Cover print competition


WIN a one-off print created by artist Jago Silver.

We’re working with artist Jago Silver to create a collection of cover illustrations for the next six issues. Jago, who lives in North Cornwall, creates thoughtful, inspiring and playful work. Our covers will create little images of life, reflecting the mood of the season, the wildness of nature, the easy wonder of taking a moment. You can win a one-off print of the cover which will be posted to you, ready for you to frame and hang on your wall.

Terms & conditions:
The competition closes at 11.59pm on 24 December 2019. A winner will be chosen at random from all correct entries after this time and notified shortly after. Full terms and conditions are at

Cover art © by Jago 2019

Welcome to Oh - cover reveal


Welcome to Oh, a magazine to help you live calmly and curiously. We’re about new ways of looking inside ourselves and out at the world.

If you’ve been a regular reader of Oh Comely in the past, then you’ll notice many changes in this re-imagination but we hope you’ll enjoy this journey down a more mindful, conscious path.

There are all kinds of reasons for wanting to be more mindful, from reducing stress to enjoying the moment more. Oh brings together ideas for mental wellbeing with savouring the everyday, as well as extraordinary experiences, like day-off activities and holiday adventures. It’s about mindful being and mindful doing.

Come join us for…

Oh moments – mini meditations where you can take a breather

Doses of mindfulness – small helpings of quiet and focus to get to know yourself better

Longer reads that encourage you to put your phone aside and bring your full attention

Stories of and by interesting people, inspiring us to notice the everyday and try something new

You can PRE-ORDER a copy of issue 51 directly from us. The magazine will be on the newsstand on 23 October 2019.

Art for art’s sake

Lots of lovely art to see and a pretty stunning new tote bag, too?

We’re listening…

We can’t think of a better way to spend an autumn afternoon than trotting about town with a friend, getting a bit of a weekend art fix and stopping occasionally in a gallery café for a coffee and some highbrow (ahem) chat. There’s a whole world out there of ever-changing exhibitions of new artists to discover and old favourites to get excited about all over again. To help you make the most of all the art there is on offer and ferret out the best exhibitions and events near you, we think you should treat yourself to a National Art Pass. In short, it’s a passport to all the best art in all the best places, which gives you free entry to more than 240 museums, galleries and historic places across the country (including the Tate, the V&A and the Natural History Museum) as well as 50% off entry to all the biggest must-see exhibitions.

Whether you’re Team Ravillious or Team Rembrandt, are a fan of quilts or queer photography, there will be something to catch your eye and capture your heart wherever you are in the UK.

From the British Museum to Brighton Pavilion, Cardiff Castle to Kensington Palace, whether you’re in Perth or Penzance, weekends just got much more exciting. But because it’s all free, you can pop into a venue after work or on a lunchbreak any time you like. And what’s nicer than making an event of a spare 20 minutes?

Bag a beautiful bag, too

Now you’re talking. From 1-14 October this year, new National Art Pass members will also receive a completely FREE tote bag, with a stunning Malika Favre design, whose work you might recognise from The New Yorker and Vogue. Just enter the code MALIKA (what else?) at the checkout when you buy your art pass, and feel very pleased with yourself indeed.


The dating app that doesn’t want to be used


A quick ego boost. Hours of swiping. Sound familiar? If you’re single, chances are you’ve tried a dating app (or two) by now. For some of us, they’re as much a part of our everyday lives as social media or online banking. When you get a match, you feel good, so you keep going. And going and going and… You get the idea. 

So, is it time to try something a bit different? The Inner Circle is negating all the classic tropes of mainstream dating apps – and its makers say its success rate is through the roof.

Who’s who

Each new member is manually verified. This makes sure everyone is who they say they are, that their pictures are decent, high-quality and up to date, and reject any catfish, fake accounts, or suspicious characters. Using an app where you already know everyone has been checked and is sincere maximises your chances of finding a good date. 

Online to offline, asap

From the get go, you’re encouraged to get offline and meet your matches. You can see exactly where everyone likes to frequent by inputting your favourite ‘spots’. Search for your favourite haunt, check out who else goes there, and why not meet them for a drink? It really is that simple.

Curated, monthly events

Hosted every month at some seriously nice venues, these events are industry-renowned for their ‘wow’ factor. Forget any uncomfortable speed dating experiences you might have had, these events can be anything from rooftop cocktails to underground house parties. If dating apps aren’t your thing, these parties will be. 

We aren’t saying that dating apps are perfect, but if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em (just differently). If you want to give the app a go for yourself and see what you think, you can sign up for free here.

Issue 51


We’ve received a few questions about rumoured changes on the next issue of Oh Comely (issue 51), so we felt it was time to tell the story. It feels a little strange to be talking too much about issue 51, which doesn’t go on sale till the end of October, as issue 50, which we are very proud of, has only just hit the newsstands. But questions are being asked and we wanted to answer them.

Fifty issues of any magazine is a bit of a milestone, especially for an indie that doesn’t have the security of a big company around it. Oh Comely was started by three friends – Liz, Des and Rosanna in 2010 – as a reaction to the mainstream glossy women’s magazines that still dominated the newsstands back then. Three years ago they were going to close it, so three different friends – Lisa, Guy and David – took it over to keep Oh Comely going and take it into its next phase.

Since the magazine’s launch there’s been a revolution in independent publishing and there are hundreds of amazing independent magazines to choose from. Take a look at our indie newsstand, to see a small but growing selection. Oh Comely’s role has changed during that time, from being a single light in the darkness to now being one of the longest running and biggest of the new wave of independent magazines.

Every issue of Oh Comely is different and that’s how it should be. We start with 132 blank pages and fill them every two months – that’s our job! Of course, we have some regular features and a consistent look and style to our pages, and we have a tone and a voice. Oh Comely promises to be curious, playful and thoughtful. We also promise to be non-judgmental, inclusive and a place for new writers and illustrators to emerge and be discovered. This to us is Oh Comely and what we think is important about it right now will still be important in the next issue. You may have your own view on what makes Oh Comely special but that’s the magical thing about finding a magazine that speaks to you.

 So, what will change. The biggest change is that we have a new editor, Ceri, who is already working on issue 51. She is bringing some new ideas to Oh Comely. The last time we changed editor was on issue 38, and then we brought in illustrated covers, before that every issue had featured a photograph of a woman on the cover. We also brought in a new shopping section at the front and gradually increased our coverage of gender issues.

 From issue 51 we want to better reflect the changing times we live in. People seem to want to buy less things, own less and focus more on personal development, so we are going to take out many of the shopping pages, and replace them with longer reads and more stories of personal growth. You’ll hear more stories of women (and men) who look inside themselves and out at the world to learn more about themselves and our times. The fashion and beauty pages won’t be in every issue, we’ll only run them when we have something really interesting and relevant to say, and we’ll try to make them real and affordable when we do. We want to be more responsible, so we are going to switch from using plastic bags on our subscriber copies to a potato starch-based wrap which is fully compostable. The magazine itself will be physically slightly larger, which is more efficient to print and produces less waste.

