Anni Albers

 Anni Albers in her weaving studio at Black Mountain College, 1937.  Photo: Helen M. Post, Western Regional Archives, State Archives of North Carolina

Anni Albers in her weaving studio at Black Mountain College, 1937.
Photo: Helen M. Post, Western Regional Archives, State Archives of North Carolina

Innovative textile artist Anni Albers is currently being celebrated at London’s Tate Modern. As a female student at the radical Bauhaus art school in Germany, Albers was discouraged from taking up certain classes. She enrolled in the weaving workshop and made textiles her key form of expression. The exhibition explores the artist’s creative process and her engagement with art, architecture and design and displays the range of her work, from small-scale ‘pictorial weavings’ to large wall-hangings and the textiles she designed for mass production. We spoke to curator Ann Coxon to discover more about this pioneering artist – and why her work remains so relevant to today.

This is Anni Albers’ first major UK exhibition. Why do you think it’s taken so long?

It’s because of the media. Because Anni Albers was first and foremost working with weaving. Because the art that she made was made with thread. She stopped weaving when she was older, because it was quite physically demanding, and started printmaking. Quite late in her life, she made some comments about how when you’re working on paper it’s considered art but when you thread it’s considered craft.

That legacy of dividing into art and craft has continued, even though the ethos of the Bauhaus – where Anni Albers studied – was to bring design, craft and art together. Even though that happened 100 years ago, I think we’re still just catching up! It’s really important that Tate Modern is showing that textile can be used as a fine art medium and putting it centre stage.

 Black White Yellow 1926 / 1965, original 1926 (lost), re-woven by Gunta Stölzl in 1965, cotton and silk, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Everfast Fabrics Inc. and Edward C. Moore Jr. Gift, 1969 / Art resource / Scala, Florence © 2018 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London

Black White Yellow 1926 / 1965, original 1926 (lost), re-woven by Gunta Stölzl in 1965, cotton and silk, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Everfast Fabrics Inc. and Edward C. Moore Jr. Gift, 1969 / Art resource / Scala, Florence © 2018 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London

Could you tell us a bit about the weaving workshop in the Bauhaus?

At the Bauhaus, students took a preliminary course, then chose a workshop. We don’t know exactly how it came about but we do know that the weaving workshop became known as the women’s workshop. That women both gravitated towards it and were encouraged to take it up and discouraged from certain other disciplines. For various reasons, weaving wasn’t her first choice, but she took it up and really fell in love with it when she found her creative outlet there. And so this incredible thing happened at the weaving workshop, when these women were exploring weaving as a form of modernist art making.

The Bauhaus disbanded in the mid-1930s with the rise of National Socialism and Anni, and her husband Josef, were lucky enough to be offered to be offered teaching posts at Black Mountain College in the United States. But some of her peers were not so lucky. Otti Berger, a contemporary of Albers at the Bauhaus, unfortunately died in Auschwitz. Anni was of Jewish heritage as well. In the 1960s, she got back in touch with Gunta Stölzl, who was head of the weaving workshop, or Gunta Stölzl reached out to her, and together they recreated some of the beautiful wall-hangings from the Bauhaus era that had been lost during the war.

Going around the show, you really get a sense of how naturally experimental Anni Albers was.

I think the interesting thing about weaving is that you’ve got this quite rigid format, with the vertical warp threads that are set up on the loom, then the weft threads get woven across and through and so you’ve got this grid framework really at the heart of the endeavour. What Anni Albers’ was interested in exploring is: what can I do with that? What are the variations? What happens if you twist the warp threads? What happens if you use this technique? Or this one? She was really thinking about how to push all the possibilities.

I’d previously seen her work as photographic reproductions and it’s amazing how different they look when you see them in person.

That’s something that really comes through in textile media. We tend to privilege the visual and the optic. What comes through with textile art is that there’s this tactile and haptic register: not just what’s seen but also felt. I think Anni Albers’ work really makes you think about the tactile. She was very vocal in saying – even at the time that she was writing in the 1960s – that we were starting to lose touch with what it means to make things with our hands and she gave the example of when you go out to buy your sliced bread, it’s very different to kneading the dough to make the loaf of bread.

 Study for Unexecuted Wallhanging 1926 The Josef and Anniversary Albers Foundation © 2018 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London

Study for Unexecuted Wallhanging 1926 The Josef and Anniversary Albers Foundation © 2018 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London

There’s something of a recent revival in weaving. Do you think it’s that desire to get back in touch with our hands?

Everything is very visual and the touchscreen fills our day. More and more, we’re all glued to our phones. Everything is communicated very visually and perhaps it’s that longing to get back to something a bit more tactile, literally a bit more homespun. Certainly, lots of a younger generation of artists seem to be making reference to Anni Albers’ work or beginning to use textiles again as part of a multimedia practice, such as Sarah Sze – whose work has recently come into the Tate’s collection.

The exhibition also emphasises Anni Albers’ wide range of cultural influences. 

When Josef and Anni came to North Carolina in the 1930s, they travelled by road down to Mexico, and they both fell in love with Mexico and Mexican culture, history and making and they made several trips to different Latin American countries, such as Peru. Anni Albers  referred to the Peruvians as her “great teachers”. She was very interested in pre-Columbian textiles, unpicking them to see how they were constructed and fascinated by the way that weaving was really the most ancient form of communication, of technology, of civilisation. To take that, to inspire her to make weaving a modern project. She’s really taking that ancient art form and making it modern.

 Anni Albers,  Six Prayers , 1966–1967. Cotton/linen, bast/silver, Lurex. 1861 x 2972 mm. The Jewish Museum, New York, Gift of the Albert A. List Family, JM © 2018 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London

Anni Albers, Six Prayers, 1966–1967. Cotton/linen, bast/silver, Lurex. 1861 x 2972 mm. The Jewish Museum, New York, Gift of the Albert A. List Family, JM © 2018 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London

What would you say is Anni Albers’ masterpiece? 

The very beautiful work, Six Prayers. It was commissioned by the Jewish Museum in New York as a memorial to the holocaust. It’s beautifully constructed. There’s a kind of light that shines out of it – it really is a masterpiece.

