Sunday 16 February 2014

An Interview with Hannah Clugston, Editorial Assistant at Aesthetica

Aesthetica Magazine is a printed and online publication featuring contemporary art and culture from around the globe. Known for its diverse content, clean design and dynamic photography, it is a universal sanctuary for art enthusiasts. Editorial Assistant, Hannah Clugston speaks of her Aesthetica ascent, fuelled by hard work and vast supplies of chocolate. 

If you could give a brief description of yourself, what would it be?

I am petite and obsessively organised. Benjamin Franklin once said: “For every minute spent organising an hour is earned” – I am a firm believer in this. I am a passionate list maker. I am also surprisingly loud for my height. When I was a teenager I sang in a band and people would comment on my surprising ability to sing in relation to my size. I am not sure they were being complimentary!?

What were you doing before you worked for Aesthetica?

I was a student, finishing my degree in English Literature. I also did a lot of work experience in journalism, specifically fashion writing. I went to London Fashion Week a few times and I have a particular passion for ethical clothing. I produced a fashion show in York, where I went to university, to promote conscientious shopping. 

How did you get to where you want to be and has all the hard worked paid off?

I took every opportunity I was given. For example, I got some work experience on the news desk at the local paper in York, The Press, and while I was there I met the fashion editor who I kept in contact with. I ended up writing regularly for the paper and pitching my own features. I am pleased to say the hard work did pay off – I now have my dream job, working in the arts and writing everyday.

What inspires you?

 A piece of art that helps you to perceive the world in a different way. I recently went to see an exhibition of Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s work and he takes a lot of street photography where the subjects are unaware of his presence. It was just amazing to look at all of these faces of people going about their lives, faces that we see everyday and we never take time to consider. Second to that, and more importantly, the Bible inspires me. I have been a Christian all my life and it is the guide by which I live. It doesn’t mater what’s happening, as long as I have that to hand, I can’t go far wrong. 

Advice to your younger self?

Don’t worry so much. My Dad always says we spend too much time worrying about things that never happen. When I was younger I was always concerned about tomorrow, which meant I missed out on enjoying today.

Artists and exhibitions that you're enjoying at the moment? Any ones to watch? 

I love the photographer Alex Prager. We have her most recent series, Face in the Crowd, in the current issue of Aesthetica. This is the second feature we have run on her. She takes these beautifully glamorous photographs layered in suspense and detail. 

You're most happiest when...?

I am curled up on the sofa watching a great film with my husband and a plentiful supply of chocolate. 

Saturday 15 February 2014

An Interview with Alex Lester, co - founder of Tusk Journal

Tusk Journal is an online platform for exploring contemporary independent culture in the North West of England.  Founded by Alexander Lester and James Falkingham, Tusk prides itself on celebrating creativity, innovation and aesthetics. I chat to Alex about his journey, as he proves it isn't all grim up North. 

Firstly, thanks for doing this, I bet Tusk keeps you pretty busy?

It certainly does. I think that when you embark upon a new project, whether it’s a publication, start-up company or whatever, you immediately inherit the baggage that associates itself with ‘going it alone’. Whether it manifests itself in the form of a sleepless night, full diary or a weekend spent working, there’s always something to keep you from falling into the traps of mid-week lethargy.  

What does a typical day as editor consist of?

In ‘normal’ life, a routine can be the essential recipe when making it through Monday to Friday’s respective hurdles. My day starts with a coffee and ends with either a walk or a book. In the middle there’s a lot of emailing, meeting, phoning and writing. 

Up until January I worked in a local primary school in a bid to pay the rent – but as this was taking up too much of the valuable daylight hours, I decided to swap the 9-5 (PM) for the 9-5 (AM). Working in a bar can help alleviate the stress of running your own project and offer the chance to unwind (in a weird/backwards way). With office hours starting at 10am and finishing at 6pm, there’s normally a nice little window before work begins behind the bar, which can occasionally run on ‘til 1am. On paper it’s a really long day, but I’m pretty sure that sacrifice is essential if you’re pursuing a dream.

What did you do before co-founding Tusk and what made you set it up?

I tried being ‘an adult’. I hated it. 

I graduated in 2012 and headed straight into a job as a Teaching Assistant – but as was the case in high school, I soon discovered that I hated teachers and the politics that reside within school corridors and classrooms. I was working the 9-5 and wearing a shirt and tie, and whilst the kids I was working with were fantastic, the lifestyle of ‘living for the weekend’ did not sit well.

