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On a cold day in December 2009, a troupe of eager Kate Bush fans and interpretive dancing enthusiasts gathered in Bristol to help promote Adventures in Kate Bush and Theory which is being published March 2010.

The result is this epic five minute trailer, made by the endlessly talented Emma Thatcher. Enjoy!

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I am an author

These photos come from a few days of hard work madly moving stuff around in my room in order to make a DIY photo studio. Originally the fire was lit in the photos, but then we ran out of wood. Check out the sweet altar in the right hand side of the photo.

The photos are author portraits for the press release of Adventures in Kate Bush and Theory which is being published is 2 months time!

Happy Anniversary

On Feb 28th this year, it will be 40 years since the first ever Women’s Liberation Movement conference took place in the UK.

To get yourself in the mood, cast your eyes over this gem, the documentary A Woman’s Place, which has footage from the conference and from a march in 1971.

A new year inevitably brings with it re-evaluations of your life situation. What are you doing, what will the next 12 months hold, what possibilities for renewal, what same mistakes will be made?

My own particular existential angst these past few days has been fixated on the idea of legitimation: what does it mean to have your work or ideas legitimised by others, and what does it mean when your work isn’t? How do people creating or working outside of dominant frameworks have the strength to carry on if the value of what they are doing is not recognised? By being recognised I mean being funded or supported by an institutional body, either through a placement or a steady job, or having people put your work out (record companies, publishing houses and so forth), or have some kind of public acknowledgement of the value of what you are doing (good reviews, etc).

I’ve been thinking through these questions with the backdrop of the economic climate, which seems to be grinding to ever more spectacular halts. While the impact of the recession continues to resonate through our lives, with it comes the disappearance of work for precariously funded ventures and the cultural industries as a whole. As such, the paths for legitimised creative working become ever more slim and we have find our own alternatives, we have to create our own legitimation.

As a woman and queer who finds it hard to compromise (but is learning the value of listening to criticism and humility), I know that I have to fight hard to be a creative agent within a culture that remains, on the whole, pretty hostile to me. Likewise I know that I also have privilege which enables me to play the games easier, and which I use to my advantage as well (I can write funding applications and be middle class when I need to be).

I think the biggest tool I have at my disposal, however, is being steeped in the values of do it yourself (DIY) culture. On a daily basis it gives me such a sense of personal legitimation, the power to shape and mould my own life on my own terms. Given the current economic climate, many other creative people are also, I imagine, in the same position. Without a job that would potentially de-radicalise them by being inserted into institutional rhythms and patterns, there is the possibility of a loose, creative meandering in our own time. This time can be used to scurry and twist the reality of personal destiny with a message of our own making. What do we say outside of the hyper-speed of late capitalism? What are our desires and what will we make?

The down side of the economic situation, of course, is perpetual poverty, but at least many people are in the same boat. A benefit is that we may be forced into more public encounters to spread information. The possibilities for free and accessible education may increase as people, like me, who are simply passionate about what they know will have to organise public educational events else they will explode. If I can’t get a job in a university because there aren’t any, I’m going to create my
own forms of dissemination and encounter.

Likewise with research. If I can’t get funding for research projects, I’m just going to go ahead and do the research anyway. Well that was my revelation for this week. I need to just set up my own research schema (and obviously pick up paid work where I can) and get on with it. I desperately want to develop my skills as a researcher, in particular in the realm of history. As my PhD was in a critical theory, I didn’t exactly gain any worthwhile skills. Already I’ve learnt so much from just doing historical research in a DIY context (interviewing people, rooting through archives), and again I feel inspired daily by this ethic which never fails to give me a sense of personal power.

Maybe the recession is just giving me the chance to be ever more belligerant about doing my own thing, but in these times of despair for many it is important to realise there is hope, that we can still do what we love without being validated by anyone. It is also important to build networks, have mentors and not be isolated as you build your life in the way that you want it to be. So while this may be a lag for many, it may also be a time where we can be creative in different ways, and with a different purpose. Calamity can be fortunate sometimes.

katebush_coverforreal

Please click on this link for the cover of Adventures in Kate Bush and Theory, which is being published in March by HammerOn Press.

Thankyou to the amazing Caroline Duffy for all her hard work on this.

