beth.
Source: Sarah-Beth Gilbert.

On Sunday, I was part of the Spoken Word Open Mic event at the Urban Coffee. I was kindly invited by Jessamy Morris-Davis, organiser extraordinaire, whom I met thanks to Joe from Deathsex Bloodbath (heavily involved in the Coventry music scene) and his wonderful partner Sarah-Beth. We happen to share friends like Kerrie Sakura, who I finally got to meet that afternoon after ages of talking online; and apparently Joe also knows Charles Wheeler from the wrestling circuit. Small world! Small beautiful world!

Nim Chimpsky. Image: Andy McGeechan.
Nim Chimpsky. Image: Andy McGeechan.

Outside, we had the Phoenix Stage, with tons of mind-blowing queer music acts. Yes, even indie rock and electro noise. This was really, really important, since a lot of the times I’ve been in Pride festivals/LGBT+ events, the musical offer was rather one-dimensional: from ABBA tributes to busted Butlin’s “comedians” in drag to straight pop divas who recorded that one song about being yourself and treat the queer community as a cash cow. Stagey McStageface in the Market Hall had more cheesy pop/mainstream acts, but it was not everything the festival had to offer, as it happens in other festivals in bigger cities. This one recognised the possibilities of noise/experimental music as the epitome of all things queer beyond the “that sounds gay” label. I performed in the small silence gap between Duck Thieves and Nim Chimpsky. CHECK THEM OUT, NOW.

Duck Thieves! Image: Andy McGeechan.
Duck Thieves! Image: Andy McGeechan.

While we’re at it, please, please, please read “Noise Music as Queer Expression” by K Surkan. Print it, download it, read it on the bus, highlight stuff on it, share it, shout it.

Image: Andy McGeechan.
Image: Andy McGeechan.

Another thing I adored about the festival was its inclusiveness, its grassroots and its DIY ethos. As I’ve said before, the organisers were queer themselves and way beyond the White Gay Man with Disposable Income. Trans, Lesbian, Bi/Pan and Non-Binary folks crafted this with so much love and dedication you could feel it. On Saturday, there was a Body Positive Catwalk and I’m really gutted I missed it. People of different abilities and identities were very welcome and felt like home. As everything was at a ground level, it was wheelchair friendly, and since FarGo is so compact, people didn’t have to walk/run/rush/be dragged from one extreme to another to get to the next event. It was not crowded and it was not overwhelming; and if it was, you could go to the Info room and relax on the couch. And no, this Pride was not brought to you by Absolut Vodka, and you would not untuck in the Interior Illussions lounge.

Trans goth pride. Image: Andy McGeechan.
Trans goth pride. Image: Andy McGeechan.

(I’m still as obsessed with RuPaul’s Drag Race as usual but hey! The indier, the better!)

The community and info stalls — or what I managed to see from them on Sunday — were welcoming and friendly, with leaflets and material for queers and allies alike; offering help for old people, young people, people with disabilities, people of faith, victims/survivors of abuse, or even just having a laugh at the Lady Go-Diva Comedy Stage.

Gizmo Pride.
Gizmo Pride.

This event was so exciting it inspires me to get more involved in all things queer and underground. I’m tired of being read as straight just because I happened to fall in love with a dude (someone I adore regardless of gender) and it feels a bit lonely sometimes. The Coventry queer arts community seems warm, friendly and united; and I would love to keep attending their events and even just hanging out with my mates over there. If Leicester Pride were something like this, back to its roots, less corporate and more connected to punk and DIY (a bit like Anerki, but more queer-focused and with a lot more indie stalls), it would be perfect.

Continue Reading

England | Events | Germany | Language | Leicester | Lifestyle | Literature | Nottingham | Pakistan

Rediscover Communication I: Anerki in the Cellophane

By on 6 June, 2016

These weeks, I have been thinking and experiencing tons of stuff related to bilingual/multilingual communication in arts. Particularly, in writing and sharing words.

Códice Florentino.
Códice Florentino.

Growing up, I always took for granted the fact that I learned English. I had to do it, we had to do it, if we wanted to “be someone” in the world. If we wanted to travel, trade, enjoy entertainment, even save lives with whatever medicine people read on academic and research journals. The older generations in my family didn’t have this pressure on them as the urge of globalisation wasn’t that intense in their youth, so whenever I or my cousins/nieces/nephews of my generation or younger had to learn English at school, sing songs in English or make assembly presentations in English, it would be considered a massive feat. “Oye, que Cynthia anda estudiando maestría… ¡y en inglés!”. But it was never an achievement to us Mexican “millenials” (excuse me, willenials). It was something we just had to do. Like maths. Like operating a computer — another Herculean adventure on its own through the eyes of our parents, but that’s for another post.

