Oh boy

Man Repeller feels like home. I’m actually annoyed that I’ve been under a rock and therefore without it until recently, but ever since stumbling on it a few months ago I’ve quickly become a groupie. I mean that seriously: it’s not enough for me to simply read their posts. I watch the Youtube videos, the Youtube profiles on Leandra and Amelia, and most recently, I’ve been hooked (by my ‘ZARA WOMAN‘ coat label, and rather comfortably) on its ‘Oh Boy’ podcast.

The whole series is a dream. Admittedly I’m still working through all the episodes (quite quickly, I might add). But listening to the ambitious, funny, talented, smart and generally very likeable guests talk to the host, Jay Buim, about their upbringing and other random (but relevant) musings, is like tucking in to an aural comfort blanket. Jay starts each episode (that I’ve listened to) stating how much he enjoyed talking to such and such in his kitchen. You’d be tempted to employ a thick layer of skepticism to your thinking here, but it’s not merited. The conversation really is that enjoyable. 

And even though he asks the same questions each time, the format of the podcast does not get tired – each interviewee has an interesting story to tell, even if it sounds pretty ordinary. Plus, he’s a great conversationalist – easy going and flows with the tide of his interviewees responses, while adding anecdotes of his own experiences.

My favourite episode so far? It’s difficult to choose between Emily Weiss, Founder of Into The Gloss and Glossier, Leandra Medine, OG Man Repeller, and MR Deputy Editor, Amelia Diamond. But I think the conversation flows best between Buim and Diamond – she sounds so pleasant and has a great rapport with him. I imagine she would be exactly the same in person (…as opposed to in voice). But each story is so inspiring to me especially at this juncture in my life – because they are so relatable. Like when Diamond talks about an interview mishap in which she messed up due to her ‘cockiness’, or when she likens her assisting on the set of a Grace Coddington shoot to something from my favourite film, the Devil Wears Prada (“WE NEED MORE CHAINS!!”).

I also love listening to their ‘connect the dots’ tales of how they reached their current position. Hearing about the mustard seed beginnings of the enviably slick beauty brand Glossier, is like super greens for my ambitious streak. 

10/10, would recommend. Great stuff.

Thanks, Joan (and Tavi…and Youtube)

On those evenings when I wind deeeper and deeeper into the annals of 2013-14 YouTube videos, I am rarely rewarded. Today, I was pleasantly surprised. After watching one Tavi Gevinson video (my quest started from Casey Neistat’s channel…??), I’d worked my way through quite a few until clicking on this one, in which she mentions Joan Didion’s essay entitled: ‘On Keeping A Notebook’. Naturally, I google this because I love keepin’ me a good ol’ notebook.

Joan Didion

I read through and then reach the bottom of the second-to-last page, and stop, trace my eyes back up a few lines, and re-read. Didion writes:

“I have lost touch with a couple of people I used to be; one of them, a seventeen-year-old, presents little threat, although it would be of some interest to me to know again what it feels like to sit on a river levee drinking vodka-and-orange-juice and listening to Les Paul and Mary Ford and their echoes sing “How High the Moon” on the car radio…

…The other one, a twenty-three-year-old, bothers me more. She was always a good deal of trouble, and I suspect she will reappear when I least want to see her, skirts too long, shy to the point of aggravation, always the injured party, full of recriminations and little hurts and stories I do not want to hear again, at once saddening me and angering me with her vulnerability and ignorance, an apparition all the more insistent for being so long banished.”

This struck me because lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about my sixteen-year-old self. About how, even with my feet (almost) to the ground, I lived in my head. I thought deeply and boundlessly. The songs I listened to then, the films I loved, the blogs I followed were like another home. I occasionally throw myself back and listen to, watch and read those things, six years later (mostly because I’m ridiculously sentimental). Yet, like Didion, I sometimes feel that I’ve lost touch with ‘that person I used to be’. But I’m working on reconnecting. In a similar way, she continues:

“It is a good idea, then, to keep in touch, and I suppose that keeping in touch is what notebooks are all about. And we are all on our own when it comes to keeping those lines open to ourselves: your notebook will never help me, nor mine you.”

