App launches for book lovers looking for Love

Everyone has a deal breaker. Most people it is something fairly normal, no bad breath, bad hygiene. Some people are a bit more obscure, their significant other will have to like Star Wars or video games or simply just being intelligent enough to hold a conversation.

This is what many dating apps are slowly starting to tap into, the need to cater to someone’s preferences that run deeper than just being attractive. Even on a shallow level, there are now apps like Bristlr, for those with beards and those who love them, and even “hotforginger.com”.

This was where Koob was formed, when co-founder Helena Habdija came to Manchester knowing no one, she wanted to meet like-minded people, such as the other co-founder Ian James. But dating apps do not allow that, for the most part, these days, apps like Tindr and Happn are all about looks, about sex, basically. As defined by their events co-ordinator Sophie Ashcroft, “This is a countermovement from sex, sex, sex; to books, books, books.”

Sophie joined the Koob team after working with Helena through a different project, befriending her and being contacted by her for writing a blog piece on books, allegedly to do with the early stages of this project.

At the pre-launch I met Sophie, who created this event as what she called a Liquor Library, incorporating the idea of how books make us feel, to how a drink would. “I want to transpose that feeling you get when reading a book, into a drink inspired by it.” She states at the start of the night.

One of the favourites there was a “Short and Stout”, inspired by Lord of the Rings, and described as something a ‘great dwarf would drink at a banquet’. It included a stout reduction, vermouth, bourbon, and once being served in a little steel tankard, you really got the imagery and thought behind the drink. Other drinks included a pair of drinks called ‘Star-crossed lovers’, inspired fittingly by Romeo & Juliet and aJekyll and Hyde-inspired drink that had a ‘foggy’ effect by some well-used dry ice.

Liquor Library, part of the pre-launch for Koob

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This event was small, about 6 of us in total including a Manchester-based writer, Tom Rowe and a blogger and bibliophile named Becky. As the drinks flowed and everyone relaxed the talk turned to what this app could do for those who love books and the stereotypes surrounding them. “We’re not all introverts, we just need a little more time,” states Becky when asked whether the idea of book-lovers being shy and awkward is really right, “this app could bring us together, apps like Tindr can see guys getting rude and even a little aggressive when you don’t want to talk about sex or be open to such forward advances.”

“I can speak personally of the sexism and power issues within Tinder and other online dating apps, I feel that these non-hierarchical (in terms of the sexes) platforms allow women to enjoy a lot more power and control in their hunt for what they want,” Sophie explains across the bar when asked about the sexism apparent in modern dating apps,  “I’ve been able to have the possibility to reject the scarily pushy, the unnecessarily sexual, and the inappropriate away from the comfort of my own desk, without having to test my confidence in saying no, in the past I was never good at saying no, or asking for what I want”

The double standards that surround dating apps and the youth of today are clear to anyone, especially girls in the 21st century. So my biggest question at this point was, is Koob predominantly a dating app, or is it more directed at building those bridges first, getting to know people instead of just going off their looks?

This was where Tom Rowe interjected, “the very base of connection will always need to be mutual which is why niche apps are getting bigger. Combine that with something that people treasure and I think Koob might have something special if they work it right and promote it correctly.”

“From small acorns come great oaks…and a mutual interest in books is a small acorn that can grow and grow.” –  Tom Rowe, author of Alcoves Inside the Lining

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Quentin Van Dinterin reading from his short story at the launch  event 

At the Beta launch event for the app, it was apparent that this had attracted a much more diverse crowd than some apps might. There were different ethnicities, ages, a mix of both genders and moving around the room one common theme could be heard in conversations; books.

There were readings by two authors, Tom Rowe and Quentin Van Dinteren , along with another taste from the Liquor Library, this time, based on A Catcher in the Rye. The app itself is still waiting to launch but the website is up at joinkoob.com.

The future of this apps is currently uncertain, but given the popularity of these events and the app so far it seems promising. As Sophie speculates herself, “As a Koob team member I want to see it grow and develop in all the right ways, user-centric, fun, and bookish to the core.”

And who knows, there may even be some ‘Happily ever afters’ from friendships founded there.

