“It’s called a hustle, sweetheart.” The resolutely difficult advice to follow.

To celebrate getting a PhD scholarship, I did what any normal adult would do. I went straight to the movies (one of my favourite things to do) and went to see Zootopia (or Zootropolis as it’s called in the UK).  YOLO.

During the movie, it became clear why I had been patiently awaiting the release of this movie.

The film takes place in the vibrant, diverse world of Zootopia, a place where predators and prey live together in harmony, and are free to be whoever and whatever they want to be. These reasons are precisely why the land attracts Judy Hopps, a small bunny with dreams of being a police officer. Living on a farm, her parents fear this because, not only has a bunny never become a police officer, but they feel Judy should confine her aspirations to selling carrots on the family farm because that’s what is expected of her by society, something Judy has no interest in doing.

After successfully – but through hardship – completing police training, Judy is thrust into the force alongside other, more muscled animals such as rhinoceroses, rams, bulls, and elephants. Oh my.

Judy’s boss, Chief Bogo , a buffalo, forces her to be a “metermaid” while the other animals take on the bigger crimes, specifically a case involving fourteen missing predators. Judy tries to show herself by issuing over two-hundred citations in just a couple of hours, but to no avail, as Chief Bogo wants to make sure she knows her place on the Zootopia police force. When Judy winds up catching a weasel after robbing a store, she is just about to be fired when Chief Bogo tasks her with finding a local otter who has been missing for over a week. If she can find the otter in forty-eight hours or less, she can keep her job, but if she doesn’t, she’ll be forced to resign. Judy enlists in the help of Nick Wilde, a fox, one of the most looked-down-upon predators in Zootopia, who has been doing number of odd jobs since he was young, after blackmailing him in order to get him to cooperate. Together, the two work to find the otter, but in turn, discover something bigger. Oh my.

As you can probably tell, this is a film about both racism and sexism and underlying that – social-class (my favourite chip-on-my shoulder)  & how fear creates hate. Screenwriters Jared Bush and Paul Johnston carefully construct a world, predicated upon a particular dream, and within that world, populate it with a variety of characters, some labeled as normative, others quietly labeled as the enemy that many are waiting to step out of line. Bush and Johnston pen Zootopia carefully, but bluntly, to the point where you can’t ignore its profound, but simple message of inclusion and acceptance of peers. Oh my.

But on top of this, is the message about not giving up on your dreams, pushing boundaries and always attempting – no matter how hard it seems – to make the world a better place, no matter how small that thing is. Don’t let society dictate to you what they think you should be doing, if that’s what you really want. Always fight against the status quo.

I love movies with messages like this. Like Eddie The Eagle, who constantly shows us – it’s not about the triumph in life, it’s about the struggle. It’s about doing what you love, and not giving up in the face of immense adversity. Eddie The Eagle is another movie that shows the  working class character (based on truth this time) stick 2 fingers up (metaphorically, through determination) at the elitism of Great Britain Olympics Committee and whilst doesn’t win any medals, he wins a place in our hearts because he amplifies what it means to keep going.

Part of me sees my life narrative reflected in these hollywood-poetic license stories.  I think sometimes people think I’m exaggerating what I’ve been through in my life. From homelessness, domestic violence, i’ve had to be a carer, i’ve done some amazing travel, endured crazy poverty, the amount of jobs i’ve had to work to make ends meet or to do what others just naturally have the opportunity to do, life-altering (chronic) illness, terrible accidents (mostly on bike), fires, ect, ect. It’s all true. The good shadows the bad, but the bad has been pretty horrific – and I know many people from my background are enduring much worse. And society allows for this to happen, or to continue the unfairness that propels it further, or makes it difficult to get out of.

It gives me this weird -bittersweet – perspective of the world. I have my weight in empathy and in understanding how exploited and unfair and socially unjust our society is & how all the structures are generated to helping middle class and beyond people success, whilst discriminate those with less and working-class & below..  I think this kind of understanding probably only becomes so cemented when you experience life from the other side. Or see how your friends on the other side live.

I’m grateful to be alive,  I’m blessed to have all my friends, I’m just so lucky to have had the opportunities I’ve had and to follow what I love (art) & people pay me to do it for them & for the support I’ve had along the way & currently on this journey. I’ve visited many countries now because my university education allowed me a passport to see the world and work in different cultures.

 And literally, 17 year old smizz, or even current Smizz,  would never ever, ever, ever really  would believe i’d be here.

I’ve always felt a bit kind of behind everyone else, you know – in everything – art, radiotherapy, academia, life. Like a bit of an outsider, and a bit stupid. I’ve always had this chip-on my shoulder about the background I’ve come from & everything I’ve had to do to get where I am compared to a lot of my friends and peers. That i’m not as articulate, as likeable & as quick as others,  and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to compete. The world loves talent – but pays in character. And I kind of have neither.

And so it felt fitting, to celebrate my next chapter watching Zootopia. And Eddie the Eagle.  It reminds me that to “succeed”, we have to take risks.

We have to take bold leaps and move forward, brave and scared shitless at the same time. We will undoubtedly fall flat on our face. It happens. But we learn, make adjustments and not fall as hard or as far the next time.

But when we fail to trust ourselves to take that leap in the first place—that’s the real problem. It becomes an excuse to indulge our fear: to believe that we are not in fact talented or worthy enough— to believe that our crappy yet comfortable circumstances should win. This particular lack of momentum is called “Business As Usual” and it can continually crush our plans for greatness.

We don’t fail by falling. We only fail when we stop taking the leap. The idea is from Rumi’s observation, “Birds make great sky-circles of their freedom. How do they learn it?
They fall and falling, they’re given wings.”

Keep going. Keep jumping, keep falling. Don’t let others, or society imply, what you should be doing and how to do it.

I’ll try and remember this too.

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The world isn’t yet done.

Being freelance and working from home, I slowly turned into a sucker for cooking shows like Masterchef, The Great British Bake-Off, The Taste, Come-Dine-With me, and almost anything on the Food Network. No cooking show was too long or too low-brow and underproduced for me.  I thought it was probably an age thing – I never watched this stuff when I was younger: turned out it was just a love of different foods (probs due to aging-maturity) but I think it was more to do with avoiding doing work/relaxation thing. This became clearer as a healthcare student – I watched these shows even more religiously. The MasterChef series is ALWAYS on when I’m trying to revise for exams or have 100 deadlines. Trying to avoid reality.

One day after clinical placement, my housemates and I sat down with our food to eat and watch food on the TV. This was a show about a bunch of chefs trying to make it in this Italian restaurant/bakery engrained in tradition and processes. One of the young chefs tries to take a bunch of short-cuts and the older chefs catches him – and tells him off – saying, “that’s not how we do it here! We do it the long, hard, stupid way”. Which is stuff like not using yesterdays bread, making fresh new bread instead, making the soup from scratch. ect ect.

And this really stuck with me. The Long-Hard-Stupid-Way.

I think I do everything the long, hard, stupid way. I often get told this. If there’s an easy or a hard way – you can guarantee that i’ll find the hardest way first. My mom says it’s because I don’t have any common sense.

But I started thinking about the routes I’ve taken to get where I am now. And I wonder if I could take an easier path – would i have taken it? The answer is probably no. And I started finding pleasure in reflecting upon this rough, hard-stupid-way path.