Anni Albers is at Tate Modern until 27 January 2019. Read about a stay at the Bauhaus here.

Taxidermist Elle Kaye

In our autumn issue, we spoke to five women working with death in some way. Death needn’t be mysterious, these five women told us about their day-to-day reality and why it’s so important to talk about dying and grief. This is an extract from the feature, Elle Kaye tells us about her life as a taxidermist.

 Portrait by  James Stittle

Portrait by James Stittle

Elle Kaye, taxidermist

I didn’t grow up surrounded by taxidermy. I didn’t even know it could be a career. I grew up wanting to be a vet. I loved animals, but not in your typical, ‘oh that’s so cute and fluffy’ way. In a way where I felt compelled to be a part of their life, aiding them or nurturing them in some way. After some heartache in the sciences, I ended up studying fine art and sculpture. In a quest to include animals in my practice, someone suggested I try taxidermy. I was already looking at anatomical illustrations.  The harmony of science, anatomy and preservation and artistry, sculptural accuracy and model making within taxidermy, places it in both an artistic, and scientific context. Being able to use the skins in this way, presented a platform for me to learn about animals, and to teach others about them, too.

Knowing that the work I create will outlive me is a rewarding concept. It gives me a huge sense of pride and will be my legacy. I administer a dual preservative, essentially preserving the skins with two complementary techniques, so when I go to bed at night, I know the animals will be okay. This isn’t particularly textbook, and certainly not a necessity, but is more of an assurance to me.

I realise that I am operating in a sensitive sphere, with the addition that it is not a ‘commonplace’ job, so I do appreciate people may make incorrect assumptions about what I do. I experience a lot of ‘hate’. But, to devote your professional life to working with animals, recreating them for education and appreciation – you must love animals to do that. I could never kill an animal myself. 

I source all the animals I use, that way I can ensure they have been obtained legally and lawfully, are in a good condition, and aren’t carrying any transferable diseases. I receive my specimens from zoos, aviaries, sanctuaries, ornamental breeders, falconries, and farms. It’s important to me that the animals die of natural causes. It’s also essential that paperwork is provided with the specimen, so I can see the cause of death and log the specimen correctly.

A typical day for me, sees me get in to the workshop early in the morning. I’m on a farm, and the landscape is beautiful, especially in the autumn with crisp mornings and coloured trees. I store all the specimens carefully in big freezers, to prevent them from decomposing, so I will take an animal out to thaw overnight and spend the next morning skinning and cleaning it. This might involve de-fatting, on a machine, or using a beam to thin and remove the membrane on the inside of the skin. This then gets soaked, in a chronological set of baths. Either salting and pickling for mammals, or alcohol and chemical baths for birds. This is followed up with bubble baths and blow dries! Specimen dependent, I can re-freeze the skin, and spend the afternoon mounting a cleaned, thawed skin. When the animals are dry, they need airbrushing and fumigating, so this element is interweaved amongst the others. Typically, I have lots of different projects on the go. Sometimes I work off site, retrieving animals from locations across the country. 

If I could work on any specimen in the world it would be a whale – they’re my favourite animals. This would be an extremely unusual case, due to their size and lack of captivity. But, it has been done before, in Sweden. 

Nothing ‘grosses’ me out. I expect animals to have flaws and defects, just like humans. Sometimes, there are eggs still in birds, or trauma inside an animal. Prolapses, or blood clots, or shattered bone due to window death or impact.

Meet the four other women in our autumn issue.

The many colours of Guatemala

Lydia Swinscoe takes a look at the colourful history of Guatemala’s traditional clothing

 Photos by  Lydia Swinscoe

Photos by Lydia Swinscoe

The most colourful countries are always my favourite. I’m obsessed with India: saris and bangles in every shade, the bright turbans of the Punjab and bold marigolds, piled high in baskets on street corners. Bolivia captured my heart with pink flamingos, the enchanting street demonstrations of La Paz and decorated llamas. While Myanmar dazzled with shimmering golden pagodas, maroon robed monks and markets filled with exotic bright fruits.

My first big trip alone was to Guatemala – another of these addictively colourful countries – almost 13 years ago. Years later, I found myself back in the crumbling, colonial city of Antigua, just a few hours’ drive from Guatemala City waking up in one of the beautifully decorated rooms of Hotel Sor Juana. Surrounded by traditional Mayan fabric bedspreads made me realise how much I wanted to learn about Guatemala’s textiles, weaving and the clothing that makes this country oh-so-colourful.

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The crumbling walls of Antigua hide hundreds of secret courtyards and many places to pick up these traditional textiles. Nim Po’t Centro de Textiles Tradicionales has walls covered in huipils dating back to the 1930s and arranged by region. Huipils are worn by women all over Guatemala and are perhaps the most common item of clothing. A loose fitting tunic made from woven fabric, traditionally on a back-strap loom, they seem to be more like detailed pieces of art, rather than clothing.

Making these wearable pieces of art is an important cultural practice for Guatemalan women, young girls learn from mothers and grandmothers, not only the practice of weaving, but also designs that identify specific indigenous groups. At a time when many families live below the poverty line, the income from weaving enables many families to simply survive. Each region of Guatemala has its own designs, symbolism, colours and details, women spend months weaving them often including hidden messages and meanings. Mayan women can read information like cultural identity and religious background just by looking at another’s huipil, it’s about as far removed from the Western worlds current fixation on fast throwaway fashion as you can get.

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I wanted to see how the wonderful multi-coloured fibres made their way into beautiful geometric patterns, so I travelled to San Juan Atitlan to find out. A mountain village nestled on the shore of Lake Atitlan, (once described as the most beautiful lake in the world) it’s hard to imagine a more idyllic setting to watch the ancient art of back-strap loom weaving at work.

Not as brightly coloured as many of the neighbouring towns dress, the textiles of San Juan are dyed naturally using carrots, achote (a red seed) and tree bark. Wandering around the cobbled streets, it’s easy to find women weaving. Through open doors I see them quietly working with the back-strap loom. The loom is fairly simple, long threads are stretched between two horizontal sticks, one which is fixed to something in the house or a tree trunk, whilst the other is attached to a strap that goes around the weavers back. The cross threads can then be woven through the long threads to create patterns and symbols. Just round the corner in San Pedro, a short tuk-tuk ride from San Juan, you can sign up for weaving classes at the women’s collective, Groupo Ecologico Teixchel.

