Category Archives: Creative

Twilight People: Stories of Gender and Faith Beyond the Binary

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This time last year I was deep in a volunteer project; this year I’m freelancing and full-time working… Here’s a quick recap on that project and what it meant to me. 

Cast yourself back to February 2016… for LGBT History Month, I was part of a brilliant team of volunteers and professionals to realise a temporary photography and oral history exhibition called Twilight People. It featured beautiful photographs by Christa Holka, media by Susanne Hakuba, graphics by Lai Couto, and took place at Islington Museum. Subsequently, the exhibition has toured to Coventry, Manchester and had a pop up event at the LGBT Police Conference at the Guildhall in London.

The exhibition features intimate, face-to-face encounters with people who are at the intersection of gender and faith. Pictured holding an object that means something precious to their identity and faith journey, they are also accompanied by their own words taken directly from their oral histories. Together, they give a powerful insight into faiths and identities that are often not seen as compatible, and confounds many stereotypes. For some, faith is the way they have come to terms with their identity; for others, being accepted by a religious community has been a positive marker for them in their transition.

I was honoured to be involved in such a project, not least because I got to work with Surat-Shaan Knaan, whose energy knows no bounds. With my co-curator Sean Curran, and the fabulous volunteers who took part in workshops and played a part in scripting the exhibition, we had such fun leading workshops, choosing images and creating a beautiful space, so here’s a few of the photographs from the install and launch.

The Heritage Lottery Fund, who kindly provided the money to be able to carry out the project, asked me to write a blog post for the project which you can read here.



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Filed under Creative, exhibitions, London, Museums, Work

Running (and) Museums

No, sadly not “running museums”, though I hope so one day.

Basically, I took a bit of time away from Mediatrixy and in that time I worked out that the two things I really like talking about are: running and museums.

By which I mean…

Running – all forms of exercise are encompassed here – high intensity training, body weights, sprints and hill work, occasional emotional yoga sessions, etc. But crucially they are all done in the pursuit of running harder, faster, stronger.

Museums – again, all sorts of culture – concerts, installations, interesting parts of my city, browsing the Internet (ahhh), reading, etc. But crucially, all in pursuit of making better exhibitions and experiences for people who visit them.

So with these passions clearly stated, I’m going to start to write here a little bit more about these topics, hopefully connecting with other likeminded people. Because that sounds fun, doesn’t it? 🙂

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Rainbow Jews; the exhibition

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Last year, I started working with Rainbow Jews, a pioneering oral history project supported by Liberal Judaism  that tells the untold story of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Jews in the UK. On 2nd February, we installed the fruits of our labour at the London School of Economics, in their Atrium Gallery; and on February 6th we held a launch event – which, despite tube stries and dreadful weather, was incredibly well attended.

For this exhibition, the Rainbow Jews team gathered long-form interviews in which people speak openly about what it is like to be both Jewish and LGBT. These oral histories are an ongoing project for Rainbow Jews and those interested in contributing should get in touch.

Many of these people had never spoken out about their faith and sexuality before, though there were others who were known for their ground-breaking visibility in being both gay and Jewish – such as gay rabbis Lionel Blue (listen to his Desert Island Discs) and Mark Solomon, and lesbian rabbis Sheila Shulman and Elli Tikvah Sarah. It became clear that the networks and support groups founded by Jewish LGBT people were vital to provide a new kind of community for those who felt on the outside of more traditional faith and family structures. Though I knew little about the Jewish faith, and even less about LGBT Jews, the stories drawn out through these interviews are universally compelling. Throughout the process, we aimed to speak not only to those with a specialist understanding of the subject matter, but also to those who knew very little.

The exhibition is running for a month (open Mon-Fri 10-6) and finishes on 28 February. A series of rainbow-coloured panels, which reflect in the highly polished floor, lead the viewer through the story. Two showcases hold objects, such as ephemera and memorabilia, as well as more substantial items such as the AIDS quilt. Several media points along the wall allow audiences to hear from the interviewees in more detail.