 We love the way Oh Comely looks and feels, and Cathy, who has art directed Oh Comely since 2017 will continue to make everything look beautiful. We’ll also still be creating illustrated covers, although we are exploring working with just one illustrator for the next six issues to really develop a story with the covers – something not many magazines do right now. Some of the regulars will stay too – “Three questions with”, “How we met”, “What I stand for” and your first person stories, for example.

 …and one more thing, the name! We aren’t changing it, but we are going to get more friendly and curious and so we think ‘Oh’ on its own works much better (just like we already use on our social media channels) and so you’ll see less ‘Comely’ but your magazine will still be just as beautiful and hopefully even more useful.

 We are so excited about the next chapter in the story of Oh Comely and we’ll share more as we get closer to our print deadline. But for now, issue 50 is out there to buy and make the most of, so for the next eight weeks let’s enjoy every page.

 The Oh Comely Team.

Our issue 50 karaoke playlist

Image:   natasha smith

We’re 50 this issue – so, in our eyes, that means it’s time for a party. And what would be a party be without a spot of karaoke? In honour of the occasion, we’ve compiled some of our team’s favourite tunes. Whether you’re in public, in a car, or simply in your bedroom with a handy hairbrush/mic in hand, come join us in a good singsong…

Take a listen here.

Misshapes: the making of Tatty Devine

We’re long time Tatty Devine fans and have featured their super fun acrylic jewellery in our fashion shoots and on our pages since we launched. But can you believe it? They are celebrating 20 years of their iconically kitsch jewellery. Founders Rosie Wolfenden and Harriet Vine set up a market stall in Spitalfields Market in the nineties! And now they are a force to be reckoned with and have challenged traditional jewellery conventions, we sat down to have a chat with the pair to find out how it all began...

Harriet Vine and Rosie Wolfenden founders Tatty Devine © .jpg

We love what you do. Did you ever dare to believe that Tatty Devine would be what it is today when you set up your market stall 20 years ago? RW: We were ambitious, but to become artists rather than create an accessories brand. We were very much living in the present, enjoying ourselves, excited by what lay ahead of us, rather than deciding what that might be.

What first inspired you to create your iconic jewellery? And what other styles were around at that time? HV: We were inspired by making things to get dressed up in when we went out, we were avid collectors of 'stuff' but were never content with leaving it at home, so we'd wear it out – whether it was a macramé owl or a collection of key rings! 

Swan Set.jpg

Styles around at the time were very much ’80s throwbacks, the Chloë style aviator glasses and Burberry was pretty hot – I had a bikini and Rosie had a vintage trench, tie and bucket hat!

Do you believe it is important to keep changing and recognising what is going on in the world when creating pieces? RW: Definitely, whatever you create is always a response to the world, whether in a subtle, zeitgeist way or a more overt political one. It can also be quite personal, but we're all affected by what’s going on in the world. Right now we’re working on a campaign for creativity called Make Your Future as craft and making have been affected so much by governmental policy makers in recent years.  Can you believe the number of students studying creative subjects has dropped 35% in the last ten years? Yet last year the creative industries contributed over £100 billion to the British economy, more than ever before.

Komono Bloom_Set A.jpg

What has been your fave TD piece of all time? HV: It’s usually the one I haven't made yet. . . but the Arched Column Necklace from SS15 is a favourite, the pinkness really reminds me of the work I made at college.

RW: I wear the Parakeet Necklace a lot. I love the way it hangs and the array of different colours it comes in. It consistently gets more attention than anything else I'm wearing!

Memphis Phone Set.jpg

Tell us more about why you wanted to mark 20 years of Tatty Devine with an exhibition and what can we expect? RW: Curating an exhibition of our work has been an ambition for a long time, if only to try and make sense of what we've done! Twenty years is an in interesting point in time as it's long enough to have witnessed meaningful change both personally and externally. We have witnessed such phenomenal shifts which have both enabled and hindered us as creatives and business owners.

What is your advice for young creatives who would like to launch a business in 2019? HV: Just do it! Start simply, don't feel compelled to have a fully formed and realised business from day one. Don't feel pressurised to come across as a glossy perfect brand. People like a sense of what's real, and it's important you grow with the business.

If you were a piece of jewellery what would you be, and why?
RW: Something red and plastic, like a ’70s bangle.
HV: When I die I want to be compressed into a diamond – so I guess I'd be a piece of diamond jewellery.

Misshapes: The Making of Tatty Devine, at Lethaby Gallery, 1 Granary Square, King's Cross, London N1C 4AA, from 20 July 2019-11 August 2019. Visit

Exclusive: Watch Jesca Hoop perform new track Outside of Eden

Acclaimed American singer-songwriter Jesca Hoop releases her new album, Stonechild, on 5 July – and she’s giving Oh Comely readers a sneak preview with an exclusive live recording of her mesmerising track Outside of Eden.


Featuring Kate Stables from This is the Kit as well as Jesca’s nephew Justis on vocals, the track is the folkiest offering on her forthcoming release – featuring her trademark finger-plucked guitar. 

The song represents one of Jesca’s biggest concerns: the effect of technology on young people and their increasing reliance on electronic devices. On the track, she sings: “Come shut in boys for the girlfriend experience, enter the code and I’ll taste real”.

Watch it here.

Stonechild is Californian-born Jesca’s fifth release and also features the talents of Rozi Plain and Lucius. The album title was inspired by a trip to a Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum, where the Stonechild is a sad display of an unborn foetus carried by a woman for over 30 years. “They become a hard ball of bones, a rock,” Jesca explains. “Phonetically, it's a beautiful sounding word – hard and soft – but also, I am taken by the idea of carrying something for a long time, perhaps in secret and then giving it up. I hope I have made an album of substance.”

Despite living in Manchester for more than a decade, Jesca normally records her music back in the States. This time, however, the recording took place in Bristol alongside renowned producer John Parish – best known for his work with PJ Harvey, Aldous Harding and This is the Kit . “It was time to step out of my comfort zone, my safe place,” she says. 

“Parish was a gentle collaborator – until he killed one of my darlings! I’ve never been so brutally edited, and I wasn’t shy about expressing my discomfort at the sight of my work on the cutting room floor… In some way, I think I actually enjoyed that treatment – being stripped back to the bare basics, albeit painfully.”

Jesca will be playing at a host of festivals in the UK and Europe over the summer, while she’s set to tour the UK in October. You can also read a full interview with her in our late summer issue.

