The Wood Beneath the World, A Truly Magical Experience

The Wood Beneath the World, immersive theatre by Lord Whitney at Leeds Town Hall, England, UK

Exploring The Wood Beneath The World

Before Christmas I was lucky enough to visit my old neighbourhood of Leeds, Yorkshire, in the North of England and catch up with some of Leeds most creative folk. I popped into say hi to James Abbott-Donnelly and Laura Wellington, co-founders of creative and photographic space, Duke Studios. Then downstairs from them, the lovely folk at Colours May Vary, all at the wonderfully eclectic Munro House. The My Patch exhibition at CMV was brilliant, featuring a host of great designers connected to Yorkshire, most of which I know from my eight years living in Leeds. They included Jay Cover of Nous Vous, Nick Deakin, Lucy Ketchin, Dan Mather, Drew Millward and Peter Mitchell. You can have a retrospective look at or buy their prints in the CMV online shop.

The Wood Beneath the World, immersive theatre by Lord Whitney at Leeds Town Hall, England, UK

Old Christmas – beautiful set design by Lord Whitney, The Wood Beneath The World

I was super excited to hear that our mutual friends, Lord Whitney (Art Director Duo Amy Lord and Rebekah Whitney) were putting on a fantastical immersive theatre show in the depths (The Crypt) of the epic Cuthbert Broderick designed Leeds Town Hall. This also happens to one of my favourite buildings in the world. I already happened to be joining some other lovely friends at the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and Leeds Festival Chorus in the Town Hall that evening so popped into Lord Whitney’s The Wood Beneath The World beforehand.

The Wood Beneath the World, immersive theatre by Lord Whitney at Leeds Town Hall, England, UK

Mystery and Suspense – The Wood Beneath The World by Lord Whitney

It was a truly wonderful experience, full of intrigue, fantasy and suspense! Everyone was asked not to use their phones so we could fully envelope ourselves and our senses in this world. The set was created exceptionally well and the actors played their part perfectly. The Crypt at Leeds Town Hall, which used to be prison cells really complimented the ambience of Lord Whitney’s clever narrative. Locking the intimate party of guests in between jail gates as we journeyed deep into the bowels of the immense dark building, left us in suspense. One or two guests were syphoned off from the group which had knees trembling when they didn’t return.

The Wood Beneath the World, immersive theatre by Lord Whitney at Leeds Town Hall, England, UK

The Wood Beneath The World by Lord Whitney

Soon, we were reunited and brought into a characterful room full of mystical items relating to research about the woods, folklore and much more. An old vintage formica phone and typewriter, pages of material about Celtic culture and history including Ogham stones. Coincidentally I went on a pilgrimage to find and experience the largest Ogham stone in Europe last August when road tripping with my brother around the West of Cork in my home country of Ireland. We were then armed with torches, brought into another room and encouraged to explore freely.

The Wood Beneath the World, immersive theatre by Lord Whitney at Leeds Town Hall, England, UK

Celtic Ogham Stones and more – The Wood Beneath The World by Lord Whitney

Surrounded by magical trees and wandering paths, we winded through The Wood Beneath The World, punctuated by impromptu, often one to one performances by our guides. We went about discovering small rooms full of slightly eerie but charming suspenseful magic, lost in time, whilst admiring and inspecting items from a time gone by…an old text about Christmas, more information about the stars and a spellbinding display of the Milky Way. Our experience then ended with a performance by our two guides, where we felt their eyes glow in the dark, through such strong and yet light acting of their dreamy parts in this mystical world.