There’s a whole spectrum of – here’s the long hard stupid way  – which is ultimately the way I seem to be compelled to make & do things, and then at the other end we have super efficient way over there.

When you work the long hard stupid way – it looks a lot like worrying, scratching new ideas, endless notebooks, trying to learn things you’d never dream of  doing before, it’s a lot of others looking at you like you’ve got it wrong, it’s staying up late and then having to get up early the next day (killer), it’s not returning your library books on time,  but all of these actions are inspired by just caring a lot.

That’s not to say you can’t be efficient and not care deeply – but i, personally, don’t know how to do that.

But behind the long-hard-stupid way is a gift. It’s a lot of heart.

It’s staying up late, and sketching out plans and learning how to code smart-phone apps (FYI – it’s not the same as making a website which I originally thought it would be. Just because you know italian doesn’t mean you’ll be able to speak french), and taking the time to make it – without ever thinking about having a plan to make it accessible. Turns out making apps is a rollercoaster.

It’s going through a really testing health-issue, that literally breaks who you are – and makes you question everything you are & your worth– and going through the system that doesn’t know what to do with you – because you’re not a child and not an old adult – and instead of being a normal person and try and change the system from the outside, you decide to re-train and try to make the difference yourself,  inside the system.

It’s deciding to apply for things you’ll probably never get accepted to do – for the love of learning new things, and the process, and meeting new people – & ultimately hoping that the rejection and the attempt itself  will lead to more change and things to build upon for the future.

And most of all, it’s deciding to do all of it together – at once. Long-hard-stupid-way.

Freelancing is often the long-hard-stupid-way. You’re never sure how much work you’re ever going to get. So you just say yes to pretty much everything, just on the off chance you hit a lull and therefore you’ll still have some money coming in.  All the while – burning yourself out. The thing is, you always work more hours than you get paid to work. Life-work balance is hard to strike. And you can never officially take a sick day.

Working alone is hard. Being your own investor is hard (& stupid sometimes). And running all of these things together – teaching, app making, website designing, conference drawing, illustration commissioning, clinical-student-ing, academic-working – all while feeling crappy & being broke- is super long, hard  & stupid – and to do it responsibly is even harder.

Learning to work your life-balances out is hardwork. And it’ll probably take you some long-hard-stupid-ways before you know when is the right time to say yes and when to say no. A friend of mine when i was feeling so awful from fatigue & I felt like i was letting people down told me – you gotta say no if you really want to say yes.

Would i have ever wanted to go straight into healthcare from school? The answer would have been hell-naw. I didn’t have the empathy. I didn’t have the experiences I have now. I needed to experience the hardship to gain the drive.

So even though the long, hard, stupid way is just that, what it produces is something cool. When we work this way, it sort of gains an empheral quality. It’s sort of in the air – everything always feels up in the air. Whenever we make things this way – either for ourselves or for other people. There’s some kind of value in that. And that value exists outside of commericalization or money. And I love that. It sort of becomes a gift.

The thing with gifts is that – you have to be given a gift. You can’t ask for one. The more a gift moves, the more value it gains (has it been passed on through the family, does it fill a gap – a representation of a bond, is it using someones time) — like wise – the more work you put into something – the more value is gained. Ultimately a gift  is a sacrifice.

Essentially the best work I do is when I say something or do something or give something , to really help people (in every/any way), or to people I really care about.

But the biggest potential is that – Doing things the long, hard, stupid way – you learn all sorts (mostly wrong things) – but you get a gift. Or you create a gift for others.

It’s that you can build a foundation or something for people. My practice is driven by my  belief in making things for other people. Whether that’s making time to listen and to help, making something to make people think, making something that will better their experience, making something that brings people together, to make someone laugh or feel heard. By making something for other people, by considering someone else it moves the edges of our beings closer together and we gain more overlap in the process.

And we should look at these overlaps, to talk to each other. to know what we all have in common and to create more situations to create more commonalities. And by doing this we can some how grasp the wonder that is so hard to grasp – of what lies in the heart of making – and making things the long, hard, stupid way.

And when I think about all the awful things this government is doing and pushing through – from ruining the NHS, and demoralizing Junior Doctors, to entrenching a future generation in 50,000 + debt for education, to cruel benefit changes, to making students criminals if they can’t pay back their student loan immediately after they’ve finished university, to trying to get rid of our human rights, to airstriking syria, to stopping free dinners for children who can’t afford to eat. It makes me so, so, so angry. And even helpless.

But the long, hard, stupid way is all about continuing to try, push and make something – we don’t care about barriers – or the challenges – or even the outcome: the gift that comes out of making things for others shows and says for  us to stop, look and look around us. It says everything is possible again. And the world isn’t yet done.

If we can find the courage, and the strength to make things (whatever that is) for others, we can give these gifts back to one another. There’s so much more what unites us than what separates us. People power goes a long way – even if its the long, hard, stupid way.

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What should you be spending more time on?

I’m self-employed, and a full-time clinical based health-care student – and professional poorly person.  So I can’t stop thinking about work. When you’re by yourself, it’s easy to overwork yourself.

I’ve realized recently that my family (my mom & my bro) is full of people who work very hard. They all work extremely hard and they enjoy it. It took years for me to figure out that that’s a trait that was passed onto me.

When I’m working, I’m being functional and useful to someone, but I’m also making money to pay the rent. When I can, I like to work on personal projects because it gives me an avenue for self-expression – and to try and make change. I can put work out on the Internet that people might like and, by extension, hopefully like me. Which is secretly a lot of what I want from my work.

What I’m realizing is that there are other areas of my life that need that same sort of focus and rigor that I give to work & sleep. There are friendships and relationships and things that are every bit as important.

There’s half of me that is very proud of the work that I’ve made and where it has taken me. But there’s another half of me that knows that I live in Leeds/Sheffield/Doncaster and that I’m very privileged to already have a masters,  be studying radiotherapy and making the work I’m making. When I was growing up, my mom worked 2 low-paid jobs – just to make rent. These days, she only works 1 low-paid job to try and make rent. No one ever told me i could or should go to university – because it wasn’t ever a thing, no one does that in my family. I just discovered it some how in the last year and half of school but my mom has always been so supportive of everything I do, she basically told me ‘Don’t just do something to make money, find something you love and find someone who appreciates you for it. And then try and get a job.’ Whilst she was drunk last weekend she told me to, “Try, take risks, fail doing stuff, because it doesn’t matter – this is always your home. You will always have a roof over your head. I just want you to be happy. I don’t care if you fail or get 100% – because you’ll get there — and I’m proud of you anyways.”

I’m always  aware of where I come from.  My friends parents know all about the league tables of the universities they attend, and their parents help them pay the rent.  They come from homes with hot-tubs, and convertible cars.  No one in my family understands the value of higher education. But it doesn’t mean they don’t support me – even if they think what I do (my art-freelancing stuff) “isn’t a real job” lol.    But I’m also aware of where I am now and how I can help more people get to where I am. Maybe a little thing that I do can make a difference, even if it’s just very slight.

That’s probably a bit naive, but these are big things that sometimes need to be reduced so we can start to deal with them. A tweet, blogpost, whatever, isn’t going to solve the problems we have with inequality and privilege, but it might help us slowly move incrementally to something better than what we currently have.

Empathy is first an act of imagination. I know how difficult it is to get from one side to the other. But if we spent more time teaching, sharing, learning, listening — I think we could make something better.