After my second trip I realised that for the women of Guatemala, traditional dress means so much more than fashion, it’s a way of life. Faced with decades of political violence and oppression during the thirty-six year long civil war, weaving and embroidery have provided an important outlet of self-expression for Mayan women. Their resilience in character can be seen in each tread of every piece.

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Feminists don't wear pink

We are devouring Scarlett Curtis’s new book: Feminists Don’t Wear Pink & Other Lies. It’s a collection of essays by 52 women on what feminism means to them. In her words, “I made this book for my 15-year-old self.” So we asked the activist and writer to tell us more about it and recommend her top five feminist books.

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In the 1970s, the phrase ‘CLICK moment’ became widely used to describe the moment when a woman or girl stumbled across their feminist awakening. I like using this phrase in the context of modern feminism as I think, for so many young women today, their ‘click’ moments happen on the internet where a wealth of feminist dialogue and interpretation is simply a ‘click’ away. Despite the growing online bubble of feminist talk, my own feminist awakening came about through reading books. I love the internet but I find the mass amount of feminist thought out there a little bit overwhelming at times. As soon as I’ve read something I agree with I will click on a completely opposing opinion and find myself agreeing with that too. Then I fall into an endless wormhole of fighting and agreeing and liking and hash-tagging.

There’s something beautiful about the sanctity of feminist writing that is held within the pages of a book. It pulls its reader toward a quiet moment on a Sunday, where one can sit and lounge for hours with a highlighter and a brand new book and work their way through the pages without being interrupted by the madness of online activity.

My feminist reading began at around 16 and since then I have taken a four-year degree in women’s social movements and collected a hefty bookshelf of books that I love, hate, and love to hate.

For the past year and a half I’ve been attempting to create something that might earn it’s own place on this shelf. I could never have written a feminist book on my own, so this book is a collection of essays by 52 women on what feminism means to them. It’s called Feminists Don’t Wear Pink & other lies and its contributors range from activists (Dr. Alaa Murabit, Trisha Shetty, Emi Mahmoud) to Hollywood actresses (Keira Knightley, Gemma Arterton, Saoirse Ronan) to fictional characters (Bridget Jones!). I also include ten teenage girls, all of whom understand feminism and activism in a way that is innate and natural and wonderful. All the royalties are gong to an incredible charity called Girl Up and while the book is by no means perfect I’m hoping it’s worthy of its place next to some of my other favourite feminist texts.

If you buy the book, I hope you like it and I hope it might encourage you to take your feminist reading further. Below are five of my favourite feminist books (Feminists Don’t Wear Pink not included).

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
The first book on feminism I ever read (I didn’t know there were any others!) and still a complete masterpiece. It’s a fascinating insight into early 20th century women and also in some ways entirely timeless.

This Bridge Called My Back curated by Cherríe Moraga and Gloria E. Anzaldúa
An incredible feminist anthology and one of the major inspirations for Feminists Don’t Wear Pink. A collection of writing by 31 women of colour and one of the leading texts in the intersectional feminist movement of the 1980s.

Headscarves and Hymens by Mona Eltahawy
This 2015 book by journalist Mona Eltahawy was my first deep introduction to Muslim feminism, which is topic that is far too often misunderstood and appropriated by white women. The book touches on both misogyny in the Arab world and also the West’s misunderstanding of Muslim feminism. It’s a tough but brilliant read.

Feminism is for Everybody by bell hooks
Simply put, feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression.” this quote by hooks continues to be my primary definition of feminism to this day and her book of essays Feminism is for Everybody is an incredible example of hook’s unparalleled skill at translating the true goals of the feminist movement. Buy this one for the men in your life and keep your eye on them to make sure they read it!

My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem
A less academic offering by feminist superhero Gloria Steinem, this book was one of the first things that made me want to commit my life to activism. Written in the style of a memoir it spans Steinem’s life of campaigning and if you weren’t already a fan of the 84-year-old wonder women then this book will make you one.

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Feminists Don’t Wear Pink & Other Lies is out now. Follow Scarlett on Instagram for motivation and activism @scarcurtis. You can also read Scarlett’s What I Stand For feature in issue 41.

The Other Art Fair – Not 30%

Did you know that 60% of art graduates are women, yet in gallery representation, museum collections and exhibitions, the presence of women artists amounts to a maximum of 30%, often far less. To mark its 30th edition, The Other Art Fair is launching a second site dedicated to showcasing women artists. ‘Not 30%’ is part exhibition, part protest against the male dominated art world. And we’re delighted to spot some names who have also featured on the pages of Oh Comely over the years, including illustrator Hattie Stewart and taxidermist Elle Kaye (who tells us about her art in our latest issue). We caught up with the exhibition’s curator, Kate Bryan, to find out more about the line-up of women artists and why it’s so important to support them.

 Untitled by Elle Kaye

Untitled by Elle Kaye

Where did the idea for Not 30% come from? I love The Other Art Fair and have always been a big fan of its democratic, fun attitude to art. When they asked me to curate a section to celebrate their 30th edition and present 30 artists, the numbers spoke for themselves. At best women get only 30% representation in the art world. I am a big champion of women artists and so this was a natural way for me to go.


How did you pick the artists involved? Will their work have a thread of protest running through it?
Everyone in Not 30% applied to be in the fair, I then selected them and shaped the format and the idea. There are quite a few of the artists who make work which is explicitly feminist but it’s not a prerequisite. We just wanted to make a statement in a safe space – The Other Art Fair has always been equal and diverse with its artists so it’s a nice position to make this kind of statement together.

 Yellow Taxi by Alice de Miramon

Yellow Taxi by Alice de Miramon

What is the highlight of Not 30% for you? The highlight will be the moment when everyone is set up ready, and the doors are just about to open. I can’t wait for that buzz in the air, the artists ready, the art up and the sense of anticipation. It’s a great feeling for lots of people to get behind the same statement.