I’m pleased with the fact that I still keep a notebook; its details are not so distant that when I read through it, things don’t seem too out of context or tricky to follow. But I don’t want to  get to a place where I can’t remember what the heck I was writing about when I was eighteen. I’ll continue to grow and change, but I don’t want to lose touch with my formative thoughts.

I hope you’ve had a lovely weekend 🙂

 

The ‘Global Hand’ Profile Part 2 | Ben Solanky, Director

Hey everyone!

Following on from my previous interview with Global Hand, I decided to find out a bit more about the people behind the organisation. In this next part of the series, I sat down with the director of the charity, Ben, and asked him about his background, the advice he would give to his younger self, and his family.

Name: BEN SOLANKY

Title: DIRECTOR OF GLOBAL HAND UK

DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL JOURNEY, BACKGROUND, AND PREVIOUS PROJEDSC_0456CTS YOU HAVE BEEN A PART OF.

My background could be summarised in a simple way – i am the son of a refugee. My father was given 30 days to leave Uganda on august 4th 1971. In a dramatic change in my family’s hopes of raising a family in there, they were given days to leave the country with one suitcase. My eldest brother was 6 months old, and I was subsequently born. It was a community group that came and rallied round and supported my family in ways that equated to stitching up mattresses, providing clothes and food, picking up my family at airports and taking us to a strange country. It was that goodwill, that love and that help which allowed my family to survive potentially quite a critical point in our lives. So I believe that experience has played a powerful part in my desire to say ‘thank you’ throughout my life.

In terms of what I have done with my life? I am a student of philosophy, so I find I’m pretty much qualified for good pub conversations and very little else! I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I ended up working in a charity. I didn’t plan for it, but I enjoyed it and kept drifting from charity to charity. I have now acquired enough wisdom and experience to understand this sector a bit better and to apply what are my hopes for trying to influence the whole sector.

“I LOVE LISTENING TO PEOPLE AND HEARING THEIR STORIES…I’M A BIT OF A SOCAL ANIMAL.”

OUTSIDE OF GLOBAL HAND, WHAT ARE YOUR INTERESTS AND HOBBIES THAT YOU TAKE ON?

I feel I’m quite boring! I have three children, soon to be four, and I find that they keep me occupied. I absolutely love my family – i’ve got three boys and they’re very active – I love hanging out with them. I really like stories and narratives so I enjoy watching and reading good stories, I love listening to people and hearing their stories so I’m a bit of a social animal. I’m also a lover of music.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO YOUR YOUNGER SELF?

I don’t know – however, it’s a profound ‘i don’t know’. I would love to counsel and listen to that younger self, but I would also encourage that younger self; the people who have inspired me most are the ones who have encouraged and inspired me. So I don’t know what I would say, but I think I would encourage.

IS THERE ANYTHING/ ANY ISSUE YOU FEEL PARTICULARLY STRONGLY ABOUT?

Yes…what I care about is caring and loving. I would love to see more of that. I see a lot of this hatred, anger and a lot of people throwing their hands up in despair and it’s hard to think what the antidotes are to such situations where somebody wants to hurt another and take their land. It just feels like a massive spiral that if somebody hurts someone, they have to do the same to the next person and it’s a cycle that we keep observing. Personally, I see that cycle continuing, and there is nothing that will break it until an action of love breaks it down. As an organisation, we take inspiration seriously….it is a powerful tool against that hatred, that hurt.

The ‘Global Hand’ Profile: Part 1

DSC_0471The first time I came across Global Hand was around a year ago, when my friend, Becky, enlisted my help to volunteer in one of the simulations they often run to raise awareness around issues of poverty and a lack of sufficient dynamism around the subject. Having volunteered with them again this past summer and getting to better understand the work that the organisation is involved with, I realised that the work that Global Hand does carries more complexity than its mission as ‘the partnership people’ humbly states.

Creating partnerships between businesses, charities and individuals is instrumental in trying to bridge the gap between two disconnected worlds. Within Global Hand’s remit, the charity actively calls upon the empathy of its partners to create change in their actions and become more dynamic in thinking about and helping to solve problems of poverty that can often be (directly or indirectly) linked to their actions. The work they do is impactful and educational: it sheds light on the issues of corporate responsibility and global economic inequality and helps economically powerful figures as well as young students, to face a world that their daily schedules and lifestyles might separate them from.