Now in England, I have been met with the same awe not only for my ability to learn and communicate fluently in Orwell’s tongue, but for the fact that my first language is not English. They see it as a goldmine of knowledge, a secret code, the keys to a world apart from this one. Due to postcolonial preconceptions being spread through every government department — education included —, a lot of English people old and young never learned another language. At best, they took French or German for their GCSEs and forgot any foreign lexicon once they went to university or joined the workforce. When I started taking Spoken Word more seriously, they told me to share something in Spanish. For the musicality of it, for the beauty and strength of it, and perhaps, in the same way a lot of us honed our English skills through F.R.I.E.N.D.S. episodes and Radiohead songs, to catch a bit of it like flu or anthrax.

anerki-logo

I finally pleased them at the ninth edition of Anerki, that beautiful evening proud of showcasing the best in underground arts in Leicester. Music, dance, mesmerising visual arts, spoken word and stand-up comedy, just to mention a few examples of what you could find on that soirée at The Font. The fabulous Kish aka Zeropence had been excitedly telling me for months to bring something in Spanish, as people set the roof on fire when they see things performed in another language. And I did it because I felt safe. In other areas of the country, you would be met with pale bald tomatoes shouting “English, motherfucker, do you speak it?” like vegetable versions of Samuel L. Jackson. But hey! This is Leicester! We kicked out the EDL and we did the same to Britain First TWICE. So I went waaaay beyond the comfort zone and did something I had never ever done in my 30 years of grazing the Earth.

I fucking rapped.

anerki-skype
Despite all my rage, I’m still just reading lyrics. Still via Elliott Izzard.

And it was hot! People shouting, dancing and clapping, jaws dropping as that cute chubby lady with the Street Fighter necklace was dropping bars or whatever kids today call them. They possibly had no idea what I was talking about, but journalist Terry Mardi said “they felt it”. I also did some artsy Spanglish shit called “Sk*pe”, where I tried to reinterpret “O Superman” by Laurie Anderson and “Mother Mother” by Tracy Bonham and adapt it to contemporary times. It’s on the footage section, for the bold. Like the new layout, by the way?

12072794_10154085075664703_2444316930737502350_n[1]

If you missed it, I’ll be doing it again on the 18th of June at LCB Depot, as part of Anerki X. This will be an extra special one, on par with the exhibition The Art of Crass, curated by Sean Clark. The main act this evening will be Crass co-founder Steve Ignorant’s Slice of Life. Quite an honour to be shouting strange words at people who master the art of shouting strange words. Punk icons. Stick around all day at DIY-related events, workshops and fun for all ages.

Before that this Friday 10th of June, same place and same group of people, will be a spoken word special where a few of us read and recite stuff opening for Crass members Penny Rimbaud, Louise Elliott and Eve Libertine’s Cobblestones of Love, a lyrical rewrite of Yes, Sir, I Will. There will be a barbecue too. Come for the food, stay for the art and words.

(BTW, I got the idea for this title from Michel Gondry’s Science of Sleep, a surreal film that was pretty much based on communication breakdown in general. For instance, Duck Ellington.)

Continue Reading

Canada | Las Vegas | Media | Music | Poems | Poetry | Portfolio | Sports | United Kingdom | United States | World

El Gordito Goes to Vegas (FTRW Speed Poetry Challenge)

By on 28 April, 2016

It was a fun challenge to do my first stint at a Speed Poet at Find the Right Words. The instructions are easy: people shout topics at you, you go off to write a poem involving some/all of these topics, then you come back and read the results. Here is mine, on the junior doctors strike, Martin Castrogiovanni preferring to party in Las Vegas over playing against his former team, Victoria Wood and Prince leaving Earth, and the Hillsborough disaster verdict. How the feck did I manage how to connect these subjects? I have no idea.

Continue Reading

Freelance | Lifestyle | Office

The World Imposter Club

By on 8 February, 2016

howdidigethere

Times have not been swag at all. Not cool. Not coral. Not tubular or whatever kids say today. Between still hurting from a film fallout, being played like a violin twice by a large corporation which promised to employ me, a fresh medical diagnosis I have no idea how to control, and the illness and demise of my favourite furry creature on Earth, my heart has been filled with equal parts solitude and equal parts fear. Too unsafe to build trust in people (and above all, myself), too overwhelmed by a fog of loneliness and grief. Also, every time I go 9-to-5 job hunt I’m reminded I have failed as a freelancer and that none of my skills and experiences matter at all if they don’t generate an income. I doubt I’ll be ever be able to make it, and think that the little I’ve achieved so far has been a fluke and it’s one blow away from crumbling into ruins.