 

Manchester Museum After Hours recreates mummy rolling

Last night, the 25th February, saw the Manchester Museum on Oxford Road holding a special After Hours event in line with their Ancient Egypt exhibition and mummification.

Introducing the night Campbell Price, curator of Manchester Museum’s Ancient Egypt department, states, “This is a big a night for us as it is for you, no one has ever tried to do this using ancient methods before to gauge the time and effort that goes into mummification.”

This was not a real animal, but instead a plastezote replica in the shape of a mummified animal. The aim was to recreate the shape and patterns that are found on ancient Egyptian ibis bird mummies.

“We get the idea from this that one really had to show off to impress the Gods and get their attention, so they’d be impressed here at least!” States an excited Campbell.

egypt

This 3-hour session was a part of the Gift for the Gods: Animal Mummies Revealed exhibition that is currently residing at Manchester Museum on Oxford Road.

This was helped along by the workshops of screen printing on linen and mummifying oranges coupled with a bar meaning it was a grown up discovery centre before the main event.

Along with the re-wrapping, there was also readings by Anthony Parker, a poet of 5 years, of some Egypt inspired poems, and curious performers iOrganic taking us back to 1890 Liverpool and ‘Mummy Auction TV’.

The night was interactive and insightful and as the re-rolling got under way, with Dr’s Lidija McKnight and Stephanie Woodburn tackling this task, Campbell gave a sports-like commentary filled with wit and facts to keep us involved, opening the event with, “I want to reiterate that no animals were actually harmed in the process of this event.”

From this event, it was suggested that to wrap a mummy alone was not possible leading to the speculation by the experts that in ancient times this was probably done on an ‘assembly-line’ style set up. Nevertheless, with just two sets of hands, and only 2 hours to tackle it, the Doctors at the museum succeeded in their task, even managing to apply a linen applique of Thoth, the god of Knowledge.

BAFTA’s, the British film industry and unblocking my motivation

For those of you that know me, and those that don’t, you will know I am a journalism student in my second year at University. And for the last 9 months or so I’ve been a journalism student with writer’s block. Nothing has inspired me, assignments have bored me, and as a result my writing has suffered, and so my university experience has.

Until the BAFTAs last week.

Just a little background…

On April 16 1947, the Academy had its first meeting at the Hyde Park Hotel.  In 1976, after a number of reformations, it became the British Academy of Film and Telelevision.

The aims have not changed of course, originally as the Academy the decision was to be a society that was, “non-factional, non-political and whose first aim should be to establish closer co-operation between the creative workers of all categories (feature, documentary, educational, cartoon and news-reel), undertake research, issue publications and give awards for artistic merit”. Now it is a charity that continues to support, promote, develop and celebrate the arts of moving images and those involved in these creations.

Growing up, I was surrounded by TV and Cinema. Of course, I am a child of the 90’s. Digitalisation was starting to really take hold in my childhood, computers were developing and kids TV was just a wonder of scary characters – here’s looking at you Mr Blobby – and bright colours. Nevertheless, I was raised in a house of the visual arts, and film attracted me most. It influenced me to go into journalism and gave me an interest beyond just what I saw on screen but also into all the other aspects of the medium.

British film always stood out to me, I have a homage to The Wicker Man on my right thigh, and one to H.G Wells’ War of the Worlds on my left (along with a few other film tattoos from my other favourites). So when the BAFTAs came on, this long-standing British Institute I settled down for a night of laughs and interest. I needed something to restore my faith in film after the Oscarss controversy this year, and I thought that if the British Academy Film Awards didn’t, nothing would.

Absolutely adore my thighs. Both fully healed now. Nick is easily my favourite guy to get tattooed by!

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Who better to host this than Stephen Fry? He in himself is a British Institute. As witty as ever, his charm and light comments were loved by all. And despite the recent uproar of some shouting at him for referring to Jenny Beaven (winner of Best Costume design for Mad Max: Fury Road) as coming as a bag lady; I don’t think they got British humour. I know I do it to my friends, as much as he was to his, passing a little comment on someone you are friends with is a friendly dig at most, especially in the irony of her profession. But I digress.

