Culture Monday

Natasha Khan photographed for Oh Comely issue 32 by Clare Hewitt 

Natasha Khan photographed for Oh Comely issue 32 by Clare Hewitt 

What's happening this week? As usual, we're bringing you a selection of the best cultural offerings going on around the UK. Seen anything we really should know about? Then get in touch and let us know


- By the Sea Festival @ Margate (30 September & 1 October), featuring Oh Comely issue 32 star, Natasha Khan, aka Bat For Lashes. 

- Pictish Trail @ Leith Theatre, Edinburgh (1 October) 


Art and exhibitions

The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize (until 2 October) @ Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh

Jukebox, Jewkbox! @ The Jewish Museum, London (until 16 October)

- Hand Craft Manchester @ Manchester Craft & Design Centre (until 30 October) 



- Prize Winning Authors: Discover a Future Classic @ Waterstones Bath (26 September) and Liverpool (27 September) 

- Meet Maria Semple @ Waterstones Islington, London (28 September). Read our review of Maria’s Where’d You Go Bernadette? in issue 32

- Wales Book of the Year Showcase event @ Waterstones, Cardiff (29 September) 

- Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor @ The Institute of Light, Hackney, London (30 September) 



- Raindance Film Festival @ London (until 2 October)

- The Girl With All The Gifts screening and Q&A with MR Carey @ Picturehouse Liverpool at Fact (30 September) 



- Conflict Cafe @ Waterloo, London (29 to 2 October) 

- Riposte Presents Ways of Looking @ Patriot Square, London (30 September) 

- Aberdeen Minstry of Crafts @ Methodist Church, Crown Terrace, Aberdeen (2 October) 

- Sunday Papers Live @ Cambridge Union (2 October)


Show us where you've been and tell us what we should include in next week's round-up via our Twitter or Instagram.

Recipe Friday: Quinoa, Plum and Cardamom Frangipane Pudding

In our final instalment of delicious wholesome recipes from Alex Hely-Hutchinson of London's 26 Grains restaurant is this very autumnal dessert. Alex says, "I could tell when the summer holidays were coming to an end when my mum starting baking her buttery plum pie slices. She made little sponge pillows for the fruits – when baked, the sponge grows sweeter while the plums caramelise on top and become tart in the middle. This is my version of her pie. I adore the earthiness of the quinoa set against the plums and the maple syrup. I like to bake it in a rectangular tin so everyone can get a little half-plum square of their own."

Serves 12–15

You will need:

300g unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for the tin
150g quinoa flakes
150g ground almonds
Seeds from 20 cardamom pods, ground in a mortar and pestle
1½ teaspoons sea salt
200ml maple syrup
Seeds from 1 vanilla pod
3 medium eggs, beaten
6 plums, halved and pitted
Crème fraîche, to serve (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/350°F/gas mark 4.

Grease and line a small brownie tin, about 25 × 20cm.

Beat together the butter, quinoa, almonds, cardamom seeds, salt, maple syrup and vanilla until well combined. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until nicely incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared tin and top with the plums, cut sides up, gently pushing them into the frangipane. Bake for 45–50 minutes, or until golden and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Leave to cool completely in the tin, then cut into squares and serve with a good dollop of crème fraîche.

Alex Hely-Hutchinson's Quinoa Plum Pudding.

Alex Hely-Hutchinson's Quinoa Plum Pudding.

26 Grains by Alex Hely-Hutchinson is published by Square Peg at £20, out now.

26 Grains by Alex Hely-Hutchinson is published by Square Peg at £20, out now.

Brighton Art Fair / MADE BRIGHTON 2016

Fancy some creative inspiration this weekend? Brighton Art Fair / MADE BRIGHTON is happening from Friday 23 to Sunday 25 September at Corn Exchange at the Dome, Church Street, Brighton.

Tutton and Young are hosting a joint art, craft and design fair, featuring fifty each of the best contemporary artists and designer/makers from the UK and abroad. Showing and selling their work directly to the public, they promise an inspiring balance between established and emerging artists and makers. 

Tickets are £7.50. Find out more and buy your tickets here

Gobbles Loves You

Photo: Andrea Allan, from Gobbles Loves You

Photo: Andrea Allan, from Gobbles Loves You

Artist Andrea Allan introduces us to her photographic project, Gobbles Loves You, inspired by the written correspondence between two lovers. 

Tell us a little about yourself and your work.

I’m an artist working with photography, text, sound, installation and artists’ book. Through my work I like to explore the real and the imaginary, in an attempt to better understand the links between our past, present and future. Combining photography with the written word, I weave past narratives into the fabric of present places, casting old social and political understandings in a contemporary light.

And could you introduce us to Chambre and Margaret? 

Edward Chambre Hardman was a Liverpool portrait photographer who documented many of the city’s most prominent figures from 1930s through to the 1950s.  It was during the mid-twenties that he employed 17-year-old Margaret Mills as an assistant. After a few years she decided to train as a photographer in Scotland, thus leaving Hardman, and the point at which their letter writing began.  They had pet names for each other – Gobbles for Hardman and Pearl for Margaret.

How did you discover these letters? 