Having worked with CEOs and schoolchildren, the work they do spans the spectrum of influence. In the first part of the 4-part profile on the organisation, I met with three members of the team: Ben Solanky (UK Director of Global Hand UK), David Watson (office administrator), and Matthew Gurney (Chief Operating Officer) to talk about their vision for the charity, the people they have worked with, and their motivations for doing what they do. 

| WHAT IS GLOBAL HAND’S VISION?

“PRIOR TO COLLABORATING COMES THE WILL TO ACTUALLY DO SO”

MATTHEW: The vision is to connect and bring people together. We live in a world of surplus and a world of need, and often, these two worlds do not connect, and so we want to find ways to do that – to bridge that gap – and bring people together. We want to form partnerships and utilise resources, skills and knowledge.

BEN: One thing we have seen increasingly is the desire for people to accumulate their knowledge and skills, and help where it is needed. Prior to collaborating comes the will to actually do so. Allowing others to have that empathy and see the world as it is seen by those living in poverty is enlightening and powerful in inspiring that collaboration, and so the simulations have inspired such collaborations.

TELL ME ABOUT YOUR INVOLVEMENT WITH GLOBAL HAND – HOW DID YOU GET STARTED WITH IT?

MATTHEW: For me it wasn’t planned to come into this organisation. It coincided with a time in my life in which I wanted to leave the sector I was working in,
which was a design and construction company, into an area that was close to my heart but that I hadn’t anticipated working in. That was it – a very unexciting way!

DSC_0454DAVID: For several months, I was going through a rough patch with work, not knowing what to do and so Global Hand appeared to me over that summer. And so, the ‘odd job’ went, and Global Hand came into being. It is something that changed my career massively and I’m learning everyday.

BEN: I should be a teacher, in my mind! I worked in the charity sector for a number of years but I didn’t have a lot of hope staying in it. I was trying to become a teacher at the time, however I was reintroduced back into the idea that the world is a place that is full of need, and that is why we charities exist. We cannot address these problems by ourselves – as individuals we are dwarfed by enormous needs such as poverty, suffering, and climate change. Ideas of collaboration and partnership are real assets and are powerful tools to address those needs. As I was trying to become a teacher, that desire…to be involved in charities came to me, and the attraction to it was the idea that we can all contribute and we can bring our knowledge, our contacts, our wisdom and our resources to a world in need. But, yeah, I was trying to be a teacher!

LINKED TO THE SIMULATIONS YOU TALKED ABOUT EARLIER, WHAT ACTIVITIES AND PARTNERSHIPS DO YOU OFFER AND WHAT THAT HAS LED TO?

BEN: One account of a partnership stems several years from the impact of a simulation we did in Davos in [in conjunction with] the UNHCR, at the World Economic Forum in 2010. The chairman of Nestlé turned up at the event and he was clearly moved by this journey into the life of a refugee and some of the reenactments of life within a camp. Upon coming out of this simulation, I was able to discuss with him how he might like to be involved with this in the future. Sometimes we don’t know or see what happens next, but this year we were back in touch in touch with this same chairman, and he happened to be sponsoring the same event in Davos this year, which was focused on galvanising support for Syria. At the end of one particular simulation, he gave a testimony explaining how he had attended the same event that we ran in 2010 and how it had changed his worldview. As the chairman of Nestlé, he is so removed from that world, but it changed his worldview in that when the Nestlé factory was blown up in Damascus last year, they wrestled with the question of: what SHOULD we do as a company? We have people and employees who depend on us – if we take them off the payroll, it would most likely make the refugee situation worse because of the lack of money and support. So he said that he decided to keep them on the payroll. What was also powerful is that, in sharing his testimony, he had tears in his eyes realising the agony of these big decisions, and other powerful figures became inspired to do likewise. So much of the power of these simulations lies in the peer-to-peer influence that is inspires, and that is a privilege, to see that degree of testimony. Often we don’t hear back, but that was one of our most touching testimonies.

MATT: We run these experiential programmes in order to allow participants to step into the shoes of those who are refugees, or living in desperate poverty, and allow those in the simulation to get a sense of feeling of what people in that position experience in their everyday lives. This element of empathy is critical – we want to touch people’s hearts so that they understand what these issues are. Eventually, with that understanding comes the desire to do something about it, and we have seen those results from the simulations we run.