So many amazing films were nominated and celebrated for a number of reasons. The Revenant narrowly dominated with five awards including Best Actor for Leonardo DiCaprio and Best Director for Alejandro G. Iñárritu, with Mad Max: Fury Road as a close second with four awards. One thing that did shock me however, was the lack of awards to The Danish Girl, but that may be personal taste, having found it an amazing film both in terms of costume and visuals to the story itself, based loosely on the real events of Lili Elbe’s journey as a transgender pioneer. I  was most surprised it did not get best costume design, being both periodical and theatrical costume throughout, i found the designs both bold and elegant. Nevertheless I can understand the win for Beaven, as Mad Max has some fantastic creative outlets, being all silver and spikes.

Of course, the Oscars were not going to go unmentioned, with Rebel Wilson passing comment on it in her speech before announcing the winner of Best Supporting Actor. But rightly so, we live in an age now where the media and media involvement is so accessible to everyone, where some amazing films involving POC have come out over the last year, and for very few to be acknowledged seems bizarre. But, the vote is not ours on that. This was an area where the BAFTAs were on the flipside, with both the EE Rising Star going to John Boyega, and the Fellowship in 2016 going to Sir Sidney Poitier; the British industry cannot be tarred with the same lack of awareness of diversification that its American counterparts are currently.

 

My main point in this is this: I’ve lacked motivation for a long time, nothing has made me want to write, let alone write with free thought on anything. My lack of desire to write therefore affected my desire to read magazines and articles; I didn’t want to see what I could be aspiring to do when I had no aspirations to do it. All it took, realistically, was something to ignite that desire. Something to happen that made me go, “Wow, I want to talk about that event. I want to discuss those films, those actors, those up and coming stars that need to be reminded that everyone comes from a similar place – the bottom.”

The BAFTAs has managed to do just that, with John Boyega (a personal favourite of mine even from his early appearances in Attack the Block!) reminding us that he was from West London, that that morning he’d been going the shop to buy milk, and now he was nominated for an award. This was an award show that reminded me of films that may not have won awards – such as The Danish Girl – and all the films that have come out over the last year and recieved very little publicity in the mainstream. Films such as Theeb and Brooklyn that have amazing casts and amazing narratives, yet recieved very little publicity upon their releases and yet are obviously critically acclaimed films.

We as the youth of today need the motivation to be reminded we can do what we want so long as we put our minds to it. That although jobs are more demanding than ever – and at present hard enough to find – the future is out there and it is ours for the taking. The BAFTAs and the film industry will forever give me a love of films that is deep-rooted in me, but will also be a constant inspiration to chase what I want and write that story, so for that, I thank them.

Manchester based photographer uses pictures to paint a 1000 words on mental health

With mental health becoming discussed more and more in the media, Manchester based photographer Joe Sheridan has decided to use pictures instead of words to dispute taboos around a number of areas surrounding mental health.

 

“WHY do you look so depressed today?”

This one question can really make you think about your life, your problems, how you are acting.

Maybe you just woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Maybe you missed the bus or your makeup wouldn’t go the way you wanted. All the stresses of life are shouting at you; University, work, money, relationships…and then someone asks you that one critical question and you worry. Are you depressed? Surely not, it’s just life! So you brush it off, you change your posture, you find a positive and you tackle everything one problem at a time.

But what about the other way around? What about when you actually are depressed? When you wake up every day and you know there’s a solution but it’s a fuzzy outline on the horizon, always a little bit out of reach.

According to the Mental Health Foundation: “About a quarter of the population will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year, with mixed anxiety and depression the most common mental disorder in Britain.” It is a taboo in the weirdest sense; a huge portion of the population suffer from one form or another of it, and yet to be open about having a mental health illness, to treat it the way a physical illness is treated; is still something so many are scared of doing.

For so many people being depressed or having anxiety is the problem. It’s not just looking it, it’s living it, which raises the big question; when did a serious mental health disorder become a colloquialism for being a little bit under the weather? It is this that one photographer from Manchester is trying to tackle.

Joe Sheridan, 22, has been photographing in Manchester for two years now, working normally with bands and landscape photography, he has decided to branch further into the realms of expressive art. Reaching a point now where it is not only furthering his career that he wants to do, he decided to start this project after seeing a lot of people suffering unheard with mental health issues.