 

 

What does a radiotherapist do and how it’s given me life advice for the future #worldradiographyday

I often get asked, “You *just* take x-rays, right?” When people ask what I do and I say, “Radiotherapy”. (I do – in fact – take some ‘x-rays’ but that’s not my main-specific role).

Sometimes they know a lil’ bit more and ask, “Soooo, you *just* set up the machines?” (The machines are these 1 million pound things called linear accelerators). Like that’s all we do, “set-them up”.

But I love telling people what radiotherapists do and i love it when people want to know more. We’re the somewhat misunderstood colleagues of the radiography world. We’re not radiologists – we don’t interpret your scans and diagnose from there, we’re not diagnostic radiographers you see for an X-Ray when you fall down the stairs.

We’re the people you seem to only learn about after you’ve seen our other radiography colleagues and if you have cancer (or some limited benign conditions) in yours or a loved ones life. Some people luckily have no cancer narrative in their past and come across our profession from twitter/internet, others from university prospectus books, their love of physics and imaging. Occassionally if people are on it, we get some national coverage.

Radiotherapy is a cancer treatment that about 40-50% of people diagnosed with cancer will have as part of their treatment. It can be used to reduce symptoms, and most importantly: pain. It’s often a curative, cost effective, and often non-invasive treatment.  And how we do that is by generating a plan of treatment.  That plan aims to deliver a high dose of radiation  over a series of fractions (days) (generated usually by high-energy xrays [photons]) targeted at the tumour extremely precisely, and any microscopic disease (GTV*, CTV* & PTV*) and any lymph involvement as specified by the doctor.

We don’t just “press a button” or “set up the machines”. We have 3 years training specifically within oncology to begin with. We learn all about cancer, radiobiology, cells, immunotherapies, chemotherapies, surgeries, staging systems, global health, prevention, end of life care, person-centered-care, psycho-social issues, financial implications, ect. We learn  all about radiological physics and imaging and some basics on imaging engineering. We constantly keep up to date with world-class research. Then we spend months & months on clinical placement, for 3 years, including all summer, critically reflecting, learning to effectively collaboratively work together, learning how to deal with life and potential problems and techniques and protocols specific for your center, specific for each person and their cancer. Basically, we’re properly specialized in clinical radiation oncology.

Pre-treatment

We work in ‘pre-treatment’. Here is often the first point of contact that the patient has with a radiotherapy department after being diagnosed and a course of radiotherapy is prescribed. We try to put the patient at ease, give them a first day chat letting them know what we will be doing and any questions they may have, let them get to know us for a bit, and we visually and through asking questions assess how the patient is and any needs they may have. Sometimes they have to have specialist immobalization made such as masks, and radiographers do this too.

We figure out the best position for their treatment, and make sure its as comfortable as it can be to withstand weeks of that position, whilst ensuring its reproducible and stable. We generate all the ‘set-up’ information for their treatment: their position, making sure they’re straight, not rotated, that our set-up position is in a stable location, where we decide to put some ‘tattoos’. Always assessing, always analysing. Then we do a planning CT scan – much like diagnostic radiographers would with the patient in this position. It always has to be a CT (though we often fusion images together such as PET & MRI) as CT gives us tissue density to plan each beam/field effectively.

Planning

From here after the image has been contoured (Organs at Risk [OAR] & tumour being outlined) by the doctor (some places the radiographers do it too) radiotherapists plan where each field goes. They have to get rid of any hot spots, make sure all the tumour and surrounding margins have a 95-105% dose homogenous dose coverage whilst avoiding near by healthy tissue. It’s not the easiest task and each persons body is completely different. How exciting right?

Checking & revisiting

From here that plan goes to physics to be checked, then back to the doctor. Some of these plans will be discussed in Multi Disciplinary Team meetings with doctors, radiation oncologists and radiologists, physics and radiotherapists. Once satisfied, the plan and set-up sheets, and prescription gets another double check – by 2-3 radiographers. This – from start (CT planning scan) to fully planned and checked is about a 2 week process.

On Set / treatment

Then it’s time for the patients first official day on treatment. We check everything, look at the wedges, the monitor units, think about where the patient will be on the bed and the angles of the beams. Many more verification techniques happen here. We get the patient on the bed, after giving them another first day chat and looking after their skin and side-effect advice, guide them into that same position, make sure they’re straight and not rotated. Use those tatoos and set-up sheets to guide us. We check SSDs, positions, angles, we take images to verify and image match. This is that bit where we ” *just* set-up the machine”. Once we’re happy with everything and again double checked everything from patient ID, and RR numbers to monitor units and angles and beams and fields and position and much more. We press that button and deliver that life-saving treatment.

But what’s just as important as checking our images, checking everything else is correct and safe. Is that our patient is OK !!

Treatment day is another huge milestone for our patients and their loved ones. Often, because radiotherapy is so under advertised and unknown about, or the media portrays it wrong and factually incorrect – our patients can be really nervous/anxious. What is this Linear Accelerator? What exactly DO WE DO?! Will it hurt? Does it burn my skin?

This is where the radiotherapists great person-cenetered skills come into play. It’s my favourite part of the job. It really makes my day when you’re able to establish a rapport/trust with one of your patients and make them feel better/more at ease. Often it’s just letting them tell you their story. It’s often been a difficult path to where they are today. Months and months of being undiagnosed with symptoms that took ages to pin-point. A bad chemotherapy reaction, trying to juggle work and picking up their kids, the 2 hour drive to the hospital from their house, ect. It takes time and empathy to be able to get this person to trust you and your team. You get to share your knowledge to put their worries at ease. And this is the best part of the job for me.

Unlike most of our other radiography colleagues, we get to see our patients every single day for their treatment. This could be every work day for 7 weeks! That’s quite a long time. It’s exactly the reason why I specifically chose radiotherapy. I wanted a healthcare profession where I could get to know my patients. A lil’ bit like a GP has the potential to do so.  How that continuity of care enables you to easily see any change in the person who might not let you know something is wrong. How each day you peal another layer over, you slowly find out who they live with, do they have any pets, their intricate details of their lives, honeymoons, holidays, work. I’ve treated gold-medal winners, people who run magazines, who owned planes, who volunteer their whole spare time for the most vulnerable. You hear some stories that will stay with you for the rest of your life and there’s people who you’ll think about months later. There’s some stories that you feel in the pit of your stomach, and there’s moments of pure joy that nothing will compare to. You’ll learn these details and it helps you make some assessments. Is this person frail and has no one at home to look after them? Can we get them some clean clothes? Can we refer them – ask if they want to see someone for specific type of support (complimentary therapies/financial advice ect). You can figure out if they’re following your side-effect advice or not. There’s a lot of potential for radiographers here to make a huge difference to someone, and i love that responsibility.

Service Improvement & research

And then there’s another cool thing radiographers do. We can use our practice to implement service improvement changes or undertake & create world-class-life-saving research. I see the future of radiotherapists moving more into preventative, on-going-care and recovery/post-treatment care.  I’m so passionate about us helping to support our patients and their loved ones. The health-gap is going to be one that continues to grow under our ever growing unfair and unequal society. And cancer – the diagnosis and the survival-rates of it – is a product of the gap. I believe we will see more radiographers moving into this discourse and helping our patients live a better life – during and after treatments. Survivorship can be so rocky, so it’s a given that with all our specialist knowledge that we should enable to help commission, produce and create services that can support our patients.