DAVID: We often go to schools and community groups, so we do things on a smaller scale also. It’s quite inspiring to see effects on a smaller level.

WHO HAVE YOU WORKED WITH?

“THE PEOPLE THAT COME THROUGH THESE SIMULATIONS…WE’VE HAVE THE KING AND QUENN OF BELGIUM ATTEND, THE HEAD OF NESTLÉ, SHERYL SANDBERG.”

MATT: The list is very long! One of the main platforms we run these simulations on is at the Davos World Economic Forum (for the last 6 years). The people that come through these simulations… we’re constantly staggered by it because they’re heads of industry and world leaders. Earlier this year had the king and queen of Belgium attend, an astronaut, the heads of Nestlé and Unilever, Sheryl Sandberg  – all sorts of people have done this, but it is not just the big names for us. Everybody that takes part is as significant as the other, and so we run the same programmes for schools, church groups, community groups and businesses. It’s been a journey and hopefully will continue to be.

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST INSPIRING MOMENT? AT THE SAME TIME, YOUR MOST CHALLENGING MOMENT?

DAVID: for me, it was when I went to Davos for two weeks a couple of years ago. From seeing the setup and the types of people coming through [at the start] compared to when they leave, it is incredible to see the way it changes peoples outlook. It’s a privilege to know that they took time out of their busy schedules to attend.

DSC_0451BEN: I’ve been privileged to see quite a lot over the years – from partnerships with the UN, to  seeing a small organisation grow. A particular project I was close to was in Haiti, and seeing an earthquake survivor get to the Paralympic Games. Over my time here, I have worked with colleagues that don’t have to be here. Everyone is a volunteer, and that is a real honour and privilege to be working in a community like this. It is by no means easy, but it is an honour. Those are the things that make you proud – working with volunteers who are keen, committed and serving, it blows my mind. I do have to keep reminding myself of that because there are times when you have a lot to do, and there are a lot of resources you don’t have; working in this sector means you’re always yearning for more. But when you take stock and look around, it is pretty amazing to see what has been gifted and the lovely environment you have to work in that is this organisation.

MATT: I would say the same as Ben: It always comes back to the people you work with, the people you are partnering with and people who are doing things that are sacrificial of themselves and with little reward – that is hugely inspirational. The most challenging aspect is, however, people – the limit that we have of them. The work that we do is limitless and we need more people to do it. In that sense, it can be a constant struggle to move forward, but we do!

WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE?

(laughs)

“THERE IS NO TYPICAL DAY…IT IS VERY FLUID, BUT THE COMMON THEME IS PEOPLE.”

BEN: There is a wealth of information we have to navigate through, so a lot of out day involves stewarding information between two groups and facilitating a level of communication between them. There is also a huge heap of event planning and meetings, networking and correspondence. What we’re trying to do is steward resources towards where there is a need. It can be a thankless task because as a middle man you can be pushed aside, but we have to keep encouraging each other and that’s a powerful part of working here.

MATT: There is no typical day. It can be here in the office, on the road, running a simulation in a school in Oxford, or travelling around Nicaragua, as our communications manager Dave Crisp is doing at the moment. So it is very fluid, but the common theme is people.|

To find out more about Global Hand, visit their website:http://www.globalhand.org/en

Thanks for reading 🙂 What did you think of this interview? Do you have any questions about Global Hand? Let’s discuss in the comments!

Notting Hill Carnival 2014

Sunday 24th and Monday 25th of August saw the annual Notting Hill Carnival descend upon the streets of west London. And unfortunately on Monday…..so did the rain. Nevertheless, I decided I might as well head out and see what went on.

I have to say that due to the rain doing the most, I did not enjoy myself as much as previous years however, that was in no part due to the actual carnival – it carried on as normal. Who says that a little rain should get in the way of a good party?

After arriving at Notting Hill Gate tube station at around 1:30pm, I could tell that the crowds would not be deterred by the weather – the carnival pretty much started on the tube platform. After heading out of the station and following the flow of people heading towards Portobello road and beyond, I realised that I must have missed most of the floats. However I managed to catch the general gist of this year’s event on film, and compiled the clips the give you a taste. Enjoy!