A lot of this was seen whilst working with touring bands over the summer: “People don’t realise the strain that travelling as a band can put on your mental health, a lot of people think it’s glamourous but don’t realise how hard it is being away from everything.

“I want people to realise normal people, people with no visible signs of it are affected so much and still carry on as if nothing is wrong.” continues Joe.

With cuts of approximately £1.5m being made in Manchester’s mental health services recently, this issue is more predominant than ever.

Joe aims to have a strong set of these photos in about half a years’ time, planning on holding the exhibition of the final pieces in Manchester with the Partago gallery having already shown a strong interest.  Along with the exhibition he hopes to put together physical albums of the final series of photos: images of the people, half-silhouetted to show there are two sides, supported by quotes about their illness.

 

The main aim for Joe at this stage is to get as many people involved as he can, spreading the word through as many channels as possible. Unsurprisingly, interest has developed thick and fast with people already stepping forward to get involved, facing issues from depression and anxiety to more physical conditions such as heart conditions which leave visible scars to reveal hidden illnesses.

“Photography is a different approach, I feel. In photography, you are conveying messages through still photos – so a lot of that is dependent on deep matter, and appearance of emotion through mannerisms,” comments 20 year old Dan Tomlinson after becoming aware of this project online.

“It’s a positive step, as is anything right now. Emotive art has proven to work and raise awareness to its audiences.”

Dan has Asperger’s Syndrome which is within the Autistic spectrum, something he feels has added to his own struggles with mental health.  “Growing up, I suffered with depression because I lived inside of an igloo within my head – I was very introverted and isolated as a child and it is still a lasting symptom today.

“Not wanting to be a burden, I keep it all repressed in my mind – admittedly it probably doesn’t help anything, but it’s just the way I’ve been all of my life.”

It is this way of handling issues that Joe is all too aware of and wants people to challenge, stating, “If my project helps even one person who is either directly affected or knows someone affected, to open up more, to think about it in a more open minded way I think I will have achieved something.”

In research done by CALM (Campaign against Living Miserably), they found that: “41 per cent of men who contemplated suicide, felt they couldn’t talk about their feelings.” This was something Joe realised during the initial introduction of his project, “Girls have approached me about this more, I know guys that are suffering, but they just don’t want to publish that to the world,” he claims.

Despite this, it is the men involved who were the most vocal on the subject. Andrew Barlow, 25, is another photographer from the Manchester area, and knew the importance of raising such awareness, especially as a man feeling the pressure to not show these struggles to the world.

“I think it is definitely harder for men, as they have to live up to being this big strong rock in any given relationship, they don’t want to appear to be weak,” discusses Andrew.

“It’s hard when people have opinions like ‘men don’t cry’ – its bullshit. Everyone has feelings no matter whether you’re male, female or any other living being, everyone feels something.”

There is an emphasis on this ending point, in that this is not to undermine how women suffer, and how they feel. Women have a stigma attached around mental illness, often being related to the ‘time of month’. However the fact more women have been photographed within this project so far is already starting to paint a picture of the issues around mental health stigmas.

Over the coming months Joe is going to be in contact with not only charities aimed at mental health such as CALM and Manchester Mind, but also with bands he has toured with in order to spread the word of his project as far and wide as he can.

As much as people fitting the ‘normal’ level of mental health will have bad days, those with mental health issues will have good days. Days where they can find a way to cope with their internal issues. Finding a way to get into that right frame of mind where it is easier to contemplate the idea that there is less wrong.

“Being introverted is satisfying, and clearing your mind even for a few hours at a time can be revitalizing. I’ve started trying out meditating recently – the perfect combination of remaining in my head, whilst training my brain that it is okay to be stressed, but that stress is not a priority,” admits Dan when asked on his methods of coping.

This is where Andrew, takes a different approach, and a point that this project aims to emphasize; not only does everyone suffer differently, everyone copes differently.

Contradicting the ‘doom and gloom’ perspective many feel those with depression have on life, he states: “I will forever maintain a positive mental attitude, it is the only way out of the abyss, there is always a positive to every negative; be optimistic, address situations, be positive, be kind.

“That makes me feel better as a person. Helping others found me a way out – live life on the up no matter how rock bottom you feel. Tomorrow is another day.”