Not looking like a lebensborn supermodel grandchild with the language acumen (and accent) of Stephen Fry hasn’t helped much either.

Let’s say I cry a lot and that sometimes my biggest achievement is to make it to the end of the day alive and in one piece. I have been rather prolific with writing, going to workshops and reading in public, but it’s all a distraction to stop thinking about my dead dog and my distant family. Most of my poems have been elaborate pleas that basically say “don’t kill yourself because the system wants to destroy you and you’d be doing the job for them and that’s not punk”. Little did I suspect that there were others feeling the same way and needing to hear those words either. Yep, even skinny Caucasian belles a five-minute drive away from their extended families, who don’t have to think twice about using the right prepositions, who did their GCSEs and seem to have an impeccable reputation in the world of arts, crafts and farts.

No one has their lives sorted. We are all screaming into our pillows and we are all shitting our pants.

azilliondollarscomics
Image: A Zillion Dollars Comics.

The other day a young family guy with quite a career in theatre was sharing an open call to a performance event. This would be right up his alley, knowing his involvement in the scene and also knowing that he is quite talented, quite privileged in a sociological tumblr way (WhiteCisHetManTeenageMutantNinjaTurtle) and that he possibly knew the people involved in the soirée series. Heck, he’d already done several things at that venue. A very, very important one, by the way. He could have easily walked into the place like three horses walk into a bar.

Yet he commented he was too insecure to present his project. It was about something he was very passionate about, something that fitted with that session’s theme. But he didn’t feel good enough.

Every time I submit material to perform, the dance before daring to do it is pretty much like that one scene from Fight Club. Fighting against oneself, pulling one hand away from the keyboard and being slammed to the floor by invisible forces. And this person who organises other projects was feeling the same inverse impulse, the same invisible forces, telling him not to share his work.

inferiority
Image: Gemma Correll.

Earlier on Wednesday, I went to a networking meeting. Yes, I still go to networking meetings albeit feeling like a complete imposter. The trick is that they don’t know you’re fake. Now they know. Oops! Either way, a friend and colleague came around for the first time in months. It happens that she was dealing with grief and disenchantment as well and she had barely got the strength to leave the house. She felt like she wasted many perfect opportunities and she had to start from scratch.

She’s an illustrator and designer who could easily, easily, work for Disney and make a fortune in America. Or even here in Britain. She could animate the most endearing Christmas advert with her eyes closed, I bet. Yet again, that bloody fear took over and wrapped her like a smelly blanket. Or like a snake, gangrening your limbs until you can’t hold a pen. The fear doesn’t attack the talentless — in their case, mind you. Or at least it doesn’t attack people with nothing to say.

Image: Death to Stock Photo.
Image: Death to Stock Photo.

To avoid being home alone, I go to coffee shops and faff about on the laptop. Other young people go there and have talks with their friends and loved ones. 80 percent of the time I overhear them, they complain about unemployment or underemployment. About, again, the fear of doing things. They are also stricken with self-doubt and remorse. Comparing themselves to others who seem to have it better. Others who might in turn compare themselves to others. Or maybe to these same people who were comparing themselves to them. And I compare myself to all these people. And probably you do as well.

Bigger people go through these feelings and fall on these patches. My husband keeps telling me about Jonny Wilkinson (British Frenchman of the Year, Saviour of the Rugby) fearing that someday someone would “realise” he’s “a bit of a fraud“. The same with Gary Lineker, but I can’t find the source because I’m shit like that.

Even Maya Angelou was shitting her pants:

maya-angelou-quote-600x400

I don’t know where I’m getting with this ramble. All I can say is that if you feel like this, you are not alone. People of all physical and reputational sizes go through this. Specially at this day and age, stability is an illusion and the key to being able to do something is doing something. Even if that something is just staying alive.

And if you feel like a fraud and like no one believes in you, always remember this tiny potato:

Image: Emily's Diary.
Image: Emily’s Diary.

Continue Reading

Fashion | Lifestyle | Office | United Kingdom

The Flying Shoes

By on 31 December, 2015
Image: Incessant Doodling
Image: Incessant Doodling.

