Life without mum

Pregnant with her first baby, writer Victoria Watts Kennedy reflects on life without her mother

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“It’s thirty-three years since this photo of my mother was taken; and I’m now pregnant with my first. The books like to tell me this is a time when Mum and I will enjoy a new closeness as we bond over being mothers – words that make me throw the book, cry or simply sigh the unending grief of living without her.

“My Mum was a midwife, a job she loved and cherished. I remember when I was little, prized days were the ones when she would  come home from work with a Bounty pack, filled with coveted mum-to-be treats that I lavished upon my dolls. I got one of those packs last week, 30 years later, collected from a stranger in Boots, and the first time I really needed one.

“I want to ask Mum my first word, how long her labour lasted, did she get stretch marks, how did I sleep, what were her tricks? The questions rise every day. Family and friends give fragments, but the portrait has been lost. My Dad, the man behind the camera, has also left this life. He was 44, and Mum 51, when life slipped away. Alcoholism and MS: the greatest thieves from my story.

“Illness and loss cast shadows on my teens and twenties, but life when little was light and filled with memories that pregnancy likes to jog: the holidays we took, the jokes we made and the little trio the three of us formed. My parents were fun, kind and loving; the perfect recipe for grandparents.

“Grief is something that never goes away. It ebbs and flows from the bearable to the intense. Big days are hard – weddings, Christmas, anniversaries – but then there’s the little, unexpected moments – a gesture, a smell, a word – that cut down to the feeling’s rawness. Pregnancy has both – the bigness and the everyday – I yearn for my parents’ presence.

“But yearning and wishing can’t bring a person back. My baby will know my parents only through stories and the legacy of what they made me to be. Their absence in body is heartbreaking, and on days the solace is bitter. But when solace is the only option, there have to be days when you discover its sweetness. Not a day goes by when I don’t miss my parents, but equally, not a moment goes by when I don’t feel lucky to have had them. I see them in me, I feel them in me, I carry them forever with me. I have that same smile on my face as my Mum in the photo. And that’s how my baby will know his grandparents: through their imprints left on me.”

Victoria blogs at Read the results from our Mothers' Day survey here.

How you feel about your mothers: your responses



In our early spring issue, we explored our relationship with our mothers – and we invited you to respond to our survey. We were overwhelmed by your response, and the personal stories that you shared with us. 


More than half of you said that your relationship with your mother couldn’t be better and 65% of you are in contact with your mum several times a week, with over a third in daily contact.

Only 7% felt your mums would be disappointed if you didn’t pursue a career, kids, marriage and owning a home. In fact, almost half of you said that your mother’s biggest expectation was having a career. However, a fifth said that you felt that your mothers expect you to dress and look a certain way.


"I'm one of the lucky ones. My mum doesn't put pressure on me to live up to expectations."

"She is already disappointed."   

"I was never pressured to live a certain way but I think my mam is proud of how my life has turned out."

"I hope I make her proud. That is my goal in honouring her life!"

"She has no expectations, but would prefer me to stay single."


More than half of mums let boyfriends/girlfriends stay over, two thirds were allowed to drink at home, while 6% were allowed to try drugs. Less than a quarter were allowed to party without their parents around.


"I think I’ll do a lot of things differently, partly because I have a little boy. I want to give him a much better understanding of relationships and boundaries than I had."

"Mum was really easy going but because I was ill it didn't really affect me because I didn't really drink or party. When I got better I did and the impression I get even now is that she feels relieved when I talk about drinking and going out because she knows it means I'm well. I'm probably the only person who can say their mum reacted to me coming home drunk with "you look happy".

"My mum is in her 70s so it was a very different time for her as a young woman/mother. I am much more open minded and have experienced a lot more that I look forward to educating my little boy about"

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However there are some indications that there are certain subjects that mothers and daughters don’t talk about. More than a third’s mothers told them nothing about sex or periods, half never discussed sexism. 75% of those daughters felt this was a mistake.


"Sexism is a really important social issue and as a woman, I feel like it should have been addressed further."

"She just seemed to accept it, which I disagree with. It's something that should be confronted and fought."

"She saw my interest in feminism from a young age and fuelled it with literature."

 "She took it as just the way things were"

"Her opinions changed as I was growing up and experiencing it myself. Her attitude to catcalling turned from, 'it's harmless and best to ignore it' to anger at hearing the things that were shouted at me on the street. We grew our understanding together in a way."

"I've always been able to talk to my mum about anything. I've always been very grateful for that as I have friends who can't speak to their Mum like I can. Even at times when she didn't want to listen, I knew I could say it anyway. Ask her anything." 


Thank you for your honesty and thoughtfulness in sharing your thoughts and memories on this topic – they showed how close, complicated and ever-changing our relationships with our mothers can be. We hope to further explore the ideas and subjects raised in future issues of Oh Comely


"Whilst a strong capable women in many ways, she was crippingly shy and would not stand up for herself in work situations or with my dad. I never learnt how to defend myself in situations because I didn't know how. It's made me vunerable in my adult life, although finally I'm much better at standing up for myself now – but it's taken therapy to learn that."