I was studying for my MA at Manchester School of Art at the time. One of the modules was to work with archives, specifically looking at Hardman’s legacy. The most natural place people started was with their house, which has been kept the same since they died. I wanted to delve a little bit more into their relationship, and to find out what type of people they were – what better way than personal letters.

Was there anything unexpected about these letters?

One of the first things that struck me about the letters, and why I spent so much time reading through them all, was the way in which they wrote to each other. Business was nearly always discussed, a shared passion, that they could discuss in detail. Then the narrative would switch entirely, sometimes mid sentence, to how they missed each other. These parts were always written in the third person, and they referred to each other by their pet names.

There were some pressed flowers between some of the pages; the pollen had stained the coarse paper yellow after all these years. Telegrams had also been kept, these more than anything show how technology can never replace the value of analogue. Text cut into strips, pasted onto starched white sheets, stamped with the telegram office details, draw entirely away from the intimacy that a letter can hold. Even pet names became confused – instead of Gobbles someone mistyped and put “Gopples”.

How did you select what line of each letter you’d reveal? 

I’ve worked as a document controller and thought that I would draw on my experiences of working with and organising copious amounts of information by imposing guidelines on the way that I photographed the letters. I decided to show only one line of text (although I broke this rule a few times), to only use the back of the envelope so that you couldn’t see the postage stamp for date or location. The text had to be either on the top, bottom or either side of the crease in the middle of the letter so that I didn’t damage the letters in anyway. In the end it turned out a lot of Margaret’s letters were in plastic dividers and could not be removed, making the narrative biased towards him. 

What was it like to read through correspondence originally intended for each other’s eyes only?

For most of the letters it was interesting to see how being a photographer has changed over the decades, and how some elements are very much the same. The only moments when I got embarrassed was when reading through lines like “he wants to whisper something into her ear...” and I won’t finish that sentence!

The tongue twister makes me laugh, and there’s a section where Hardman is off walking in Scotland with friends and complains that a woman in the group can’t manage the mountains, but he has no doubt that his Pearl would have been straight up without any fuss at all.

Are you a letter writer yourself? Did this project shift your ideas about them at all?

In my early 20s I used to write all the time, and then I’m ashamed to say, I seemed to lapse. After doing this project I started reading up on letter writing and came across a TED talk given by Hannah Brencher. Brencher wrote love letters and left them all over the city for strangers to find, eventually turning it into a global initiative ‘The World Needs More Love Letters’, which posts handwritten letters to those in need of human kindness. After creating these photographs and reading up about this initiative, I’ve felt the need to get to know people's handwriting again, to know that someone’s mused over what paper to use, to create that very personal, intimate connection, something technology will never be able to replicate.  

You can see more of Andrea's work on her website, and for more Letters written from the heart, pick up a copy of Oh Comely issue 32


Culture Monday

Installation image for 'You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-70', V&A Museum. Photo (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Installation image for 'You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-70', V&A Museum. Photo (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Monday need hold no fear, as we've pulled together enough cultural tips to keep you going eight days a week (that's a reference to the new Beatles film - see below). There's a bit of a sixties feel to this week's tips but, thanks to events like the London Design Festival and Brighton Art Fair, plenty of contemporary inspiration too. Let's go! 



You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970 @ V&A Museum, London (until 26 February 2017)

- Es Devlin's Mirror Maze @ Copeland Park, Peckham, London (21 to 25 September)

- 1966 and all that: Graham Keen @ Lucy Bell Gallery, St Leonards on Sea (until 24 September)

David Hockney @ Royal Academy, London (until 2 October 2016)

- International Print Biennale @ across North East England (until 30 October)



- Dilly Dally, on tour @ Manchester, Cardiff, Bristol and London (19 to 22 September)



- The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou @ The Nomad Cinema, Hyde Park Lido, London (21 September)

- The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years @ nationwide



- Write on Kew literary festival @ Kew Gardens, London (22 to 25 September)



- Tony's Last Tape  @ Everyman Theatre, Liverpool (22 to 24 September)



- Burberry Makers House @ Manette Street, London (21 to 24 September)

- Neu! Reekie! Celts @ National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh (23 September) 

- London Design Festival, throughout London (until 25 September)

- Brighton Art Fair @ Brighton Dome (23 to 25 September)



Show us where you've been and tell us what we should include in next week's round-up via our Twitter or Instagram.

Sunday Reading: Min and Twinkle

words: Alys Key image: Liz Seabrook

It has been more than ten years since I last heard from the fairies.

I’m not sure whether I stopped writing to them, or whether they stopped responding. Things fall behind during childhood and the next thing you know they’re shut up in the attic, difficult to find and covered with dust. Somewhere in the eaves of our house there is a box which holds all of my letters from the fairies, but it’s been years since I last looked through them.

I was maybe seven or eight the first time I left a carefully-sealed note for them.

Dear Fairies, do any of you live in this garden? Please write to me if you do. I would like a fairy pen pal.

Anticipating their response was the innocent version of waiting for a text from a potential lover. Even after their first letter arrived, introducing themselves as two sisters called Min and Twinkle, my excitement was unabated, driven by the childish energy that makes little girls skip all the way home from school. Every day I went outside to see if my last note had gone, or if theirs had arrived. Sometimes I had to rescue our letters from the rain, and every now and then I would find a slug had taken a bite out of one. The garden became a wild enchanted habitat to me; the plants and insects were all part of Min and Twinkle’s world.