How do you hope it will inspire other women artists?
I hope it makes them feel like we have their back. We are starting to get somewhere in the art world, things are changing, I just want to play my part to hurry things up.

 Sailing to Dia by  Lori Cuisinier

Sailing to Dia by Lori Cuisinier

We hear that Femme Fatale will be doing a pop-up tattoo studio, tell us more… Tattoo artist Emily Malice will be tattooing. She’s created a flash sheet of new designs just for the fair. There’s no booking necessary – just turn up and get inked! 

 Emily Malice will be tattooing at the exhibition

Emily Malice will be tattooing at the exhibition

Tattoos still often get negative press, has the idea caused any controversy? I think given that the context is the art world where anything goes, it’s a bit easier, but I agree that tattoos are still taboo which is crazy, it’s 2018!


Do you think, perhaps, tattoos are the ultimate form of protest art?
I think they can be – take someone passionate, intelligent and with a statement to make. A placard is one thing, a tattoo is next level.

 Checkers by Hattie Stewart

Checkers by Hattie Stewart

Not 30% is on until 7 October 2018 at The Old College, Old Central St Martins, Southampton Row, London. View the artists here saatchiart.com/30.

Interview with Charly Cox

We’re so excited that one of our favourite poets wrote us a poem inspired by autumn and the changes it brings, for our latest issue. Charly Cox’s book She Must Be Mad is the best-selling poetry debut of 2018. We love that her writing focuses on destigmatising mental health, what it means to be a woman in the modern world and, of course, everything else in between. Grab a copy of issue 45 to read the poem Charly wrote especially for us. Here’s our chat with the writer and poet about our shared love of autumn and her perfect day…

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What inspires you about autumn? Jumpers. Jackets. Boots. Sartorially I'm at my best from October onward, which makes me feel put together. Put together visually tends to mean put together in practice of work, for me. Ridiculous, I'm sure. I love the cold and the red wine and the sudden pull to closeness of autumn, you're not quite yet wishing for summer again but you're enjoying the retelling of what happened. It feels like such a wonderful time to look back on the sun stung memories and mistakes and turn them into something new again.

Describe your perfect day… I spend a lot of time wishing for a change of scenery/pace/routine but the more I thought about this question the more I realised how perfect my current set up is for me.

Wake at 10am, feed Peanut (my adopted wild rabbit) (yes, really) and walk into the woods with Piper my black lab. Coffee and a cigarette by the fireplace. Re-listen to the Radio 1 Breakfast Show, more coffee. Shower, dress, get on the train to London and convince a friend to take an early lunch and have a glass of wine. Wonder Soho aimlessly, buy another book and a magazine I don't need. Call Adrian. Call my grandparents. Sit and people watch on Dean Street and scribble in my notebook. Think about dinner. Convince another friend to let me go to theirs and cook and invite everyone over. More wine. Catch up. Be stupid. End up in G-A-Y Late.

What does writing poetry feel like? It feels safe and understood.

What's your writing routine? It's highly sporadic which makes deadlines and feeling 'productive' difficult. I'm slowly accepting that my routine at its best and most powerful starts at 1am.

Where do you like to write poetry? I write everything on my phone to ease the sense of 'oh my god my hands are hovering above a keyboard why has my brain gone silent I'm a failure' that I get when I try and write on a laptop if it's deadline based but love nothing more than scribbling in my notebook as I wake to get out initial ideas. I like writing in bed and on the tube, in pubs on my own.

How did you start writing poetry? I've written for as long as I can remember. I started writing to profess love for teen heartthrobs and damn school crushes and then it later turned into a crutch through times of depression and anxiety. Poetry became a source of therapy for me. Once what were often terrified and enmeshed thoughts and feelings were out on a page and tangible, something for me to look at and study, I felt as though they were easier to tackle and understand. I still feel that way a lot.

What're you reading right now? So. Many. Things. I am terrible at doing one thing at once, so I've got 5 books on the go at the moment. The one I carry around the most at the moment is The Best of A.A Gill. He was a genius.

Read Charly’s ode to autumn in issue 45.

Issue 45 playlist: autumn

 Illustration:  Chrissy Curtin

Illustration: Chrissy Curtin

Come and have a sit down. Why not rest your head for a short while? We’ve compiled a suitably dreamy playlist for our autumn issue to accompany you through the darkening days of the season. Slow your pace and let the likes of Bat for Lashes, Aretha Franklin and School of Seven Bells soothe your soul. There, that’s a bit better already.

Take a listen to our autumn playlist here

Win some Yawn PJs

Wahoo, we’ve teamed up with our fave nightwear brand Yawn to offer you a chance to win some PJs.

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Simply answer the following question: In what year was Yawn created? 2007, 2014 or 2016. Give your answer here.

Competition closes on 5 December 2018.

(The answer is somewhere in our latest issue)

Terms & conditions:
The competition closes Wednesday 5 December 2018. A winner will be chosen at random from all correct entries after this time and notified shortly after. Full terms and conditions are at
icebergpress.co.uk/comprules.

Win £250 to spend at Birdsong

Win £250 to spend with sustainable brand Birdsong so you can dress, protest and totally transform your (out)look

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To be in with a chance of winning, answer this question.

What type of hat did the Black Panthers wear in the 60s? Give your answer here.

Competition closes on Wednesday 5 December 2018.

(HINT: you’ll find the answer is somewhere in our latest issue)

Terms & conditions:
The competition closes
5 December 2018. A winner will be chosen at random from all correct entries after this time and notified shortly after. Full terms and conditions are at icebergpress.co.uk/comprules.

Time travel: a visit to the Bauhaus

 Photos:  Frances Ambler

In our late summer issue, we share four different stories of time travel. Frances Ambler wrote about what it was like to spend a night at the Bauhaus in Dessau, Germany.

"I was standing in front of the then ultra-modern building… Its architecture represented to me the beginning of a new era.” So wrote student Hannes Beckmann on arriving at the Bauhaus in Dessau. Walter Gropius designed the building to match this ambitious art school, a vision of soaring glass, proclaiming its own name in huge letters down its side. Its photograph was circulated around the world – at first a symbol of German creativity and forward thinking; later, after its closure by the Nazis, a symbol of a lost era.