 You can follow Joe’s work on his website here.

Sometimes the make-up brush is stronger than the mouse.

The above scene is one of the most iconic moments in SFX history for me, and what probably turned me into such an avid film fanatic. It comes from the 1981 movie An American Werewolf in London and shows the “ghost” of Jack after the initial attack. It proved how good this makeup was even in the eighties. Something that even as a child amazed me.

What amazes me even more, however, is that despite the development of CGI, this makeup is still used in many films across the board, from Pans Labryinth’s mythical beasts to Snow White and the Huntsmen turning actors into dwarves. The market is still there. Something that should be a dying art due to technology is still flourishing due to the reality (or realistic fantasies!) that it supplies. It gives the enthusiasts a chance to get into a dream career, one they can practice and build upon in their own time. One friend of mine, Eva, is doing just this. Whilst also being a traditional makeup artist, she has a special talent and enthusiasm when it comes to FX makeup, having been active in the industry now for 18 months after four years of training, and was ideal to talk to for a view on the future of FX Makeup. Eva admitted that growing up on horror movies and programmes such as Casualty, influenced her massively. By watching the behind the scenes shows she developed a passion and interest for being able to “alter how someone looks by something as simple as make-up”.

Having done work for The Great British Tattoo Show, and also doing bridal makeup it can be seen that “normal” makeup is a much easier trade to get into. However, Eva knows her career path is headed towards special effects makeup, wanting to retrain in it to learn the modern techniques and work her way up. My main concern, as aforementioned, was whether this was wise, given advancements in CGI, to go into an industry that could die out. Regardless, Eva was confident in herself, telling me, “Yes, it is difficult but people will always need the makeup to make some things more realistic, look at zombie movies, and even Harry Potter, Voldemort was done through makeup and then CGI was used to ‘remove’ his nose. Even more so there is a huge call for effects makeup in indie films where a low budget means CGI is limited.”

With so many scifi and horror films constantly being announced it is encouraging to know that a classic film practice such as effects makeup is not dying out but instead adapting to survive, and I’m excited for the future of it alongside CGI.

In building a bike, one can build a community.

#communityrecyclecycles #crewe #cycling #bikes #fixie #fixed #bikeshop #summer #soup #sunshine #ride

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If there’s one thing you learn coming from a relatively small town, small in comparison to Manchester anyway, is that a sense of community is one of the best things around. Having people who share a hobby or passion with and are willing to help others with a problem or just to start up that hobby for themselves, is a small reminder that there is still good people around.  And in the town I’m from, Crewe, we have people just like that running Community Recycle Cycles.

The shop is run by young people and volunteers, as a non-profit based organisation, simply to help those in need get a bike and be able to repair it cheaper than most places whilst learning the skills themselves to pass on. They also collect old and broken bikes to repair and sell on at a much more affordable price, allowing anyone and everyone to have a chance.

I myself have been involved in one of the cycle runs the shop organised as I know one of the main workers there, Matthew. Matt and the other members of staff occasionally organise cycling trips via the company’s Facebook page and invite anyone and everyone to come along, get their bikes checked and meet other cyclists in the area whilst having a fun trip out either through the local countryside or to the next town along and back. It’s been years since I’d been on a bike and was pretty wary of that; but everyone is in the same boat, and knows it’s just for fun to get people involved in a healthy, environmentally friendly way of travelling.

What’s even better is how much these guys promote bike safety. There has been a number of stories on cyclists deaths over the last year and knowing that there are teams of people out there willing to help anyone of any age learn to be a bit more cautious is such a reassuring notion. In a community such as this people care about others regardless of their background or how they dress, because what matters is that people are safe.

Shops like this can be found all over the place but in a small town they go down well; where there are such divides in people, places like these create a sense of community and diversity that is normally lost. And it is these kind of things that are needed in order to remind us of what is really important.

“Look mum, I’m a photographer!” “No dear…you’re just a teenager with an iPhone…”

If you have an iPhone, a Samsung galaxy or any other smartphone the chances are there are a few apps you will have; Facebook, messenger, maybe a news-stand, vine,  and of course…Instagram; the app that allows everyone to share photos of well… everything.