"As my mom passed away so recently she has been on my mind. She had Alzheimer's and was in long term care for the past year. It is indeed a long goodbye. She is a precious treasure, my best friend, my biggest cheerleader and confidant. I will miss her every day."

"I think my mum treated my older brothers like 'adults' when they were 21, but she doesn't treat me the same. My body is her business, in way that theirs aren't. I love her, and she is simply a different generation but I find it so frustrating."

"I absolutely hope to be at least HALF the woman that my mother is. She is an amazing, courageous, smart woman, and I am so lucky to have her as my mother and my best friend & mentor <3"

"She's also the one person in my life who has consistently told me I don't have to have children if I don't want to. Whilst my boyfriends mum is so pushy about it. My Mum has given me the strength to say I'm not where I want to be in my career yet and even admit I'm not sure kids are in my future."

"My mother died in 2013 when the phone rings on a Sunday morning, when I'm still in bed, I still think it's her. We had a very close relationship and she was always there when I needed her. Although I miss her a lot I feel a part of me hadn't grown-up when she was around, maybe because I still lived locally. I do see her some days when I look in the mirror and occasionally when I'm with my boys I feel I'm channelling her, not always in a good way."

"My Mum is the most beautiful woman in world but has always worried about her weight.  This used to upset me as a child and still does.  To all the Mum's out there, you are beautiful."

"Not all mums are good at being mums, some are really abusive and neglectful. Mothers' Day means so many websites and magazines covering schmaltzy stories about how great mums are, how not just for once cover the stories of people who've grown up without a mum? Not all mums are great, mine wasn't and for that reason I work hard at being the best mum I can, I have that to thank her for."

"My mum is so tender and treats me like I am precious to her, even while she champions my independence and strength of character. I will never be as wonderful a person as her.



For our press release about our Mother's Day survey, click here. Read Oh Comely writer's reflections on our relationships with our mums in our early spring issue

























#feedme breastfeeding in public

#FEEDME is a photo series of women breastfeeding on the go, in public places across landmark locations in London – including the V&A, Portobello Market, Brick Lane and Tate. Over a hundred mothers volunteered to take part, to vocalise the positivity of public breastfeeding.

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#FEEDME was curated by online gallery (you can view the exhibition in its entirety on their website), portraits by Agatha A. Nitecka and Robert Appleton of RÅN studio and the exhibition is in aid of the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers.

Laura Dockrill's power fresh green pesto

 Portrait: Liz Seabrook

Portrait: Liz Seabrook

“Look at that! You get to pour your own chocolate in here.” Laura Dockrill is marvelling as she spirals her jug of warm, dark drinking chocolate into the awaiting mug of frothy milk. “It’s so good!” For a moment, it feels like we’re in Laura’s new young adult book, Big Bones, whose heroine, Bluebell, just loves her food: whether crumpets leaking with butter, salty caramel slathered millionaires shortbread or chips so vinegary that they make your nose hairs shrivel. 

In our early spring issue, we had the pleasure of speaking to writer Laura Dockrill. Her new book Big Bones – out today - celebrates the pleasure in eating. As Laura says, “There’s no such thing as a perfect body but there can be a perfect meal and you can enjoy that”. Needless to say, it made the entire team very hungry indeed. Laura was kind enough to share her favourite recipe for pesto. 


Laura Dockrill's fresh green pesto recipe

Big Bones is not just a love letter to food and the body; it is also to show how rewarding it is to cook and eat. It doesn’t have to be hard or fussy or posh or embarrassing to cook. I want to inspire people, kids, to enjoy food. And so the recipe I’ve chosen to share is simple, quick, easy to make, fragrant, vibrant and versatile and can turn any cheap carby comforting canvas into a wholesome meal that looks and tastes impressive. It’s the way I like to cook. Messy and natural. And if you are able to grab, rip, squeeze, pinch and smush you can make this without even touching a flame or a knob of the oven!

I made this for my partner Hugo, after a lot of beer, smothered over pasta. He said, “oh my god, this is the best meal I’ve ever had.” (No, it was not the beer talking) and he is not one tincy bit interested in cooking, but this is something he can now whizz up himself in under a minute and saves the day every time.

It lasts and it’s so much better and tastier and cheaper and vividly GREENER than the jarred stuff.


You will need:

one massive handful of basil stalks and everything (or I just use one of those whole bags you can buy individually from the supermarket)

big glug of olive oil the better the olive oil the better it will taste

parmesan the best thing about this is because the pesto gets smushed up you don’t have to fiddle around with the small fiddly bit of the grater!

juice of a whole lemon

sea salt and pepper

*optional toasted pine nuts


All you have to do is simply bring all of this together. Use a Nutri Bullet or blender if you have one for a 30 second smooth sauce or you could bash it up in the pestle and mortar or hand mix for something chunkier.

The thing I love about this is you can add as you go, more lemon for acidity, no pine nuts for pasta for something smoother, add nibs of toasted walnuts or pecans for a salad, a handful of spinach for extra green and goodness and chilli flakes work well too.

