A London love affair

In July 2012 I left Australia for the biggest adventure of my life. I was going to be overseas for 7 months studying at Sheffield Hallam University in the UK and fitting in as much Europe travel as humanly possible. Despite my extensive travel over that time it was London that remained my favourite city.

London left me spell-bounded as despite spending a month of my time there during the seven months overseas, I barely scratched the surface. I fell in love with the liveliness of the city, the hustle and bustle of the tube stations, the endless line of people covering the cobblestone sinking ciders outside local pubs. The old school charm of landmarks that have been there forever, the crowd of tourists still standing in amazement when overshadowed by sights like Big Ben and Westminister Abbey.  The young urban hideaways covered in street art, lane ways of coffee shops busting with addicts, the streets of worn-down terraced houses homing the creative souls of the city. The bright lights of the West End offering a couple hours of escape, stages full of dedicated dreamers, audiences forgetting where they are and who they are until the lights come up on reality.

I’ve fallen head over heels for this city and can’t wait to have a more permanent stay to continue the love affair.

Until then I get my fix through English films that showcase London’s best bits like ‘Bridget Jones’, ‘Love Actually’ and ‘About Time’; of course these films say that the city is not only one to fall in love with, but one to fall in love in. And who am I to say no to a Mr Darcy?

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This gallery features images from Portobello Road Markets, Buckingham Palace, St James’ Park and shows of the West End; the photographs are taken over July, August and November. I’ve written a little description before each selection of photographs. I hope you get an insight into the London that captured my heart.

A real highlight of my London experiences was exploring the Portobello Road markets held on the weekend. I went twice for nearly a whole day each time and still didn’t cover half of the stalls. The market is an incredible mix of vintage pieces, handcrafted jewellery, antique books, edgy Banksy artworks and phenomenal baked goods – seriously melt in your mouth stuff. The following photos were taken on my first visit (it was actually my very first weekend abroad). The weather was glorious and perfect for roaming the street stalls.

Charlie on Portobello Road

Pastel terraced houses

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The following images were taken during the gorgeous English Summer of 2012. The weather was so lovely that St James’ Park was full of people sun bathing and I even got sunburnt…in London of all places!! These photos are taken outside Buckingham Palace, in St James’ Park, outside Westminster Abbey and Big Ben in the week of the 2012 London Olympics Opening Ceremony, it was a brilliant time to be in London. Everyone was so happy and helpful – even the people at Heathrow’s Customs (trust me this is a rarity!)

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Big Ben

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These are photographs taken of shows I went to see on the West End. During my visits I saw Jersey Boys, Les Miserables, Matilda, Lion King and Billy Elliot. I’ve been a fan of musicals since as long as I can remember. I lived in Chelmsford in the UK (just outside Essex) when I was four and I have brilliant memories of my mother taking me to see either the ballet or a musical in London as a treat. The feeling of being that little girl, wide-eyed in amazement of this whole other world on stage has never really faded.

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A night at the theatre

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Now these photos are a much more accurate depiction of London weather. They were taken in November on a typical day – it was dreary and wet. But my sister had come over from Australia for only a short visit so we were to make the most of it! The photos are taken at Leicester tube station, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park and the cappuccino was from Harrod’s when we were seeking refuge from the cold. It was of course all set up for Christmas so looked quite spectacular.

Leicester Square

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Guide to gigging for closet singer-songwriters

This post is for all the closet singer/songwriters who dream of playing to an audience better than their bedroom wall but aren’t sure how to go about it. Of course being a shower singer myself I am hardly a source on the issue so I have picked the brains of two Brisbane musicians who actually have the guts to get up on stage and chase the dream.

With a notebook full of original songs collected from when he was about six years old George Higgins was finally nagged/bullied by friends into performing at an open mic night in August. After playing his designated three songs he came down from the stage buzzing with excitement, wanting to do it all over again. The guy was hooked. A month later he now has five gigs under his belt with many more planned and had the following words of wisdom to share from his experiences.

George Higgins playing at QUT Muso's August open mic night Source: Ellie Robinson original photograph

George Higgins playing at QUT Muso’s open mic night at the Gardens Point campus Botanical Bar
Photo credit: Ellie Robinson

“I started gigging because I was sick of everyday life and I had reached the point where I just said stuff it, I am going to do what makes me happy,” he said.

“The Brisbane music scene has been a lot better than I thought. Open mic nights are great because often people associate just associate music with the industry and competitiveness when it should just be about people coming together from different genres, with different influences and appreciating these differences.”