Being a radiotherapy student isn’t easy. It’s very full time, there’s a lot of different skills to master, juggle many types of work from clinical knowledge to academic stuff; you have to become a commealian – you adapt yourself to which ever team personality you’re working with. You need to master time management (I’ve not fiigured this out yet). I found I take longer to do the more technical stuff – I believe this is because as an artist I’m not used to thinking so routinely and logically. I’m having to retrain my brain – but I love the challenge. And after those great weeks you have on clinical placement, when a patient is so thankful, when you put someone at ease – made them laugh. It all some how feels worth it. You go home with a warm fuzzy feeling. It’s kind of indescribable. By the end, because of the continuity of care – it’s like you’re treating old friends.

Being a radiotherapy student has given me a lot of perspective and new skills I never knew I could do.  i’Ve learnt that whenever you can’t think of something to say in a conversation, ask people questions instead. Even if you’re next to a man who collects pre-Seventies screws and bolts, you will probably never have another opportunity to find out so much about pre-Seventies screws and bolts, and you never know when it will be useful.

life divides into AMAZING ENJOYABLE TIMES and APPALLING EXPERIENCES THAT WILL MAKE FUTURE AMAZING ANECDOTES.

And as I read somewhere: see as many sunrises and sunsets as you can. Run across roads to smell fat roses. Always believe you can change the world – even if it’s only a tiny bit, because every tiny bit needed someone who changed it. Think of yourself as a silver rocket – use loud music as your fuel; books like maps and co-ordinates for how to get there. Host extravagantly, love constantly, dance in comfortable shoes,  and never, ever start smoking.

HAPPY WORLD RADIOGRAPHY DAY.

New York, New York – touristy tips

I’ve worked in NYC, had several shows in NYC, and been such a tourist – and everytime I go – I ALWAYS find something new and amazing that i missed the 1st time around. Friends here in the UK always ask me for some advise. So here’s some for anyone going to NYC on vacation, for summer camp, for a semester abroad, or interning. It’s not a comprehensive guide but it’s good if like me – you’ll be on a budget! I hope you find some parts of this helpful! 🙂

INSTRUCTIONS: PRE. NYC

Get a guide book with good maps: Lonely planet is pretty decent, or even a AA one. ‘Not for Tourists’ guide books are ok but rather dull for touristying and pictures, but excellent for in depth, detailed maps of every area. If it’s your first time, you just want a book with a clear map for every main part of Manhattan.

Then sit at the laptop and google all of these addresses and places that you like the sound of here in this guide, and mark them on your book. Put a circle in the place where google maps tells you it’s at and then you can like number them, or whatever. use your guide book like a notebook!

** Also, as with any travel prep. you should photocopy your passport before you leave for NYC. just incase.**

 Getting into the city

Catch the express bus service from JFK or Newark (info here: http://www.coachusa.com/olympia/ss.newarkairport.asp ) it’s $15, get 1 way. the bus service usually do 2 stops : grand central station (EAST) or port authority (WEST). sTRICTLY SPEAKING both locations are central but in my mind port-authority (W 45th st on 8th ave) is more central because it’s alot easier to get to the majority of subway lines – where as – when you head more east on the central, upper side – the subways become less available.

(There’s the air-train but its not as relaxing as the bus – but the air-train you have to make 2 changes (1 train takes you 2 another train) and it takes you to penn station 34th st)

SUBWAY

several days in the city will be costly if you decide to catch cabs everywhere!

The best way is to WALK in order 2 see all the surprise stores you had no idea existed, the art gallery youve never heard of, or to just appreciate the architecture. But never under estimate the power of the subway. ESP. when your feet hurt from too much walking! the subway is amazing as it runs 24/7.

the unlimited subway card for a week: $29 (£15ish) – good for all subways, at any time, and buses, in the whole of NYC. (it was cheaper but prices have gone up) and it is relatively safe 2 catch the subway at like 3am! regardless of what you might have heard. i remember i got totally tipsey, bordering on drunk, i caught the subway from bushwick, brooklyn ( a tiny bit of a seedy neighbourhood) to williamsburg, bklyn – at 3am – and it was absolutely fine. last time my friend and i went from san diego – to newark- caught the bus into the nyc – and it was midnight – and we stayed up all night in the city and bars in manhattan and brooklyn. and we were fine then. nyc is really safe!!

The unlimited card will be good for your first few days in the city because you probably will make mistakes and get on a train going up town instead of downtown, or get on a train that is express at rush hour so you end up 3 stops away from your destination. but it’s good to get lost !

BOOKSTORES

NY has some of the most amazing bookstores. I spend ALOT of my time in them because of the vibe and so much cool stuff!

http://www.spoonbillbooks.com/ specializes in Used, Rare, and New books on Contemporary Art, Architecture, and various Design fields, with an emphasis on Imported or hard-to-find — but we also hand pick thousands of good books every month for our voracious clientele.

218 Bedford Avenue

Brooklyn, NY 11211

(i lived 4 blocks away from this place- its open until 10 at night – and its in a super cool area- EXPLORE THIS AREA – there’s a few design stores and this really really cool beer store, an internet cafe, and a cool record store on the corner of the building its all in) Williamsburg is where all the hipster and ASOS fashion is coming from atm. but more info later

http://www.strandbooks.com/

fiercely independent family business – 18 million books! ALL DISCOUNTED. from rare, out of print, hardback, brand new, best sellers, signed ect.

828 Broadway

New York, NY 10003-4805 (which is just off union square – across from this AMAZING CHOCOLATE STPORE WITH THE BEST most expensive HOT CHOCOLATE)

-www.printedmatter.org

Printed Matter, Inc. is an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded in 1976 by artists and art workers – specializing in artist books

195 10th Avenue

New York, NY 10011, United States (near all the commercial galleries in chelsea)

-http://www.blueribbongeneralstore.net/index.shtml

is a modern general store for a well-lived life, combining the charm of a country general store with the sophistication of a modern city lifestyle

365 State Street, Brooklyn

-http://www.arthousecoop.com/library

Art House creates massive, international art projects that tie thousands of artists together

103A N 3rd St

Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY 11211

-http://www.mcnallyjackson.com/

aspire to be the center of Manhattan’s literary culture

52 Prince Street

(between Lafayette & Mulberry

New York City, NY 10012

Barnes & Noble (located acrosss the city – best one on Union Square)

GOOD FOR MAGAZINES, LOTS OF BOOKS AND RESTROOMS!! (trust me you will need 2 use a barnes n noble for the bathroom at some point)!

DOING ART/museums FOR FREE, OR CHEAP

MoMA – FREE night on FRIDAYS – starts at 4:00pm – be there early or later (6ish) to avoid queues (i’d advise to be early because this ticket makes it see so you can see the movie which is showing at the MoMA movie theatre for FREE (usually $9 on it’s own) see a TIMEOUT NYC for more details on what’s on) keep the ticket because from the date on it – gives you 30 days to go to the PS1 Contemporary Art center in Queens for FREE. (free night saves you $21 admission charge for the MoMA –  daylight robbery)

Guggenhiem – 5:30 (exactly) on THURSDAYS is PAY WHAT YOU WISH instead of $20 or $15 student

WHITNEY MUSEUM OF ART – FRIDAYS PAY-WHAT-YOU 6-9PM. (save about $18)

NEW MUSEUM – THURSDAY 7PM-9PM FREE NIGHT (save about $7 – 10 )

PS1 CONTEMPORARY ARTS CENTER – QUEENS – SUGGESTED DONATION (they ask for $7) but free with MoMA ticket

AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY – SUGGESTED DONATION (they ask for $20!)

THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART (refered to as The Met by cool new yorkers) – SUGGESTED DONATION (suggested $24!) (this place is freaking huge – expect to spend at least 3-4 hours in here)

DIA CENTER FOR ARTS – SUGGESTED DONATION (not in the city, but in BEACON) ($10)

TIME OUT NY is your bible for everything – art, food, music events, book signings, political happenings, tv show audience, musicals. Also Read The Brooklyn Rail to find out what’s on; also, The New York Times on Friday, Saturday and Sunday has art reviews. But the word on the street is key.

FOOD

after all that culture, food is a must. i’m sorry that i can’t offer you better advise on the food front. i forget the addresses or names of places i like – i just know where they are! like- i could take you to them ha!

 Here’s a website i like to check out when in town for places to eat: http://cheapassfood.com/

BEST STICKY CHICKEN WINGS – BBQ Dallas (also my fav meeting spot in the city cuz its open enough, next to a subway and easy get to) 23rd n 8th . drinks are HUGE

INDIAN FOOD – although i’ve never had a groundbreaking curry in the whole of america – curry ave – AKA Lexington Ave between 21st and 38th is where it’s at!

CUPCAKES – http://www.magnoliabakery.com/home.php ( as seen on sex and the city is a tourist fav ) but if you’re looking for a down-key – quick sugar hit to make you go into sugar shock then the cupcakes from Barnes & Noble cafe – foh serious.

Also Crumbs http://www.crumbs.com/ ;

Sweet Revenge: http://www.sweetrevengenyc.com/

and SPOT http://www.spotdessertbar.com/ …. if you can’t be arsed to find all these you can grab a good selection in Chelsea FOOD MARKET – which is very awesome.

THAI FOOD – now you know how i feel about THAI ICED TEA, you NEED to get one of them and think of me! The americans (or rather the 2nd generation of thai americans) know how to cook amazing thai food. this will shit all over what youve ever had (unless youve been to thailand , i suppose?)

So here are a few: http://www.sripraphairestaurant.com/ (this is in QUEENS) which makes it SUPER CHEAP and authentic!

Pongsri – in China town is pretty awesome, there’s a place on 19th street between 8th and 6th (i can’t remember where but it’s gota good lunch deal menu during the week! – thai–ice tea not so good though)

There’s a cheap burger place called: BRGR on 7th near 29th st.

Good, cheap sushi on Greenwich Street (off 6th ave), north side of street. Or my favorite: Monster Sushi, on 23rd street, between 5th and 6th aves.

good farmers market at Union Square, Fri, Sat. Good noodles place off the square, east side. Revolution Noodles, I think it is.

Obvs. Go to China town for cheap-ass chinese food; Greenpoint BKLN for Polish; Queens for mexican and real spanish style food.

Harlem for soul food!! you must go to: http://www.sylviassoulfood.com/!

WHOLEFOODS – for bits and bobs – revolutionary supermarket shopping, i tell ya! it laughs at waitrose. Anyways, avoid wholefoods on union square cuz it’s ALWAYS packed. You can try wholefoods at columbous circle best place is prob 95 East Houston Street

Dylans Candy Bar, near bloomingdales: 

There are many pizza joints where you can get a slice of pizza for $1!!! (instead of average $2.60) mostly in Brooklyn, a few close to brooklyn bridge, but The 99¢ pizza place near the Port Authority Bus Terminal is a main attraction these days.

There are good bars and restaurants on the Lower East Side, on Ludlow Street, Alphabet City

BEST CUP OF TEA IN THE CITY: ARGOTEA (based in Chicago it’s opened it’s business for new yorkers alike!) it does the craziest of stuff with tea. my fav seasonal classic is frostea! (white tea, white choclate & mint) http://www.argotea.com/

COOL STUFF TO DO THAT YOU CAN’T DO VIRTUALLY ANYWHERE ELSE

MY BIGGEST SECRET! – ASSSSSCAT3000 on a sunday night at http://newyork.ucbtheatre.com/ (07 W. 26th Street New York, NY 10001) just off 9th ave (in chelsea) is FREEEEE and AMAZING!!! it’s improv comedy by the folks ar Saturday Night live, 30 rock, other comedian guests – can i stress that this is the coooolest thing  ever?!

Anyways it starts about 9pm. but here’s teh catch – cuz it’s free you gotta get there early to queue for free tickets! I mean like early, like 6pm – hang around. they don’t really give you tickets until 7:30-8:00ish. when they do, you get about an hour 2 eat (this is where BRGR place comes in handy or many cool bakeries around the area) and you have to line back up with your number. It’s nOT to be missed!!!

BEST SLAM POETRY IN THE CITY – Friday night : 10pm ($10) get about 20 mins early to line up for good seats. goes on until 2am. you can leave when you want. http://www.nuyorican.org/history.php puts slamjam 2 shame!

SEE A MUSICAL – catch me if you can is the new broadway hit; jersey boys is the most popular thats still happening. you’ve probably already seen wicked? Anyways, don’t diss Off Broadway shows- off broadway shows often become the next big thing on Broadway and OFF-OFF BROADWAY can be way more interesting than the other shows- and of course. CHEAPER

SEE AN OPERA AT THE MET: $25 for cheap tickets – (nosebleed) http://www.metoperafamily.org/metopera/

BOAT RIDE in central park, RENT A BIKE in central park. take a class in central park:

Walk across Brooklyn Bridge and Williamsburg bridge

See a concert, see the sun set over the skyline

see a baseball game!

drink in a hotel bar with an amazing high view

GO TO CONEY ISLAND and ride on the rollercoaster & eat a hotdog!

Go up the EMPIRE STATE BUILDING 1 hour before sunset, so when you get up there you see it in the light, watch the sunset, and see the city at night – all the best sights for your 1 admission price of $24 (best way 2 get your money worth!)

Go to 24 hour cafe at a stupid o’clock. it’s amazing to people watch! and you cant go to nyc without going to a 24 hr cafe now?

In MACYS take your passport, international vistors get a card that gives you 13% discount on anything in any Macy’s store US wide for 30 days.

In Bloomingdales, if you spend over $100 – you also get a free gift!

GETTING OUT OF NEW YORK

so you wanna travel?

Megabus.com starts at $1 tickets to Boston, Philly, DC amoungst other amazing cities on the east coast.  The boltbus.com does the same but less locations and better free wifi on the bus.  There’s the fungwang bus that goes from NY Chinatown to Boston Chinatown for $20 on the day, no pre-booking needed!  On the eastcoast you don’t need to use the greyhound as it is overpriced and old compared to these cheap-budget services that offer free wifi (trust-makes your journey 10 x better) and more dinner stops on the way!

Priceline.com offers relatively cheap round trip flights than anywhere else online for in-america domestic flights with the option to name your own price on hotels! Orbitiz.com is also quite good.

Amtrak is amazing on the west coast but a bit lame and more expensive on the east coast considering the competition from budget bus services. however, amtrak takes route through the amazing american landscapes that you don’t see in the i-whatever highway and if your under 26 or a student and have got the international card that you can get from STA travel for £5 to prove it, you get a great discount of 15% off ANY journey. I have taken the Amtrak from San Francisco to NYC stopping off for various amount of days in Las Vegas, LA and Chicago all for $150! (one way).