Then stir into hot pasta, smear over hot roast potatoes, drizzle over a green salad, slather over bread for a toasted cheese sandwich. A great invention are those Jus-Rol puff pastry sheets, you can smear this homemade wonder over a sheet of this stuff and accessorize with olives, sun dried tomato, artichoke, mozzarella for an impressive pizza/tart or roll into little swirls for a snack that makes you look SO FANCY! You could add to yoghurt or houmous for dipping (which is also super easy to make), top over roasted vegetables or just stuff it in the corner of a lunch box and visit with bread or whatever’s in there like a little pesto watering hole.


Big Bones by Laura Dockrill is published by Hot Key books and is out today. And pick up a copy of our early spring issue to read the full interview with Laura. 




What My Girlfriends Told Me

What My Girlfriends Told Me is a gorgeously illustrated book that celebrates female friendship, filled with laugh-out-loud anecdotes and totally relatable advice. Wisdom from women who have lived...  Compiled by artist Sonja Bajic who has spent her life collecting lovely little phrases, good stories, text messages and margin notes to create a treasure trove of words inspired by family, friends and women she has met along the way... 

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What My Girlfriends Told Me is full of relatable advice for times of heartache or uncertainty, long nights and new beginnings. It’s a joyful reminder that there’s nothing more powerful than a group of women sharing their wisdom, laughter and love with each other. 

You can order your copy from:

Legally Black redesigns iconic film posters

Iconic film posters have been redesigned to feature an all-black cast and put up on south London streets by a campaign group called Legally Black... 


Four "advocates of social justice" from south west London have joined forces to combat the way black people are portrayed in the media by forming their project Legally Black. The aim of Legally Black is to increase awareness about the lack of black representation in the media and create dialogue and discussion around inaccurate and harmful depictions.


Their first visual campaign replaces characters from famous white dominant TV programmes with black people, with posters now dotted around south London. The campaign also features the tagline: “If you’re surprised, it means you don’t see enough black people in major roles,” encapsulating the meaning at the heart of project.

"Black kids can be wizards too" says Olivia, who is playing Hermione Granger in a Harry Potter poster in this BBC video.

You can find our more on their website:


How we feel about our mothers...

We've been exploring our relationships with our mothers, and we'd love to know about yours, too. Fill in our survey here (we'll pick one lucky winner who will be gifted a bundle of books).

To whet your appetite, here's an extract from our early spring issue, where Aimee-lee Abraham tells us how her appreciation of her mum is constantly evolving...


“When I turned 24, I began to understand my mother more deeply. Her role became less hazy, less defined. I don’t see a caretaker anymore. I see a complex, hilarious, infuriating best friend with a history that far outstretches mine. 

“I always knew she was exceptionally young and beautiful, because she looked so exceptionally young and beautiful at the school gate, because boys would line the street to watch her take the bins out, because she let me binge-eat crisps whenever I wanted and rapped to the ping of the microwave and let me read Danielle Steel despite warnings from my God-fearing father. But I didn’t truly appreciate how young she was. Didn’t walk in her shoes. 

“She says she’d never have it any other way and I believe her. But if a series of coincidences had thrust me onto an identical path, I’d have a voracious eight-year-old, a curly headed cherub coming up to two and a divorce to settle – and a whole new life to pave out. It’s so far from my reality I just can’t fathom it.” 

In the run-up to Mothering Sunday on 11 March, we're inviting our readers to tell us about their own relationships with their mothers. Fill in our survey here, and we'll pick one lucky winner who will be gifted a bundle of books.

Women who work in the background – Camilla Naprous, horsemaster

In our early spring issue, we shine a spotlight on women who work in the background. And we discovered these women are definitely no shrinking violets... Meet horsemaster Camilla Naprous, who coordinates all the horsey stunts and tricks in Game of Thrones... 

 Portrait of Camilla by Aloha Bonser-shaw

Portrait of Camilla by Aloha Bonser-shaw

"I supply horses to the film industry. So any period movie or TV drama you watch that has a horse in it, I’m usually involved. I choreograph all the horse scenes, stunts and fight sequences. I also teach the actors how to ride – which can be interesting, some actors are in their fifties and have never even sat on a horse before. I recently got back into costume and performed as a stunt woman in the new Wonder Woman. But, these days, I prefer being part of the creative side. There’s so much risk involved in stunts and it takes me ages to recover now I’m in my thirties – the people get hurt way more than the horses. 

"The stunt and horse industry is usually ran by men – in fact, the film industry as a whole is very male dominated – so I’ve had hurdles to cross. It can work in my favour, though, especially when teaching a woman to ride – it’s an emotionally-charged experience and a woman may feel overpowered by a man. 

"The biggest TV show I work on is Game of Thrones, which has legendary horse-based episodes. Sometimes, we’ll have as many as 100 horses on set. And I’m in charge of them. I choreographed the Dothraki charge in season 7 – the directors told me I could create anything I wanted. It was the first time you see the Dothraki do something, so I designed the sequence to show off that they were accomplished horsemen. It has become iconic. And ‘Battle of the Bastards’, which features horses who are trained to fall over, was a great episode to work on – that’s one of my stand-out pieces of work. It has become critically-acclaimed in my world.