The letters themselves were so beautiful that I felt a compulsion to protect them, as though the paper itself was a living thing. They were written in small, elegant script on bright pink or purple paper, always smudged with fairy dust. I tried to make my responses look the same, using bright gel pens to do my best handwriting and fastening the letters inside little pink envelopes from Paperchase.

Over time, the part of the garden which served as our mailing point became known as ‘Fairy Corner’. We still call it that now, even though the fairy shelter my daddy made from spare wood has long disintegrated, and the Magnolia tree – planted so they could enjoy sitting in the soft flowers – is overshadowed by shrubbery.

I was the first of my friends to have fairy pen pals, but I was not the last. The back gardens of Winchester were, it seems, practically infested with them. The fact that it was particularly my friends making contact with magical beings was in no way strange to me. Girls who talked to fairies had a little bit more stardust in them than everyone else, I reasoned, and we would naturally all band together.

But it was through this community of fairy enthusiasts that I first sensed something amiss. The other letters I saw looked different to mine. Some had the same crisp whiteness as the printing paper we used at school. Once, a friend’s fairies gave her a picture of a woman bending down to look at a crowd of glowing lights dancing around her feet. “Here is a picture of us at one of our fairy dances!” they wrote. When I saw it, I recognised the image as a well-known painting; it was on the front a notebook I had been given the previous Christmas. I acknowledged, silently, that this letter was the work of my friend’s parents, and from that point the subsequent realisations followed.

Even now, at the age of 21, I have still never discussed the truth about the fairy letters with my parents. I know where they came from. But there is a difference, I think, between what we know and what we believe, and I can still believe in Min and Twinkle. At least, it is hard not to feel that something special belongs to that portion of the garden. When you visit a site for a religion you no longer subscribe to, there’s that scent of belief in the air, and the silent urge to pray. Magic works the same way.


Alys Key is a student and writer on a quest to spend her life writing and listening to Radio 4. Take a look at her website to read more of her work. 


Find more stories about letters in Oh Comely issue 32



Recipe Friday: Autumn Salad with Roasted Buckwheat, Walnuts and Labneh

In the second of our recipes from Alex Hely-Hutchinson of London's 26 Grains restaurant, we bring you a hearty autumn salad. That's also rather pretty. Alex says, " Autumn is my favourite season; I’m known for being endlessly distracted by the light, colours and the produce. In my little garden I can watch the pears on the tree grow plump and hot pink chard stems sprouting up. The air becomes just cool enough to hang the labneh on any outside door handle, to let it strain. You can let it drip into a bowl while you get started on pickling the beetroot and preparing the salad. Buckwheat adds a unique earthy crunch to the salad and lends a smokiness when it’s all combined."

Serves 4

For the labneh:

200g Greek-style yogurt
200g natural yogurt
Pinch of sea salt
For the beetroot pickle
1 beetroot, thinly sliced with a mandoline
1 golden beetroot, thinly sliced with a mandoline
60ml apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
Pinch of sea salt
¼ teaspoon dill seeds
¼ teaspoon yellow mustard seeds

For the salad:

100g buckwheat groats, soaked in water for 30 minutes
4 tablespoons olive oil
200g rainbow chard, stems removed, washed and torn
1 pear, cored and thinly sliced
1 cucumber, sliced into8cm sticks
Bunch of radishes, washed and halved
Juice of 1 lemon
½ garlic clove, crushed with a little sea salt
Sea salt and black pepper
30g walnuts, roughly chopped, to serve (optional)

Make the labneh first, either the night before or over the course of an afternoon. Combine the yogurts and salt in a bowl, then transfer to a sheet of muslin or a clean tea towel, pull up the sides, tie up the top with an elastic band or string and suspend over a bowl to let the liquids drain out for at least 6 hours, or overnight if possible.

Meanwhile place all the ingredients for the beetroot pickle in a bowl with 60ml/4 tablespoons of water. Leave to pickle in the fridge for several hours or overnight.

The following day, rinse the soaked buckwheat under running hot water for 2 minutes, then drain and pat dry with kitchen paper. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil to a frying pan and place over a medium-low heat. Add the buckwheat and toast for 2 minutes until golden, stirring continuously so it doesn’t burn.

Mix the rainbow chard, pear, cucumber, pickled beetroot, radishes, remaining olive oil, lemon juice and garlic together and season well with sea salt and pepper. Stir in half the toasted buckwheat.

Divide between 4 plates and top with a good dollop or so of labneh, a sprinkle of the remaining buckwheat and walnuts, if using.

Alex Hely-Hutchinson's Autumn Salad.

Alex Hely-Hutchinson's Autumn Salad.

26 Grains by Alex Hely-Hutchinson is published by Square Peg at £20, out now.

26 Grains by Alex Hely-Hutchinson is published by Square Peg at £20, out now.

The Oh Comely guide to pens

Photo: Liz Seabrook

Photo: Liz Seabrook

From Berol fine liners to leaky cartridges, most of us paid little attention to the implements we were handed as we learned to write. In issue 32 we took a handwriting lesson to find out just how easy or difficult it was to change your handwriting – turns out your choice of pen makes a big difference.