I used to volunteer at the Oxfam near my house. A few years ago, I was mostly operating on the till, greeting people, charging them for their acquisitions, sorting out refunds, or simply establishing conversation with good neighbours while enjoying our limited playlist. Haven’t seen it to this day, but the Dirty Dancing soundtrack gave me so much life.

With my nerves situation not yet under control, it was a challenging role, but it was rewarding. Many times I realised there were other people going through battles, and whose highlight of the day — like mine — was going to the shop, looking at pretty things, maybe being able to afford them and get them for a fraction of the original price.

Sometimes the customers and window-shoppers were extremely vulnerable people, seen as vermin by the highest political powers, referred to with “it” pronouns by the most rotten crème de la crème. Old people talking to themselves, a stout ginger man who wore gin as perfume and who always left with a tchotchke, estranged parents, young families with a weak grasp of the English language, struggling students. To know that this little shop helped them satisfy their needs, be them temporary happiness, acquiring presents and important items that otherwise would have been out of their reach, or just succeeding at socialising and leaving the house, was such a nurturing experience that improved my life in the process too.

Image: morgueFile.
Image: morgueFile.

One particularly grim afternoon, a scrawny woman of colour came into the shop. Frizzy hair, shaggy coat and tattered clothes that had seen better days. She was around her early 20s, but her complexion looked like it had survived Great Wars. Confused, she wandered around the shop, frequently turning her face to the window: a child was waiting for her across the street, too embarrassed to be seen with her. Perhaps he was her brother, her cousin, her son, but he wished there were no bonds.

Suddenly, she stopped in front of the shoes section. A pair of trainers caught her wandering eyes. They were some size 7/8 Converse animal print ankle boots with fur around the edges, and were in near mint conditions. The most basic Chuck Taylors are at least 23 quid during sales season, but this particular special kind was £4.99 in our shop. All proceedings went to feed and empower the most vulnerable communities, so anything we got was extremely helpful. After measuring the shoe soles to her worn out kicks, she grabbed them and rushed to the till, carrying with her a stench of booze and poppers.

—These shoes are gooorgeous! — she exclaimed with childlike joy in her voice. —They are amazing! I need to get them.

I agreed with her, as I was enchanted by them earlier that day but found them too big for my size 6 feet.

— I need to go get some money. Can I keep them with you? — she asked. I told her we took cards too anyway and she could buy them right away, but she said she had to go and check the ATM to see if she had enough money.

We’re talking a fiver here, people. She didn’t know if she had a fiver on her bank account. Or at least a fiver to spare, after bills to pay and food to eat.

fivepounds

She came back ten minutes later, same dynamic, child waiting for her on the pavement across the street in front of the estate agents. She had great news, a shine in her face and a five pound note in her hand.

— I’m getting them!

As soon as she got them, she took off her old sneakers, put them in her washed out messenger bag and put on the Converse instead. She left floating in the air and spreading a million thanks, and it was not because of the booze and drugs. It was pure joy. She was experiencing the comfort of new, pretty shoes that fit, and she was flying.

Image: iStock.
Image: iStock.

When middle-upper class vintage hunters go to charity shops and get things they don’t need, it affects people like this lady. Even worse, when middle-upper class vintage hunters go to charity shops, get things they don’t need and sell them on the Internet for its original price. Not only they make profit that could help the original people the charity shops are dedicated to, but potential consumers who otherwise wouldn’t be able to buy anything. They take away their opportunities. They, so to say, cut their wings and make them fall in the ground face first. We had a frequent shopper who bought our Ted Baker donations, sold them on eBay, and came back to get a refund on the ones he couldn’t sell.

But at least he didn’t show it off in a cutesy manner on social media, like this wanker did:

“Do I know anyone with tiiiny feet who would like these shoes? Size 4. too pretty to leave in oxfam”

Charlotte Curtis, from Black Heart Creatives, got particularly upset about it with all the right reasons. People with low and no income, specially people with dimensions away from the arbitrary Western average, struggle to find clothes and accessories that fit them correctly, make them look presentable and help them to navigate society and be able to move on and try to improve their existence. To have people with their entire lives sorted use their privilege, come and take away any fragment of joy the underdog could ever reach, is just disgusting.

I’ve previously spoken about the importance of available office wear for femme-presenting plus size people, and this also applies to those who can’t afford going to shows like Style XL, who can’t afford to go to John Lewis or Dorothy Perkins, and in particular to people with big and small feet who can’t get their shoe sizes online.