Advance praise for the book is coming in already. This week Mark Radcliffe described the book as ‘an in-depth labour of love by a genuine Bush fanatic,’ while the wondrous Allyson Mitchell said these nice things:

‘I have never in my life laughed out loud while reading cultural theory. Until now! Deborah Withers has created a text that is a dream come true for gender studies, musicology and fandom. This is just what we hoped for, a weaving of theory, historical data, imagination and activism tied with astute observation and wry wit. This intense semi-biographical read through the oeuvre of Kate Bush is something to be proud of. Cultural Studies has met its match in a readable stretch of the boundaries of theory and genres.’

I’m getting very excited about this now, I hope you are as well.

Someone, I can’t remember who, asked me recently if I had a signature dish. My immediate response was yes, of course, it is my incredible vegan lasagne. Following some searches on the internet I recently found out that unfermented soya (e.g. soya milk, tofu, t.v.p.) is probably about the worst thing someone with eczema can put into their body, so one of my main ingredients for said signature dish was cruelly wiped off the menu forever. Well, not that cruel, let’s face it, t.v.p. is hardly the tastiest thing in the world, just something cheap I used to fill up the space in the lasagne tray. Incidently, since avoiding soya and bread for a week my eczema has almost cleared up which, as you can imagine, I am overjoyed about. Why did no one tell me before?

When faced with an evening in for New Years with two of the most important ladies in my life, I had only one viable option: to make the tastiest vegan lasagne in the world to delight their taste buds, warm their souls and make them love me just that little bit more. And make it I did, and love me more they only could.

It was so delicious that I am going to share the recipe with you now. For extra best results, use organic ingredients!

You will need for the

Filling

Passata
1 large onion
1 tin of chick peas (or equivalent dried mass, if you are organised)
1 tin of pinto beans (as above)
2 large flat mushrooms
1 medium squash, peeled and diced into small bits
2 medium beetroots, or one biggy
A liberal splash of balsamic vinegar
3 cloves of garlic, pulped
lots of fresh thyme
1 tablespoon carob syrup
salt, pepper, paprika
oil to fry

Process: Heat the oil and sprinkle in a tablespoon of paprika til really hot, then add the onion, fry. Then add the squash, mushrooms, beetroot. Continue to fry. Add the beans, fresh thyme, garlic, the liberal splash of balsamic vinegar and cook until it feels right. When that moment comes, pour in the passata and add the carob syrup, salt and pepper and let it simmer away til its yummy all the way through. Winter vegetables and squashes work so well in lasagne, don’t be afraid of using them!

Sauce

A generous tablespoon of sunflower spread
2 tablespoons of plain wholemean flour
Rice milk
1 teaspoon of vegetable boullion
1 generous tablespoon of peanut butter
Salt, pepper

Process: Melt the spread, when completely melted add flour and make a Roux (when I was smaller I thought a roux was called a ‘fut’). Add the rice milk in small increments and mix into the roux until you have a sauce. You need to be patient with white sauce (which is essentially what you will be making). Keep stirring it whatever you do and it will thicken, I promise. Add the peanut butter, the bouillion, salt and pepper and it will make the sauce yummy.

When this is done, you need to put the lasagne together. Oh, forgot to say, in the meantime, pre-heat the oven to 200c ready for you to put the delicious beast in. Put a layer of filling in the biggest and deepest dish you have in your collection, then add a bit of sauce, then a layer of lasagne. I used a verdi lasagne which was delish, so I recommend that for sure. Then repeat until you have no mix left. This should be enough to make about 3 layers.

For the final layer you need to make sure you leave enough sauce to completely coat the pasta on the top layer. On top of that, sprinkle sunflower or pumpkin seeds to make it all crunchy and hippy.

Then, whack it in your pre-heated oven for about 30-40 minutes, until the pasta is cooked all the way through, and I promise you, it will be the most delicious soya-free vegan lasagne you have ever tasted.

Serve with a salad of your choosing, but I always like a few olives, avocado, toasted seeds, red pepper, lettuce all covered in an olive oil and lemon dressing. Mmmmmmmmmmmm.

Cover image for Adventures in Kate Bush and Theory, coming in March 2010 from HammerOn Press.

Thanks to Caroline Duffy for designing it.

For all you design geeks, Caroline has blogged about the process of making the cover, as well as her thought about the book itself here.