Stonechild is released on Memphis Industries on 5 July. Her UK tour dates are:

01 Oct – Leeds, Brudenell Social Club

02 Oct – Bristol, Fiddlers

03 Oct – Manchester, HOME

04 Oct – London, Barbican

05 Oct – Cambridge, Storey's Field Centre

07 Oct – Gateshead, Sage

08 Oct – Liverpool, Leaf

09 Oct – Dublin, Soundhouse

11 Oct – Glasgow, Oran Mor

12 Oct – Edinburgh, Pleasance Theatre

13 Oct – Birmingham, Hare & Hounds

31 Oct – Oxford, The Bullingdon

Lee Krasner: Living Colour

Victoria Rodrigues O’Donnell visits Lee Krasner: Living Colour at the Barbican in London.

Lee Krasner, Springs NY, 1972 Photograph by Irving Penn The Irving Penn Foundation

Lee Krasner, Springs NY, 1972
Photograph by Irving Penn
The Irving Penn Foundation

The Barbican is currently showing the first European retrospective of Lee Krasner’s work in over half a century. From early self-portraits, to wartime window displays, charcoal life drawings and vast abstract paintings, the exhibition features almost 100 works spanning her lifetime, many of which are being shown in the UK for the first time. Forget the myth-making and violent splashes long-associated with Abstract Expressionism, here is an artist whose Modernist roots led to a career tenaciously experimenting with colour, shape and form.

Lee Krasner was born in 1908 to Russian parents who had emigrated to Brooklyn, New York. Like many other Eastern European immigrants at the turn of the century, Krasner’s family fled anti-Semitic violence and travelled to the United States in the hope of a better life. Although she could not pinpoint the origins of her desire to become an artist, Krasner was determined to forge an independent living from her art and had decided on doing so from a young age. In an interview, she recalled: ‘I made no economic demands on my parents so in turn they let me be… I was not pressured by them, I was free to study art.’

Lee Krasner  Self-Portrait , c. 1928 The Jewish Museum, New York. © The Pollock-Krasner Foundation. Courtesy the Jewish Museum, New York.

Lee Krasner Self-Portrait, c. 1928 The Jewish Museum, New York.
© The Pollock-Krasner Foundation. Courtesy the Jewish Museum, New York.

Krasner had places at a number of prestigious institutions, including Washington Irving High, the only school in New York at the time to teach art courses for girls, and the National Academy of Design. The development of both her self-portraits and life drawings from this period are one of the most important aspects of the exhibition. Not least because tutors often found her output mediocre or would refuse to believe she could paint something like Self-Portrait (c. 1928) at all. Perhaps the most significant influence on her was studying under Hans Hofmann during the late 1930s. Hofmann was a German artist who had known Picasso, Matisse and Georges Braque while working in Paris. As a result, Krasner was taught a Cubist framework that she both respected and resented, particularly his propensity for making suggestions or corrections directly onto a student’s work.  

The exhibition begins with Krasner’s series of ‘Little Images’, abstract works painted following her move to an area of East Hampton called Springs in 1945. These paintings aren’t quite the spontaneous, sweeping brush strokes associated with Abstract Expressionism. The application of paint feels minute, calculated and precise. The emerging patterns are reminiscent of those that Eduardo Paolozzi and Nigel Henderson would go on to make together ten years later. However, the most fascinating work in this section is Mosaic Table (1947). Consisting of mostly blues, oranges and greens, Krasner constructed the table top using coins, keys, broken glass and costume jewellery. The table sits proudly in the centre of the space – a stark difference to its origins as an old wagon wheel salvaged by Krasner during a bleak winter.

This tendency to collage or rework pre-existing creations runs throughout Krasner’s career and regarding this, she is known to have said: ‘I am not to be trusted around my old work for any length of time.’ When low and frustrated, Krasner had the habit of tearing up works – both old and unfinished – and repurposing them after a few weeks away from her studio. These new pieces, comprising of materials like torn newspaper, shreds of burlap and patches of paint, were shown to critical acclaim in 1955. Krasner would go on to do a similar series of pieces in the 1970s, this time using an old portfolio of life drawings from her time at the Hofmann school. Brightly coloured, large-scale works like Blue Level (1955) and Desert Moon (1955) have evolved into carefully composed shapes that slice across the canvas in a reinterpretation of her Cubist training.

Lee Krasner  Blue Level , 1955 Private Collection. © The Pollock-Krasner Foundation. Photograph by Diego Flores

Lee Krasner Blue Level, 1955
Private Collection.
© The Pollock-Krasner Foundation.
Photograph by Diego Flores

The rest of the show feels impassioned and urgent, as if an electric current runs through the canvases. Whether it’s the enormity of her ‘Night Journeys’, painted during a bout of insomnia following the death of her husband, or the eruption of colour and gesture in her ‘Primary Series’, Krasner engulfs the viewer. Paintings like Icarus (1964) and Siren (1966) are particularly dazzling once you’ve just been looking at the restrained palette in Polar Stampede (1960).

While visitors walk around the exhibition quietly contemplating the works on display, it’s only in the final section that you begin to hear a chorus of giggles erupt among the audience. They are all sat or stood around watching an archival film montage of interviews with Krasner. At a memorial held for her, the playwright Edward Albee said that Krasner ‘looked you straight in the eye, and you dared not flinch’. Upon seeing how sharp-tongued and direct Krasner is in these film clips, one leaves knowing exactly what Albee meant.

A number of critics have praised this long overdue recognition of Krasner’s place in the art historical canon, and yet in doing so, they have continued to discuss her work in relation to other, particularly male, Abstract Expressionists. Yet, I think the exhibition captures the sheer range and depth of her career in a way that couldn’t make her stand out more from her contemporaries, male or female. Looking back on her career, Krasner summed herself up perfectly: ‘I was a woman, Jewish, a widow, a damn good painter, thank you, and a little too independent…’

Lee Krasner: Living Colour is at the Barbican until 1 September 2019.

A chat with Doon Mackichan

Photo:  lize mccarron

Photo: lize mccarron

words: Holly Williams

A comedian and actor, Doon Mackichan has worked as a stand-up and in influential TV comedies such as The Day Today, Brass Eye and Smack the Pony. More recently, she’s appeared in Toast of London, Two Doors Down and Pure, and has given acclaimed performances on stage in Twelfth Night and Jumpy. She also sings vocals in the jazz quartet Sea Crow (hence the outfit…). Her latest role is in David Mamet’s new play Bitter Wheat, alongside John Malkovich.

What can you tell me about the play?

It’s about a Hollywood mogul – people will recognise Weinstein, but it’s also any controlling, predatory man at the top of his game. It looks at how he operates – and how he falls. I’ve got the difficult task of playing his wing-woman, his PA. I have to find out who I am, to have allowed certain things to slip through the net.

Although I was lucky enough to talk to a woman who had been [Weinstein’s] PA for a few years – and a lot of the women didn’t get involved in the hook-ups. They knew he was a sleazeball, but they say they didn’t really know the extent of his predatory nature.

Do you buy that? Or do you think they were deluding themselves?