"However, our department is never truly recognised by the industry – we’re really sitting in the background, working creatively. I’m not a production, make-up or costume designer so my work can’t get recognised. The stunt world is ignored by the Oscars, the Emmys and the BAFTAs. Action is a huge part of some films, so I don’t understand why. Perhaps it might change soon. I don’t want my industry to remain hidden, I want to show the future generation of female horsemasters what they can achieve. I’m a big believer in women working together, rather than getting to the top by being very alpha. Some women stand on their own, not working together, and I don’t want to be like that. You’re only as good as the team around you. There’s no need to be a bitch, you can’t do everything on your own."

You can read about three more wonderful women doing brilliant things – a fashion designer, a ghostwriter and a supernumerary – in our early spring issue, available to purchase here


Through the lens: meet our panellists

To celebrate International Women's Day, we're hosting Through the Lens: an evening of conversation with three interesting women on Friday 9 March, with our friends Bailey Nelson (more details here). The discussion will be chaired by our editor Alice Snape and commissioning editor Bre Graham.

We're delighted to introduce our panellists for the evening. These brilliant women have all featured on the pages of Oh Comely and will be discussing what being a woman in 2018 means to them.



Melina (pronoun she/her) is a queer migrant woman. She has been doing sex work for the past five years – although she doesn't always like it, she is very passionate about sex workers’ rights. She is part of the Sex Workers’ Opera, a multimedia show made by at least 50% of sex workers, and X:talk, a migrant sex worker organisation. She helped with the Sex/Work Strike and she is trying to build an organisation to support sex workers in Portugal. She performs sometimes in different venues in London, rides her bike regularly, writes sporadically and procrastinates wildly.

Tahmina Begum is the Editor-in-Chief of XXY Magazine, a fashion, art and culture magazine, and platform seeking representation for emerging creatives. She is currently working on XXY's first-anniversary print issue and its upcoming podcast. Begum is also a freelance journalist and in addition to being a regular contributor to Oh Comely, she has also recently written for Dazed, HuffPost UK, Man Repeller, ScreenShot Magazine and gal-dem. Her work has a large focus on intersectional feminism and telling forgotten stories as well as the importance of a good, damn accessory.

Grace Campbell is a filmmaker, comedian, and activist. Themes of feminism run through all of Grace’s work, best displayed in Riot Girls, a C4 feminist hidden camera which Grace recently produced and acted in. Grace co-founded the Pink Protest, a platform created to bring feminist action together, both online and IRL, their most notable work so far has been on the #freeperiods campaign.

The event will start from 6.30pm on Friday 9 March, and your £15 ticket includes drinks. Profits from ticket sales will go to Bloody Good Period, which give menstrual supplies to asylum seekers, refugees and those who can't afford them. Buy tickets here. This is an intimate event of just 50 people, early booking is advisable. 

Oh Comely x Bailey Nelson – through the lens: a conversation with interesting women


To celebrate International Women's Day, Oh Comely and Bailey Nelson are hosting an evening of conversation with interesting women who have featured on the pages of Oh Comely, more information to be announced soon...

Profits from ticket sales will go to Bloody Good Period, which give menstrual supplies to asylum seekers, refugees and those who can't afford them.

Hosted by Editor, Alice Snape and Commissioning Editor, Bre Graham

From 6.30pm on Friday 9 March, £15 includes drinks.

Buy tickets here

This is an intimate event of just 50 people. Watch this space for more information on our panel of guests. 

What we're eating: Pancakes with blueberries

 Photos: Sophie Davidson

Photos: Sophie Davidson

In our early spring issue, we asked three women who know a lot about food to share their cupboard comfort recipes. And, given that today is Shrove Tuesday, we thought you might especially enjoy Ravneet Gill's recipe for pancakes with blueberries...

"Every time I have a day off, my joy is making pancakes. It’s repetitive, it’s easy, and the process of making them is so calming after working as a chef in a busy kitchen. I always have the ingredients for pancakes stored away in my cupboard, and I always have tons of maple syrup ready to drench my pancakes in. I love eating them with blueberries that I just cook down with a little bit of sugar and lemon until they’re soft."

You will need: 

1 cup plain flour

2 tbsp caster sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/2 tsp fine salt

2 large eggs

3/4 cup of whole milk

1 cup of yoghurt

50g butter, melted

1 tsp vanilla



1 Place all dry ingredients into a bowl, stir to combine, crack the eggs into the middle and whisk in with splashes of the milk until a batter forms.

2 Whisk in the yoghurt, pour in the melted butter and vanilla.

3 Allow to sit for half an hour before spooning into a buttered pan and cooking on each side until golden. Serve with maple syrup, blueberries and dust with icing sugar.

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Ravneet Gill does magic things with sugar and flour. One of our favourite pastry chefs, she’s worked in some of the capital's finest kitchens. Now she creates incredible desserts at Llewelyn's in south London. 