WHAT NOT TO DO IN NYC

– do not take travelers cheques- what are you? like 75 years old? For the safe, non-touristy, cheaper way to live in NYC – exchange your money before you go onto a travel friendly card.  that’s what i did when i was living in chicago. they’re supplied by https://www.travelex.co.uk/uk/wallet/options.aspx but you collect them from ilkeston travel agents current exchange provider – or thomas cook. you often get a better exchange rate when you exchange money onto a card than in physicality. plus its all insured!

DO NOT buy purfume from canal street, unless you like your stuff bottled in 1994

DO NOT walk down the sidewalk in 3 + more people

NO fanny packs haha

DO NOT accept taxi rides from cabs that arent yellow

DO NOT NOT tip (remember in the US you have your meal Tax (10% in NY) added on top of the price on the menu + another 20% for tip – great knowledge when you’re short cuz someones not added  their bill up right!)

DO NOT forget your ID when going into bars or order alcohol (remember its 21 over there)

DO NOT make eye contact with crazies or homeless folks (theres alot of them)

REMEMBER

Explore

Try new things!

Walk about

TAKE GREAT PICTURES! 🙂

New SMIZZ website (update)

It has been a looooooooong  time i last undated my website. or indeed blog properly.  so here is to a new productive smizz mass y’all! Check out my new site. I’ve gone old-skool but I think you might like it! 🙂

WWW.SARAHSMIZZ.COM

(you just click sarah smizz, or new page to get to the main website instead of clicking elsewhere which will take you to different things including this blog! 🙂 )

nearly a year after graduating, reflection: everyday i’m shuffling

Technically speaking i didn’t graduate until November when I officially got my certificate and that. But by transcript and exam board standards and the expiration of my  university log-in username – it has been since June 2010.   It’s nearly been a whole year!

Last night I was online stalking some of my favourite artists/people and seeing what they’re up to when I came across a blog post i wrote for debbie ainscoe’s blog http://downbythewaterfront.typepad.com/ . Debbie’s an amazing person and artist. And on read what I wrote even I was impressed with my 4 years of work at University! Ha! but suddenly i felt panicked at what have I been up to since?!  Have I fell off the bandwagon?

So it’s been nearly a year graduated.  And what have I learnt?

I have learnt that the new government coalition can kiss my ass. IT SUCKS. What little life there is left in the arts is going to become purely problematic and idelogical. Posts in today’s Guardian about cutting arts education shows just at how little knowledge people in politics have about the industry arts generates here in the UK.  the cuts within the arts council were depressing (although could have been worse) and the film council closure was just dreadful (esp after the success of The Kings Speech, which was funded by the film council) The short sighted, short term, planning of this government is killing what little economy and wellbeing our nation has.

Since graduating, I have been officially unemployed 3 times (although admittingly for about 2-3 weeks at a time).  My mom makes me  apply for JSA and I have to at least a part-time job whilst I do my commissions or other freelance gigs. It’s difficult being from a working class family because they don’t understand what freelance is.  All she  sees is me doing what I love. I’m terrible at saving and I think this is why she doesn’t believe I actually get paid to do what I do.

In June 2010 I went  back to America and did a teaching/ artist residency job. It was great but tiring. I had a great time!

Because I love teaching, i always apply myself 110%> I love to re-invent the wheel and to make people feel good about themselves. this is done by self-esteem building. i love encouraging people to believe that they can do something. I guess with my good natured team building skills and good evaluations I won a $3,000 award, which was a bit of a bribe to come back next year (I got half then – i get half if i go back the next year).  At this point i thought, hey maybe i’ll have something good in my life by then.  the coalitions power hadn’t kicked in just yet so it was only natural that i still felt hopeful on where i could go and what i could do!

After the job, i did a residency at Syracuse University in NY State. It’s this amazing program called the Art School in the Art School. It has so much relevance from its placement of being supplementary to the artschool or as part of an antagonistic  debate on the merit of art degree rewarding courses.  The people of Syracuse were very giving and generous with their time. I went away wanting to create a art-school in the art-school journal. Of which I’m about half way through putting it together and getting better and more submissions. More info on this in another post.  You can hear an awful interview with me here: (i need press training clearly) http://www.artschoolsound.org/2010/09/interview-with-sarah-smizz/

 

After the residency I travelled around the West Coast with some friends where i started to really think about LA and it’s myths and social history that’s kind of hyper-real.

 

I got back to NYC and I got some Freelance work with Time Warner for some illustrations for a bilingual kids book on cities! couldn’t believe my luck!

Institutions illustrations, by Sarah Smizz

I arrived back home signed on for the 1st time for 2weeks until late October and already had the awesome opportunity lined up to work with the amazing Sheffield Doc/Fest!

Debbie had asked whether the film councils closure had affected the great festival. The over-all answer is no. Because even though the film council was awesome, it rarely funded documentaries.  I believe that documentary film making is like contemporary art in the sense of how it’s made, how it engages with a subject and it’s audience and how there is an urgency its ideas. And obvs its lack of funds during the making of it. There’s an integrity that lies within the documentary film industry that doesn’t really exist in other art/media/film/journalism industry. Perhaps maybe it’s how Doc/Fest is structured and organized but it made me think that  there’s so many more opportunities that documentary film industry can offer, in comparison, and it seems to be one of the more accessible industries – knowledge rather than someone you know. I think this comes from its openness to co-production and collaboration in all forms from social media, games, film to even art.  But more on these thoughts in another post also.

After this amazing commissioned experience. I worked over the christmas period at Waterstones. They never kept me on but offered a job for next xmas. thanks!

So I kicked around enjoying my new found freedom. Planning a trip to NYC I was aware that if i did go in feb. I would be DEAD BROKE. so I went to Barcelona and had some drawings in a bigger show there. Which was a great excuse to go!

I came back looking for more work. signed on the dole for 2 weeks again until my friend got me a job at a candy store. Oh I know I know!   I did some small work for the Open University with the skills and ideas i had learnt from Doc/Fest.

After I finished working at a candy store (of which I quit because i’m sure they’re not legal- they didn’t pay my tax!) when we had to fill out the census, i saw that my mom had put me down still as working at the candy store instead of freelance work (which was more accurate picture of right now). So i made her change it. After all this is how I roll now.

We became super serious at relaunching CAKE (we have a new website address http://www.cakeeveryone.com) and did the first SlamJam in about a year. Unfortunately the disaster happened in Japan so we donated all money that we raised to Japan Red Cross ! something I’m proud of.  As part of an on going discussion #artWORK We have crit-group sessions,  a zine-day coming up, FEAST and an exhibition and event around Temporary Services ARTWORK: Art, economics and labour publication. This is VERY exciting! In addition to this, our new webste launch will have a launch party. so keep your eyes pealed!

 

I’m currently working freelance. I got a website commission for this amazing art conference series. And Doc/Fest invited me to come back to work with them (something I’m super grateful for and I’m gonna super make sure they get every single penny’s worth of their $$$ with me). more posts on this later too

In addition to this, I have some work in a show in Chicago and London coming up. And I’m going back after Doc/Fest to USA to collect the rest of my reward money and have a great summer (hopefully ha).  Afterwards i have 2 small residencies (both at publications – more posts later!?), a bit of work at DUMBO Art Festival in Brooklyn and I hope to visit friends around the USA including the AREA Chicago crew in Chicago and michael corris in dallas!

