Category Archives: Culture

London Spotter: Raj Stevenson

Blogger London Spotter, also known as Raj Stevenson, is a full-time student who in his spare time blogs about the latest aviation events and describes himself as: “an airlines for nightmare”.

“My dream and what I’m working towards, is making London Spotter my full-time job.” Raj’s humble days of plane spotting from the perimeter fence of London Gatwick Airport has led to him attending aircraft deliveries with Qatar Airways, events held by Airbus and the opportunity to meet industry wide names such as Sam Chui and Brian Kelly.

This teen critic of the aircraft industry accidentally stumbled across the path of writing about aviation claiming that he only started plane spotting when his best friend was on holiday, and was interested to see his flight’s progress. First by tracking his friend’s flight on a website called FlightRadar24, and then by visiting Gatwick Airport which was near his home.

“When I was 15 years old, I actually didn’t know much about aviation”. Stevenson used a website called Flight Radar 24, a free website which shows the responders of all commercial flights, to track the progress of his friend’s flight. From there on, Stevenson’s career in aviation “took off”.

Stevenson’s Instagram following has grown exponentially in the last year, and he now has a following of over 40,000 followers. His YouTube following too is substantial, with a following of almost 3,000 subscribers (Videos from Raj Stevenson’s channel is his sole property, all credits belong to Raj Stevenson and his channel London Spotter).

Stevenson provides advice concerning top tips when flying, how to find the best flight and hotel deals, and loopholes behind avoiding nuisance costs in the industry.

In light of infamous and recent incidents in aviation I asked Raj what he thought of aircraft safety in 2019. “It always will be a very safe way to travel, I’ve never been scared to fly, and if you look at the statistics it is safe.”

Raj seemed unfettered by the crash of identical aircraft, the Boeing 737 Max 8, one which crashed of the coast of Sumatra and the second shortly after take from Addis Ababa.

“You could say flying became safe when those to aircraft crashed.”

Raj’s Instagram page is a prime example of the work and all the achievements he has experienced. Though as a full-time student, he found providing the time and expenses of managing invitations to further aviation events and releases difficult to accept.

During of 2018, Raj extensively travelled much of Asia and the Middle East, and hopes to enjoy further travels this year. A perfect place to keep on track with Raj’s ventures is on Instagram: londonspotter.

Diversity And Inclusion in TV and Film.

Diversity in film and television is a topic that is constantly discussed. In recent years we have seen more diversity on our screens than ever. From marvel’s “Black Panther” and ”Captain America” to Netflix originals, it is clear that inclusion has been a main goal for networks. UCLA’s Hollywood Diversity Report highlighted that it is still not enough. Despite representation in film improving more than the previous reports, people of colour and women are still underrepresented. Below is an info-graphic detailing the report’s findings.

In order for me to get an audience members’ opinions on the TV and films industry’s progress with diversity, I spoke to Letterboxd user Yumna. Letterboxd is a social network for film lovers and critics to share their opinions on the latest movies.

Do you think there’s more of an effort to have representation in Film compared to TV in recent years?

“I think overall there’s definitely a greater effort to have representation in film and TV. I feel the need for representation has grown tremendously, if not exponentially, over the past few years. Much of this could be attributed to the ‘Netflix generation’ and the huge demand this and other streaming services face due to its majority young/teenage viewers. I would say personally I’ve found greater representation in TV. Due to its longevity, viewers tend to build a greater relationship with characters and identify with some more than others. Series such “On My Block” and it’s BME/Latinx representation as well “One Day At A Time” for its LGBTQ representation are good examples. With film, I feel like there has been a greater urge to create films that represent and that are not made or centered around race such as “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” starring a WOC lead, Lana Condor. Recently, there is conversation around Jordan Peele’s “Us”, and how having a black family as the lead should not be considered a film about race, as opposed to “Get Out”.

Yet, sometimes I actually question the intentions of these producers and the effort to increase representation. Do they really want representation and diversity or is it just so that they don’t get ‘cancelled’? Nevertheless, representation has come a long way. However, I feel like there’s still a way to go and room for improvement for both film and TV.