After a few months of morning commutes and 10’o’clock bedtimes, I decided that I wanted to pursue something outside the relatively safe world of teaching. As a result, I started writing and found myself teaming up with Liverpool-based graphic designer (and friendly companion), James Falkingham. Together we formed a ‘typically post-grad’ blog and soon discovered what it is we wanted from our 20s.  Rather than settling for a ‘wage’ or selling our souls to 9-5 devil, we decided to start working on Tusk Journal – an online journal highlighting all that is great and good about the respective towns we called home (Manchester & Liverpool). 

We’d always had a bit of friendly banter whenever we saw each other, with James hoisting the colours for Liverpool whilst I flew the flag for Manchester. It didn’t take long for us to see each other’s point of view – both cities were awesome and needed celebrating. We’ve lived in both cities for roughly 5 years, but it wasn’t until last year that we felt the distinct winds of cultural change echoing around the region. We’re passionate about where we live and want to share that passion with other likeminded people throughout the region – it’s a steady process, but rewarding in its entirety. 

Any challenges along the way?

I recently delivered a speech to a host of third year students at MMU regarding the question of ‘challenges’ that a post-grad (especially in the arts) is likely to face. Rather embarrassingly, I found myself quoting JK Rowling’s speech to Harvard University in 2008. In this speech, I emphasized the role that failure inevitably plays when embarking upon an entirely new project – and how important failure is in regard to character building and the development of an individual’s persona. 

There’s naturally a tendency to take the ‘safe’ route in life and I think that, although I perhaps tried this safe route myself, there’s something quite tragic about that. Of course there have been failures and challenges along the way but it’s these failures and challenges that have made James, Tusk and I who/what we are today. 

Do you prefer an online format to print?

Even in the earliest stages of Tusk’s formation, when all we had was a basic website and hazy philosophy, the ambition and desire to head into print was always in our minds. We’re both huge fans of printed media and always felt that we could add something to the market we love so much. There’s so much out there at the moment that’s fantastic: both Intern and Cereal have been great to us over the past few months and there’s a real community spirit in the world of independent magazines. It’s a great industry to be getting involved in.  

People are naturally skeptical about our venture into print, but that’s understandable. We realize that there’s been a huge boom in online/digital publications of late, but there’s still something quite romantic, renaissance-esque and beautiful that enters the mind when opening the fresh smelling pages of a printed magazine. 

What can we look out for next?

We’re currently working on Vol.1 – our second run of Tusk Journal in the form of a printed publication – set to launch in May. I don’t want to give too much away – but Vol.1 will basically be an extended version of Vol. 0 (released in Dec’13) with more content, interviews and artwork for our lovely readers to get their teeth into. 

We like our Journals to hold a steady element of longevity, offering a documented account of the region’s changing landscape whilst celebrating the artists, baristas, companies and galleries that reside within Manchester & Liverpool. 

As well as the launch of Vol.1 (May)  & Vol.2 (November), we’ll be working away on our website,, throughout the year – delivering the finest goings from throughout the region to our beautiful online audience. 

Sunday 19 January 2014

A belated Bonne Annee

As January draws to a close,  I remember how the month started on an unusual high note in Gay Paree. Filled with blue cheese and remorse, I've been flicking through the photos and thought I should share.

Luckily, punctuality wasn't one of my resolutions...

Our bodies still 90% turkey, 10% booze, Red and I hopped on an evening flight and landed in an illuminated Paris. With half an hours train ride, a couple of Metro stops and lots of wrong turnings, we finally arrived at the apartment, just outside of Montmartre.

Spacious, inviting and stocked with enough green tea to fuel an army of yogis, the apartment was the ultimate retreat from the busy city. It was considerably cheaper than most of the hotels, and much more relaxed. Wimdu is amazing if you fancy a little home from home whilst on your travels.

Plus, it had a pretty staircase.

See how pretty? Very Parisienne. 

As we spent the night sampling the local cuisine (getting tiddled and eating a lot), the order of events over the week is blurred. But it went something like this...

Ready for a days exploring

Stocking up on supplies...

and then exploring Montmarte. 

Montmarte is a very old part of the city and looks almost Italian with its cobbled hilly streets and locals zipping around on Vespers. 

Avid Amelie fans, we thought we'd visit Cafe des deux Moulins and see if she was working.

Other people had the same idea, and the inside was packed with Japanese tourists ordering Creme Brûlées and slowly cracking into them with the back of a spoon. 

It was hard to get a seat and the interior looked a lot different from the film, which may have been the only redeeming factor of the cafe, alas. 

The bubble bath coffee was pretty naff, but the outside chairs took the edge off...


We continued our hike and soon found the tourist areas. 