I do buy it. They knew he was lecherous, but they never thought it was rape. I have to believe those women, in my heart. They were all very bullied people; not many people stayed a very long time.

Do you think that, with #MeToo, we’re seeing practices changing in what young actresses are expected to do in auditions or on set?

I remember when it broke, feeling a massive relief. There were so many unprotected actresses, I was almost thinking about going into drama schools and saying to girls: look, you do not need to do these nude scenes, you do not need to be standing on a table with your breasts out while 40 crew are walking around.

I think women are going to be able to say ‘I’m not very comfortable’ or ‘I don’t want to do that’ now. It just feels that a door has been opened, to not be seen as the difficult one if you say something. It’s the beginning of a sea change – I hope.

Is it something you’ve had direct experience of yourself?

I’ve always said no to nudity unless it was going to be a radical lesbian feminist film! If I’m working for a kickass woman, I’ll definitely get my tits out – but not for a horrible old sleazeball. I’ve been in quite a few auditions where I’ve said ‘well is this really necessary?’ and then there’s been a rolling of the eyes. I’ve said I wouldn’t be nude and then I get on set and I’m asked to drop a towel… I was pressured, made to feel like a prude.

And I’ve tended to keep away from storylines that involve violence against women unless it’s dealt with in an incredibly careful or different way. We don’t have to keep seeing it – we’ve seen enough! It’s so exhausting, so debilitating, so bad for your self-esteem. If men saw the amount of rape we see, they’d be like ‘oh fuck this, I’m not watching Game of Thrones, I’ve had enough’.

Going back to Bitter Wheat – some people have raised their eyebrows at a #MeToo story being told by a male writer…

I think it’s really important for women to tell their story – they should be commissioned. But Mamet is Mamet and he’s written it very quickly and he’s got a play on. It’s definitely the man’s story – but it looks at why he got away with it, how he operates: buying the critics, treating the writers like shit, bullying all his staff, hitting on young actresses… It’s about control and power.

Yes, it would be great if a woman had written it. But she hasn’t. So until a woman has written a play about it, we need to celebrate that it’s a really important story that needs to be told, now. I hope it gets all the conversations going, and makes people at the top go: ‘Christ, I can’t get away with that.’

What’s the tone of the play – is it a comedy?

I’m glad I’m going to be in the room, they probably hadn’t bargained for me! Because it is all down to tone, isn’t it? There’s humour in it – but it’s humour about a man who is flailing, and losing his grip. And that can be funny. But I know there was some controversy about it being referred to as a farce. There’s nothing farcical about rape. It’s not the subject of farce. That’s not anything I would be involved in, and if I feel uncomfortable with the way the story is being told I will make myself very clear. And if I’m very uncomfortable, I won’t do it.

You auditioned with David Mamet. What is he like?

I really liked him a lot. I thought he was a real powerhouse, he had great humour. I liked his no-nonsense direction – and I thought I would be able to say what I wanted. So fingers crossed it does go down the right road.

Do you think that laughter is a good way of taking on some of the more horrific things in our society?

Well, I’ve done ‘the most offensive television programme ever made’, the [2001] Brass Eye paedophile special! After that I was blanked, I couldn’t go to [collect my children from] school for a while. But when we’re dealing with taboos, it’s all down to the tone. We agreed, Chris Morris and me, that the way paedophilia was sexualised by Fiona Bruce on Crimewatch was just unacceptable: this sexy way of talking about it with a husky voice and a raised eyebrow and lip-gloss. It was really important to skewer it.

And laughter is also a good way of going ‘god almighty, that’s awful’. But it’s a fine line, to not make it just light or ridiculous – or to be at the expense of the female.

Do you feel like the nineties was a particularly important time for comedy?

We just had our 25-year reunion for The Day Today. It made us feel very old – but what a gang. We just a happened to be put in a room and told to start improvising. We did On the Hour for the radio and then that turned into The Day Today and then that turned into Alan Partridge – it was just this ball rolling. It was more open to letting people experiment, and giving people money, then.

Do you think the fact that comedy was seen as a man’s world affected how Smack the Pony was perceived?

We’d all been feeds for male shows for years. It was great to make the straight women the funny women – to turn it on its head, everything we hated about male sketch shows. We just made our own set of rules.

Really French and Saunders were the only other female comics at the time and it was bit like ‘oh well, we won’t get anyone else.’ Same when I was on the [stand-up] circuit – they’d say ‘sorry, we’ve already got Jenny Éclair’. Sadly, it’s still pretty much the same, after 30 years.

Why do you think that is?

I don’t know, it’s terrible. Every woman I know pleads and begs me to bring Smack the Pony back, because there’s not been enough like it, to take its place. It’s still the most ridiculous battle. There are women on the circuit, they’re just not on telly.

Do you get stage fright doing a play – or has stand-up cured you of that?

Stand-up has cauterised every nerve in my body. When you’ve done that in the Tramshed in Woolwich in front of 250 squaddies, nothing will scare you.

Bitter Wheat is at the Garrick Theatre, 7 June till 14 September

Stagdale graphic novel

Lara C Cory talks to designer/illustrator Frances Castle about Stagdale, part one in her debut graphic short story series which comes with a three-track EP on flexi disc/download. Set in the summer of 1975 in the ancient village of Stagdale, the story follows newcomer Kathy as she befriends local boy Joe and they embark on a series of adventures. 

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When did you first get the idea for Stagdale, and did you always know it would take the shape of a graphic short story? About seven years ago, my agent showed some short comic strips I'd done to a children's publisher and they became interested in doing a graphic novel with me. The publisher came up with the initial idea of a boy finding a diary in his grandmother’s attic, which I took as a starting point and then pretty much changed the whole plot into roughly what Stagdale is today.

To help sell the book in the US, the publisher wanted the main character to be an American boy. I did some trial pages for them, but it never got off the ground, so I decided to carry on with it, but in a way that was interesting to me.  It went through a lot of different versions at this time, I have still got a couple of chapters which are straight text based and the main character is still a boy.

Eventually I settled with the graphic novel concept, changed the main character into a British girl and set it in the 1970s. It’s inspired in atmosphere and theme by a lot of British 1970s kid’s TV programmes like Children of the Stones, Penda’s Fen, and The Changes. These programs have a sort of eeriness to them that I wanted to try and recreate in the book.

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What gave you the idea to provide a soundtrack to your story and what’s a flexi-disk? The soundtrack idea came at the end of last year, it was something I wanted to try. I'd like to take it further if possible, the story inspired the music and it turned out to be a really intriguing way for me to work. A flexi-disc is a thin vinyl record, that is sort of flexible. Years ago, they would come pinned to magazines, I even got a free one when I got my school blouse in the first year of secondary school. There is only one place in Europe where they are still made.