So far George has played at the Blackbear Lodge in Fortitude Valley, twice at the Queensland University of Technology’s open mic nights at the Gardens Point campus and twice at the Retro Bar in Kenmore.

“My favourite place to gig so far has been the Retro Bar. The atmosphere and set up make it; it’s just a cool place and the locals are really welcoming,” he said.

To secret musicians who are worried about putting themselves out there George has the following advice.

“Just do it. Forget what people say and think, just do what makes you happy.
My favourite musician Bob Dylan said, ‘“At times in my life the only place I have been happy is when I am on stage'”.

(If you want to check out George Higgins’ music go to his Triple J Unearthed page http://www.triplejunearthed.com/GeorgeHiggins and if you like what you hear give the guy a review)

Another supporter of new local artists is pop-folk songstress Hannah Rosa. With a warm stage presence and honest lyrics Hannah is a regular on the Brisbane music scene. With plans to release a new single this month and an EP in the works for mid 2014 Hannah is one busy lady so I jumped at the chance to pick her brain.

Brisbane pop-folk songstress Hannah Rosa. Photo credit: Bec Newman Photography https://www.facebook.com/BecNewmanPhotography?directed_target_id=0

Up-and-coming Brisbane songstress Hannah Rosa.
Photo credit: Bec Newman Photography https://www.facebook.com/BecNewmanPhotography?directed_target_id=0

“I started gigging three years ago at a restaurant near the Brisbane river doing background music. After a while I started entering myself into open mic nights and singer-songwriter showcases, that’s where it all started,” she said.

For those concerned about Brisbane being a difficult city to work in as a musician Hannah had the following advice.

“While the industry in Brisbane is quite small I think the internet has made it easier to connect with audiences from overseas, so it’s not as hard as it used to be. In saying that I don’t think you can stay in Brisbane forever though. If you really want to succeed, you have to be prepared to travel around.”

“I use a bunch of online outlets; I use Facebook the most but I also use Youtube, Twitter, Instagram, iTunes, BandCamp, CD Baby, Spotify and more.”

Hannah’s number one tip to musicians starting out is don’t give up.

“Have a lot of perseverance because things don’t just happen. You have to be willing to play to a lot of empty rooms before you get anywhere.”

(If you want to hear some of Hannah Rosa’s stuff, see her next gig dates or find out where to buy her EP go to her Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/hannahrosamusic?fref=ts)

So in summary I have come up with the following top tips for all those closet musicians wanting to get into gigging.
I present to you….

My tips for getting started in gigging

  • Look up open mic nights in your local area. They are a great way to get started as you often only get to play one to four songs and the audience aren’t expecting you to sound like Bon Iver
  • Practice! This seems obvious but you’d be surprised how nerves tend to affect people. Play the planned songs to a couple friends or family members before hand and pick out what song/s will be best for the gig. Do think about the type of audience you’ll have. If its a hipster joint try and avoid Justin Bieber like tunes…or just avoid them in general
  • Dress appropriately. You haven’t made it yet and you’re not Miley at the VMAs. Wear something comfortable to play in and something you have practiced in but don’t stress about it too much at the end of the day you’re going to be judged on your performance, not what you’re wearing.
  • Bring support. Perhaps don’t bring a whole rugby team of mates to your first gig as that will probably make you more nervous but just bring a couple trusted friends or loved ones who won’t heckle you on stage and will shout you a drink afterwards
  • Relax and enjoy the experience. So you were sweating like a pig and mucked up a couple words, no one really noticed and who cares – YOU DID IT! As everyone knows the first time you do something it’s going to be the scariest. So keep practicing, try and gig regularly and you’ll notice yourself getting more comfortable on stage. The only way is up and as ACDC said “It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock n’roll”

So there you have it. If you love music and want to share your talents with others the best thing to do is sign up to an open mic night and give it a go. If you’re nervous just youtube some of the X factor audition failures, not only will they make you feel a lot better about your musical ability but hopefully they’ll make you think ‘If these people can be this bad and perform on national television, I can play to crowd of of five people.’

Tricking tourists into thinking Brisbane is cool

In a couple of hours I’m heading to the airport and picking up two friends I made on my university exchange to Sheffield last year. They are coming to Oz for the first time and staying for just 2 weeks. They are spending 4 days of the trip in Sydney but the rest of their time they are staying with me in Brisbane.

I’ve been spending weeks trying to brainstorm ideas on where to take them then I had a lightbulb moment and thought..
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So friends I come to you with the desperate plea of helping me to make Brisbane seem ‘cool’.

