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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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!

Brighton Photography Biennial 2014

James a Brighton local, who told me "There's a great movie on soon...Frankenstein...you should go and see it!"

Eva, Market Worker from Nelson, New Zealand who now lives in Brighton and dreams of visiting her Italian family ancestral home in Sicily one day! – Taken in Diplock’s Yard

Juan Rendon playing in the JAWS of a Shark

Juan Rendon playing in the JAWS of a Shark

James told me "There's a great movie on soon...Frankenstein...you should go and see it!"

James told me “There’s a great movie on soon…Frankenstein…you should go and see it!”

Brighton Local James photographed outside Komedia on Gardner St.

Brighton Local James photographed outside Komedia on Gardner St.

Paul & Ellen outside the Vintage Fair at Brighton Dome

Paul & Ellen outside the Vintage Fair at Brighton Dome

Gentleman Paul Crompton, Vintage Dealer, outside the Vintage Fair at Brighton Dome

Gentleman Paul Crompton, Vintage Dealer, outside the Vintage Fair at Brighton Dome

Pompoko Japanese Restaturant in Brighton

Pompoko Japanese Restaturant in Brighton

Dub Attack - Entrepreneurial use of infrastructure, advertising events at Komedia

Dub Attack – Entrepreneurial use of infrastructure, advertising events at Komedia 

Circus Street Market

Circus Street Market

A Return to Elsewhere - Digital Brighton Photography Biennial Exhibition @ Circus Street Market

A Return to Elsewhere – Digital Brighton Photography Biennial Exhibition @ Circus Street Market

Rossena Petkova, Bulgarian Photographer enjoying Brighton Photography Biennials Photobook Show

Rossena Petkova, Bulgarian Photographer enjoying Brighton Photography Biennials Photobook Show

Saskia & Georgia measuring up for the very last event at Circus Street Market - BA Illustration students at the University of Brighton Exhibition

Saskia & Georgia measuring up for the very last event at Circus Street Market – BA Illustration students at the University of Brighton Exhibition

Graffiti that Fits the Inevitable Gentrification of Circus Street Market

Graffiti that Fits the Inevitable Gentrification of Circus Street Market

Graffiti that Fits the Inevitable Gentrification of Circus Street Market

Graffiti that Fits the Inevitable Gentrification of Circus Street Market

Walking the Dog

Walking the Dog

William Street Social Housing,Brighton

William Street Social Housing,Brighton

Taking the Dog for Ride

Taking the Dog for Ride

Lady Sheepskin Dealer, North Lanes

Lady Sheepskin Dealer, North Lanes

Jeweler Pete Modelling his Moustache on a Pumpkin

Jeweler Pete Modelling his Moustache on a Pumpkin

Young Brighton Busker

Young Brighton Busker

 

Femi: Egyptian for Love … Southbank Skatepark

It’s been quite a while since I’ve blogged on here as I’ve been fully integrating into my new life in London, settling into and blogging daily for work, in an exciting job in marketing and communications at Chelsea College of Arts, part of University of Arts London (UAL). I have an extensive body of work from my travels and early days in London, which I haven’t blogged but recently showed some of it in a staff exhibition at Chelsea. I felt a sense of achievement from a professional hang such as this. Anyhow…there will be more posting in the near future hopefully now that I am more settled…living in the awesome neighbourhood of Brixton

Today I was in town to see a few exhibitions with a friend. I wandered by the River Thames past the colourful South Bank Skatepark which has been threatened with closure recently by the development of a commercial development. The Long Live Southbank (LLSB) campaign was created and has had support from everyone from Thom Yorke from Radiohead to Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, who The Guardian explains has halted the £120m development plan by saying that the skatepark should be left in place.

As we arrived to spectate the skaters entertain, I spotted a real character, who I asked if I could make his portrait. He said a number of people had asked and he’d said no to them…but for some reason I got a yes!

©gavinfreeborn

Originally born in Manchester but now living in London, he is called Femi, which after research I see is a unisex name of African origin, meaning “Love Me” or “Love” in Egyptian.

©gavinfreeborn

The Colour of Love and the upcoming Valentine’s Day of course is often seen as red, which Femi is currently sporting in his very own way. It’s also the colour of the famous Manchester United football team coincidentally…always a great colour on these crisp days…crimson against the grey of London’s current climate. London is full of fabulous characters to photograph so I hope you enjoy Femi.

©gavinfreeborn (2)

Vladimir

So…I’ve been in the Irish countryside working on the farm, chopping wood, growing a beard and working in the garden. Now I’m back in London and I wanted to share more of the interesting experiences I had when I travelled the world and expanded my mind. I have a host of images in my “bank” that I’d like the world to have the opportunity to see….and here are some more of them…

As we say in Ireland…”What’s the story?”…..Well, my younger brother Stuart (Disco Stu) and I travelled to eastern europe for a week last June, from Budapest out to Lake Balaton to visit some family and then up to Bratislava, across to Vienna, down to Gyor in northwest Hungary and back to Budapest. It was quite the spin!