If you had the chance to talk to film/tv producers, what would you suggest is the best way to include diversity and representation in their products?

“I think the best way to include diversity and representation is to move away from the stereotypes and even caricatures of certain personalities and identities. Too many times I’ve found that, for example, Muslim characters are always at one extreme or the other, quite literally. You have the extremist fundamentalist Muslim girl brought up in a strict family and then you have the liberal on-and-off hijabi who partakes in activities that go against her religion in the name of ‘freedom’. Others include the effeminate gay, the loud/aggressive black woman, the chola Latina woman and more. While it can be can be a form of satire/parody, it can make it difficult to identify with characters who simply don’t represent who we really are.

The best way to ensure diversity and representation is to hire a team that essentially represents the characters. If there were more LGBTQ, BAME, disabled etc. producers, editors, directors and writers, then undoubtedly there would be less of the stereotypes. Representation is not limited to what is portrayed on the screen. This includes the people behind the scenes.”

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We never freeze. #BlackPanther @EntertainmentWeekly

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Cast of Marvel’s Black Panther broke records and set the tone for the need to have more diverse films in all categories.

Whilst diversity is being displayed on the big screens and popular shows, that doesn’t mean it is enough representation. Audiences want to see themselves represented on screens and TV /film creators have a job to fulfill that. Overall Progress has been slow, often signalling people to create their own craft instead of having to relying on TV/film executives to profit from their ideas. Lack of diversity affects opportunity, prompting attentive consumers to demand for more minorities and women on our screens.


The Art of Luthiery – How professional guitars are made

Having the right instrument for a professional musician, means to step up his work of quite a bit.

Guitars are not the same. There are many different types of guitars differentiating in size, price or specifications; more or less suitable for certain genres.

So when it comes to choose one, professional musicians have many factors to include in their choice (such as playing style, role, pitch, internal mechanics etc).

But finding a guitar to suit all the needs of a musician is difficult, especially in a commerce saturated by instruments of every kind and price.

 So certain musicians decide to approach luthiers in order to be able to buy a guitar suiting any specific need, builted exclusively for them. Guitar Luthiers are considered “wood tailors”, capable of building instruments following the exact needs of a musician; making music composition for them, much more natural.

So how is a luthiery guitar built?

Modern Lutherie is the practice of building stringed instruments by hand and was born in Brescia, Italy around the 15th century, spreading all around Europe. 

Today, even if the industry of music instruments its dominated by big companies trying to maximise their profits, using machines and top notch technologies; after more than 7 centuries, it’s still possible to see people (especially young people) deciding to study and to help surivive; the noble art of Luthiery.

Mirko Costa is one of those people.

Twenty four years old; Mirko has played guitar on daily basis since he was eleven. Loving to understand how things are made since young age; he studies electronics until 2014, when he realises that he could combine his two passions in his future career, and joins Giulio Negrini’s luthier course. After a few years of practice and prototypes, finally in 2016 Mirko launches his activity as luthier of electric guitars: “MRK Guitars”. When asked what he loves about his job he says “What I love about it, is that you see your ideas taking shape, becoming reality; and the satisfaction of putting all of yourself into something someone else will enjoy.”

So,to start a project, Mirko likes first to understand the type of musician his client is. To do this  Mirko meets with his client, and starts viewing photos and videos of live performances, and (if available) studio-projects provided by his client; in order to understand in detail what kind of guitar project to create. Afterwards, consulting the mood board, Mirko then starts by drawing the silouhette of the guitar with his client, considering multiple factors: from posture to aesthetic, for example.

In the next part of the process, the luthier has to choose the right wood for his project, which is a crucial part of the work. Guitars are composed of different types of woods, so depending on the requests of the client and the project,different woods affects a project in many different ways such as for example balance, sound, or even the humity of the country the client lives in[…]. 