As I stood there, in grey drizzle, it wasn’t quite living up to this promise. I was staying overnight in one of the 28 studio rooms where students had worked and slept, part of my research for my book, The Study of the Bauhaus. The room had the single bed, fitted cupboards and sink familiar from student halls – here, however, the furnishings revealed the creativity of its former inhabitants: the tubular metal furniture devised by Marcel Breuer seen in a set of nesting tables; the modernist patterns promoted by the weaving workshop present in a bedspread devised by Gunta Stölzl. Echoing the pattern of my own student life, I crawled into bed with my phone, distracting myself with the hum of contemporary online life.

If I went to bed in a 21st-century fug, I woke up in the optimism of the 1920s. Bright blue sky had taken the place of the grey. The huge desk by the window suddenly looked inviting. I stepped onto the balcony, and looked over the surrounding town in a new light.

The day opened up a Bauhaus experience bigger than the room: what had been the student canteen, auditorium and gym, the spaces where workshops once whirred with activity. On a tour, we stopped in one of the studio rooms, made up as it would have been then. It had belonged to Marianne Brandt, who had found her calling in the metal workshops, inventing lamps, ashtrays and her now-famous tea set, which today sell for thousands of pounds. It was right next door to the room where I’d spent the night.

Looking at Brandt’s record player, I understood my earlier disconnect. The many snapshots taken by the students themselves show them in and out of each others' rooms, leaning across their balconies and throwing impromptu parties – rows of cakes spread across the nesting tables, grinning attendees squished onto the single bed. They experimented and learnt together; they also gave friendship.

Right wing opponents forced the Bauhaus to close in Dessau in 1932, and it moved, temporarily, to Berlin before finally closing the following year. Its students spread out around the world. We tend to hear the names of the lucky ones, such as Josef Albers or Marcel Breuer, who forged new lives in America. Others struggled in Germany, their careers never reaching such dizzy heights. Some suffered in concentration camps. The building itself was damaged in bombing, only fully opening for visitors four years ago.

But the Bauhaus was always more than its building. It was about the people and their desire and determination to build a better world – a spirit that blazed as brightly as that day’s blue sky.

The Story of the Bauhaus is published on 11 October (Ilex Publishing). You can pre-order a copy here. And enjoy three other stories of time travel in our late summer issue.

What We're Loving: London Nights exhibition

What happens when the sun goes down? Nighttime can mean danger, excitement, maybe drunkenness, too, or perhaps the possibility of escaping from prying eyes. See the capital at nighttime through the lens of 60 photographers at the Museum of London’s current London Nights exhibition. The images all have one thing in common they reflect the darkness that can transform a city – from the late 19th century to the present day. From deserted streets to dingy clubs, it’ll make you think about the city in a whole new way…

 Mods on the street Borehamwood 1969.  Photograph by Terry Spencer

Mods on the street Borehamwood 1969.
Photograph by Terry Spencer

 Song and Dance from the series London By Night, 1983. Photograph by Tish Murtha

Song and Dance from the series London By Night, 1983.
Photograph by Tish Murtha

 London A Modern Project, 1995, by Rut Blees Luxemburg

London A Modern Project, 1995, by Rut Blees Luxemburg

 From the series Southwestern, 2007-10,  Photograph by Niall McDiarmid

From the series Southwestern, 2007-10,
Photograph by Niall McDiarmid

 Bourgeoisie from Night Flowers, 2014 Photographer Damien Frost

Bourgeoisie from Night Flowers, 2014
Photographer Damien Frost

Ideal viewing now the evenings are getting darker. The exhibition is on until 11 November, museumoflondon.org.uk.

Cocktails inspired by inspirational women: The Zadie Smith

Celebrating incredible women? Cheers to that! Free The Tipple by Jennifer Croll is filled with cocktails inspired by iconic women. This Friday, we're sipping on The Zadie Smith. Here's how to make it for yourself... 

 Illustrations by Kelly Shami

Illustrations by Kelly Shami

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The Zadie Smith

Ingredients

1 sugar cube
2 shots bourbon
2 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
½ shot crème de cacao
½ shot absinthe
Garnish: lemon peel

Put a sugar cube in a mixing glass with enough water to soften it and crush with a spoon. Add bourbon, bitters, crème de cacao, and ice, and stir until chilled.

Take a teacup and pour in absinthe. Turn the glass until the absinthe has coated it on all sides, and then pour out the excess. Strain the bourbon mixture into the teacup and garnish

Some writers take years to make it (and most never do), but Zadie Smith has been a sensation ever since she published her first book, White Teeth, at age 24. Her broad, sweeping novels cleverly and deftly examine race, class, cultural identity, and celebrity, and their beautifully-crafted sentences and engrossing plots have made her a giant of contemporary literature.

As a half-Jamaican, half-English woman who grew up in northwest London, Zadie has long been both a symbol for and an interpreter of multicultural Britain. White Teeth explored that very theme through the tale of three culturally diverse families whose lives intersect in England’s capital. Her subsequent novels considered topics ranging from the nature of beauty to female friendship, with liberal doses of pop culture; Swing Time, for example, included a Kylie Minogue-inspired singer.

Zadie is also a style inspiration and role model for creative, ambitious women. With her chunky glasses, patterned tops, and turbans, she’s made the pages of Vogue, while her ability to consistently deliver gorgeous prose, year after year, has made her the envy of writers everywhere. Her cocktail is inspired by tradition, but isn’t too beholden to it. A chocolatey spin on a Sazerac, it’s served in a teacup — like a proper English cuppa.

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This is an extract from Free The Tipple, published by Prestel. Check out the book for more tasty cocktails inspired by kickass women, including MIA, Frida Kahlo, Serena Williams, Beyoncé, and so many more... 