You make music as The Hardy Tree, how long have you been doing that for? The first Hardy Tree album came out in 2011, and I have made two LPs and one long-form experimental cassette. I've been making music since the late 90s. I used to release very lo-fi electronic music with vocals under the name Transistor 6, then I took maybe a ten-year break until I started working on the first Hardy Tree music. It’s always very much studio based, I don't play live, I'm not really a musician so everything is pieced together in a way that can't be unravelled!

What inspires your music and design? Music wise, I listen to a lot of traditional folk and electronic music, soundtrack and library music, it changes all the time. I used to love a good lyric but as I've got older I prefer instrumental music. When I first started the label, I was looking at a lot of art from the early part of the 20th century, people like Ravilious, John Piper and John Minton, artists who bridged the fine and graphic arts world at that time. It seems to sit well with the music that I was listening to and wanted to put out.

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How long does it take to create something like this and when is the next edition of Stagdale due out? It’s hard to say, as it’s been through a lot of different stages. But once I started working on it, and I felt the story was right and I was happy with the style, a page could be as much as a week’s work. I probably got quicker as I went along. The next part is set in pre-war Germany, it’s already written but not yet drawn. Time wise, a lot depends on how I can juggle doing it with commissioned illustration and running my label.

London designer/illustrator Frances Castle founded Clay Pipe Music in 2011, releasing an eclectic range of folk and instrumental music from artists including Alasdair Roberts, Sharron Kraus, Jon Brooks and Frances’ own music under The Hardy Tree moniker. Frances designs the cover art of each limited-run release, with most first edition runs selling out within days.

Frances loves illustrating children’s books and has worked with various publishers including BBC History, Oxford University Press, Random House and Quarto Children’s books.

You can buy Part One of Stagdale at

Inside the Sarabande Foundation...

Behind the doors of a very nondescript building behind the canals of Haggerston in east London is the Sarabande Foundation. More than 20 years ago, the foundation was set up by famed fashion designer, Lee Alexander McQueen as space for creative minds to work. Named after McQueen’s 2007 Spring/Summer collection, the foundation provides scholarships to students, as well as being a physical space to house artist studios. When you visit, you find McQueen’s personal art collection scattered throughout the building. The foundation also offers its artists mentoring, peer-to-peer support, workshops and a gallery space to show off their work. On a bright spring morning, we sat down with four of the foundation’s brightest creatives to get a glimpse into their working worlds.

You can read about them in our latest issue, and you can meet footwear designer, Kristina Walsh below.

Kristina Walsh. Photo by Kristy Noble

Kristina Walsh. Photo by Kristy Noble

There’s something poetic about shoes and the idea that they walk you through life. They affect how you move in your environment. I trained as a footwear designer and, while studying, I saw an exhibition that featured a prosthetic leg and my mind was blown. I knew that’s what I wanted to work with because essentially it’s a shoe. The way that something looks really affects how people feel about their bodies. It will become a part of her wardrobe and the beauty of the design must be considered. 

There are so many different emotional experiences to losing a limb and when working with an amputee there are a lot of big issues you’re working with. You have to involve the person who you’re designing for because you’re designing a part of their body and life. I am working with a performer named Erin, who is an amputee, and it was so incredible watching her try on my designs for the first time. Emotionally, it was indescribable – it will be part of her. We started with two prototypes carved from wax that she chose from. You have to consider everything from how tall they’ll be to how heavy. Once the final design is chosen, they’ll then be made from carbon fibre. I’m working with other disabled and non-disabled dancers and performers who have adapted their practices to suit new movement. My designs have to be functional, so it’s a really specific way to work when you’re designing for people who have to dance. This practice makes you think about how you use footwear. 

A lot of my work is not just about physically connecting people, but emotionally too. I also design jewellery and even when I design rings I want there to be an element of feeling and touch about them. I learnt how to work with jewellery from my Sarabande neighbour James so being here really helps you work across disciplines.

Meet three other creative women from the foundation in our latest issue

Young, tattooed and black

Here in the Oh Comely office, we have been devouring Candice Carty-Williams’ debut novel, Queenie, darkly comic, we were with Queenie every step of the way. Here author Candice tells us about her first tattoo…

Photo by Lily Richards

Photo by Lily Richards

At 22, I suddenly decided that my life would be better if I got a tattoo. I knew absolutely nothing about them, so popped into the dodgy parlour round the corner from the my house that still exists and, to this day, has never had another customer but me. I walked in, was hit by the smell of weed, neither of the men who ran it looked at me and, after asking if I could have the outline of a heart on my stomach, one of them printed out one of those literal old school Microsoft Word heart templates and buzzed that onto my stomach. Now that I think about it, that parlour was potentially a front for drug dealing but I’m no snitch so refuse to comment further or give away the location.

I had to hide this tattoo from my nan, head matriarch, because I’m the first person in my family to get any tattoos. When she eventually saw it, she kissed her teeth and said, “if you were going to ruin your skin you should have gone bigger than that.” Challenge accepted. Not put off by my terrible first experience but ever-so-slightly wiser, my second tattoo was properly researched, thought about – I had a consultation and everything – and went to a legit parlour on Frith Street.

Two day later I stayed at my nan’s, hiding tattoo number two because I wanted to present it when it was fully healed, but the jig was up. I found this out when I was trying to eat my toast. “Can?” She called from upstairs. “Yes?” I answered, expecting to be asked to do one of a hundred chores she had lined up for me. “What’s this in the bed?” she shouted down. “What?” I asked as I walked up the stairs. “Show me,” she said, not looking at me, but instead looking at the black and red tattoo scabs that had peeled off in the night. “It’s nice, isn’t it?” I asked, holding out an arm. And that’s how we both almost fell down the stairs and broke our necks, as she chased me round the house – an exciting and legendary day in the Williams household.

To celebrate a break-up and my freedom, having heard about an amazing tattoo artist in Shoreditch, I went for a consultation with a picture of a castle that was maybe the size of your average post-it note and, two weeks later, left with one covering my entire thigh. The tattoo artist mentioned that most castles have names, and wondered what I’d call mine – we had a lot of time to talk, as this one took four hours. “What’s your middle name?” I asked her. “Elizabeth,” she said. “And my surname is Taylor.” Thus, all are welcome to visit Elizabeth Taylor Castle on my right thigh.

When I went to LA a few years ago, there was a tattoo parlour near the place I was staying that looked exactly like an LA tattoo parlour should look, so I basically ran inside, lifted up my shirt to show my first tattoo and said, “I think it’s time to cover this up” and, never one to go small (at my nan’s loose suggestion), had a four-hour session with a tattoo artist who also happened to be the lead singer of a rock band. It was the most American experience of my life to date. He would keep saying “tell me when it’s, like, feeling gnarly?” and said “right on” and high-fived me when he asked whose name I’d like in the new sailor banner he’d just inked on my stomach and I said “Candice”.