Personal Communities

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It’s funny how it can take a good clearout or spring clean to remind you of all the snippets and forms of community surrounding you. At the start of this week, I started clearing out my room and moving things about in order to create more space, and in the process, I uncovered multiple mini treasure-troves of souvenirs, birthday cards, school reports, a yearbook and christmas gifts that I had received over past years.

Opening each one felt like unlocking a forgotten mental safe of memories and friendships that defined those points in my life. Especially finding the more detailed or written-in cards, and a few unopened ones, in a strange way reminded me of who I was at that stage, and who I have grown – and continue to grow – into. After being distracted from my original spring-cleaning task for long enough, I came to realise how your ‘community’ – your supporters, friends, family, mentors, teachers, even employers or colleagues, can extend far beyond your consciousness of its existence.

It can be easy to discount certain ‘invisible’ members of your community, especially if we do not hear from them as frequently as those closer to us. Even if simple gestures such as Christmas or birthday cards can seem generic or empty, to an extent, its sender did think of you and consider you a part of his or her community, enough so to extend such a gesture of acknowledgement and well-wishing towards you.

Inevitably as you go forward in life, you will lose some of those relationships and networks, but it is somewhat exciting to think back and witness how these members of your community have somehow shaped you, inspired you, taught you a lesson and more. Plus, if you’re ever feeling unsure about your growth or who you are and what you have accomplished, looking through these little accounts of yourself written by people who are important to you can re-affirm the positive elements about you, but also enlighten you to some constructive (mostly constructive, but not always!) criticism about yourself that you may have worked on since then. In a way, I like to think about it as a sort of autobiographical diary.

Flipping through these souvenirs felt quite therapeutic, and turned a rather mundane task into a pleasant and fulfilling one! Despite this, it made my task slightly harder as I felt reluctant to dispose of them but hey, I guess part of moving on is letting go….

This Week’s Favourite….

Heyall, how’s it going?

This week I’ve been spending a lot of time at home (despite the beautiful weather in and around London), however, my days have not been wasted! During my hibernation, I have been discovering lots of different products/ books/ films/ videos and more, and so I have been inspired to start a ‘this week’s favourite’ post. As you may have guessed, i’ll be posting a weekly…well…post of a book, film,article, person, product, artist etc which has either inspired me, made me laugh, lifted my mood, or all of those things. I hope you will enjoy my little discoveries as well! Without further ado….

This week’s favourite is ‘Evelyn From The Internets‘ YouTube channel. I have been subscribed to her channel for some time, but her Vlog Everyday In April (VEDA) series is too funny not to share. Honestly, she will brighten your day. In addition to her hilarious stories and videos, she talks natural hair, and also makes vlogs. Once you have your first hit….it might be a challenge to get on with the rest of your day.

Enjoy!

Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined

Much of the charm of a building lies in the way that it makes you feel; the different spaces in which we find ourselves evoke different reactions within us that go unnoticed or which we do not attribute to the space around us. However, our relationship with buildings is a symbiotic one in which materials and bodies constantly interact with and transform one another.

This notion lies at the heart of the current ‘Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined’ exhibition, at the RA in London until April 6th. It explores the importance of the spaces around us: how natural elements such as light, wind, and sight engage our senses and emotions, how buildings affect our thoughts, and engage all parts of us both internally and externally. Body and soul.

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Right from the start of the exhibition (independent of the direction in which you choose to begin) I felt compelled to interact with the space around me. I immediately felt self-conscious in amongst the structure, materials, colours, heights, and even sounds of each section. Each space seemed so radically different from the last, and completely unexpected.

Each room was modelled to different degrees upon the architectural styles of each designer, all 6 of which hail from different parts of the world including Japan, Burkina Faso and Ireland. Each had a different sensory appeal and inspirations.

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(Unfortunately, my camera decided to delete a few pictures, but was kind enough to let some remain.)

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I wish that a space such as this exhibition would be permanently available to the general  public – I enjoyed the whimsical and playful nature of the straw tunnel, especially the way  in which it encouraged people to interact with and build it – to leave their mark.

Overall, the exhibition was shorter than I expected, but I left feeling inspired and pensive.  The everyday, mundane aspects of each day that we take for granted, such as buildings  and the spaces which we inhabit, affect in ways greater than we realise. If only we took  the time to observe the architectural detail and beauty around us, and be inspired by it….

I hope you enjoyed the short video I made just for you 🙂