The Wood Beneath the World, immersive theatre by Lord Whitney at Leeds Town Hall, England, UK

Discovering the Wood Cabin in The Wood Beneath the World, by Lord Whitney

The Wood Beneath the World, immersive theatre by Lord Whitney at Leeds Town Hall, England, UK

Discovering the Wood Cabin in The Wood Beneath the World, by Lord Whitney

The Wood Beneath the World, immersive theatre by Lord Whitney at Leeds Town Hall, England, UK

The Stars in our Galaxy – The Wood Beneath the World, by Lord Whitney

The Wood Beneath the World, immersive theatre by Lord Whitney at Leeds Town Hall, England, UK

Our Milky Way Galaxy at Night – The Wood Beneath the World, immersive theatre by Lord Whitney

At the end I managed to catch up briefly with the lovely Amy Lord, one half of the super talented Lord Whitney. We hadn’t seen each other since the opening evening of their studios in Meanwood, Leeds just before I went off to travel the world for a year in 2011, after which I moved to London. Since then they have worked on numerous international projects in art direction, prop design and set design for the cream of the crop.

Amy Lord, Half of the Dynamic Creative Duo that is Lord Whitney - The Wood Beneath the World, immersive theatre by Lord Whitney at Leeds Town Hall, England, UK

Amy Lord, Half of the Dynamic Creative Duo that is Lord Whitney

Their rapidly growing client list includes Missoni, Hunger Magazine, Transport for London (TFL), Tate Liverpool, London Collections, Glastonbury Festival, The Princes Trust, Computer Arts Magazine and YCN Agency. It was great to catch up with some of Leeds finest creative talent, who I can assure you will be hearing much more from in the future.

Thanks to the gloriously talented creative duo Lord Whitney for the opportunity to see this wonderful show. I’m already looking forward to your next project!

Feel free to explore their fantastic world further on Lord Whitney’s website, where you can commission them for work or just sign up to their mailing list to keep in touch with their adventures in creativity!

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My good friends at The Beehive Cafe in Riverstown, Sligo, Ireland

John in action at The Beehive ©gavinfreeborn

John in action at The Beehive ©gavinfreeborn

On the 14th of January 2013 I wrote a long and detailed blog post all about my friendship with the Tenacious JHCG (John Henry Coe Graham). I explained a little of how our lives have unfolded since we studied together at Greenmount Agriculture College in Northern Ireland, now part of Cafre (College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise) from 1996-1999 (last century!).

The Beehive ©gavinfreeborn

John serves me my first delicious coffee with handmade chocolate brownie at The Beehive ©gavinfreeborn

John went on to work as an agricultural policy advisor in Dublin, whilst managing farming in Sligo at the same time. He found the woman of his dreams Brid McNulty on a night out in Dublin. They bought a beautiful Sligo farm and house, married where Brid studied Trinity College Dublin and John had her picked up from the hotel for the wedding in an gigantic brand new Claas Tractor (which I had the honour of photographing!). They had their beautiful baby Judith and opened a fantastic new cafe called The Beehive, in Sligo Folk Park.

The Beehive Cappuccino  ©gavinfreeborn

The Beehive Cappuccino ©gavinfreeborn

Me photographing The Beehive © John Graham

                                  Me photographing The Beehive © John Graham

It was fantastic to see my old friend and we had a good laugh explaining to his local customers how we knew each other. It was hard for folk to believe that I, the gentleman photographer swinging the Canon 7D camera, dressed in tweed jacket & silk cravat, once studied agriculture with John almost 20 years ago! Two of John’s lovely customers Margaret and John, who farm sheep, suckler cows and the beautiful Connemara ponies in the Sligo mountains even posed for a quick portrait.

Sligo Farmers Margaret Finan & John Duignan at The Beehive ©gavinfreeborn

Sligo Farmers Margaret Finan & John Duignan at The Beehive ©gavinfreeborn

John was in full flow as gracious host deftly moving from kitchen to front of house, hand making fresh scones and all sorts of delicious delights which I was lucky enough to taste test. The chocolate brownie is some of the best I’ve tasted on my travels as are the scones. Both have been created and baked to perfection resulting in a crunchy bite, followed by a soft centre of utter succulence!