On Emmeline Pankhurst and Getting Stuck In

 Illustration:  Bijou Karman

Illustration: Bijou Karman

Sometimes we all need a bit of guidance. Writers E. Foley and B. Coates have channelled the wisdom of remarkable women from throughout history for their new book, What Would Boudicca Do? From Hedy Lamarr to Rosalind Franklin, they show you how the examples of great ladies from the past can make your present a brighter place. Plus it’s illustrated by Bijou Karman (whose work also adorns our cover this issue). Here’s what we can learn from Emmeline Pankhurst about Getting Stuck In. 

We live in deeply unsettling times. When ridicu­lous men with access to armies and red buttons seem to be in charge all over the place, it feels very tempting to put your fingers in your ears and shout ‘La la la la la’ to drown out the terrible noise our politi­cians are making left, right and centre. Tempting, yes, but wrong. 

Emmeline Pankhurst, champion for the right of women to have a vote in the first place, would have stern (but motivational) words with you.

Born in Moss Side, Manchester, Emmeline Goulden was weaned on the intoxicating milk of radicalism, raised in a family burning with political passion. The eldest of ten children, she is said to have attended her first women’s rally at the age of eight, and her forward-thinking parents sent her to a Parisian fin­ishing school in which she was instructed in the arts of book-keeping and chemistry, as well as the usual embroidery and etiquette. In 1879 she married Rich­ard Pankhurst, a barrister 24 years older than her and buddy of the great reformer John Stuart Mill. With her husband’s support, Ms P. founded the Women’s Franchise League – one of their wins was ensuring that married women were able to have a say in local (but not general) elections. This was an early step in the struggle for votes for women – before this, you were lucky if you got a chance to pick the captain of the local knitting club – but still, only those women clever enough to ensnare a husband got their minute at the ballot box.

After Richard’s death at the age of 64, Emmeline managed, through the fug of grief, to find solace again in intense social campaigning. She found­ed the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in 1903 with her three daughters, Christabel, Sylvia and Adela. The Pankhurst gang’s goal was simple: votes for women in every election in which men could vote. Frustrated with a lack of progress on this issue across the party spectrum, Emmeline, with her gals at her side, set the political barometer to stormy. Their slogan was ‘Deeds, not words’, and boy, did they mean it.

The WSPU’s dramatic feats included arson attacks, pouring acid into mailboxes, and even (for the Fifty Shades of Grey fans among you) attacking Winston Churchill at Bristol Temple Meads rail station with a riding crop. One woman even took her meat cleaver to Velázquez’s Venus in the National Gallery; she said afterwards that she attacked the most beautiful woman in history as revenge for the government attacking the woman with the most beautiful soul in history – our very own Emmeline. Another, Emily Wilding Davison, ran onto the course at the Epsom Derby in June 1913 and was killed by the King’s horse. It’s worth noting that these high-stakes stunts were too much for some, and Sylvia and Adela abandoned the WSPU in protest, causing a family rift that never really healed.

When war broke out in 1914, the pragmatic Emme­line called a truce. She recognised that there was a greater cause to fight for – and that there was no point chasing the vote if ultimately there might not be a country in which to cast it. She switched her focus to campaigning for women to join the war effort, and as the boys went to the front to fight for Blighty, women began to take on more traditionally male occupations. Suddenly there were female tram drivers, farmhands and firefighters, and the ladies also took on roles in the civil service, police force and factories. It’s no surprise that women began to question why they were being paid less than their male counterparts for identi­cal roles (and it’s frankly bonkers, not to mention real­ly boring, that we are having to ask the same question over a hundred years later). Women’s rights were back in the spotlight and, in 1918, the Representation of the People Act extended the vote to women over thirty with some stipulations: they had to own property; or be married to a property owner; or be a graduate voting in a university constituency. So not much cop for our younger working-class sisters.

Emmeline died in 1928, agonisingly just two weeks before women finally won the vote on the same terms as their menfolk. Some hair-splitting historians have questioned whether it was Ms Pankhurst’s actions or merely the seismic changes of the war that meant that women were finally judged capable of having the vote without frittering it away on fancies. Was it simply that, with so many men dead, it was now impossible for the government to overlook women? In our eyes, Emmeline still deserves our respect, and more importantly we owe it to her to turn up and take part in our democracy – her activism paved the way for a future in which women’s equality has never been off the agenda. Yes, politics today is unpredictable and sometimes depressing, but women have a special duty to exercise a right that was so recently fought for and ferociously hard-won. In fact, we’d go so far as suggesting that the next time you have to vote – in a general election, for a staff rep or for the oddest-shaped vegetable at the village show – you make sure you put your best feminist fashion foot forward and array yourself in the WSPU colours of purple, white and green.

Reading Art

A book filled with art for book lovers – that's our kind of book. Here's a sneak peek inside Reading Art by David Trigg...

 Young Woman Leaning on a Book, Anne Vallayer–Coster, 1784, oil on canvas, dimensions unknown, Private collection. Private Collection

Young Woman Leaning on a Book, Anne Vallayer–Coster, 1784, oil on canvas, dimensions unknown, Private collection. Private Collection

 The Reading Girl, Theodore Roussel, 1886—7, oil on canvas, 152.4 × 161.3 cm (60 × 63 ½ in), Tate, London. Tate, London 

The Reading Girl, Theodore Roussel, 1886—7, oil on canvas, 152.4 × 161.3 cm (60 × 63 ½ in), Tate, London. Tate, London 

 Crown, Wen Wu, 2016, oil on canvas, 30.5 × 25.5 cm (12 × 10 in), Private collection. © Wen Wu. Courtesy Riflemaker London. 

Crown, Wen Wu, 2016, oil on canvas, 30.5 × 25.5 cm (12 × 10 in), Private collection. © Wen Wu. Courtesy Riflemaker London. 

This enchanting compendium celebrates art and reading throughout 2,000 years of art history. And this gorgeous hardback book is a work of art in itself.

Reading Art: Art for Book Lovers by David Trigg. Published by Phaidon. Go to uk.phaidon.com to see more

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An ode to stationery

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words: Jane Audas

As August melts away, cooler weather will bring leaf kicking and the joy of layered dressing in knitted things. This is also the time of year many are preparing to go back to school or college, so buying a new rucksack, pen, paper and eraser. That might be a tad romantic in our time of computers. But even after being out of formal education for decades, I still get the urge to go shopping for a new protractor set when September comes.