Since its launch on October 6th 2010, Instagram has boomed and become one of the most popular photo sharing platforms in the world, with over 200 million active users a month sharing a massive 60 million photos per day (stats from http://instagram.com/press/ ). These pictures go from food to “selfies”  and everything in between. Which, although it has created a huge community, bringing people worldwide closer through image sharing, it has also created a generation that, by those in the professional line, is normally critiqued; the generation of “iPhone photographers”.

My own instagram page; lots of selfies, scenery and food.

My own instagram page; lots of selfies, scenery and food.

So for those of you that don’t know what Instagram looks like, the above is mine…I have a fair few followers and I post a LOT. But I am in no way a photographer, my photos are average at best. So why do we get some teens, or even young adults, who think that, because they have an iPhone and instagram, they’re a “photographer”? The answer is simple; everyone wants to get noticed, and the internet, especially on a visual level, is an easy way to achieve this. You take a picture, stick a nice filter on and share it, a few hundred, maybe thousand people see it, (if the hashtags are right) and you feel a little bubble of pride at all these strangers liking your picture, to probably never look at it again. So as a hobby, you’re probably a photographer, but a professional? Someone learning the trade so they can take this as a real career? Kids, you’re all wrong.

A lot of photographers will use Instagram purely as a platform to get work noticed; they can edit their photos as they would normally and then post them on whichever platforms are vital for getting their work out there. My friend Andi who does a lot of photography whilst travelling has even said that for a lot of photographers they have to “work with what they have” and that iPhones have made this easier to do so as it’s always on you; if you’re exploring an abandoned building for example, it’s easier carrying a phone than a camera.

Ofcourse some photographers are a lot more traditional and prefer working with cameras, yes phones are more handy, but for some it just isn’t the same; photography should be done on a proper camera – DSLRs more often than not nowadays. The problem with this, as pointed out to me, is that with the rise of iPhone photography, DSLR cameras are becoming cheaper and cheaper, allowing everyone to become a “photographer” making it harder for those in the industry.Timothy Easton (work shown below), a budding photographer who documents a lot of gigs stated “kids are going to shows thinking they can make a substantial living out of ‘touring with bands omg’ when really the bands themselves aren’t making enough money to support themselves in some cases and the photographer is the bottom of the pile” which is a valid point given that at a gig the vast majority of people are stood with their phones held up, blocking the view for everyone else but also, surely, ruining the experience for themselves. Photographers tend to stand at the front, in front of the crowds or even closer to the stage than anyone else is allowed for a reason; they get better shots and even though the cameras are bigger than phones, they block the view a hell of a lot less.

Feed the Rhino, Islington Academy - October 2013 Credit: Timothy Easton Photography

Feed the Rhino, Islington Academy – October 2013 Credit: Timothy Easton Photography

Another photographer I know, Joe Sheridan who photographs a lot in Manchester, expanded on this idea even further; “The ironic thing about the smart phone culture is how many people you see capturing their moments on their phones at concerts, and will afterwards, or during post what they have captured, yet compared to professional photographers, their photos have an impact in the immediate present, and the future, but for those are trying to get their shot for their Facebook, or Instagram profile it’s futile, the photo will go up and just like many others they took will probably never look at ever again. I myself do not yet consider myself to be a professional photographer, although it is my endeavour to pursue that.
Albeit, everyone has their right to do what they wish when capturing a shot at a concert, but it’s cultivated this throw away culture of taking photos just to say, “hey, I was here”. In a world where digital technology has catapulted photography as a medium for self-expression, it has meant that more than ever the sharing of photos is bigger than ever, it means for novices, or professional photographers, when sharing, and creating traction from your work can be more difficult, because everyone is a critic now.”

Roam at Sound Control, Manchester, 2014 Credit: Joe Sheridan Photography

Roam at Sound Control, Manchester, 2014 Credit: Joe Sheridan Photography

This shows that iPhone photography may have had a bigger impact than one would think, and that maybe it isn’t just the teens with iPhones that are a threat to professional and industry photographers but rather anyone who can get hold of a camera, some roses and a black and white filter. I for one, hope that talented photographers can use social media platforms to get the recognition they need in order to promote their work and get their name out there without too much threat from the rest of the “moment-capturing” instagrammers in the world.