Category Archives: Culture

Abigail Jackson: Healing women’s hearts one literary anthology at a time

In searching for a way to combine her joint passion for literature and women’s rights, 24-year-old teaching assistant and aspiring novelist, Abigail Jackson, from Lewisham South-East London, founded the Red Ink Project a not-for-profit anthology which documents the female experience.

Abigail Jackson Founder of the Red Ink ProjectLaunched in 2012 during Abi’s second year at Greenwich University where she’s now a PHD candidate examining emotion and identity in post-colonial Caribbean literature she ’wanted to give women a chance to express themselves under the banner of human rights’.

On a bus journey home, Abi decided to start the project once and for all.

A themed anthology published every two years, with the first year’s proceeds going to charity, the project champions storytelling as a way to ‘break the cycle of silence’, while its name represents that although ‘we all have the same blood, we’re treated differently’.

She said: “Sometimes it’s easy for us to believe that our story is the only one and by putting yours out there, you’ll never know how you’re affecting somebody else who’s reading it.

“One thing that’s important about sharing stories is so that people know they’re not alone and although not everybody enjoys reading non-fiction, I think biographies are so popular because we want to know about people’s lives and to see if there’s anything similar in our own.”

Moved to tears by some of the first submissions under the theme, Rites of Passage; Rights of Womanhood, which included stories of sexual abuse, ‘coming out’ and loss Abi was particularly moved by one woman’s grief, which forced her to relive a painful moment in her own life.

She said: “This lady wrote a letter to her dad who had passed away around the same time as my grandma, so it brought up a lot of the emotions that I felt and things that I could’ve said that I wasn’t able to.”

Abigail’s grandmother died suddenly on the same morning she and her family had planned to visit.

“To arrive and be told that she’d passed an hour ago was very upsetting,” she said.

She added: “There was also another lady who’d gone through a very difficult childhood experience where she’d been sexually abused and at the end of her story she wrote a poem to express another aspect of how she felt. It was an unusual way of doing it but her story ended positively, she’s now happily married.

“I loved that all Rites of Passage; Rights of Womanhood anthology the stories didn’t stop at the suffering or struggle, at the end they overcame their issues and that’s very important too.”

Surprised by the success of the first anthology that began as a WordPress blog, Abi initially struggled finding women to submit.

Men showed more of an interest in the page, something she found ‘really strange but encouraging’, and it wasn’t until she posted an advert online through the Guardian that ‘things started getting serious’, which prompted a relaunch and brand new website.

Fast-forward post its release, Abi was daunted at having to reinvigorate people’s interest in the project for its second edition and explained how a chance meeting with Laura Bates, founder of The Everyday Sexism Project, helped renew her confidence.

She said: “At the secondary school I used to work at as a library assistant, the head of the library was such an activist. His issue was sexism in school and so he managed to get Laura in for the day. I knew I wasn’t going to get this opportunity again so I spoke to her and we had this long chat about feminism and womanism.

“Since then we’ve kept in contact and she’s said that whenever something is happening that she’ll retweet and share it for me, so she also gave me the confidence to think it was a project that could go further and get people’s attention.”

Now technically in its fourth year, submissions for the 2016 anthology, Out of Body Experience, an exploration of the female body in today’s society, have now opened.

Provoked by the need to address ‘something not quite right’ in conversations happening across communities and the media, current events such as the politicising of Nadiya Hussain’s British Bake Off win and comedian Nicole Arbour’s controversial, Dear Fat People video, all inspired this emotive theme.

Screen Shot 2015-10-13 at 12.42.42

She said ‘it went viral for all the wrong reasons’.

“There was just no compassion at all which is why people feel how they do about themselves.

“Although it’s personal, the female body is something that’s quite political.

Source: The Guardian online. Photograph by Linda Nylind.

Source: The Guardian online. Photograph by Linda Nylind.

“I loved Great British Bake Off so when Nadiya won I was happy because she was the best one there, but it was interesting how quickly features about her appeared in the media because ‘she’s actually British’ and wears a hijab.”

The proceeds of anthology sales will this time support Daughters of Eve, a charity founded by prolific female genital mutilation campaigner, Leyla Hussein.

Her 2014 Channel 4 documentary, The Cruel Cut, helped put FGM back on the national agenda and ‘debunked the myths’ that it was a strictly African practice not happening here in the UK.

‘Speechless’ after watching the hour long programme, Abi had already been following the charity on Twitter and was ‘impassioned’ by their work, but felt they deserved far more exposure.

With the anthology priced low at £1 for an e-copy and £4 for a printed version, Abi hopes to raise close to £100 for Daughters of Eve this year, but is unsure of what to expect when proceeds from the first book totalled half of this.

Down the line she would love to be able to transition from self-publishing to using an independent publisher, but more importantly, Abi wants the anthology to have a wider audience and regards it as a springboard for budding writers.