I love stationery. The old-fashioned gummed envelope, blue marbled notebook sort. And the washi tape, stickers and improbably cute Japanese cartoon character sort. I like a wall of pens with scribbled on ‘test’ notes lodged sporadically in them. And to find the thinnest nib is my self-appointed, happily accepted, lifelong challenge. So far, I am at 0.03mm.

To my joy, there now exist beautifully created stationery shops. The sort of shop where a notebook with an elastic band around it will cost a pretty penny. But I think something I use every day (as I do a notebook) is a special buy and worth the cost. With age comes the knowledge that four or five cheap tacky notebooks can’t replace the one that really pleases your hand and heart.

I can also be found in more ordinary stationery shops. On holiday I’ll search out both the just-so stationery emporium and the (hopefully slightly dusty) office stationery shop. There I will hopefully find multi-size binders and clear plastic poppered wallets, old paper accounting books with blue carbon copy paper in-between their sheets. If I get lucky there will be a selection of tiny cardboard boxes containing paperclips, drawing pins, small bulldog clips and the like. And if the stars are really aligned, the shop will sell cardboard tubes of different sizes.

A love of stationery began early. As a child I had a Galt Toy post office. This came in a bright red cardboard container, shaped like an old-fashioned post box. Inside bits of paper, a franking stamp and ink pad, gummed stickers, stamps and mini envelopes combined to keep me quiet running a post office from my bedroom.

Growing up with recurring autumnal needs for new stationery set me up for a life in paper and envelopes. One preferably topped off with a tin containing a rainbow of 50 assorted felttip pens. Comedian Victoria Wood had the right of it when she said: “I didn’t want a boyfriend, I wanted a 13-colour biro.”

 

Our friends at Papier love stationery as much as we do, so they are offering 15% off personalised stationery using code OHCOMELY15 at papier.com. Offer expires 30 September 2018, valid on notebooks, notecards, sketchbooks and planners only

Blooming lovely: Harriet Parry

We love Harriet Parry's floral creations, so we caught up with the artist behind the beautiful blooms to find out where it all began and where she gets her inspiration

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We're obsessed with your blooms. Can you take us back to where it all began, when did you fall in love with flowers? I grew up in the countryside, so have always been surrounded by nature. My granny had such a beautiful garden, and we would often make flower arrangements to enter into the village fete, along with the cutest miniature gardens. I went on to study Fine Art, so combining the two makes perfect sense. 

When an opportunity arose to work as a florist – from a more design background, rather than a floristry one – I jumped at the chance. I learnt on the job and I've developed my own style ever since. I have worked on lots of amazing projects with the likes of Vogue, and on television and fashion sets. I also collaborate with Bloom & Wild to really show everyday flower arrangers the beauty of styling flowers. We focus on experimenting and using flowers in creative and unexpected ways.

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We also love your miniatures, how do you create them? I create my miniature arrangements by using the tiny parts of different full-sized flowers, arranging them in mini doll's house vases or other tiny vessels – as I would a full-sized bloom. Sometimes, the individual parts of a big flower take on a new life. For example, parts of a wild garden flower in "real life" could be used as a tropical in "miniature life"

The anatomy of a flower is a fascinating thing. When working on a tiny scale you observe and work in a considered way, gaining a greater appreciation for the medium of flowers I'm so lucky to work with.

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What flowers are currently in bloom, and what has been your favourite for the hot summer months? Currently in bloom are dahlias – my favourite. I love a bold shape and colour. My favourite summer flowers are also sweet peas, irises, and peonies.

I recently styled a shoot with Bloom & Wild, for their collaboration with the fashion label Mother of Pearl, which featured some beautiful Peonies in fabulous pinks, whites and deep reds. I think everyone loves a peony right?

If you could be a flower, which would it be? A hydrangea, they are always found brightening up people's gardens. They also have an earthy scent, which reminds me of where I grew up.

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You work with flowers in such innovative ways, where does your inspiration come from? I get inspiration from so many things. Art, music, fashion, a moment in a film, a particular time in history, or just something that's caught my eye while going about my day. These are often referenced in my designs, which I approach with a painterly aesthetic. People are also a great source of inspiration. I love collaborating with other designers, artists and brands, which really adds magic to my creative process.

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What's next? Well, I'd love to have an exhibition of my miniature arrangements. The mini scale gives the pieces a precious, treasured and jewel-like delicacy. I'd encase them all in glass boxes. I think that would be lovely.

Give Harriet a follow on Insta @harrietparryflowers

The fight for 50:50 Parliament

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Why should we fight for more women at Westminster? Men currently outnumber women 2:1, but what impact is this having on the UK as a whole? Lucy Skoulding on the fight for a 50:50 parliament.

Frances Scott formed the basis of 50:50 Parliament when her eight-year-old daughter was elected to her school council. "There’s always a boy and a girl from each class," she explained to Frances, "boys don’t understand the decision around whether we should wear skirts or trousers to school and we don’t understand how the boys’ toilets get so dirty. Our experiences are different."

Over the next few years Frances began wondering why Westminster wasn’t the same. She began talking to people about the idea of two-seat constituencies with one male and one female MP.  Time passed, and Frances continued her life as a mother and antenatal teacher, but the burning desire to do something never left her mind. “The experience of giving birth had not got better, even though we knew how it should get better, and no wonder when most people in parliament don’t [give birth to] babies so it’s not an experience they can empathise with directly.” When one day Frances heard Oxbridge professors debating the two-seat constituencies idea on the radio, she launched a petition on Change.org and 50:50 Parliament was founded. 

Embarking on a journey: why we need to fight

Despite gaining less initial support than she expected, Frances worked to promote 50:50’s name. The political landscape began to change and the 50:50 movement grew. Nicola Sturgeon was elected as leader of the SNP and Baroness Scotland showed her public support of 50:50.

Looking at 50:50’s membership now, there are so many different women, all from different backgrounds, careers, and political views but all who want the same thing: equal seats and equal say for both genders at Westminster.