See more cupboard companions in issue 41, the early spring issue of Oh Comely, available to buy now

Dolly Alderton on love

Dolly Alderton is the kind of woman we all wish we had in our lives for those nights when we need honest advice and a well-made martini. Her words are warm, witty and always relatable. A true triple threat, she's a writer, director and podcaster, as well as an expert on false eyelash application. We spent a cosy evening with Dolly chatting about growing up, relationships and her new book Everything I Know About Love... 

 Portrait of Dolly by Sophie Davidson&nbsp;

Portrait of Dolly by Sophie Davidson 

Everything I Know About Love is brilliant and deals with every aspect of love from friendships and family to the boyfriends of your twenties. What did writing about your real-life relationships reveal to you? "Writing a book affords you a great retrospective awareness of the patterns in your life. It’s definitely a movement and journey. I knew when I started writing that my friends were relationships that were incredibly important  to me but I hadn’t been aware that in my twenties they had been my great loves. It’s affirmed the strength and bond that we have for sure. Making myself vulnerable, writing a book is an act of total vulnerability. It was horrible to write certain bits of it. It felt like the next stage of becoming a women, before that it just felt like a lot of bravado and accommodating other people. There’s a world now in which who I am is okay, it’s great to be vulnerable."

Read our full interview with Dolly in issue 41, you can order a copy from our shop (postage is free). Dolly's book Everything I Know About Love is out now, too.

Todd Haynes


After three decades of directing actresses including Cate Blanchett and Julianne Moore in their defining roles, Todd Haynes finds himself amazed by deaf 14-year-old Millicent Simmonds

 Portrait of Todd by  Ellie Smith

Portrait of Todd by Ellie Smith


Todd Haynes has been living in the past for some time. Each of his films – from Velvet Goldmine to I'm Not There to the sublime Carol – has been set in earlier periods and made using cinematic techniques from those eras. His most recent film Wonderstruck splits its time between pasts, telling an intertwined story of two deaf children in the 1920s and 1970s as they each run away from home and experience New York's frenzied enchantment.

Wonderstruck nods towards silent movies and 1970s American cinema. Are you interested in capturing something about how the world was at certain points, or is it more what older films tell us? It varies. Speaking through the prism of film language is sometimes exclusively, almost academically what I'm trying to do: Far From Heaven was set in the late 1950s and was about what those films said about their own time through the artificial language of Technicolor melodramas. Wonderstruck is a little different in that I was thinking about the kids' subjectivity. I felt a messiness in the 1970s. You see images of children from that time and their hair is in their face! Particularly there was a sense of the tactile in their creative interests. I think of Wonderstruck as what they're making with their hands. It feels handmade in that way, and going back and forth between the stories it's almost like pieces of a puzzle being pressed together by little dirty fingers. My films are always interpretations of cultural themes, stories, characters, real people, cinema. I never feel like I'm inventing new ideas, nor is that my intention – I'm just commenting on the culture as it exists and recombining components. I'm curating my films, maybe, much like these kids explore the idea of museum curating.

Is there a kinship between the job of film director and museum curator? You both locate different things, put them together and find the relationships between them. Absolutely. You're not just curating themes and references and in my case historical moments – selecting what is relevant from your research and films and popular culture – you're also putting together creative partnerships. Actors, cinematographers, costume designers, all of those elements are selected yet also have an autonomy. You may guide them but ultimately as a director you're letting something out of your control happen, and that's also the thing you want to capture, to let it in.

Until now you've collaborated mostly with adults, but much of the film is on the shoulders of Millicent Simmonds, a deaf 14-year-old. Did that affect how you worked? Every actor is different anyway. They bring their own personality, temperament, and in the case of professionals, their own training and approach to their work. The cliché that directing is really about casting is true: it's selecting that right person and providing them with confidence so they can take risks and do things that neither of you knew were possible. I know I have good instincts and I'm surrounded by people whose opinions I trust, but I've also been very lucky. With Millie there were unknowns on top of unknowns, but we followed our instincts and met this extraordinary kid. She has an understanding of the camera and the medium that you can't teach, that you can't direct out of anybody. I'm not sure how she knows just the right amount of information to express, or even what she looks like when she's performing. How many of us really know what we look like as we talk and emote? And she's a kid! It's a weird thing. Julianne Moore, who has that same understanding of the scale of the medium, would look at Millie on set and say wow, there's something remarkable here.

There are few deaf characters in cinema, let alone stories about deaf people. Do you feel that in losing dialogue you also gain something in those complications of communication? It asks the audience, who will mostly be hearing viewers, to supplement information, to imagine what it's like to be without hearing but also to interpret things in ways they're not usually asked to. When I was 12, The Miracle Worker became a point of obsession for me. I know it was about Helen Keller as a phenomenon but it made me think about language. Initially she represents a rejection of social norms and law and language, a wilful postponing of entering the codes and terms of a society. That's fascinating when you're young. I think kids feel an affinity for deafness and blindness, for limits and novel ways of improvising how to communicate and express yourself. Limited abilities and freedoms and constraints are built into their status – they get it.