But the wood Luthiers use, is no common wood. To be able to maximise results, liuthiers work with wood aged at least 10 years, coming from trees planted in places where they wouldn’t develop many branches. This because trees with less branches are more likely to grow with more resistant straight fibres, and aged wood is much dryier; helping the malleability of the wood and its durability. To buy this very specific wood, Mirko has to contact specific luthier sawmills, from which he buys only the specific amount of wood he needs for the project.

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Luthiery Wood (PH. Mirko Costa)

After obtaining the fine wood, during the first week, the Luthier spends the majority of his time shaping the various parts of the guitar into the rough project. In this part he carves also the space for the elttronics inside the guitar.

For aesthetical reasons, the body of the guitar should be always symmetrical; and to achieve this, Mirko opens a  wood piece book-like, to then compose it back together horizontally, creating a perfectly symmetrical natural design.

In the refinement process, the headstock of the guitar is one of the most complex tasks. Containing the main mechanics for tuning the instrument called “tuning machines”, the headstock is composed by the same wood of the body for aesthetical reasons. Designing and building  properly  a headstock is foundamental for the overall sound and  balance of the guitar, and given the high tension of the strings, in order to avoid damages, the most resistant and utilised method to attach it to the neck is called “scarf-joint”.

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Elnath Project (Picture courtesy Of MRK Guitars)

The refinement of the guitar’s fretboard and neck is oppositely, the easiest part of the process in Mirko’s opinion; but the most important one for sound of it and comfort of the musician. A badly built fretboard could lead to tendinitis given the amount of hours certain musicians spend playing. 

So In this part, the luthier measures size and posture of the musician, and depending on the unique way the musician plays and his real-time feedback, he shapes the neck of the instrument. After that, a specific saw cuts frets from wood of the right size for the fretboard, that are then embedded and glued on it. Many people love decorations on their fretboards, that Mirko carves by hand fret by fret, and then fills with “Madre Perla” or resin depending on the clients request. 

The same refining criteria are applied to the finalisation of the guitar’s body. Shaped depending on the posture and comfort of the artist but also his personal taste; Mirko refines with various tools the lineaments and surface of the instrument, to then paint it and assemble it. In the painting process, the choice of what type of paint is not only an aesthetical process. Mirko for example, prefers to work with synthetic paint  jobs because even though less “warm”; more resistant to time and humidities.

It takes more than 11 months for Mirko to complete one if his art-pieces depending on its complexity; and the costs of such cure are relatively “high”.

So do effectively all this cure to details and wait; make an actual difference?

For Giovanni Rosellini (pro-musician, owner of an MRK Guitar) yes.

Coming from the Metal World, he thinks that today mass production guitars are deep down all the same from every point of view. So, after trying one of Mirko’s guitars, Giovanni relised that to step up his music skills he had to have the right instrument, and decided to work on his custom guitar with Mirko.

He states: “There is no such thing as a perfect guitar; but it’s sure that If you know what to ask from your instrument or what you need, a luthier guitar is perfection”.

History of Londons’ Markets

Welcome to the markets. 

With a rise in demand for organic produce, a boom in lifestyles such as Veganism and the want for pesticide and chemical free produce, there have been a huge increase in people attending markets across the nation for their produce. The Veganism society claims that it was the biggest food trend in 2018, and many people are lookingthwards a healthier lifestyle with an array of fresh fruit and vegetables. With more and more farmers markets popping up every day, let’s look at some of London’s most famous market place and discover why they’re having such a powerful comeback. 

The oldest surviving market in London and arguably the whole of Britain was first mentioned in historical texts in 1276, but is thought to have been around from as early as 1014. We are talking about the famous borough market which sits in Southwark under the London Bridge stretching down the side of the Thames. In the 19th century it became one of Londons most important food markets. 

The market first established itself on the London Bridge and acted as a hub to sell to travellers who crossed the bridge from the city of London to Southwark town. A larger market was then set up which sold a wider range of produce near the foot of the bridge which was known as Guildable Manor. In the 1270’s, the City of London forbade its citizens to go to the markets as they began to undercut the cities traders by buying produce and reselling it for their own value.