Seeing as September will almost always be associated with going back to school, it may be worth taking note of our handy pen guide.


words: Aimee-lee Abraham


The rollerball

The best of both worlds, a rollerball combines the convenience of a ballpoint with the smooth ink flow of a fountain pen. The ink dries more slowly and is more prone to smudging, but if you’re diligent enough to keep the lid screwed on tightly it works a treat.


The fountain

Containing a reservoir of water-based ink that dispenses through a nib onto the page, the fountain pen we remember is scorned for its tendency to leak all over whatever ensemble we decided to put on that morning. Though it’s the stuff of playground nightmares, it’s a thoroughly grown-up investment; deeply personal, beautifully old-fashioned and with an air of importance all at once.


The ballpoint

The ballpoint rarely leaks, doesn’t smear and dries at record speed. Thanks to its oil-based ink, you can write easily in virtually any environment. However, there are few things that look more unprofessional than whipping out a cheap biro with a slobbery lid chewed beyond recognition.

Photo: Liz Seabrook

Photo: Liz Seabrook

The wild card (as pictured)

Grossly impractical, completely unprofessional, totally endearing. Be it a garish Lady Liberty ignited in neon green each time you press down on the nib, a sugar-scented gel, or a fluffy quill that moonlights as a tickling device, novelty conquers all. 

For more pens and stationery goodness, take a look at Oh Comely issue 32

Filling in the Blanks with Laura Olin

From annoying flatmates to secret crushes, there's always someone you'd like to say something to. In issue 32, we enlisted the help of Laura Olin's brilliant new book Form Letters to do the hard work for us. Out now, it's a book of blank letter templates that can be applied to almost every person and event. Laura - who is behind the cult Everything Changes newsletter and handled social media for Barack Obama's (and now Hillary Clinton's) presidential campaign - knows a thing or two about effective communication. 

We asked Laura to fill us in on a few of her communication secrets...


How did you come up with the idea for the Everything Changes newsletter? What did you want to achieve with it?  

I work in politics as a digital campaigner, so I've run a lot of email programs, written emails signed by the President (no, he doesn't write his own emails), etc. A few years ago I was thinking about all the cool things you can do with email that you can't really explore in politics because political email usually has the very focused goal of fundraising. So I thought a newsletter that changed every week would be a fun way to experiment with the form and give myself a creative outlet at the same time. The name comes from the Twitter profile of a friend of mine, Tim Carmody. He has a couple sentences in there that I've always loved: "Everything changes. Don't be afraid."


Tell us about some of the different themes. Which did you especially enjoy? 

I think my two favourites were what I called a "Thought Clock" - I asked people over the course of a few days, at different times of day, what they were thinking about right at that moment. Then I compiled everyone's answers into a 24-hour catalogue of thoughts for every hour of the day - Thought Clock! My other favourite is when I asked people how they've made, or are making, the decision whether or not to have kids. People sent in such thoughtful, amazing responses. 

I also have a lot of fondness for the week I did form letters, because that led to my book! One week, I thought it would be fun to apply the idea of filling in the blanks in a standard form letter to something you actually want to say to someone in your every day life - maybe helping people find the words to say awkward or hard things, and have a bit of fun with it.

Do you have a favourite letter in the book?

I think my favourite is the "To my dog"/"To my cat" spread.

Do you know of anyone who has used them yet?

A friend of mine actually used one to get one over on me on Twitter about a friendly argument we were having. That was humbling. 


Tell us about the RTW newsletter. We love the tagline of “For women who want a more equal world”!

Thank you! As I work in politics and I'm a woman, I have a lot of thoughts about the place of women in our society and how we can improve it. RTW is a little step toward getting people information that might help them make concrete positive steps toward gender equality in their own lives, and unite people for that cause.

How did you get the gig working on the Obama campaign?

Luck and timing. I happened to know the people who had the job of running the digital team of the 2012 campaign thrust upon them rather suddenly. I was a competent person they could call on and was in a good place to take that job - I was actually living in London at the time so it meant moving across the world to Chicago at short notice, but it was very worth it. 

Are there any moments that you are particularly proud of?

My favourite part of the campaign was actually not dissimlilar to what I regularly do on the newsletter - asking people what they think about stuff, then sharing their stories (with their consent of course). That bread-and-butter stuff was part of the heart of our digital campaign, I think - reminding the country of the real people around the country who had an enormous stake in that election and its outcome.

What are the main differences between the Obama campaign and the Hillary one?
The dynamics are so different because she's the first woman, and Trump is the first… Trump. After 10 years of working in politics, this year has just been unbelievably surreal to see. On any given day, something happens that we'd be talking about for a month in any regular campaign cycle. It's like the 2012 election was on earth and the 2016 election is on Mars.

Back on earth, what newsletters should we be subscribing to?
I really love Julia Carpenter's A Woman You Should Know, which introduces you to an amazing woman from history every day, and Carrie Frye's Black Cardigan, which is lovely and literary and doesn't have anything to do with politics at all. 