We had 24hrs in the Slovakian capital of Bratislava which we found very charming. Arriving at a Couchsurfing social with our bags on our backs (or wheels because it’s the way to go these days) we offered two lucky leprechauns to the highest social bidder! Well it was a fun night and we ended up staying with top bloke called Anton Cernak who we had lots in common with and had a right laugh.

We only visited the Tourist Information Office once, preferring to find our own way around, but when we did the gruff lady who “received” us…gave us the wrong time for the bus to Vienna. I always do my best to turn a negative into a positive and found myself enjoying the funky artistically decorated graffiti of Bratislava’s bus station. When I went to the toilet and stood at the urinal this shaved headed guy walked in and at first I put my hand to my pocket in case of being pick-pocketed (I shouldn’t have judged so quick) only to find that the guy was working as the toilet attendant. He was fixing the soap in a net that hung above the wash hand basin to avoid the soap getting dropped on the floor. I commented “that’s clever” and smiled at him (not something most straight guys do in toilets considering that even making eye contact with another guy is a real no-no…and women actually accompany each other to the toilet…???).

He then came out of the toilet and lit a cigarette as I was leaving. I couldn’t resist capturing the image of such a striking character, of course introducing myself first and asking his permission.

He told me his name was Vladimir…

I then ran for the bus to find that it wasn’t coming for another hour so I popped back to chat with him a little more and take this photo as I wanted to get a little closer and see some more of his great character.

The moral of the story is that as much as I try not to stereotype it’s slightly engrained. The above photo is of Vladimir holding my business card after we had a broken English/Slovakian (I had a handful of words)…and he was an absolute gent.

It’s amazing where you can meet real characters in this world and how wrong you can be when jumping to stereotypical conclusions. I’m just glad I observed who Vladimir really was, spent a little time with him and gave him a coin for keeping the Bratislavan capital’s bus station toilet clean and presentable.

Marjorie & Me

So I’ve been travelling at a fairly rapid pace these past few months, through Japan, Singapore, England, Hungary, Slovakia, Austria and Ireland. I’ve been zipping across the British Isles visiting family and friends. Of course, throughout this time I have continued to take quite a few photographs which I will be blogging here retrospectively.

Japan was a phenomenal cultural experience, a truly alien experience and yet wonderful! I made some fantastic friends for life there and hope to return one day. I’m working on a photo essay of Japan which I will post a link to soon.

Eastern Europe was great but my time there was short, taking in three countries in one week with my younger brother Stu who I absolutely love travelling with. We spent two months travelling SE Asia together at the very start of this blog. You can look back to the archives for November and December if you haven’t already seen this.

It’s been quite the experience returning to the UK and Ireland with refreshed spirit and eyes. I have some beautiful moments to share from this time too.

I’m currently staying on Amhurst Road, Hackney in a friend’s apartment for three weeks whilst she’s on holiday. I’m living on a 44p reduced IKG Sourdough bread and using my friend’s girls vintage Olympics bicycle to explore the creative and edgy East End with a view to living here for a while.

The other evening I cycled up to Homerton Hospital to the NHS walk-in centre to see a doctor as my recent chest infection morphed into a sinus infection (all part of travelling fatigue..typically you get sick as soon as you rest for a while)…afterwards I cycled through Clapton, Stamford Hill, Stoke Newington, Church Street, Clissold Park and Dalston and it’s certainly quite the neighbourhood here!

As I was cycling round Dalston I spotted a characterful old lady and stopped to chat with her. During the hour I spent in the bus shelter with 86yr old Marjorie (my new girlfriend) we talked about her life here over the past 50yrs in London, travelling from Trinidad on a boat and living in a basement with 20 people, pregnant and in her early twenties during the race riots, going dancing in Stoke Newington Town Hall and watching shows in the famous Hackney Empire Theatre, plus raising a family throughout all of this!

I had stopped and asked if I could make Marjorie’s portrait using Instagram on my iPhone and was pleasantly surprised when she suggested we sit down and have that chat. Afterwards I asked if I could return to make Marjorie’s portrait with my SLR camera one day and next time I intend to do her full justice with a fully professional image which I will share here and hope to make part of The Freeborn Travelling Portrait exhibition one day.

Although I am back in England and some would say I have finished travelling however I would disagree because I feel I can continue to travel every day. It’s people like Marjorie who are the reason I started this blog and the reason the project will continue now that I have wifi and I’m “a little” more settled.

So watch this space and pass on my blog to everyone you think might be interested. I intend to share my travels retrospectively and give you highlights of London’s most interesting people, places and culture!