Wonderstruck will be in UK cinemas April 2018


Contribute to Oh Comely issue 42

 Photo: Orlova Maria&nbsp;

Photo: Orlova Maria 

Issue 42 is out in April and we’re looking for your contributions.

Last year, we published a series of first person 'September stories' (you can read one example here or pick up issue 38 to read all four) and for our next issue we want to hear your personal stories relating to spring – a season traditionally associated with new beginnings.

Got a 'spring story' that you'd like to write? To be considered, email a 100-word outline of your idea to, along with two samples of your work by Monday 12 February. Please state 'Issue 42 contributions' in the subject header.

Unfortunately we don't accept fiction or poetry samples. We do try and get back to everyone but we're a really small team so we're sorry if we don't get a chance.

We look forward to hearing your ideas!

Oh Comely loves Camille Sanson

Inspired by her own journey into motherhood, photographer Camille Sanson’s solo exhibition ‘Absolution’ explores the mental health stigmas surrounding childbirth. This series of images was shot before, during and after her pregnancy, and is on display at Herrick Gallery, London until Sunday 4 February.

 The Vessel

The Vessel

How has photography – and this exhibition especially – helped you cope with your own mental health issues around childbirth? Using photography as my medium to express my art has been a deeply cathartic experience within this exhibition especially. Through the process of coming up with the concepts, creating mood boards and writing about my journey of overcoming my subconscious fears surrounding childbirth and motherhood, I felt a deeper healing had taken place. I would share my experiences with my amazing model Gina (@ginaharrison), so she could bring the concepts into her poses and artistic translation. Through working in this honest way with Gina, we formed a close bond and friendship. I also felt ready to expose some deeply personal experiences within my work as a way of speaking to and encouraging others to go on their own journey of healing and self discovery.

 The Mother

The Mother

Is this the first time photography has helped you with depression? Working on such a personal theme and collaborating in such an intimate supportive way with Gina made this project the most therapeutic to date, but in terms of my other photography work, I always feel a sense of happiness, euphoria and lightness when I’m shooting something I’m passionate about. I find it’s important to always have something creative to focus on or plan alongside the bread and butter work in order to keep that spark alive. That feeling you get when you create that magic shot is very addictive but good for the mind, body and soul.



What in particular was it about photography that helped? Perhaps the most helpful part was when I was photographing Gina, when we were able to go deeper into the story and concept and get lost in the moment of magic. But the process of communicating my issues to Gina about my mental health issues and subsequent spiritual and psychological journey of healing and liberation from fears was also so important and effecting.

 The Hidden Heart

The Hidden Heart

Would you recommend photography as therapy? Yes, it’s a way for people to find a new way of looking at and interpreting the world and what may be happening in their lives, offering them a medium to express themselves creatively which can be highly therapeutic. 

 The Mask

The Mask

Any other important notes to mention about mental health and photography? Photography and mental health issues can also be at odds with each other, with images of oneself taken at times of suffering bringing up painful memories of those moments. Mental health can be a very difficult thing to represent within photography and within the exhibition The Mask (above) is the image I feel best represents my own struggles.

Absolution by Camille Sanson is on display at Herrick Gallery, 93 Piccadilly, Mayfair, London. Follow Camille on Instagram, @camille.sanson  

Women who work at night – portrait series

With the number of people working nights in the UK increasing to almost 3.2 million, in our midwinter issue, we met up with five women who all venture out in the dark, while the rest of us are deep in slumber... This is an extract from sex worker, Melina's story... 

 Portrait of Melina by Heather Shuker&nbsp;

Portrait of Melina by Heather Shuker 

“Before sex work, I had 40 low-wage jobs. I have post-traumatic stress disorder, and panic when people shout at me. Minimum-wage jobs have little sympathy to this. My final motivation to become a sex worker came when I was working in a pub on minimum wage. I was living in a warehouse with friends and they wanted to go and see an exhibition in Brussels one weekend. I asked for time off to go, but my boss said no, so I quit. Hospitality jobs have always been easy to find. But I wanted something else. 

“I never dreamed of being ‘something’ – a doctor or a teacher. I just need to get paid. I clicked on a pop-up on a porn site advertising webcam opportunities. I was in my room when I first switched on my camera and was so nervous – all these people I couldn’t see looking at me. But people instantly tipped me and asked me to do things, like touch myself. You’re not supposed to get naked until you’re in a private chat, but you can flash. I didn’t earn loads, but I covered my rent. It was performative, I love performing. 

“I nourish my sexuality and have passionate moments with lovers, but I also see sex as a basic thing. We compartmentalise aspects of our lives – the way we act with colleagues is different to friends. Some feminists believe you can’t consent to sex when desire is missing. And I get it. But we often have sex without desire – when couples are trying for babies it becomes functional. That’s still valid. We eat for pleasure; we also eat when hungry.

“When I needed more money, I chose to do escorting. I find my jobs on an adult website. I met my first client in a hotel and it was a defining moment. I was so overwhelmed that I burst into tears just before – it crossed my mind not to do it, especially thinking about my family. The guy was in his sixties and knew it was my first time, I was scared and excited. I had sweat patches. He was kind and gave me an envelope of cash, telling me to take it even if I didn’t go through with it. But I’d come this far; I was committed. He was a good lover. I walked away happy. 