What do you think is the secret to getting people to pay attention to what you are trying to say?
Having something meaningful to say that no one's said before, or said in quite the way you're saying it.

Seeing as you used to live in London [Laura did her Masters at London School of Economics], do you have a secret about London that we may not know already? 
I'm sure Londoners know about this already, but whenever I have an American friend who's visiting, I tell them to go to Sir John Soane's Museum near Lincoln's Inn Fields - a preserved house of an odd and lovely man who lived there 100 years ago. It's like walking through someone's amazing, artistic, curious brain, highly recommended.

Thanks Laura! Form Letters: Fill-In-the-Blank Notes to Say Anything to Anyone by Laura Olin is published by Abrams Image. See more Form Letters in issue 32 of Oh Comely

Culture Monday

With the aim of brightening up your Monday, we bring you a selection of delightful cultural offerings for the week ahead. Diaries at the ready...


- Bedlam: The Asylum and Beyond @ Wellcome Collection, London (15 September to 15 January 2017). Read our feature 'Putting Pen to Paper' in issue 32 of Oh Comely.

- Prints Charming @ Hamilton House, Bristol (14 to 19 September)

- Hurvin Anderson: Dub Versions @ NAE, Nottingham (until 18 September)

- Maria Lassing @ Tate Liverpool (until 18 September 2016)

- Metamorphosis @ Morley College, London (until 22 September), featuring Oh Comely contributor Eleni Kalorkoti



Station to Station @ Hoxton Square Bar, London (12 September)

London Fashion Film Festival @ Courthouse Hotel, London (14 September)



Sunflower Bean on tour @ Bristol, Brighton and London (13 to 15 September)



In Pursuit of London @ Waterstones Piccadilly, London 


'Bedlam: The Asylum and Beyond' opens at Wellcome Collection on 15 September. Photo: Lara Watson

'Bedlam: The Asylum and Beyond' opens at Wellcome Collection on 15 September. Photo: Lara Watson



Roald Dahl Day @ nationwide (13 September)

Estuary Festival @ Various venues, Essex (17 September to 2 October)

D.I.Y. Art Market @ Copeland Gallery, Peckham, London (17 September)

Open House, London (17 & 18 September)


Show us where you've been and tell us what we should include in next week's round-up via our Twitter or Instagram.

Recipe Friday: Blueberry Porridge

For the next three weeks, we have some grainy goodness from Alex Hely-Hutchinson of London's 26 Grains restaurant to share, and we're kicking off with this easy tasty porridge dish, served with seasonal blueberries. A great one to master as we head into autumn. Alex says, "When we opened the shop in June 2015, this blueberry porridge was one of the first on the menu and it was an instant hit. It’s a firm favourite when the berry season is underway. There is something so delicious when blueberries and maple come together. The sweet and sour berry and dark treacle syrup paired with creamy, salted oats makes this such a moreish breakfast."


Alex Hely-Hutchinson's blueberry porridge.

Alex Hely-Hutchinson's blueberry porridge.

Serves 2

For the porridge:

100g rolled oats, soaked in 250ml water for at least 30 minutes
250ml unsweetened almond milk
¼ teaspoon sea salt

For the blueberry compote:

250g blueberries
1 tablespoon maple syrup
Squeeze of lemon juice

To serve:

2 tablespoons mixed seeds, such as flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds
A few strawberries, sliced
2 tablespoons coconut flakes
2 tablespoons Almond Butter from a jar or homemade
2 tablespoons amaranth (optional)

First make the blueberry compote: place the blueberries, maple syrup and lemon juice into a small pan with 1 tablespoon of water and allow to come to the boil. Once bubbling, take it off the heat and set aside.

Place the porridge ingredients, including the water the oats have been soaked in, into a pan over a medium heat and cook for 3–4 minutes, stirring continuously, until the oats have come together.

Spoon into 2 bowls and add the toppings in this order: a tablespoon of blueberries in a line down the middle with a pool of juice around the edge, then the seeds, strawberry slices, coconut flakes, almond butter and amaranth, if using.

26 Grains by Alex Hely-Hutchinson is published by Square Peg at £20, and is out now.

26 Grains by Alex Hely-Hutchinson is published by Square Peg at £20, and is out now.



Illustrators we love: Hannah Sunny Whaler

One of our recent featured artists, Bristol-based Hannah Sunny Whaler, is a signwriter as well as a beautiful illustrator. "My work has pretty much entirely been centred around my signwriting since graduating," says Hannah. "These two sides of my work are equally as important as each other; one informs the other."

We asked her to share her first commission, favourite piece and her most personal work so we could get to know her better.

Hannah's work in progress

Hannah's work in progress

Hannah's finished piece.

Hannah's finished piece.

“My first illustration commission was a piece I got asked to create after my final show at Art College, aged 17. The lady who commissioned me had seen my work there, and wanted something in a similar style (but on paper rather than on a collection of old wooden planks and doors like my piece in the final show!).”