As the time passed into the 16th and 17th century, Southwark was absorbed into the city of London and the authorities did it’s best to maintain order around the markets. They were supervised to maintain price control and inspected goods and were also required to set up fixed stalls as unlicensed trading was a big problem of the era. 

In 1666, the Great fire of London burned down the main market house and a large portion of the bridge and it’s markets, and in 1756, nearly 100 year later, the government ceased trading on the market as it was taking away from the high street shops which were part of Londons growing economy. Outraged, the residents began petitioning to be allowed to begin a new market, independent to the city, away from the high street in order to not interfere with their business.

They quickly raised £6,000 (£1mil) and bought an area called the triangle and within two years the place was enlarged and a market house was built. The modern borough market was born. 

Over the years, with the rise of national supermarkets which killed off the small grocery and market business, the market developed a niche for speciality meat and cheese. It has become  great tourist attraction, with around 16 million people visiting Londons oldest fruit and veg market every year. 

The rise in demand for vegetable produce is doing wonders for markets across Britain. 

Another famous market which is sometimes forgotten, is the beauty and uniqueness of Columbia Road Flower Market. Named in honour of the heiress and philanthropist Angela Burnett Couts who built the Original Columbia Market in the 19th century. It was her aim to bring cheap and good quality produce to the poorest of East London, so in 1868, she built a huge market building with over 400 stalls and apartments for the traders built above. 

Unfortunately, due to limited transport connections and with big markets such as borough and convent garden which were closer to the centre of the city, the market couldn’t thrive. So, in 1871, the market hall was gifted to the city of London and was used for workshops and workhouses for 80 years till it was demolished in the 1950’s to make way for new housing opportunities. You can still see the gates and lion statues which sit outside a local primary school. The market continued on Columbia Road but with a swift change in produce from food to mostly bright, beautiful flowers helped the market survive.

The market suffered in WW2 due to rules regarding food rationing and part of the market received significant damage during the blitz, but in the 1960’s new rules meant traders had to attend regularly and with a resurgence in gardening, the market gained popularity. The changing of opening days to a Sunday instead of a Saturday also meant local jewish traders could bulk up numbers. Traders from other markets began flocking to the market selling left overs from the week, such as convent garden, but over time the market specialised in flowers.

  Columbia Road Flower Market sound clip

One of the youngest but possibly one of the most globally famous markets is Camden Market. Although time wise, Camden market is only 50 years old, it remains one of the busiest, well known and popular destinations for tourists and residents of London. 

Camden Market officially begun on the 30th March 1974, with a brand new Saturday market which housed a total of 16 stalls which sold antiques, jewellery and arts and crafts. However, previous to this the history of the famous Camden Locks has been slowly forgotten. 

Famous scenes from the early 20th Century are recreated in TV productions such as ‘Peaky Blinders’ which shows the locks being a big import and export place for beverages such as whiskey and gin. Distilleries and warehouses would sit along the locks, all dedicated to the booze. 

As the towns market developed, this art slowly depleted, lost and forgotten until 2014, when the tradition was reborn when Mark Holdsworth created ‘Half Hitch Gin’ which is distilled in Camden Town. The alcoholic drink can now be found in prestigious London hotels like the Hilton, St James and in establishments like The Shard and Selfridges. 

It’s fame can be reflected in the numbers – over 28 million people visit the markets every year. In 1973 a wine merchant called John Armit and his business partner Tony Mackintosh were responsible for turning the ‘run-down packaging warehouse’ beside the canal into Dingwalls Dance Hall and the venue was soon a notorious place for punk-rockers. There have also been many famous faces walking the streets such as David Bowie, Lady Gaga, and is also where Amy Winehouse worked pre-fame as a teenager. 

Nowadays, even though some of it’s traditional areas have been lost (the old lock keepers cottage is now a Starbucks) and the authorities have had a major push to eradicate the drug culture that had remained since the 80’s, the general vibe of the market makes it unique. It feels stuck in a period of punk rock with a tad of ibiza markets with the rage of counterfeit products making their name on the market alongside niche food products such as halloumi fries, vegan burgers and the infamous Cereal Killer cafe, which offers the widest range of breakfast cereals from across the globe, with an amazing collection of memorabilia.