When I come back home in October i have another amazing opportunity to draw some talks to turn into animations for e-learning materials! And of course, if i want i have my waterstones job back Ha!

There’s some other stuff in here that i’ve forgotten but hey, if i’ve forgotten it it’s not that important ha!  what i need to do when I get back in October is to get a studio space. or travel and find work that way. i can’t tell you from month to month what i’ll be up to. it seems to happen all at once.  some months are super quiet and depressing. others are awesome.  It’s difficult positioning yourself as a graduate artist from Sheffield in a world where there’s hardly any normal jobs going, standards of living are slipping, and arts funding is becoming increasingly more difficult to get. But I have to remember what Michael Corris wrote/said in an article recently:

Artists: do not let your voices be hijacked.

everyday when i feel like i’m letting myself or my mom down, i think of this, or other inspirational advise. and everything is put into perspective. i’m doing pretty good despite the odds and i’m only 22.

Classroom Rules

Classroom Rules

I read this on frank chimero’s blog (the coolest, most awesome designer person i’ve discovered over the past few months) and it spoke to me – not just as a sylabus of which he intended it – but as a basic guide to life as a creative practitioner. great advise i had to share!

  1. Give it your best. Work hard. Be respectful. Show up on time. Be physically & mentally present. Anything less than your best is a waste of your time, mine, and that of your classmates.
  2. Show the work every day. Tight feedback loops allow for an iterative process. More turns and revisions produce better, more refined work. Missing class, and thus discussion, dramatically decreases the quality of your work. If you are absent, you will be lapped by your peers.
  3. Question everything, propose answers. Everything is an investigation. There are no nevers. Valued phrases: “Maybe if…” and “I’m not sure, but…”
  4. Momentum matters. Creativity is equal parts momentum, insight, and craft. We will move fast to build stamina. Art is long, life is short.
  5. Don’t wait for permission. Go off and try it.
  6. Every classroom is a lab. Investigate. Experiment. Report back to your peers.
  7. Assignments are incomplete until one is competent. If it’s not good enough, change it. If you don’t understand the premise fully, redo it. Failing and moving on isn’t an option because every bit is important.
  8. Grades are a false metric. Numbers assigned to a communicative endeavor like design is only done based on the needs of the university. You should care about your grade only insofar as it helps you maintain momentum in your creative pursuit.
  9. Getting better. The point of all education is to get better. Better designers. Better citizens. Better workers. Better thinkers. Better people. Any other objectives are false and superfluous.
  10. Rules are stupid. Be smart. Be respectful. Work hard. Reflect often. Strive for insight. Work to get better.

 

London on a budget (travel)

I recently read the new post on the NYT’s frugal Traveller blog in London. Seth seemed to have gotten a bit of a raw deal. As a Northern UK person, we all know how expensive London is in comparison to the rest of England, never mind if you had to change your currency to half of it’s worth! (meaning you need double $$ to get just £). Plus our recent bump up in VAT  from 17.5% to 20% (although as an NON-EU citizen you can claim this back)

When I visit London (on a somewhat often basis for Art reasons)  I meet others from the North and the majority of conversations don’t sound like this, ” hey, did you see that amazing exhibition? or where have you been? any advise on places to go to?”

it’s more like this: “how’s it going? gosh, it’s expensive innit? i just paid £1.50 for a CAN OF COKE. It’s 60p in Sheffield?!  did you know how much it cost to eat out? how expensive it was to go to the movies?!”

I leave feeling wallet lighter and a nagging feeling that I could have got a Ryanair flight to Barcelona and stayed in a hostel for  2 days cheaper than spending a day and a night in London. But my love of art keeps me going down, despite having not bonded with the city. (Main reason why I have resisted moving down there to ‘make it’ in the commercial art world).

So this is for you all who will be attending London in 2012 for the Olympics, perhaps visiting for the Royal Wedding (lol), Gap year, summer holidays, business, ect. I’m going to save a few ££ and avoid you falling for Wetherspoon pub chains (which are ok – but you don’t go to America to keep eating at McDonalds or TGI Fridays)

First things first, when in london TAKE OR BUY A MAP.

straight up. FREE STUFF

There’s a bunch of free stuff to do in the Capital behind it’s face of expense and extortion.

MUSEUMS. In NYC you have free nights or pay-what-you wish hours, or suggested donation that makes you feel like your cheaping out the museum of $ when you only pay up $1. In London, the majority – not all – museums are free with a donation box. National Portrait Gallery, Tate Britian and TATE Modern’s collections are all free to view.  This will radicalize the way you treat viewing art. Special exhibitions, however, are NOT free.  Tate Modern for a special exhibition will cost you £10.00 a go (without concessions). So if you’re on a budget – my suggestion is to check out the gift/ bookstore and have a look at the exhibitions catalogue/book. Does the work interest you? Yes- then go ahead. No, then don’t bother.

Commercial art galleries are free too, like they are in NYC, Paris, Berlin ect. But are located all over the place. Every 1st Thursday of every month, the galleries on VYNER STREET [the main commercial area for galleries] (east London, tube stop Bethnal Green) are all open for business at 6pm with many free drinks and food. Get you art-clothes and networking hat on. This is where all the artists come out to play from all over London and the UK. Here you will probably get invited to drinks to a well known bar and find out where all the hip-cool places are at and possibly make some new friends. And not to mention you might get trashed on free cheap wine!

TOURS. if you’re stopping at a hostel, then tours are often free with the option of tipping at the end. if you’re not – Don’t fear. DON’T pay big companies to get a bus and look at stuff. no-way-oh-zay. instead just  get a free, funny and personal tour here: http://www.newlondon-tours.com.  I’m not a tour person myself, but for those of you that are: try and get a different sort of tour. Get one of the cool street art scene around london or the architecture.

BBC PROMS. In the summer the BBC puts on classical music (trust me on this) and theater on for FREE in the parks around London, bringing you the most talented people from around the world. It’s a vibe and experience you can not pass on.  You need to check out the BBC website for more details. But it is flat-out amazing. Bring a picnic and drinks, bask in the  luke warm, probably a bit over-caste weather (great british summer!) and feel your IQ level rise.

PARKS. are all free and beautiful. enough said.

SIGHT SEEING. Like everywhere. seeing sights is free to do. (so long as you don’t want to go inside!)  London has LOADS. How about instead of spending lots of £££ on your Oyster Card or Travel Day pass – rent a bike. The government has a new scheme unfortunately for long periods of time, it doesn’t work out that cheap. But for less than 30 mins, it’s free to rent a bike off the street at located stalls.   I would suggest a real hire bike place : with a bit of research to what would suit you: http://www.lcc.org.uk/index.asp?PageID=171  free official maps avilable here: http://www.tfl.gov.uk/roadusers/cycling/11682.aspx.  Then enjoy the architecture, the sights, the small food places you can eat on the road and meet new people without the bustle and squeeze of the underground.

NOT SO FREE but cool.