“Every year, the third year Illustrators at Falmouth Art College produce a book called Illustrated Quotes an Sayings to showcase their about-to-be graduates. As well as producing a piece for inside the book, you can submit a cover design too, simply illustrating a single number – ours was number 9. I chose to hand paint it on a plank of wood in a circus style, and my design won. It was such an honour to have my image represent such a talented bunch of illustrators! I'm very proud of this.”

“My most personal piece is probably my most recent exhibition: “Searching for Words”, which was on display for a week at Line Gallery in Stroud. It consisted of four panels, upon which I sign painted with a uniform but freehand set lettering style. All of the wording was taken from an intensive period of remote brain writing exercises where I just wrote as I thought, going from brain to page, linking phrases with rhythm, rhyme and colour. This was accompanied by a big wall painting introducing the show. It was very experimental and hugely personal, and felt rather exposing, like I was letting people read my mind.”

See more of Hannah's work in issue 32, and her sketchbooks and signs at

Pact Coffee offer!

If you like coffee just as half as much as we do at Oh Comely, you're going to love this offer from Pact Coffee

We've teamed up with London-based coffee start-up Pact Coffee to offer Oh Comely readers a free filter coffee kit with next day delivery worth £10 when they sign up to Pact and order their first bag of incredible freshly roasted coffee. The V60 kit will include a Hario V60 and enough filters to make 100+ cups of coffee. You'll also receive a welcome booklet and brew guide and, of course, your 250g bag of fresh ground coffee. 

Pact Coffee delivers incredibly freshly roasted coffee by post. They ship their coffee within seven days of roasting - grinding it at the last moment to make it easy for people to drink fresher coffee everyday. Through their direct trade relationships with farmers, Pact pay a higher price than Fairtrade for better quality coffee, and encourage the farmers they work with to invest in coffee quality and their people.

So what are you waiting for? Just click here to take advantage of this great offer. 

Holiday souvenirs: The Tea Towel

illustration: Eleni Kalorkoti

illustration: Eleni Kalorkoti

In issue 32, we investigate holiday souvenirs in all their tacky glory. Here we bow down in front of the mighty tea towel.

Just because something is a pencil sharpener with I WENT APE AT BRISTOL ZOO printed on it doesn’t mean that it can’t also be a profound human gesture. A souvenir’s value is not the object itself but what it represents: a symbolic memento of an experience in your life, passed on to someone you care about. The British, naturally, embrace kitsch tat, but most cultures have their own version of the tradition. In the Philippines it is called pasulubong; the word translates, quite beautifully, as “something meant for you when you welcome me back”.


Tea towels

If someone knocked over the internet and austerity wiped out the country’s remaining libraries it would be possible to entirely reconstruct the sum of human knowledge through souvenir tea towels. From breeds of terrier to the rules of field hockey to German wild flowers to the cafes of Anglesey, there is nothing we know as a species that we haven’t put on a linen rectangle. We are bewitched, drawn to kitchenware that brightly imparts information: at this exact moment in a RSPB gift shop in Dungeness a retired couple are buying a tea towel that explains Balkan proverbs, another that depicts the 31 sea areas of the Shipping Forecast and a third that lists every person you’ve ever kissed.


What's your favourite holiday souvenir? Discover more pasulubong inspiration in issue 32 of Oh Comely, out now.

Culture Monday

Glen Coe, photograph by Simon Bray, from The Edges of These Isles 

Glen Coe, photograph by Simon Bray, from The Edges of These Isles 

We don't know about you, but Monday morning is when we're most in need of some inspiration. Hence our Culture Mondays - our weekly round up of interesting events happening around the UK. And that's where you come in - we love to hear where you've been, and if there's anything that really should be on our radar...



- Thursday Lates: The Edges of These Isles @ The Whitworth, Manchester (8 September)

- Wvnder @ 5th Base Gallery, London (8 to 11 September)

Bjork Digital @ Somerset House, London (until 23 October)

The Brutalist Playground @ S1 Artspace, Sheffield (until 11 September)

Folklore, Magic and Mysteries: Modern Witchcraft and Folk Culture in Britain @ Preston Manor, Brighton (until 30 September) 

- Adventures in Space @ The Lighthouse, Glasgow (until 2 October)



Architecture x Fashion x Film @ Regent Street Cinema, London (6 September)

- Labyrinth @ Belgrave Square, London (10 September)



- Eleanor Friedberger, on tour @ Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Brighton (6 to 9 September)

Bestival @ Robin Hill Country Park, Isle of Wight (8 to 11 September)

- Multi-Story Chamber @ Bold Tendencies, Peckham, London (9 & 11 September)

On Blackheath @ Blackheath London (10 & 11 September)



- Burning Doors @ Soho Theatre, London (until 24 September)

84 Charing Cross Road @ Cambridge Arts Theatre (until 17 September). Take a look at our What We're Reading blog post about the book that inspired the play. 



- London Overground with John Rogers and Iain Sinclair @ The Institute of Light, Hackney, London (7 September)



In:Site Festival: A festival of graduate creativity @ Birmingham Cathedral Square, Birmingham (5 to 9 September)

Screen-printing workshop @ The Makery, Bath (8 September)

- Radical Essex: Essex Architecture Weekend (10 and 11 September)

- North East Open Studios @ North East Scotland (10 to 18 September)


Show us where you've been and tell us what we should include in next week's round-up via our Twitter or Instagram.