Let’s face it, we’re no Melbourne. We’re not the cultural hotspot or shopping capital of the country. But we also aren’t the hole that is Canberra – thank goodness!

When overseas I was constantly questioned about Brisbane and what activities we offer for tourists. Most of the time I said well we’ve got the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast just an hour or so away, theme parks (again at the coast), and then well Southbank.

The problem I have worked out is that when you actually live somewhere you don’t view it like a tourist. When you’re on holiday you look up what events are on and everyday you fill the day with going to new places. Unfortunately when you live somewhere you tend to stick to what you know and what is comfortable. I am hoping to slowly break out of this and treat our city like a tourist does.

It started when I went to Black Bear Lodge in the valley last week to support a mate playing at their open mic night. Can I start by saying the Valley on a week night is SO NICE. Nothing like on a Saturday night when its filled with scantily dressed girls failing to walk in their sky-high heels. Blackbear Lodge was a ridiculously cool little hideaway AND (here’s the best bit) it wasn’t plagued with pretentious hipsters! Who knew such places still existed?!

Take Alfred & Constance for example. Awesome place, an old Queenslander turned into a bar and club with a tiki theme. Killin’ it. Sadly on a Saturday night it is so full of people that it’s like being in a mosh pit. I stand there trying not to get squished toes just thinking..

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So yes help a sister out.

Actually please scratch the last thing, I am the whitest girl in existence and definitely can’t pull that off.

I’m in search of day and night activities to show my english friends that Brisvegas is actually a place worth visiting. So please…

WHERE DO I TAKE THEM?!

R U OKAY?

It’s 1:45am and I’m in that magical part of youtube where every song suggested gives you goosebumps. It’s got treasures like Bon Iver’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” cover, Tom Odell “Another Love” and James Vincent Morrow’s haunting “Higher Love”.

But rather than continuing to deeper in to music wonderland I thought I should actually do something productive. Instead I ended up blogging.

In my PR lecture yesterday we were looking at campaign case studies, one of which was  ‘R U OKAY?’

R U OKAY is a non-for-profit organisation started by Gary Larkin after he lost hist father to suicide. The organisation’s website says its mission is “to encourage and empower all people to regularly and meaningfully ask ‘are you ok?’ to support those struggling with life.”

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I could not love this organisation or their purpose more. Even the way they have described their mission – “to support those struggling with life”. Because it’s not just for those with medically recognised issues or illnesses but just anyone who is having a rough time; which is everybody at some point or another.

After watching a campaign video and talking about the organisation I started thinking of all the times recently I’ve had people in my life ask if I’m okay. I’ve since come to the following conclusions.

  1. I clearly have a terrible poker face when something is up
  2. I’m incredibly lucky to have such great friends and family who look out for me
  3. What a difference a conversation can make!

You don’t have to be a young Dr Phil or even Oprah, you just need to listen and give a shit. I know being a girl I’m very used to talking things through with friends as well, we are emotional creatures and we’ve had a lot of practice. Late night D&Ms when we sleepover at a friend’s place, chats at the tuck shop at school, it’s all been training. Of course the content of these conversations has probably hopefully matured as has the advice…well in most cases. But regardless girls can generally approach this stuff without it being awkward. 

For our male counterparts its not so easy as being blokes they’ve been largely told by society that to be masculine is to be tough and are regularly told “harden up”. It’s times like these that despite all my complaints about long toilet lines, how long it takes to get ready, hairdressing costs and the whole being the one who gives birth thing; girls do have it pretty good.

I know society’s views are changing and with organisations like ‘R U OKAY’, ‘Soften the Fck Up’ and ‘Beyond Blue’ there is a lot more awareness then there used to be. However I can’t help but wish things were different.

I’m incredibly blessed to have not only loving parents and amazing girlfriends to talk to when I’m down but I’m also lucky to have ‘da boyz’ in my life who are there for me to talk to too. In fact if it wasn’t for some of those ‘soft’ guys I probably wouldn’t be keeping my head above water right now. So big thanks and kudos to the boys who are strong enough to be ‘softies’.

I hope to see the end of the whole ‘take a spoonful of cement and harden up’ thing because we are all human (yes even males) and we should all feel we can talk to someone when life is hard without being scrutinised.

You never know how much that conversation could mean to someone.

Maybe if someone had just sat down with Kim Jon II in ‘Team America: World Police’ and had a heart to heart asking him why he wanted to detonate bombs in nearly every country on the planet Alex Baldwin never would have had to die.