Hannah Philp is a 50:50 ambassador and founder of Her Stories, a charity raising money for women’s charities through art. “I really believe in 50:50’s mission, which is to ensure that women have an equal say in the laws that are made. I also believe that parliament should themselves be more representative of this country,” says Hannah. Currently there aren’t enough women putting themselves forward, for many reasons, but one is the lack of female political role models to follow. 

There is also the fact misogyny is still present in Westminster, as the recent sexual harassment cases highlighted, but it is also fuelled by some of the mainstream media. The Daily Mail ‘Legs-it’ incident is a prime example of this. “Women are targeted more than men and particularly if they put themselves forward and try to do anything political,” says Hannah. Frances continued to build support for 50:50. It wasn’t easy and in 2017 she felt close to giving up after losing her husband and feeling as if she was getting nowhere with the campaign. Then #Askhertostand was born. 

Ask Her To Stand

The #Askhertostand campaign is a practical way of trying to increase the number of women from all backgrounds who are in parliament to make it more representative of society. “Everyday women are signing up to stand and we liaise with the parties to put these women in the right direction,” said Frances.

“What if we all started asking the great women we know to stand and think about politics, to help them change the perception of themselves?” added Hannah. Dolly Theis, a Cambridge PhD epidemiology student, worked closely with Hannah to craft #Askhertostand.“Despite being different political camps, we have a beautiful friendship and by working together on this we could show the world that we could get on! We just want good people in parliament,” she said. “A lot of the work I do is cross party because ultimately we’ve got to all work together. The best solutions come out of that.”

Ask Her To Stand is such a simple way for both men and women to take action and improve representation in Westminster.  It doesn’t cost anything to say to someone - "I think you should be involved in politics,” says Hannah.

It’s time for deeds, not words

The long-term goal for 50:50 is to see a truly equal gender representation in Westminster, but there are many complex layers to this. While 50:50 currently focuses on fight for gender equality, Frances views this as a piece of the wider puzzle. We must fight for representation across all diversities and areas of life. There is also the fact that gender itself means many different things to different people.

 “I would always think about parliament being representative of society, and one that is evolving. The more people who don’t identify as either gender makes the gender issue for those people irrelevant and more about representing a specific viewpoint,” says Hannah.

For Dolly the future is bright, and she is very clear about her ambitions as a 50:50 ambassador. “We want to bump the numbers up big time ahead of the next election. [We need] women of all backgrounds, ages, and stories to stand for election. The commonality is just an incredibly passionate desire to change things.”

You can sign up at 5050parliament.co.uk

Delia Derbyshire: our woman who changed the world by Stealing Sheep

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Ahead of their Wow Machine event, part of The Hexagon Experiment at The Great Exhibition of the North 2018, Stealing Sheep tell us about their enthusiasm for electronic music pioneer Delia Derbyshire

We first heard about Delia Derbyshire when we worked with the radiophonic workshop on a live score for a 1970s animated sci-fi film, Fantastic Planet. They shared stories about her work in the BBC workshop and sent us some of her unheard foley recordings [the sound effects added to media in post-production] that were found in her attic.  

Delia Derbyshire was an early pioneer of strange electronic music. She recorded “found sounds” during late night Abbey Road sessions. She cut up these tape loops meticulously to create rhythmic patterns that would now be categorised as minimal techno. She tweaked the “found sounds” with analogue effects pitch bending and tuning the sounds to create melodic movements in the music. From what we gather, she was always trying to find human qualities from the machines. Her mathematical brain aided this cut-up tape method. 

Our method of writing music is very similar, it’s just that now this method is emulated by software – we do endless late-night sampling and programme the sounds to the keyboard, setting arpeggiated patterns and sampling each vowel or cowbell note to make interesting musical sounds. We can really appreciate how laborious the work Delia did must have been. Her looped compositions are so simple sounding but host a multitude of technical skills. We feel a special alliance with Delia’s approach because of her commitment to creating organic ‘emotional’ qualities.

We’ve enjoyed listening to Delia’s tapes and have resampled her foley in our work using her techniques. We programme the electronic drum kit with her ‘explosion’ fx to replace the kick drum and use ‘tree falling’ as a loose snare, ‘gunshot’ to create a cool off-beat and a ‘car engine’ starts with her bar to create groove. It’s interesting to approach music like this. 

Delia’s influence is not just musical though. Her presence as an influential female electronic artist is very close to our hearts as we are always seeking female role models and idols that give us courage to do the same. Delia was highly creative but also very conflicted through her life. She was never recognised for her work during her lifetime.

Our WOW MACHINE involves her machine samples, creating organic rhythmic loops that are symbiotically synchronised to choreographed dancers. The music is thematic and vibrant but also goes to deep mysterious places, the dancing is robotic and unifying. It’s an emotional journey but also a visually fantastical one. We have referenced Delia Derbyshire as our pioneering woman through history but also taken a lot of inspiration from Kraftwerk and are hoping that as a female-powered techno electronica outfit we’ll reveal our own kind of magical mystery tour.

The Hexagon Experimentwhich is presented by Brighter Sound, is part of The Great Exhibition of the North 2018. Six free Friday night experiments at venues across Newcastle feature live music, conversations and original commissions from pioneering women at the forefront of music, art and science. Wow Machine, Stealing Sheep’s tribute to Delia Derbyshire takes place on 31 August. More details here

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Whether you love us, like us, loathe us, or reckon there's just a couple of tweaks to make us truly sparkle – from our illustrated covers to what we write and who we interview – please tell us what you really think in our reader survey. Plus, you'll be in with a chance of winning one of four £25 Wordery vouchers. Let loose, here.

 

 

 

Issue 44 playlist: late summer

 Illustration:  molly egan  

Illustration: molly egan 

No matter where you are, whatever the weather, there are certain sights, smells and sounds that always conjure up those summers that seemed to last forever. This playlist celebrates those songs that pull you back through the past. It’s the soundtrack to staying out in the park till sundown, sitting out chatting with your friend into the early hours, perhaps a gentle doze in the sunshine. While the heat of summer may be beginning to die down, they’re the kind of memories that last forever. 

Take a listen to our late summer playlist here