A veritable cattle market, the area around the Sacre Coeur was packed with souvenir shops and locals trying to sell you light up Eiffel Towers/Notre Dames/croissants. Unsurprisingly it was very busy on a bank holiday, but the view made up for it. 

We took a funicular down to the bottom of Montemarte, hopped on the Metro and set about exploring elsewhere. 

The metro was a lot cheaper than in London, around 1 Euro 80, to zip from side to side and the same again if you wanted to travel in a different direction. The French are so refreshingly blasé about paying for tickets and hardly ever checked, so it pays if you're aloof. Sadly I'm not and got stuck in the doors on several occasions, the perils of being slow and eating too many macaroons. 

Can you blame me?

We headed to see the sights of Notre Dame, which fully lived up to its expectations. Elegant and refined, sitting afloat the Ile de la cite, it really is a beautiful building. There's a dreamy atmosphere around the island and I can see why it evoked the lock bridge phenomenon. 

We made our addition and threw the key in the Seine (you can throw up now, I won't judge) before grabbing crepes for sustenance...

As the temperature dropped, we hopped on a river cruise to see the sights by night. 

Luckily, it was a sheltered boat...

The pictures don't do it justice, but it was a great way to see the landmarks with minimum effort. The rain prevailed as we headed for yet more food, not a problem for the emergency poncho...

You just can't buy style. 

We paid a visit to the Moulin Rouge which is a lot smaller and not as pretty as I expected, but still one to tick off the list. I think Baz Luhrman in general gives me unrealistic expectations on life. 'Gatsby, what Gatsby?' ...Sigh...

'Stop wasting your life in the Moulin Rouge with a can can dancer!'

So, the red light district was interesting. Filled with sex shops, sex museums and prostitutes, which my Grannie once befriended (that's another story), it was a touch surreal and just very French. 

A word to the wise.

After a generally surreal day, we headed back to rest up for more exploring...

More walking? Groan. 

But cake? Okay...

We headed to the Pompidou, which looked like it had been engineered out of play dough. Don't you think?

The queue snaked across the square, so we decided to go explore and see if it died down. In the meantime we spotted this guy who pushed taking selfies to the extreme....

We spent the day travelling around, visiting third waves cafes for Red to geek out about, shopping and eating. Simple pleasures. 

The Pompidou opens until late, so we paid her a visit another visit in all her glory. 

Still busy at night, it felt strange seeing a gallery which was so commercial, in that it seemed like a tourist attraction. Apparently a lot of people go just to hang out and revel in the architecture. Which is fair enough, as it pretty unique.

The glass encased escalators zip you up to the galleries, before showing you the city by night, which was utterly stunning.

How Paris is.

How Paris is in my mind. 

The Pompidou even has it's own restaurant which if you wish to pay 40 euros for what is effectively spag bol, you can look out to the city whilst you munch away. Sigh.

Hosting a couple of lengthy exhibitions, we opted for the Surrealism one, which housed over 200 works. Incredibly well curated, we oggled at the works of surrealists over the ages, including those by it's founder, Dali. 

Who has been confirmed to be off his tits. 

And so is Cindy Sherman, but I do love her so. Crazy lady. 

It was a brilliant exhibition which was accessible to arty and non arty types, with lengthy descriptions on the history of Surrealism and its repercussions.  It was closing time before we were shooed away back into the night. 

A couple more days passed with adventures into the Le Marais district, which was wonderfully un-touristy. Independent stores and cute cafes, it's Paris' Camden or Northern Quarter. 

My favourite bits were Palais des Thes and Aesop, where freebies and handouts were liberal. 

These were actually on the outside of the shop, win. 

Then in contrast we headed to the Tuileries, which is very high brow and fancy pants. 

Casual store chandeliers no less. 

For New Year's Eve, we headed to Trocadero to see La Tour Eiffel in all her glory. It was rainy and cold, but somehow the emergency poncho had disappeared... quelle horreur. 

Bustling with people running from the rain, and venders handing out mini bottles of free champagne, the atmosphere as well as the view was truly memorable. It really is huge up close and especially decadent when lit up. Every hour on the hour, the tower sparkles and shines even brighter for a few minutes. If ever you go, make sure you see it sparkle, it really is something. 

Still bustling with Christmas markets, we grabbed a vin chaud (for pneumonia prevention) before exploring up close. 


The rest of the night was filled with white truffle pasta, more vin chaud and spilling said vin chaud down my boot. For, er pneumonia prevention?

It was an incredible trip and a strong contender for best birthday present yet. I was so sad to leave and return to a very un French reality. Plus, it was just nice to spend New Year not being sick into a laundry basket.

Sigh, until next time...

Au revoir! Paris, je t'aime!