The Beehive Handmade Chocolate Brownies ©gavinfreeborn

The Beehive Handmade Chocolate Brownies ©gavinfreeborn

The Beehive handmade scones ©gavinfreeborn

The Beehive Handmade Scones ©gavinfreeborn

Their macaroons and christmas mince pies look so enticing too…

The Beehive Macaroons ©gavinfreeborn

The Beehive Macaroons ©gavinfreeborn

The Beehive Christmas Mince Pies ©gavinfreeborn

The Beehive Christmas Mince Pies ©gavinfreeborn

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Meet Zoe and Tim – The Talented Folk behind Brixton Blog and Brixton Bugle

Zoe & Tim at Brixton Farmer's Market

Zoe & Tim at Brixton Farmer’s Market

After meeting them initially on my Twitter, today I caught up in person with Zoe Jewell and Tim Dickens, founding editors of the fantastic Brixton Blog and Brixton Bugle at Brixton Market for delicious coffee from Wild Caper. We then went for a blissful foodie induced wander through the wonderful Brixton Farmer’s Market which runs every Sunday from 10am-2pm. It was great to hear about the history of their immense passion and energy which created Brixton Blog and Brixton Bugle. Both publications have become such integral elements of Brixton culture.

Some facts on their concerted work:

  • Nominated for “Innovation of the Year” in the British Journalism of the Year Awards in 2013 (runners-up to The Guardian) .
  • Average of 100,000 monthly page views on the website .
  • We print 10,000 copies of the Bugle each month, and we’ve printed 27 editions
  • We’ve got a combined Twitter following of 27,000.

They’re currently running a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo for a part time news editor which I’ve just donated to. Whether you’re in Brooklyn, Berlin or wherever…feel free to share this good cause and donate if you share their passion and energy for high quality local news reporting!

Honorary Freeborn Emma

Part of the Honorary Freeborn Family

Freeborn Emma Birthday Portrait Brixton Village October 2015

Originally from Trieste and educated in Venice to masters degree level in arts management, Emma moved to London from Italy last winter 2014. We met by chance when Emma was counting people at UAL for a living. Emma kept passing my office and after we had greeted each other several times I spoke to her in Italian. I had been thinking of developing this project towards an exhibition and possibly a publication, so it seemed as if Emma had been sent me by fate. I told her about all things Freeborn, we became great friends and Emma has been and continues to be a key part of my support team ever since. I now consider Emma an honorary Freeborn!

Mekong Mechanic

©gavinfreeborn

One of my favourite and most memorable moments from my fortunate adventures around the world so far. A simple exchange took place with this mechanic, as I wandered through the vibrant and colourful local market, in the city of Ben Tre, on the Mekong Delta.

Skipping from one shaded part of the market to the next and I passed by him, smiling and saying hello in Vietnamese… “Chào” (pronounced “jow”). He enjoyed hearing it in my amusing Irish accent. I asked if he was happy for me to make his portrait and this is the result.

Of course I was sure to give thanks in Vietnamese… “Cảm ơn” (pronounced “gam uhhn”). It’s wonderful to think what you can fit into less time than it takes to smoke a cigarette…a human connection that’s imprinted on your mind forever! An openness of spirit and the effort to learn a few words and phrases of a new language can go a long way. One day I hope to see Vietnam again. Who knows maybe we’ll cross paths again one day!

London Fashion Week Musings

Faye Dinsmore, London  ©Gavin Freeborn

Faye Dinsmore, London
©Gavin Freeborn

With the recent buzz of London Fashion Week I was inspired to share some portraits I made earlier this year. Faye Dinsmore, one of my neighbours from back home in Donegal, in the Irish countryside, dropped by for lunch one day last spring. She had flown over for modelling work, from Dublin, where she is based, after graduating there in French and Classics at Trinity College. Faye is on the books of agencies in London, Paris and Barcelona and is looked after by Distinct Model Management in Dublin. She also recently landed a contract at Ford Models agency in New York which has seen the likes of Elle Macpherson and David Gandy on it’s books.

Faye was interested to hear about my photojournalism travel blogging and I was in turn interested to hear about her life adventures. I wanted to take Faye somewhere authentic and chose one of my favourite cultural delights in Victoria, Costa Coffee Boutique. Far from the regular Costa Coffee chain outlet, when you step inside this cafe you genuinely feel as if you’ve been transported to 1980’s Italy with beautiful ornate tiling and a glass topped bar where you can view a selection of coffee beans whilst you sip on that perfect brew!