She said: “The main reason why I started the Red Ink Project is for people to have a platform but also for these women to share stories.

“They’ve been so brave and it’d be great if they had a huge audience so people can be touched in the same way I was.”

In between studying for her PHD and working with young people, Abi has recently submitted her own short stories for publication to an anthology and is putting the finishing touches on a novel.

She added: “I’m hoping to send it off to agents within the year, if I just pull my socks up and start editing it properly.”

Submissions for RED INK Vol. 2: Out of Body Experience close on January 1 2016.

For more information visit:

Follow Abigail on Twitter here.


Collaborative marketing project in Birmingham launches new magazine

Earlier this week when I came across Forge Magazine, it was described as ‘interactive’ and something that aimed to highlight creative talent across the Midlands, from varying disciplines – but I had no idea what to expect.

What I later found out is that Forge wasn’t founded by a single individual, despite what I thought initially, but in fact a collective of young marketers who themselves have formed The Icing Agency, under the Mac Birmingham’s ongoing Next Generation Project.

A scheme designed to offer young people aged between 14 and 30 opportunities to learn and break into the creative industries, the Next Generation Creative Agency produced Forge – a slick collection of insightful features, illustration and photography.

Source: Twitter @tombirduk

Source: Twitter @tombirduk

Ashleigh Moore, the magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, though she was keen to point out it was a joint effort between some 10 plus contributors, explained that it was important for Forge to create a publication for emerging creatives and something that would benefit this demographic.

She said: “Sometimes they just need that platform, that little thing that says, ‘Look I’m here’ which will then take them forward.

“We also wanted to give a broad overview of the creative opportunities that are available and the ways you can get into the creative industries so everyone put their heads down and thought about them, what they were passionate about.

“When you look through you’ll see that each person has contributed to this.”

Screen Shot 2015-10-11 at 17.16.03

Ashleigh Moore addressing the intimate audience. Source: Twitter @KristinaOMedia

With the magazine’s layout designed by Fused Media – the publishers responsible for the renowned culture bible, Fused – Art Director, Anya Jung created Forge’s iconic cover illustration and designed the exclusive black and white sleeve which was available at the launch.

She said: “It was a collaborate between me and Louise Byng, who works at the Mac, we really wanted to create something pleasing to look at but not too high brow, we didn’t want to go into contemporary art magazine style at all.

“We were influenced by wrap magazine which is an illustrated magazine and also Oh Comely magazine which is lovely – we like it quite a lot.”

To find out more about what was a mysterious new offering in Birmingham’s print world, I spoke with both Ashleigh and Anya, for a not so ‘random’ podcast. (My phrase on the audio, not theirs.)

For more information about the Next Generation programme click here.

To request a free copy of Forge magazine head to their Facebook page.

GIG REVIEW: Bipolar Sunshine at the Ritz Manchester

Dulcet tones and hymnal backing vocals produced a calming sense of stillness at the Ritz Manchester last night.

Source: Chuff Media

Source: Chuff Media

Bipolar Sunshine lulled me into a trance only to rouse me from the slumber with beautiful melodies and lyrics that rang out like anthems.

It was an interesting experience, and yet somehow unexpected, despite the purposeful use of juxtaposition within his studio material and new creative direction.

Harmonic vocals ensnared the crowd and while lyrics, ‘I feel the fire’ echoed around the room so too did the rapturous applause once the last note was played. Sunset orange filled the stage for the aptly titled, Fire, and while Bipolar was quiet, the cheering continued.

Bipolar Sunshine, real name: Adio Marchant, knew exactly what he was doing on stage but yet didn’t need to do much at all. The audience were with him all of the way – phones and plastic cups of beer in the air, leaving Marchant and the band to continue without gimmicks.

Addressing the crowd near the end of his set, he declared: “I always make sure the last place I play is Manchester,” before rapping acapella in his uniquely crafted spoken-word style. Though Bipolar has made a conscious decision to step away from a sound synonymous with Manchester, you only had to look around at the indie crowd to know he’s made a mark on the alternative music scene here.

Relatable on stage without unnecessary decoration, reverberating drumbeats and synths added striking depth to his musical offerings. Magic was created when other genres like Ska seeped through and the crescendo of a four-piece band touched the soul of every person in the audience.

Performing all of the best tracks in his arsenal: Where Did The Love Go, Rivers, Love More Worry Less, I suspect we’ll be waiting until festival season to see him live again. Marking the last few minutes of his UK tour with Daydreamers, at least I have the album on my hard drive to see me through to summer.

Originally published on Mancunian Matters 

Infrastructure to Industry: Hip Hop Birmingham’s Call to Action

Undeniably the UK plays a part in the wider Hip Hop narrative and for some time British names have enjoyed international notoriety for their contribution to, what was a genre dominated by Black America.