FOOD:

A pizza place near goodge street tube stop (northern line) – you leave the tube stop, turn right, take your first right again. You continue up the street, past a Tescos and a cool Cupcake store called Candy Cakes ( recommended for those with sweet tooths, will run you £3 a cake) until the corner of Charlotte Street and Goodge.  Best italtian Pizza in the place for the best price!  A whole pizza (£3+) proper italian style- thin base, and a beer will run you only run you £5-6.   In the summer 100’s of people sprawl out onto the streets from the pub between the cupcake place and tube stop called The Fitzrovia.

If in the UK, you need to eat good indian food. Those new to this food won’t know the difference between Pakistani food and Indian. Indian is more sauce/curry – Pakistani food is more rice and spice. Brick Lane is where you’ll find most cheap-ish Indian food. But beware, most of them claim to have ‘chef of the year!’ Time Out website/magazine and online reviews will help you search out the best on the area.   Brick Lane at first looks a bit dingy, but this is its charm like a Brit vision of Williamsburg. Not too gentrified it holds many secrets.  Whilst in the area, great bakeries that do the best bagels and chinese treats will run you a nice £1-3 depending on what you buy, open until late.     Sunday Up Market as you guessed happens on a sunday and it’s a cool hip-happening place of art, funky foods and cool crafts to try.   Close to here is the ‘Vibe-Bar’ which is a bar with an amazing beautiful courtyard (pictured below)  in the summer months free live music happens. a beer will bust you about £3 – but at night you can probably sneak your own booze to the courtyard.

If you start at Whitechapel side of brick lane, head to the newly furnished Whitechapel Gallery (free and great) and end your long walk up BL at LCB surf store that combines surf and skate with great organic coffee. What a mix?

Like every Chinatown, London’s SoHo chinatown has many treats.  Chinese Bakeries with goodies to fill your pockets up for train journeys and picnics.  Avoid buffets, and go for a sit down menu meal. Depending where you go, a meal here will usually run you about £10 including drink if you don’t order starters.

Hidden greasy-spoon cafes hide behind back streets of the main streets.  The further out zone 1 you go, the cheaper and more authentic food gets.  Near Vyner Street you can grab a proper english breakfast for £3, so big and lovely you won’t need to eat for lunch.

You can’t go to London without having Afternoon teas and cakes – the stereotype of Britain.  TEA, is for all you urban folk – this place is the place for every fair-trade tea goings on. Another cool place is bob bob ricard all polished brass, buttoned green leather and booth seating – it’s just the place to hide away for a discreet nibble and chat, and it serves tea and cakes all day. The only problem is that an afternoon tea here could run you £10.

Like Seth mentioned, great markets are dotted around the city will provide you with amazing, fresh food from around the world at modest prices below £6.  Including and certainly NOT limited to Covent Garden markets.

By now you’ll probably know that alot of UK culture is on binge drinking. We love our pubs, clubs and boozey drinking offers (if near student campus’s you can find a cheap vodka and coke for £1).  One of my favourite pubs/bar is called “Venn Street Records” in clapham. Venn ST Records wants to be a cool hip rock n roll bar.  whilst it might lack the dirt n grime of a real dive bar, it makes up for  it in drinks and coolness with bonding in with the Clapham crowd. Cocktails cover twists on some classics and tongue-in-cheek kitsch with options including the AC/Daiquiri, thePina Colada.  On Tuedays its 2-4-1 cocktails, so bring a friend and on sundays they sometimes have live music (but i have no idea if it’s good live music – check it and find out!)

If you fancy wondering out to Battersby then a place called LOST SOCIETY (no joke) is said to be happening. I avoid this place on a weekend cuz it will run you £5 but it’s worth it for the cool DJ’s spinning great tunes. On a budget though, i am sure you can find the same music somewhere else for free. At the Lost Society they have created their own society full of imaginative cocktails ( a list of 60 on the menu) and this is where you can try many different liquors from around the world.  In the summer, yuppies and hipsters come out and talk pretension in the fancy courtyard.

Mason and Taylor on Bethnal Green (yep i love the East side of LDN) is a place for anyone really wanting to get to grips with the many cool beers that London (and the UK) have to offer. It’s industrial looking within but I find this intriguing. Local London beers include Kernel IPA and Meantime Raspberry while a blossoming British artisan brewing community is rightfully well-represented in the shape of beers from Marble in Manchester, and many more from Wales, Sussex and the world including American.

 

In terms of film – a movie theater within zone 1 will cost you a limb. tickets start at £10 for multiplex’s with Leister Square being the most expensive of them all (for obvious reasons). Unless you want to go to the movie theaters where the premieres happen, I would advise to avoid seeing films here.  Cineworld is a great Multiplex cinema in the UK and has a few within London starting from Zone 2 outwards. 1 ticket here will still run you about £8+ onwards (don’t see a 3D movie) but lots of leg room, and many screens to choose from including the latest releases and Hollywood’s blockbusters with the odd arthouse or limited release movie showing. If hollywood or multiplex cinema isn’t your scene,  then the  Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) is a great place to go. They usually have fantastic contemporary art exhibitions on – and since early 2010 it’s now free to see them – a fantastic bookstore, and cafe/bar which doubles up as a gig/live music place at night. This place is happening and won’t even brush you a penny. The ICA has great choices of films from foreign films you won’t see anywhere else, artist films, documentaries, classics to BAFTA choices. The tickets are also priced here slightly less at £7.

If you’re a true film buff, when in London the British Film Institute is your guide to what’s happening and showing. They do various film festivals all year around with October BFI film festival being the most significant. For those of you wanting to see a 3D movie, then the IMAX complex is the place to go, pay out an extra £2 for the real deal instead of a normal cinema that doesn’t have the technology to get the full effects across to you.

GETTING AWAY FROM LONDON

If you’re in London for longer than 4 days then perhaps leaving London is a good use of your time. Actually see a bit more of the UK than what’s simply portrayed in the movies. Brighton is next to the sea and is seen as a London suburb and only an hour train ride away. Many Londoners like to get away to here on a weekend. The clubbing scene is cheaper and more openly lively. Drink in cafes that will only cost you £1 for a cuppa, or eat an ice cream on the pier. perhaps go on a ride or chill on the beach. Brighton has one of the biggest gay and lesbian populations in the UK, so come and feel the pride and enjoy the loud brash culture here!  A return ticket will cost you about £10.00

If the gay sea-side isn’t your thing, then how about Oxford. Heading further up North – a return ticket on the train will bust you between £2.50 – £10.00 depending if bought in advance or not.  The train ride is 45 mins long. Oxford is the home to one of the most prestigious universities in the world. Here lies even more history than you would have ever expected! Spend the day watching people train on the rivers, or seeing more bikes on the road than cars.  See a scene you can only imagine would be on Harry Potter, or go to the library that has billions of books underground!  Take in the rich green fields and the limestone architecture.

If countryside is more your thing, and you’re in the UK for more than a week. Then perhaps a MEGABUS or an advanced bought train ticket will get you up to places like Sheffield, Liverpool, Manchester in less than 3 hours. The further out of London you go, the further your ££ will go too.

In short, after accommodation – London is your Oyster. (literally if that’s your main use of transport) Spending your day divided by museums, food, bars, music, and sights it’s easy to be cheap with a bit of perseverance and research. you can wander the streets and live off baked goods and fresh fruit from market stalls. You could spend your money on cocktails you’ve never heard of and see artists studios.

Oh and I forgot, you must all see if my good friend Myra DuBois has a show, critically acclaimed by Time Out London, and go. Seriously.