Markets once were the entire economy in the UK, but with a rise in convenience stores and the demand for fresh, high quality produce, people are now looking for more substantial, economic sources. This has meant the market world which was once in a crippling decline, is being resurrected to supply those who are wishing to live a healthier lifestyle. In the future we could g straight back to markets and our local supermarket could be a desolate wasteland. 

FM Final

The Truth About Rave Culture

In 1988 British youth culture underwent a massive transformation, the music turned to acid- house and the drug on the scene was ecstasy. It all started in the Balearic island of Ibiza in 1985. The islands carefree and 24-hour party vibe influenced young DJ Paul Oakenfold. After his spontaneous visit, he made it his mission to bring the Ibiza nightlife back to rainy London with him. His first attempt did not go to plan, but this only motivated him more.

 

He planned his second trip to the island that never sleeps in 1987, to try one more time. When he returned to London he started introducing acid- house records into his DJ sets. Clubs in England at this particular time were only playing one type of music, but this was all about to change.

By 1988 acid house had become a phenomenon within London’s nightlife. This high only lasted a year and a half, but during that time everyone was in a haze of peace, love, and unity.

After all this time the spirit of raves is remerging again amongst the youth of Britain, and it is more popular than ever. This dynamic culture has taken over London, it is seen in nightclubs such as Egg, Fire and Lightbox and also festivals such as Elrow and Boomtown.

It is a culture where community is key and money is insignificant, so no wonder it is becoming more popular than the regular night clubbing scene amongst 18-25 year-olds.

Rave culture for many is seen as a negative way of enjoying yourself, as people associate drugs, bad behaviour, and illegal activity to this particular form of ‘partying’. It is a sub-culture that many have prejudged and have biased opinions on, due to the stigma that the media has created around raving. This all started due to the rise in illegal raves across London.

Once rave culture became popular amongst the youth of Britain, they were forced to battle and defend for their right to have a good time. Section 63 of the 1994 Criminal Justice Act was a law created in order to control and threaten the UK rave scene.

This particular law gave police the power to shut down events that were “characterised by the emission of succession of repetitive beats”. Illegal raves are still considerably present within today’s society, they are usually held in isolated outdoor venues or abandoned buildings and are well known for illegal drug use.

The unlicensed rave scene has been spread across all forms of media. This has resulted in society associating all types of raves with illegal behaviour. Legal rave culture is exactly the same as any other form of nightlife within London. It is a community of individuals who enjoy listening to a particular genre of music, and want to have a good time. Unfortunately, the rave scene is not seen this way by everyone.

It is only until recently that raves have started to become socially acceptable. This is due to acid – house becoming a popular genre of electronic dance music amongst today’s generation of youth. Raves signify a community of people, of all different ages and from different backgrounds. It is a community where having a good time is the only thing on people’s minds, and where you can get lost in the music all night long.

 

 

 

“Everyday is an Adventure of Surrender”

Jo Nava moved to London from Denmark with her family 3 years ago. Since then, she has made her space on the corner of Tottenham court road, where she wows passers-by with her new style of busking. Using a loop machine and her laptop she is able to create new unique songs you usually only hear on the radio right in front of you. With this she plays her own music only, introducing us to a mixture of song and rap with lyrics that tug at your heartstrings and lift your soul as she inspires you to live a positive lifestyle.

 

 

 

The Music Industry for Young Adults

In the next interview, young adults share their different opinions on the music industry in relation to their musical background. The participants in this piece, represent really diverse music profiles, going from music press magazine with Clara Leira in “Mondo Sonoro”, to Music Business Management students such as María Jáñez. The mix of perspectives in this video gives a complete and coherent vision of what youngsters have to say about the music industry. In this interview, María and Clara share their tips in order to help individuals who are willing to start a music career.

Check their work here:

Mondo Sonoro

https://www.mondosonoro.com/

María Jañez’s blog

https://www.meerssounds.com/

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