Illustrators we love: Kate Rowland

Kate Rowland, jewellery maker and sketcher of all things pop culture, space, geology and dinosaur, featured in our current issue. We wanted to know more about her work and asked her our favourite illustrator questions:

What was your first commissioned piece? 
Which is the piece you're most proud of? and
What's your most personal drawing to date?

"My first commission was to illustrate a flyer for a retro games console night in Hackney Picturehouse. It was really fun, and I got paid in cinema tickets as well as actual money."

"I'm probably most proud of my 'space achievement' series. They were part of a university project, and remind me of all the hard work, as well as immense amounts of fun! I might make these into real patches soon..."

"All my work is very personal, but I painted this after a trip to Dungeness with my sister. We'd wanted to visit for ages (it's the UK's only desert!) and it was as amazing and inspirational as we'd hoped. This is the film maker Derek Jarman's iconic house."

See Kate's work in issue 32, and browse her jewellery on her Etsy shop.

Women Who Changed the World: Sophie Scholl

Between June 1942 and February 1943, German student Sophie Scholl barely slept a wink. By moonlight, she sprayed anti-Nazi slogans onto walls and typed thousands of leaflets by hand, advising her countrymen on how best to practise active resistance against Hitler. By day, she ran courier missions across the country, stuffing secret messages into phone boxes, letterboxes and library books. Eventually executed for high treason, she fought for the enduring freedom of the human spirit, wherever and whenever it was threatened.

Activist Sophie Scholl, illustrated by Hannah Sunny Whaler for Oh Comely issue 32.

Activist Sophie Scholl, illustrated by Hannah Sunny Whaler for Oh Comely issue 32.

When a nationwide manhunt was launched to catch a traitor group “of considerable size and resources”, few could have predicted the truth about the culprits. The White Rose movement had nothing but pens for weapons, and fewer than 10 active members at any given time. All were students in their early 20s – a small circle of siblings, friends and lovers, with the exception of Sophie’s beloved philosophy lecturer, Kurt Huber. 

As a young woman, Sophie aroused little suspicion at checkpoints and was notoriously good at hiding the group’s tracks. However, in seizing every opportunity to spread their message further, she put herself in grave danger. During a routine leaflet drop at the University of Munich on 18 February 1943, she climbed to the top floor and spontaneously flung excess copies into the air, sending a cascade of paper down the atrium staircase. Caught in the act, she was immediately reported to the Gestapo. 

Sophie remained stoic in the courtroom, and serene even when walking to her death. On the night before her execution, she shared a dream with her cellmate. 

“It was a sunny day. I was carrying a child, in a long white dress, to be christened. Suddenly, a crevasse opened at my feet, gradually gaping wider and wider. I was able to put the child down safely before plunging into the abyss. The child is our idea. In spite of all obstacles, it will prevail.”

Her prophecy was correct. Though she received little credit until after the war, Sophie is now a national hero. Her actions represented the ‘other’ Germany – one of progressive thinking and poetry – during a time of barbarism and mass ignorance. 

Further reading: The White Rose: Munich 1942-1943 by Inge Scholl (Wesleyan University Press); Opposition and Resistance in Nazi Germany by Frank McDonough (Cambridge Perspectives in History). 

This feature originally appeared in Oh Comely issue 32.

Culture Monday

Rukhsana Merris. Photo: Lubna Anani

Rukhsana Merris. Photo: Lubna Anani

Summer may be drawing to a close (and boo hiss to that...) but there's still plenty happening before 'Back To School' time. Take time to enjoy this week's selection of cultural tips. Know of something great going on? Drop us a line to fill us in on your secret. 



- Issue 32 star and blog interviewee Rukhsana Merrise @ Fusion Festival, Otterspool Promenade, Liverpool (4 September)

- End of the Road @ Larmer Tree Gardens, Dorset (2 to 4 September) - read our blog post about what we'll be up to. 

- Party on a boat before college/work with Daybreak @ Tower Millennium Pier, London



- William Eggleston Portraits @ National Portrait Gallery, London (until 23 October 2016)

- Maria Lassing @ Tate Liverpool (until 18 September 2016)

- Reading As Art @ Bury Art Museum (26 August until 19 November)



- The Deep Blue Sea Live, cinemas nationwide (from 1 September) 



- Back to the Future Triology @ Prince Charles Cinema, London (29 August)

- Best in Show - dog-friendly screening @ Nomad Cinema, Queen's Park, London (3 September) 



- An Evening with Irvine Welsh and Guests @ St. Mary in the Castle, Hastings (30 August)

- An Evening with Jessie Burton @ Waterstone's, Nottingham (31 August)


Events and classes

- ‘Musics’ with David Toop, Steve Beresford, and Thurston Moore @ Rough Trade East, London (31 August)

- Our Lives in Data @ Lates, Science Museum, South Kensington, London (31 August)

- Nourish Festival: Craft, Food, Music @ Bovey Tracey, Devon (3 September)

- A Late Summer's Early Evening Barbecue @ Phoenix Farm Gardens, Shepherd's Bush, London (3 September)

- Fiona de Wert's introduction to Leather Work course @ Westonbirt Arboretum, South Gloucestershire (book now for 6 and 17 September)


Show us where you've been and tell us what we should include in next week's round-up via our Twitter or Instagram.