My current favourite tattoo is my latest one, SOUTH on my left arm. Again, probably too big. So much research went into this one; I asked a friend who knows loads about fonts what the best one to use for this tattoo would be, and he said, instantly, “Uh, how about the one designed specifically for south London street signs?” It doesn’t really get better than that, does it? Especially as I get to explain that fact to every single person who asks what it means, or to every family member who trolls me by hilariously saying “Is that in case you forget where you’re from?” as though they haven’t all heard each other say it before.

I’m planning my next tattoos as I write this. I have no idea what they’ll be yet but I can guarantee they’ll be big, they’ll be meticulously planned, and they’ll either get me chased around a house or targeted for bants in the family group chat.


Queenie is published by Trapeze and is out now.

Stocksy – curated with love

Stocksy is so much more than an image library. Its website is home to a curated selection of royalty-free photographs, illustrations and videos that have changed our expectations about what stock images can do. They’re also a co-operative believing in creative integrity, fair profit sharing, and co-ownership – every voice is heard.

We'll be meeting some Stocksy artists over the coming months to find out more. Next up is Jessica Woodhouse, who’s based in Portland, Oregon. (You can also meet Liliya Rodnikova here)

What are your favourite colours to work with? I love using warm colours and earth tones because I feature nature in my illustrations. I feel like it gives my work an organic and relaxed feeling. That being said, I’ll use bold colours and pastels when the mood strikes.

What inspires you? So many things bring me inspiration! I have a lot of strong, supportive women in my life who I represent in my work. I love vintage style and try to incorporate vintage fashion and objects into my drawings. Riding my bike around Portland, which connects me to my surroundings in a completely different way, has been a source of endless creativity. Leaving town for a few days of solitude in nature has always been something that gives me clarity and new ideas.

What is the creative scene like in Portland? I moved to Portland about four years ago and it’s been the perfect place for me to focus on growing my business. I’ve found the creative community here to be very supportive of each other, especially women supporting other women. I don’t know where I would be if it wasn’t for the network of creative friends that helped me get established as an artist.

The laws surrounding cannabis use are very different in Portland to over here in the UK and we’ve noticed you like to feature it in your work… I think the stigma surrounding marijuana is quickly fading away and I want to represent it in my work because I believe it’s important to normalise its use. I live on a street with more cannabis dispensaries than coffee shops. It’s everywhere, it’s commonplace, and that’s great for everyone in the community.

How do you get past the fear of a blank page? Sitting down at a blank page can be so overwhelming! It’s easy for me to brainstorm and develop a sketch when I have to work within certain parameters. When I am starting from scratch I like to pick a narrow topic like riding a bike, traveling, cooking dinner with friends, etc. I’ll sketch out four to five scenes and, inevitably, I’ll see potential in one of them. From that point, I’ll dive into the deeper process of creating a final piece. When I limit the possibilities it’s much easier to focus.

What creative project would you like to work on next? I would love to continue developing my animation skills and eventually work on creating a series of videos with sound effects and music.

And your dream commission? I would love to create more illustrations to accompany stories for newspapers and magazines, especially more animated gifs that can be used within online publications. Most people, including myself, are getting their news and magazines digitally these days and I can imagine there will be loads of opportunities to create animations specifically for an online audience.

What materials do you use in your illustration? My illustrations are created digitally. I use an iPad, Procreate, and Photoshop to create all of my work. It’s so easy to draw anywhere, wherever I'm travelling. If I'm at home and I have only 20 minutes, I can get on the computer and jump into my work right away. That said, I love painting with gouache when I have the time and the space because nothing beats working with physical materials.

Stocksy: stock photography + cinematography, made with love

The Western Wind by Samantha Harvey

In a brief pause on her whistle-stop book-signing tour, our book club editor Terri-Jane Dow caught up with author Samantha Harvey over a cup of tea in a bookshop basement to talk about Samantha’s new novel The Western Wind, covering story structures to how faith and secrets vie for power in the tiny 15th-century parish of Oakham.

Samantha Harvey, photo by Matt Lincoln

Samantha Harvey, photo by Matt Lincoln

The Western Wind, a novel told backwards, looks at faith and power in a tiny 15th-century parish. Oakham’s wealthiest resident, Thomas Newman, is seen floating in the river on Shrove Tuesday, four days after his disappearance. A Lent visit from the Dean means that Oakham’s priest, John Reve, needs to find the murderer, when there perhaps isn’t one, and needs the Dean to leave before he finds anything more disturbing going on. Samantha Harvey’s latest novel is not a who-dunnit, but a why-dunnit and, by moving the focus from what could have been a straight detective novel, the result is something far more absorbing.

Terri-Jane: What drew you to write about this 15th-century village?
Samantha: What came before anything else was an abstract idea about wanting to write about confession. I went for a walk, and the concept, and the character of John Reve, the parish’s priest, came to me, and the idea of the story going backwards. Then I had to find a time and a place for it. I wanted it to be a time where confession was the social norm, and I ended up, really against my better judgement, in the late 15th century. I wanted the village to be somewhere that was on a potential trade and pilgrim route, but couldn’t exploit that because it didn’t have a bridge. So I looked at a map and invented Oakham. I could tell you exactly where on a map it is, but it’s not there.

T: The structure of the novel was so compelling. Why did you tell the story backwards?
S: I hadn’t meant to write a reverse narrative. I felt like it was a bit gimmicky, but it had come to me so solidly that when I tried to do it the other way, it wouldn’t work. I thought that I could take the readers expectations and subvert them, and make them less interested in the what and more in the why. As a reader, I’m not that interested in the gasps or the big reveal, but the workings of the human heart and mind are endlessly complex and endlessly renewing themselves.

T: There’s a sense Oakham is within reach of progress, but just can’t get to it. Reve supports the idea of a bridge, but he still wants to stay at the centre of the village, and he can’t have both.
S: Reve wants Oakham to modernise and thrive and flourish, but not if that threatens his position of power in any way. I wanted him to be a character who behaved as most of us would behave. Medieval priests would have this enormous power and trust from their parishioners, but also have immunities. You can’t go to Hell, you probably aren’t going to even go to Purgatory. Why would you ever want to lose that status? It’s your ultimate insurance against a sorry afterlife.

T: The book describes a ritual where Reve has to stand at one end of a boat and one of his parishioners at the other end, so that he can be weighed against a ‘regular man’. Even though it’s theatre to the extent that the other man has stones in his pockets, there’s a flicker of doubt in him that he’ll pass the test.
S: It must have been a peculiar thing. He will have known, as all priests of course know, that they are just like other men; they’re flesh and blood; they’re not halfway to the angels. At the same time they must really have believed that they were the mouthpiece for God. What a strange paradoxical position to always be in. The idea of the whole thing being a theatre that you have to play along with, but you also have to believe in it as if it weren’t theatre.