The panels are rich in content and suit in-depth reading, as the real assets of this exhibition are the voices of the interviewees. Their honesty, humour, bravery, anger, fear, relief and celebration are overwhelmingly apparent as they describe how in course of a single lifetime, to be Jewish and LGBT has gone from something completely unacknowledged, to something celebrated – with all the attendant struggles for personal and public acceptance that this kind of social history usually entails.

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2014-02-02 15.31.46 2014-02-02 15.30.36 2014-02-02 15.30.08My role in making the Rainbow Jews exhibition happen was as a volunteer curator, content developer and exhibition coordinator. I worked with the project manager, Surat Knan, and her team of volunteers who wrote exhibition script, conducted many of the interviews and assisted with specific research tasks. Graphic design was by the superb Urjuan Toosy, and the exhibition booklet (more on this soon!) was created with help from wonderful Kate Brangan.

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Whale knitting

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I recently taught my Chap to knit. What better way to start than with these little whales? The kit came from John Lewis and is, admittedly, aimed for kids, so the pattern is really easy to follow.

Yarn: any kind of DK weight wool will work. Your whale need not be blue!
Needles: Choose appropriate needles for your yarn – we used 4mm ones for standard DK weight wool. (The whales are so small that they use very little wool so a ball will go a long way.)
Stuffing: old wool, commercial stuffing or cotton wool would work.
Contrast colour yarn: for stitching on the eyes.
Darning / yarn needle: for stitching up the whale and making the eyes.

Cast on 24 stitches.  Knit garter stitch (knit every row) for 6 rows. This will be your tail.

Knit 23 rows in stockinette stitch (one row knit, one row purl) finishing on a knit row.

This row should be a purl row. Cast off 6 stitches, purl 7. You should now have 8 stitches on right hand needle and 10 on left hand needle. Cast off 11 stitches. Snip the thread and pull it through with a yarn needle. You should have 7 stitches left on the needle ready to knit into the whale’s face.

Re-join the yarn from the ball so you can continue knitting the  stitches (a quick slip knot or looping technique will work). Knit one row, purl one row. Next row, knit 2 together knit 3, knit 2 together. Next row, purl. Next row, knit. Next row, cast off in purl.

Flipper – make two
Cast on 6 stitches. Row 1: knit. Row 2: knit 2 together knit 2, knit 2 together. Row 3: knit. Row 4: knit 2 together, knit 2 together. You should now have 2 stitches on your needle. Knit one final row. Cast off.

Making up
Fold whale lengthways, right sides together. Sew your whale up from the tail end along the long side. Fold over the flap and sew all the way round. Turn outside in. Stuff with stuffing until plump. Sew the tail up in line with the garter stitch, pulling the yarn gently to gather the tail together. Secure with a few extra stitches. Sew the flippers on low down the body with a few strong stitches. Add eyes in contrasting colour. Release into the wild!

The Chap is now on whale no. 4…

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Derek Jarman’s notebooks

I’ve fallen in love… with a notebook…

For years, I’ve been fascinated by the journals, notebooks and commonplace books of the creative and the curious – it’s being able to see the inner steps and vacillations, as worked out in that age-old format, pen and paper. Yesterday I stumbled across the latest publication of Derek Jarman’s notebooks, available from Thames & Hudson in regular and deluxe versions (choose your damage accordingly).

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This short trailer takes a closer look at Jarman’s original notebooks, filled with drawings, sketches, pasted images, pressed flowers, scribbles and poetry. It’s stunning, so addictive, and makes you want to grab the nearest notebook and start writing. Now.

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Badger by moonlight

Each year I try to make a Christmas card for my nearest and dearest. Two years ago I tried to remind myself how to linocut – something I haven’t done since school! Turns out it’s not stupidly expensive. A bottle of black ink, a roller, some pads for cutting and a set of cutting tools set me back about £20. I scrounged some old acrylic from the Chap’s office to roll out the ink nice and thin. And as I couldn’t afford a nice ker-clunk press, I used the back of a spoon to “burnish” the ink onto the paper. OK, it doesn’t look as clean as it could but my family ain’t fussy. 

And with a badger this cute, who could resent a few black spludges here and there? 2013’s card is a badger by moonlight. Enjoy…



Taking inspiration from Robert Gillmor

Badgers all over the shop

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