For tips on how to ask someone ‘R U OKAY’ follow the link: https://www.ruokday.com/resources-for-you/how-to-ask-r-u-ok/

Success

As I sit here rather zoned out in an afternoon lecture I start to think.
Why am I here?
Well that’s easy. In today’s world you have to have a university degree to be able to get a good job to get a good house to meet a good guy to have a good family to have a good life.

Basically to be successful. Right?

Well that’s what got me thinking. Why is that what Australian society makes us think ‘success’ is?
Is that what everyone aims for?
No. Well not right away. But isn’t that what’s always in the back of our minds?

I’m only 21 so my idea of success at the moment is getting out of bed in time to make it to my morning lecture.

However as I get to the end of my never ending university degree I am being asked more and more ‘what’s next?’
What’s after uni life? The classic ‘what are you going to be when you grow up?’

I was chatting to one of my mates at a 21st on the weekend and he was saying how he’d been honoured with an award at uni.
Of course I said congrats and asked if his parents were stoked about it.
This was followed up with “Nah not really, I won’t be successful until I get married and have kids”.
This kind of shocked me.

Being only 21 most of my friends idea of success at the moment is ticking the boxes.
You know ‘the list’. Every good rom com has informed us of.

  • Graduate
  • Get great job
  • Have best friends straight out of Sex & the City
  • Then of course it’s the playground favourite ‘Kissing In a Tree’. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage. End of.

As I look through Instagram and Facebook I am constantly shown images and status updates informing me of friends ticking off the big list.

Examples include:

  • So-and-so is now in a relationship with Ryan Gosling look-a-like (usually accompanied with super couple-y photo)
  • Graduated! (accompanied with degree certificate and happy photo throwing their mortarboard in the air)
  • Got my drivers licence! Got a new job! Got an internship with that awesome company! etc etc. You get the idea.

Then there’s the ‘other’ successes. You know what I’m talking about…
The shameless selfies.

I’m guilty of this too. The classic ‘I look good, everyone should see how good I look’ photos.
Be warned though: like chocolate, selfies must be taken in moderation.
See http://betabeat.com/2013/08/your-countless-selfies-are-alienating-everyone-around-you/

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When your instagram profile is just hundreds of photos of you in your room with a face full of make-up and hashtags like #bored #ugly #bedhair etc, then you have a problem. Also if you are one of those people blocking my newsfeed with ‘Going to the gym’, ‘Back from the gym’, ‘Feeling guilty, haven’t been to gym for 2 days’ selfies and progress shots (I’m looking at you Amanda Bynes…and you too Mickfear), I have only this to say…

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Sorry getting off topic. Selfie rant over.
Anyway my main point was despite us being generation Y and supposed to be outside the box and celebrate different milestones to those of our parents; it seems we are still trying to jump through those same hoops to be successful.

After being hit hard with 2012, the biggest year to ever happen to me, I was forced to really think about what it is that I want.

For me career is not the end all.
Academic success and climbing ‘the ladder’ don’t worry me.

When people ask me what I want to be when I grow up I’m going to just say ‘happy’.
Because in the end I don’t care what job I’m doing, what I care about is living life.
I’d rather travel and have incredible life experiences than worry about a mortgage and laying down ‘roots’.
I’m ridiculously sorry to paraphrase One Direction (trust me I am), but they put is so well/simply.For me my aim at the moment is just to ‘live while we’re young‘ (Boom! half my readership now disappears haha).

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But please if you’ve actually stuck with me and read this essay of a blog post. Comment and let me know what you think. I’d love to know what you guys aim for and think success is for you. 

I’ve been collecting quotes in a journal since I was 14 and despite an ever growing collection this one remains my favourite and is what I will end on. As to me, this is what success really is.

“To laugh often and much; 
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 – 1882)

And so it begins…

My first ever blog – It’s been a long time coming. I had meant to write a blog when I moved to the UK for 7 months last year and had heaps to write about; but nope the thing that finally pushes me into blogging is my uni course or more specifically Online Journalism #qutjo1.

Well first things first, I best introduce myself. I’m Ellie Robinson.

Of course if you are my mum or a potential employer you may prefer to call me by my ‘proper’ name Eleanor. I’m 21, a QUT Journalism/Public Relations student in my fourth year of study; living for the day when I move in to a share-house and have the life of a twenty-something year old promised to me by ‘Friends’ and ‘New Girl’.

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 I’m an amateur photographer, wannabe world traveller and when it comes to blogging I am like Bambi so please be patient with me as I find my feet.