T: There’s a running theme through the book of the power that the church has in the village; before Thomas Newman’s death, he’s been away travelling and come back with some strange ideas, like that maybe he doesn’t need a priest.)
S: I wanted to look at that question of grief and loss, but also to look at divine power and how that was rationalised. That entirely Catholic society of the 15th century was very complete. If you would abide by it, the church gave you everything. It was your religion, it was the safety of your soul, or your body, of your afterlife. It was your insurance and your education. If your priest was trustworthy and cared for his parish, it was quite a complete system. But if you wanted to ask questions, or bypass your priest, it didn’t work so well.

T: The visiting Dean brings a much stricter version of that faith with him. He starts out as an unlikeable figure, but by the end, you realise that he just knows about some things that shouldn’t be going on.
S: I never saw the Dean as a nasty character, but I wanted him to come across like that in the beginning. His and Reve’s character arcs form a cross, and the Dean goes up in your estimations as Reve loses some grace. That’s the way we all are: complicated and flawed. Telling the story backwards meant I could tell the story from where they ended up, and then reveal things about them. I wanted to play with the effect that time has on a character. It was also quite fun, for the first time in my writing life, to write a villainous character. All of this is from Reve’s point of view, so of course his interest is in depicting the Dean as an adversary. And then we see that the Dean has more depth to him.

T:  Reve justifies his actions as protecting Oakham, when really he’s just saving himself.
S: There’s the dual side of his character as man versus priest, but he’s also a self-centered individual and a person who has genuine compassion for his parish. Without a strong priest, a parish would be quite vulnerable. He’s caught between those two sides; for himself over a parish which is being corroded by a threat to his status. It’s not just his job; if he’s no longer needed as a priest, then does that mean he’s no longer safeguarded? Everything is at stake for him.


The Western Wind (Vintage) is out now

Eventually, by Emma Laird


We worked with model Emma Laird, from Models 1, in our sustainable fashion story for issue 42, take a peek here. We’re thrilled that Emma has just written her first novel: Eventually,. Here’s an extract and interview with Emma about her inspiration.

We ate salt and vinegar crisps here. We talked and laughed with the old locals who had their regular seats around the room. Through the alcove to my left led into a small room taken up by a pool table and rack of old cues of different sizes. There were still holes in the ceiling where I had, on numerous occasions, punctured with my cue in light anger at my defeat, to which the owner had always laughed off while his Jack Russell had run to collect the falling dust with his tongue. 

It felt wrong coming here alone as if the place had turned sad in our absence – or my presence, alone. I finished my drink and left with a goodbye to a girl I did not know behind the bar. I took one last look at the outside, with its beautiful brickwork and arched doorway, and the windows that were so poxy you might question why they were there. So much character deserved to hold such memories. I didn’t think I would ever return here, so I smiled and turned my back on another one of my favourite places. 

If her touch were a sound 
it would be 
the soft crisp crunching of leaves 
amongst the silent of the forest
it would be
the glide of fingers
over the finest of silks
the rustle of sheets 
masking the natter of morning birds
the delicate crackle of a cigarette 
as you inhale its fumes 
and see the red burn dance downwards
chasing your clutched fingers
what if you still crave something more 
if crisp sheets and cigarettes aren't enough
to mask what was before
you might hope her touch 
to be more like
the jab of a needle 
the burn of your throat at the passing of whisky 
the fading pain of a hit to your hip bone
from some hiding furniture
the breeze floating around the wound
 of a scab that you just reopened 


Tell us about novel? Who are the main characters? The main character is Kora. It’s the telling of how she meets her boyfriend (Bryce, a musician) during a summer of English music festivals. Then while working in Utah, she falls in love with a woman named Grace and has this seemingly impossible task of deciding what to do – trying to follow her heart and not hurt anyone in the process.

While you might say it’s a romantic novel, it’s better described as a story of self acceptance, of learning to be okay with your own company and your own thoughts. Kora realises you can’t use these exterior things (relationships) as distractions from that. 

The book is written in first person, how did you become the character in your novel when writing it? I find it much easier not to judge the character when I’m writing in first person. It felt really authentic while writing, I found it easy to keep her character traits consistent. Though I must admit, the main character is a lot like me in the way she thinks, not how she is perceived, but definitely how she thinks. The book is almost a vent for my thoughts that maybe I’m a little ashamed of. I shielded myself, I used those thoughts but changed them into Kora’s – I turned them into fiction. It let me offload. I could write almost like I would in a diary. 

So in a way, it’s autobiographical? Definitely. I think why I’m so happy with this book is because I’ll pick it up in five years’ time, read a poem or a chapter and be reminded of a moment in my life. Not a lot of what happens in the book literally happened to me, but it stemmed from something which I used as fuel to evoke the emotions into the plot. It’s very personal while also being hidden behind the story – I love that, the mystery in people still not knowing what bits are from my life, but getting that really raw and personal reading experience. 

Tell us about the process of writing your novel? I’d already written bits of fiction with no real motive. As something to do, usually while travelling – me and a friend would write bits and talk of book plot ideas, send extracts back and forth and have fun with it. I am a model, so I am on my own a lot – that was my go-to boredom killer. With this book, I was thinking a lot about a past relationship, I was yearning this perfect guy in my life and so I created him in this book – with all the best qualities and moments from past experiences with boys. I was releasing that nostalgia of my past relationships and little personal moments that could otherwise be forgotten.

Where do you like to write? I wrote the novel in a coffee shop in Crystal Palace below my apartment. I went almost every day and wrote little bits. In fact, I was writing this book when I shot a story with Oh Comely last year, but at that point I still didn’t know it would be a book.

Top tips for writer's block?

There are three things I’ve found found really help: 

 1. Going for a walk, preferably at night, sometimes with music, sometimes without is good to really address your thoughts and take in your surroundings. That usually leads to some messy writing in my notes page until I get back home to my laptop. 

2. Hanging with close friends. The ones where you have those deep chats about random things like aliens and the future. In January, when the book was pretty much done, I spent time in Devon with my friend shooting a film there and we chatted for a while in the dark of her attic before sleeping. That stuck with me so much that I added that into a scene with Kora and Grace in Utah. My friends should be careful of what they say I guess, it might just end up in a book.. 

3. Reading. The Shining, weirdly, has been a really big help in writing. Stephen King’s similes and metaphors are beautiful, he gives you such a vivid view in your head of the story, and that was something I really wanted to replicate. Reading different authors is important too, to learn their different styles of writing. My NY resolution was to read a book a month.

Did you enjoy writing the book? Was the process as you imagined it would be? I loved it. I really did. It was so therapeutic. This past month was a bit technical and pressured with getting it out there and making sure everything’s perfect. I’m still absolutely petrified for people to read it. But I also know that there are some really beautiful moments in there, I hope people can take something from this book about being content in life, with themselves and their own thoughts for company. 

Would you write another? For sure. I’m excited to really challenge myself with a different genre and style of writing. I want to write third person, outside of the world that I know. I already have so many ideas, I’m at that really exciting stage, anything can happen... 