Fitting that it is, the owner and his wife emigrated to London in the 1980’s and have never looked back since. The owner’s manner is so charming, as he slowly potters around making your coffee and food with a relaxed latin style. In central London this is a real treat, considering most people move at breakneck speed! The original retro decor matches the ambience and flavour of this wonderful little haven of culture! It’s fair to say we had a grand ole time of it chatting at a rate of ninety whilst soaking in the sunshine on that crisp cool bright day. We’d both been in touch with each other’s lives from Facebook but there’s no substitute for conversing in person. True Irish craic! A term that I explained to the world last March on Humans of New York or HONY as it’s often referred to. More on that in another blog post soon.

Faye Dinsmore, London  ©Gavin Freeborn

Faye Dinsmore, London
©Gavin Freeborn

Coming from our respective family farms and ending up in the creative urban environment, Faye living in Dublin and me in London, through our creativity we have travelled the world, but our hearts will always have a place in Donegal. Both passionate about our homeland, we chatted about Ireland’s development over the past few decades. Most interestingly we’ve seen it evolve into the tech capital of Europe, with numerous international IT companies basing their European headquarters in Dublin, including Google, Facebook, Paypal, Microsoft, Yahoo, eBay, LinkedIn, AOL and Twitter. Apple have their European HQ in Cork.

The existence and rapid growth of this industry has been one of Ireland’s major economic saving graces. Faye’s equally talented entrepreneurial fiance, Wicklow-born Paddy Cosgrave has brilliantly promoted Ireland through international networking. He is the man behind Europe’s top tech event Web Summit which brings over 20,000 of the international IT community to Dublin for a three day event. He also runs a more curated event for 200 guests called F.ounders, which brings the founders of major tech companies to an exclusive event which runs alongside the Summit. 

A lot was said in one lunch hour but of course we’re Irish so rapid conversation really wasn’t an issue for us. Faye and I are also both major fans of Irish craft especially Donegal tweed and woollen products. It’s refreshing that current fashion favors them considering the 70’s folk wear which has made a major return to the scene in the last few years alongside folk music. The international renowned Magee business is based only a few miles from our families home now run by Paddy Temple, who I photographed last summer at the Royal Highland Show in Edinburgh.

Faye Dinsmore, London   ©Gavin Freeborn

Faye Dinsmore, London
©Gavin Freeborn

On a recent trip home I visited Foxford Wollen Mills in Mayo, which has a fascinating history, started by a nun during famine times to help support the community. No matter how far we go from home it’s good to know that just like our old Italian friend, we will always value and celebrate the traditional roots we come from.

In a world of increasing consumerism and fast fashion I would encourage you to buy local products where possible. Most importantly buy good quality which will last and always recycle the clothes you no longer need as someone else will be glad to have them. As a child on the farm in 1980’s Ireland which was then a developing country, I certainly got excited when my older family members handed me down the clothes they grew out of…think local, think quality and think sustainability!

I made a few quick portraits of Faye at Chelsea College of Arts, coincidentally home of UAL’s TED (Textiles Environment Design)…experts and industry leaders in sustainable textile design.The first image was taken inside in the magical space that is the Old College Library. The building was previously the Royal Medical College built at the turn of the last century and opened in 1907. Considering Faye is usually seen on the cover of the Italian Vogue, Cosmopolitan and the likes it was really nice to make these natural portraits and see her pure Donegal beauty radiating on that crisp spring day. Later in summer the press reported that Faye and Paddy are so busy they hardly have time to make their wedding plans. Isn’t it great to see two such beacons of nouveau Ireland light shining out of the economy. I’m glad we got to catch up that day and who knows where in the world we’ll next cross paths!

Read more about London Fashion Week

Explore Donegal and Ireland

Follow Faye’s adventures on Instagram, Twitter and her blog

Follow Paddy on Twitter and read about the Web Summit and Founders

Shop at Magee or Foxford

Explore the Royal Highland Show, Edinburgh

Learn about Textiles Environment Design