Sunday Reading: Letters in Long White Clouds

words Francesca Turauskis photo Liz Seabrook

I was a mile high and chasing the sun across the Pacific when I finally pulled them from my hand-luggage: the ‘DO NOT OPEN UNTIL YOU ARE ON THE PLANE!!!!’ envelopes from the friends I was flying away from. 

In the space after school, there are always different possibilities. But for me there was only one. Though introduced to me by a fantasy film, visiting New Zealand was the real plan I’d obsessed over for a number of years. My passion sustained me as I turned assembling fast food sandwiches into an art in order to save for the trip. Five months later, I threw in the apron and boarded the flight.  

The letters were parting tokens from my social group: two old friends, like touchstones, from primary school, and a handful of classmates from my GCSE years. Some I considered my best friends, others were on the periphery, friends of friends. The type of girls who gave me earrings for Secret Santa when I didn’t have my ears pierced. I’d accepted their presence as penance for spending time with the ones I liked. Such is school. 

There were five letters in total. I found the one from my favourite friend first, the one who swapped books with me, who stuck up for me. The weight of her letter was more than the others, the ink feathering on the thin paper. The plane was dark, and the empty space next to me would allow me secret tears if I needed them. Inside the plain envelope, the paper was punched and lined, pulled from a work-book. It looked like an English essay rather than a letter of friendship. Like an afterthought. Her writing started as expected: I read the disbelief at such a journey, the promise of exciting times, and I allowed myself a little pride. She looked forward to hearing all about it, and I felt more than a hint of superiority that whatever stories she had to swap would not compare. She was confirming that I was doing something amazing, something other people would do, if only they were as brave as me.  

But as I continued to read, it became more personal. Words and phrases began to snag. There had been an ongoing skit that I was the weird one, the one that didn’t quite fit. I was Phoebe from ‘Friends’. Strange Spice. I didn’t mind. But the way my best friend had written this down, alongside phrases about being far away, it made me realise that perhaps this weirdness had been tolerated rather than accepted. “I know you are the ‘weird one’, but you have always been very loyal and nice…”  

The other letters were formed of the same mould – various repetitions of bravery, safe travels. There was kindness in the act of writing them, but they were generic repertoires of appropriate words. By the time I finished reading, I felt like some strange stray they had adopted. I was 18 years old, on my own, and very far away from everything I knew.  

Rather than cry, I felt relieved. I could unfurl now, like the koru, a symbol of a new beginning.  

Travel takes you far away from friends, and for me, returning home didn’t bring me back to them. We met up for a while, but eight years later, even Facebook can’t nudge us to wish each other happy birthday. I kept the letters as souvenirs of the sentiments, but whether they are a reminder of a loss or an escape, I can never quite decide.   

Find more life-changing messages in our Letters issue.

What we're reading: 84 Charing Cross Road

Among the varied picks for issue 32's reading recommendations is this gentle story by Helene Hanff. Oh Comely's features ed, Frances Ambler shares why it's stayed with her.

Oh Comely's What We're Reading recommendations, issue 32. Photo: Liz Seabrook.

Oh Comely's What We're Reading recommendations, issue 32. Photo: Liz Seabrook.

This book is one of the cornerstones of my lending library. Soothing and heartening, I recommend a reading every time you’re feeling disenchanted with life. I reckon it’s virtually impossible not to be charmed by this simple – but real-life – story of how, through their correspondence, a wise-cracking, forthright New Yorker manages to infiltrate the lives and hearts of the staff of a rather more formal and restrained English antiquarian bookshop. 

It begins with a letter in October 1949 from (Miss) Helene Hanff of East 95th Street, New York City to Messrs Marks & Co. at 84 Charing Cross Road, London, announcing that she is a “poor writer with an antiquarian taste in books”, and enclosing her literary list of “most pressing problems”. Through her subsequent missives, Helene – an anglophile with a taste for Donne, Austen and Chaucer – attempts to “puncture that proper British reserve” using some less-than-proper humour, coupled with some straight-talking and some pure American gumption. 

It works. By December, Helene is sending the shop food hampers, and ends up in
correspondence not only with the shop staff, but also with their wives, children and elderly neighbours. In finishing exactly 20 years from the first one, in October 1969, the letters span rationing, a Royal Coronation and Beatlemania. People’s lives shift too: children grow up, get married, become older and die. 84 Charing Cross Road is a gentle book about how magic can be created in the most everyday of lives, as well as being a love letter to the power of literature in bridging years, backgrounds, oceans. 

Helene’s intense love for the shop from afar bestows the address with a kind of enchantment. Her final letter instructs a friend visiting London to visit the shop and “kiss it for me”. On my own pilgrimage, I was disappointed to discover a McDonalds in the place where Marks & Co. once stood. This book is delightful enough to make you overlook that detail – read this book, and you’ll want to go and kiss it too. 

Words: Frances Ambler. Photo: Liz Seabrook. 

Read our other reviews for the books pictures in Oh Comely issue 32, out now.