You can order Emma’s book Eventually, from Amazon.

Thinking outside the box with Bloom & Wild

Are you an ‘Outside the Box’ thinker? Bloom & Wild are inviting Oh Comely readers to unlock their creativity by designing a letterbox this March. 


Bloom & Wild’s mission is to make sending and receiving flowers a joy again, so that you can be there from anywhere for those you love. We’re on board with that idea. And they are calling all creatives who want to join their high-profile packaging portfolio to submit their designs for the brand’s well-loved letterbox. The winner will receive a commission of £2,500 and have their box seen by thousands of Bloom & Wild’s customers.

Over the years, Bloom & Wild have collaborated with brands and designers to create beautiful boxes for their bestselling letterbox flowers. Brands include Liberty London, Boden, Mother of Pearl and Peggy & Kate. Like us, creativity is at the heart of what they do, and they’re excited to begin the search for a new, up-and-coming designer to create the next pattern for the letterbox.

The Design Brief:

The theme for their range is ‘Summer Brights’. Featuring vibrant cerise and coral tones, the flowers across this range are joyful, energetic and bold.

Keep reading to find out more…


Right, read carefully, this is the important bit, to enter and submit:

Send a mood board to that demonstrates your box-design concept. You can include a rationale to understand where your ‘Summer Brights’ idea came from, plus examples of previous work you have done to show your style.

The winning designer will be asked to make their idea fit across the outside and inside of the box, plus the finer details. For example, the sticker and ribbon around the flowers’ cellophane and a matching gift card for customers to add at checkout.

To submit your work, click here, where you can upload a digital mood board, a scan of your sketchbook or whatever works for you.

THE PRIZE: We’ll announce the judges’ (there are four judges, including our very own editor Alice Snape) favourite entries on Monday 8 April 2019. The winner of this competition will be commissioned £2,500 by Bloom & Wild to turn their idea into a box pattern for the July/August ‘Summer Brights’ collection.

This also includes an original piece of design for the box outer and inner, plus suggestions for a sticker design and ribbon pattern/colour and a gift card cover design or designs (at A6 spec) that ties into your theme and can be selected by customers at checkout so the packaging sits as a set.


**The deadline is midnight on Sunday 31 March 2019 to submit your entry.

Good luck! Enter, here.

An evening with Scarlet Sabet, Zia Ahmed & Rose McGowan

On 27 February, we were invited to an exclusive evening of poetry readings: ‘Love in Other Words’ organised by cultural producer and curator Ryan Lanji at the Hoxton Holborn hotel. In between sips of wine and nibbles of olives, a room of about 30 people nestled in to listen to Zia Ahmed read poems about lost love and familial ties, Scarlet Sabet read from her new book ‘Camille’, and then we were treated to a special reading of the Erica Jung poem ‘Alcestis On The Poetry Circuit’ by activist, actress and author of memoir ‘Brave’, Rose McGowan. Here we have Erica Jung’s poem chosen by Rose and a poem from Scarlet’s new collection for you to read.

Rose McGowan by Lily Vetch

Rose McGowan by Lily Vetch

Alcestis On The Poetry Circuit by Erica Jung

(In Memoriam Marina Tsvetayeva, Anna Wickham, Sylvia Plath, Shakespeare¹s sister, etc., etc.) 

The best slave 
does not need to be beaten. 
She beats herself. 

Not with a leather whip, 
or with stick or twigs, 
not with a blackjack 
or a billyclub, 
but with the fine whip 
of her own tongue 
& the subtle beating 
of her mind 
against her mind. 

For who can hate her half so well 
as she hates herself? 
& who can match the finesse 
of her self-abuse? 

Years of training 
are required for this. 
Twenty years 
of subtle self-indulgence, 
until the subject 
thinks herself a queen 
& yet a beggar - 
both at the same time. 
She must doubt herself 
in everything but love. 

She must choose passionately 
& badly. 
She must feel lost as a dog 
without her master. 
She must refer all moral questions 
to her mirror. 
She must fall in love with a cossack 
or a poet. 

She must never go out of the house 
unless veiled in paint. 
She must wear tight shoes 
so she always remembers her bondage. 
She must never forget 
she is rooted in the ground. 

Though she is quick to learn 
& admittedly clever, 
her natural doubt of herself 
should make her so weak 
that she dabbles brilliantly 
in half a dozen talents 
& thus embellishes 
but does not change 
our life. 

If she's an artist 
& comes close to genius, 
the very fact of her gift 
should cause her such pain 
that she will take her own life 
rather than best us. 

& after she dies, we will cry 
& make her a saint.

Scarlett Sabet by Lily Vetch

Scarlett Sabet by Lily Vetch

For Jack by Scarlett Sabet

You who let your own gift decay
You who I remember everyday, to honour my own face and pen,
You, who’s face I saw reflected in my grandfathers, Catholic forefathers
You who flinched unbearable under scrutiny
Who tried to exist as lightly as possible, through your own desecration, crucifixion, mortification
Who’s tears and fears were exacerbated by the Ocean
You who uncomfortable in applause put down your own book
You who destroyed your beauty with hops and yeast, smeared the vertiginous caverns of your face into red loss and shame
You who could not stand even five decades
You who were thrown drowning into the terrible sea and asked to analyse your breathing, your own loss of breathing and failing lungs You who wrote, anticipated the flesh, sampled flesh, was offered flesh then turned and left
You whose grave I gave my roses, lilies, boot heels and tears.
You who tried the unattainable, tasted the forbidden then lashed your own back in repentance
You who rode the highways, superior to sleep and disease for seven sun cycles
You who chose the unavailable for deep down you knew your destiny was unassailable
You who waited for a coyote of the road to say: as above so below You who held Beatitude so high and while you are not here you are everywhere
You who opted out in despair, you have created love everywhere
You who were born in the third month of the year, your Pisces stellium extinguishing your fire Mars, casting you the ceaseless Neptune King followed by fish all your life
You swallowed dust and oil, you kept the rhythm of a cool, cool Aquarius heart, that detached, split everyone’s loins in half

and Sewards’s progeny in hot Texas dust, his common law wife, her german face sunken of any life
You your eyes earnest soulful offered up the truth to be spat at like a lumberjack
You too young and pure, your voice like Massachusetts honey, but gliding
oh Jack O Lantern you burnt so bright, you were the guiding light,found guilty of illuminating the way sacrificed at dawn light, dear brother Jackson, you’ve got an emergency message, a date,
to sail the mystic sea, to swim with fishes you thought would be safer but the sea was a demon that promised You danger, you
were possessed with evil, your thoughts red and blue, repulsed by everyone that professed to love you
and I know, and you know, and Jimmy knows:
that we were all born rip torn and screaming, baptised in our bleeding, always chasing a womb of warmth heat and light in the desolate wasteland of life