Yes, there are people with “tiiiny” feet who would like those shoes. No, they don’t know you. You may be repelled by them, and after reading you, they might be repelled by you. They could have put those shoes to good use much better than your imaginary friend you wanted to impress and that other twitter person who ended up buying them from you. They could have gone to an interview, got a job and sorted out their debts little by little. They could have gone to the club and have a good time. They could have gone to a date with sexy results. They could have been celebrating the New Year in style. They could have been happy just like you and me; maybe just for the instant they got to grab those shoes, try them on, check on the ATM if they had any money available, come back to the shop, buy them, put them on and leave the shop floating, flying, smiling for once. Feeling like they belong, for once.

And don’t say it’s just fashion. You damn well know it’s just not fashion.

Image: Smart Works.
Image: Smart Works.

PS: if you want/need clothes and shoes but can’t afford them, here are some useful resources as presented by Curtis on her blog. I’m still gutted The Circle folded for lack of funds while people like Paul from our shop and that git from twitter get to buy and resell.

Smart Works

Suited & Booted

Dress for Success

Continue Reading

Arts | Culture | Drawing | Drinks | Events | Lifestyle | Monterrey

Drink and Draw Monterrey

By on 7 December, 2015
drinkdrawmonterrey-tables
Image: Murall.

I’m in my hometown Monterrey for a couple of weeks taking care of family business; and while I’ve been mostly visiting relatives and arranging serious stuff, I’ve also had the chance to touch base with local happenings in matters of art and expression. Thus, I was thankful to attend the second edition of Drink and Draw Monterrey.

Image: Murall.
Image: Murall.

Drink and Draw is a brilliant idea that has been executed in places like New York and London, and that now seems to attract more and more young adults thanks to the explosion in art therapy and self-care. As colouring books for grown ups become instant unapologetic best-sellers, it should be quite natural to take the solitary enjoyment of creating and enhancing drawings and turn it into a social and amicable activity. You know, just like going to the movies, sports clubs, karaoke nights and, yes, the pub.

The Monterrey chapter is organised by Murall, a multidisciplinary school devoted to teaching and spreading information on all things related to arts and design. This independent learning centre features experts in illustration, visual arts, and industrial and graphic design; and while they include workshops and courses in their roster, they aim to reach as many people as possible regardless of their level of artistic expertise. Events like this one are great ways to offer a non-judgemental space for exposure, expression and relief.

Image: Murall.
Image: Murall.

Last Thursday evening, Murall invited people to bring their weapons — pencils, pens, brushpens, markers — and join the battle at The New Black / Beauty Lab, in the recently galvanised Barrio Antiguo cultural quarter. After paying 20 pesos (less than 80p in GBP) to cover expenses, visitors could drink all the Indio and Dos Equis they wanted and draw to their hearts content on blank sheets of paper covering rows and rows of tables. They could sit next to their friends and strangers (potential friends), appreciate each other’s works and have a chat while decompressing or focusing.

Draw-o-Matic

Una foto publicada por Cynthia Rodríguez (@cynstagrammy) el

Guests weren’t the only ones drawing: a few recognised talents took their turn to operate the Draw-O-Matic. For an optional tip, people could sit in front of the artist through a pitch black contraption, wait five minutes or less and finally receive a portrait of themselves through a “printing” slot. A lot more exciting than a phone booth, to be honest. Here are a couple of renditions of some random chick done by two different artists.

Los leo con esta cara. Una foto publicada por Cynthia Rodríguez (@cynstagrammy) el

First, poor illustrator and tattoo artist Roberac did a graphic description based on witness testimonials (his own) of  some tired-ass hag reselling tamales outside the tamales stadium.

Fat and sassy. Fassy.

Una foto publicada por Cynthia Rodríguez (@cynstagrammy) el

Then, Dynamite depicted the same seater as a bespectacled fat and sassy bombshell. The difference a pair of glasses can make. Reading glasses and glasses of booze, for sure. Now I get why no one suspected Clark Kent was Batman.

We certainly need this to happen again and again. Events like Drink and Draw Monterrey not only bring creative kinds together, but inject Barrio Antiguo and the entire city back with the life it once had, with a vengeance. Insecurity issues kept the once flourishing area shut for nearly five years and killed the Barrio Antiguo experience for at least one generation of youngsters who will never fully know what it was like to have a pizza at Cafe Iguana, live indie history watching an international act face to face at Garage, or bounce between rivals Antropolis and McMullens. Thanks to these kind of events, young people will get to live and love the nightlife and look at it bloom all over again. And for that, we are thankful.

Continue Reading