“But it’s not always like that. And that’s fine – no one, even people who love their jobs, have only good experiences. What needs to end is potentially violent people targeting sex workers. Violence is not part of our job. But it does happen and people blaming sex workers for it is victim blaming. The responsibility is with violent men, patriarchy, laws that don’t protect us. If sex work exists, our rights to work and be safe should exist. It’s that simple.

“People consume the products of the sex industry, but the taboos around it make it difficult for discussions to happen and for people to be supportive and more active in their responsibility towards what they’re consuming. It’s hypocrisy and extremely hurtful for the adult industry. 

“If sex work was led by men, instead of women, the laws would be very different. The laws against sex work are racist, transphobic, sexist, queerphobic. In Britain, sex for money is only legal when it’s one on one, but brothels run by sex workers would make me feel safer. Conversations about power and control are difficult, as when I have less money, I’ve less room to choose my jobs and I will take more risks. 

“I have boundaries, I don’t want other women shamed and won’t let married men complain about their wives. Although, I do feel safer with married men, they don’t have expectations beyond our arrangement. We’re called homewreckers but the truth is, people cheat. Sex workers don’t make that happen more. Sexism is not our fault, and it wouldn’t be tackled by abolishing sex work. The result of that would be more poverty and, therefore, more sexism.” 

Pick up a copy of issue 40 to read interviews with a midwife, DJ, doorwoman and taxi driver.

Making patterns with Roanna Wells

Sheffield-based artist Roanna Wells is known for making a mark – very literally – most of her works feature a collection of painted or stitched marks. In 2017, she expanded her mark-making process to include the general public, and she spent six weeks hosting Tracing Process where passers-by could add their own series of marks to Roanna’s painting. Roanna speaks to writer Hannah Clugston about where this interest came from, and how a repeating pattern can do more than just look nice hung in a gallery.

In your work you collect marks, would you call yourself a collector? I love collecting things. I’ve got a collection of spoons and feathers, and I have always loved finding pebbles on the beach and arranging them. Although it is not an obvious concept in my work, I do think collecting features a lot in my aesthetics and in the way I like to go about things.

When did your “mark making” begin? I suppose it started with my degree, which was in embroidery in Manchester. I did a whole series of works just using black thread on cream fabric, and then I started to branch out into colour. It was a little thing that got me started with colour; I got my old box of paints out and decided to use up all the colours that were already dried up on it from years back. I did a little swatch of it and then just started playing about with the brush, making marks. I really liked how the paint dried and collected in different ways depending on whether the paper was flat or upright.

Spaces Between_3.jpg
 Spaces Between

Spaces Between

Spaces Between isn’t just a series of marks, it also traces the passing of time. Can you tell me a bit about this project? I’d had a bit of a creative block and I was having a few personal issues as well; I had just gone fully self-employed and I was having the problem of earning money while also trying to fulfil my creative work. So, I went down to Bristol to use a friend’s studio as a sort of mini residency – just to get me out of my usual space and into a different environment to see if that would push ideas. I decided to start documenting a time period of separation from a certain person and it was almost a bit of self-therapy. I wanted to get something out visually without having to be really direct and say: “this is about this”. Each brush mark represents a minute in a day and each colour change represents a different day.

 Spaces Between

Spaces Between

Your work is clearly very methodical and controlled. How did you feel handing that over to the public in Tracing Process? It was a really nice experience. It was partly an exploration of my orderliness and my neatness. It was really nice to see the contrast between other people’s spontaneity and messiness, and my own way of making marks. There is a clear definition but they all blend quite nicely. I was interested in what happens when you give someone the instructions “this is the brush I use, this is the paint I use, this is the mark and how I make it” and then seeing if they do it neatly or go off-course.

 Tracing Process

Tracing Process

It was on display for six weeks, but is Tracing Process finished? Or is there room for some more marks? I’ve been working with a charity called Art Works that helps adults with learning difficulties to do creative projects and get work placements. Some of them participated in Tracing Process when it was in the gallery, but I’d like to go back to their studio and do a similar piece. They’ve also got an online shop where they’ve been selling cushions they’ve made on the sewing machines, so I want to try and get the final piece printed onto fabric for them to use in creating a limited edition set of stuff. I’d like to see the work in other places rather than just a gallery because I think you get a certain kind of audience in a gallery and I think a lot of other people would be interested in it. I am interested in therapeutic and psychological impact it can have, as people often say they find the simple mark making technique is mindful and meditative



Are you as interested in the process of making art as you are the final piece? I really love the way that when you are repeating one single mark by hand there’s obviously going to be some variation because of the way hands work and the way humans work. So, yes I think I am just as interested in the process because that’s how the work is made. My Desert Island Disks installation was only there for the time I was creating it. At the end, I had to sand it all off and paint over the wall. The focus there was on the process and marking the passing of time, and it was only there for people to see while the exhibition was open. I think this interest in process is also why I collect the tissues I dab my brush on. I think the process of choosing to collect these tissues and choosing to display them puts more emphasis on what they might be in a way, because you could quite easily discard them.