Followers of the industry know all too well the issues that blight UK Hip Hop, but directing the debate on a regional level is the upcoming Infrastructure to Industry – the city’s call to action on Saturday 24 January at the Rep Theatre, Broad Street.

Infrastructure to Industry Flyer

Hosted by Mandisa Speaks, with guest speakers including Malik MD7, Big Ted, Sic’nis and Colin Rox of Four Pillars London, this open forum is Birmingham’s chance to manifest positive outcomes in our Hip Hop scene. Filmed and streamed live online, expect special performances from Dan Man, Birmingham turntablist DJ Miss C Brown and E Double D.

With just nine days to go click here for tickets and in the meantime, I leave you with an exclusive set from Miss Brown, featuring classic UK Hip Hop blended using, “MP4s, two turntables and Serato,” she says.

“I put the mix together to try and capture some of the different sounds prevalent in UK Hip Hop – including the heavy reggae influences.

“In my opinion this is one of the things that sets UK Hip Hop apart from Hip Hop in the US.”

Full Tracklist

  • Mystro – Cockadoodle doo
  • Blak Twang speaks
  • RU1 fam ft Logic & Amy True – 1 Love
  • Klashnekoff – It’s Murda
  • Amnesia ft Bham All Stars – Birmingham City
  • Joe Black – Usual Suspects
  • OP – Say Nuttn (snippet)
  • Rodney P speaks
  • Rodney P – The Nice Up
  • Roots Manuva – Witness
  • Blak Twang – So Rotten
  • RTkal – Sleng Teng
  • Inf Diggy & Cheba – Mic Check

REPOST: Urban Bush Babes – The Swedish ‘Loc Twins’ Elizabeth and Victoria Lejonhjärta

Come play with us Danny

A post shared by Elizabeth/Victoria Lejonhjärta (@lejonhjerta) on

Above is a repost from a site I need to spend a lot more time on, Urban Bush Babes: ‘An online publication featuring two friends and passionistas creating the definitive source for natural hair, fashion, health, music, film, lifestyle and arts & culture while living in NYC and Austin.’

Twin sisters Elizabeth and Victoria Lejonhjärta from Sweden/Sápmi are profiled here and not only was I in awe of their hair (obviously), but their message about remaining true to you, simplistic style and honesty about it all resonates with me, so with that said, it was worth a share.

Aeolian Light Installation at The Quays, Salford

Large scale installations like this always need an explanation as most can’t figure them out, but rarely do people complain. Their purpose is to elicit an emotional response from passers-by. In this case, that’s a smile; having people look up and get lost in their reverie and the magic of pretty lights and changing colours. 

Aeolian Light Pink taken by Vicky GayleAeolian Light taken by Vicky Gayle

Erected as of 18 December 2014, it’s only open for three more days at The Lowry Outlet Mall, Salford. ‘Aeolian Light is a monolithic, immersive & interactive light installation in the heart of The Quays that visualises the wind as an illuminated, chaotic force.’ (From But what it represents to me, especially with it being a new year is that change is imminent, even within our sometimes enclosed lives. Looking up and out in the distance can give us the change of perspective or image that we’ve been searching for.

Had my phone not decided to die after taking just three photographs, I’d have surrounded myself in the magic and snapped a selfie, maybe.

Fish and Chips On a Plate – My First 1st of 2015

At Broughton Lane’s own fish bar, better known as Melville’s, just off Lord Street, Salford. Nestled amongst uniformly built new properties and given where I’m from in Birmingham – in the middle of nowhere.

Blame my temperamental phone for not being able to take a genuine picture plus the people there would have looked at me quite strangely.

Blame my temperamental phone for not being able to take a genuine picture plus the people there would have looked at me quite strangely.

Hunger may have been the driving force, or my reluctance to dine alone on Friday night in a busy Manchester restaurant, but ultimately, nobody can resist an offer when it’s packaged so temptingly: £3.50 Fresh Fish and Chips with Tea/Coffee or Cold Drink. Nothing had travelled my oesphogus all day – I was theirs.

Dunked in smooth, creamy batter, a small fillet straight from the fridge drawer was dropped into boiling oil, but unlike the half-dead slimy stuff that usually coats my Cod at home, this batter was a crispy, golden suit of armour, and the flesh inside was bright white and flaky for a change. Given a choice between Gravy or Curry Sauce, there’s no contest – it’s always the latter – my chips swam in a salty sweet pool while the fish was presented to me like a trophy; proudly sat on top of ‘proper’ chips.

Cutlery wrapped in a napkin; coffee delivered plate side at my table and all from a local chippy – I was beyond impressed, though from the reserve on my face, she’d never tell. Only thing is, I wish the white cup had been a better washed one as it was hard to tell the last clean bit of porcelain I’d perched my lips on. Unless they spilt the coffee a bit when stirring, but for £3.50 and while in a strange part of Manchester, this usually particular lady was not going to ask for a new one.