 Desert Island Disks

Desert Island Disks

It brings up the question of what is art? That’s still a mark you’ve made, it’s just a different type. It’s just an unintentional mark and sometimes they’re the nicest ones, aren’t they? It’s interesting because my work is so careful and controlled, but then I am really interested in these spontaneous marks on these tissues as well. I suppose with artists where their work is big, messy and splashy they just wipe up excess paint because their work is the spontaneity, whereas because my work is so controlled the spontaneity is found where I dab my brush. Maybe that’s why I collect them.

What do you have planned next for your mark making? I’ve been looking at some statements by Paul Klee that tie into this slightly more psychological, explorative aspect of my work. I am interested in tapping into different thoughts and making things a little bit deeper without having to paint your emotions. I do feel that there’s some change coming – just not sure in what way yet!

Roanna Wells will participate in Construction House at S1 Artspace, Sheffield. The exhibition and series of events will reflect on the Bauhaus movement and explore the possibilities and responsibilities of collective artist activity today. Visit


What's in your bedroom?

  Photos:  Olivia Howitt

What does your bedroom say about you? Olivia Howitt’s photographic project explores this most intimate of spaces

Like many good ideas, Olivia Howitt’s What’s in Your Bedroom? project came out of a conversation with her friend. “He told me about a girl he met at a friend’s shared house in Hackney – they were talking about bikes and she invited him to see her bedroom. She had bicycles filling every available space, on the floor and hanging from the ceiling.” Olivia was struck not only by the girl’s passion but that she only had one room to house it. “I started to think about what goes on in people’s bedrooms, other than the obvious...”

Her project is a visual demonstration of just how many things are going on in people’s bedrooms, from side projects to main jobs, and how even the smallest of spaces can be used in a creative way. As Olivia describes them, they are “small museums exhibiting moments of their inhabitant’s life in objects”, each capable of telling “short stories about our lives”.


While our bedrooms became our realms as teenagers (as in the marvellous example of Ellie May O’Sullivan, pictured) that experience is prolonged in London, where Olivia has shot the majority of the rooms, where housing costs are likely to mean shared accommodation well into your twenties at the very least. That was Olivia’s experience when she moved to the capital from Manchester, going from her own house to “all of a sudden, my whole world contained within my bedroom.”

Across the array of tastes and styles of bedrooms Olivia has had the privilege to photograph, there’s a common link, and one that’s not linked to their inhabitant’s taste or budget. “For me they have soul. I’d always want my bedroom to have soul”.



See more of Olivia's bedrooms at and @whatsinyourbedroom. You can snoop inside three more bedrooms in issue 40 of Oh Comely, out now


Ellie May O’Sullivan, student

“My bedroom is an area that is completely my own, so it’s a place where I can relax, listen to music, draw and express myself. My mum and sister have always collected things and I guess I’ve followed the family trend. There are so many things I love in my room and it’s so hard to pick a favourite – in a fire, I’d probably be burnt to a crisp trying to decide what to save – but definitely one is my small vintage Steiff penguin, Peggy, who’s a bit tatty round the edges but is really cute and fuzzy.”

What we're eating: Pepparkakor

Christmas biscuits.jpg

"The very nature of rituals means they also serve to remind us of things that are different from years that have gone before. Of people who are no longer seated around the same table, of fallings-out, of break-ups, of those who have passed away. The season is inescapable, and so we have no choice but to adapt. Make new rituals, or embrace the old ones as best we can."

Moving from eating Christmas pudding poolside in Australia, Kate Young writes about learning to embrace England's snowy skies, long Boxing Days walks and new festive traditions in our midwinter issue. Start one of your own by trying her recipe for pepparkakor, a spiced biscuit that's great to eat with cheese. 


Makes at least 60

You need:

  • 50ml water
  • 2tbsp golden syrup 
  • 80g light brown sugar
  • 20g dark brown sugar 
  • 1tsp ground ginger 
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • 75g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda 
  • 220g plain flour

1 Bring the water, syrup, sugars and spices to the boil in a small saucepan over a low heat. Pour them over the butter into a mixing bowl and leave for a few minutes to cool. The butter should have completely melted by this stage.

2 Sieve the bicarbonate of soda and flour into the mixture. Stir to combine and bring together in a dough. Leave the bowl in the fridge for a couple of hours, or preferably overnight.

3 Preheat the oven to 200ºC. Flour your work surface  and roll the dough out as thinly as you can – a couple of millimetres thick is about right. Line your baking trays. Cut shapes out of the dough, with cookie cutters of your choice, and arrange them on the tray, leaving a little space for them to spread slightly.

4 Transfer each batch to the oven and bake for five minutes, until slightly crisp around the edges. Leave to cool on the tray for five minutes and then completely on the wire rack. The biscuits should be crisp around the edges. Serve plain or with cheese – they’re lovely with Swedish cheese, or good cheddar or Stilton.


Read Kate's piece about changing Christmas traditions in the midwinter issue of Oh Comely, out now.