I am so happy that my smile is making a dash up my cheeks as if attempting a speedy exit somewhere near my ears. And all because of one letter...
I have finished my first year at the London College of Fashion. After a long final day my friend and I celebrated with an all American feast at a retro diner. Over milkshake cocktails we discussed our first year and our hopes for the future. Yes, we were both happy to have finished our first year. But finishing our first year meant we were closer to finishing our second year, which meant we were closer to finishing our third year which meant we were closer to the daunting prospect of graduation.
In an industry as competitive as the one we have both chosen, we had to admit: it can be a little bit terrifying to say the least.
When I got home I opened my post box to find a letter that is in my opinion quite possibly the best thing ever delivered in the history of the Royal Mail.
It was a letter from Alexandra Shulman, the editor of Vogue, telling me that I am a finalist in the Vogue Talent Contest and have been invited to lunch at Vogue House.
I enter the famous writing competition every year but never in a million years expect anything to come of it. Even now when I look up at the letter hanging proudly on my pin board I can't quite believe it is real, or that the large scrolling signature is really that of the editor of Vogue.
I don't for one minute expect to win the overall prize (incidentally: £1000, a month's paid work experience at Vogue and an accolade so well-recognised that it would be a fairly monumental start to my career). I don't think what I wrote is good enough to win the overall title and I'm sure there will be some amazingly talented people at the finalist's lunch. Besides,thinking about winning is a treacherous route to take. I don't even like to think about how much it would mean to me. So instead I am just incredibly excited. Excited to have got this far and to get the incredible opportunity meet the editors of my favourite magazine and to have lunch behind the doors of Vogue House.
Now for the important decision: what to wear? Above anything I want to wear something that says Libby, which will probably mean a dress, a pair of heels and something red, but beyond that I don't know. But there is one thing I will definitely be wearing. One HUGE smile.
Since starting university Skype has become an invaluable way of keeping in touch with the people I love. With this in mind when I was given the task last term of writing the script for a short documentary about a technology that has changed the world, I knew what I wanted to make mine about.
I then set about interviewing as many people as I could via Skype. I wanted to tell the Skype Story using the medium itself, and to give a snapshot of the positive way in which technology, when exploited properly, can affect and help the lives of ordinary people.
As well as the script I had to write I was asked to make a really short clip just to illustrate the idea behind the programme and the form it would take. Here is my clip for 'The Skype Story.'
Thank you very much to everyone who was kind enough to help me out. What an ideal project really: an excuse to talk to some lovely people and hear their stories.
For the past month or so I have been flitting between Hackney, where I live, Sheperd's Bush, where I study, and Kentish Town, the subject of this term's project.
I had never been to Kentish Town before but instantly fell in love.
My favourite thing about Kentish Town has to be Kentish Town City Farm. When it opened in the 70s it was the first of its kind; there are now 15 city farms in London.
Walking down Kentish Town Road or through a labyrinth of residential streets you wouldn't expect that just a few hundred metres down the road you could find yourself standing amongst goats and sheep, listening to the piercing cry of a cockerel. The farm, which includes a yard, classrooms, several fields and community allotments, is sliced in two by a busy train line.
The farm is a hub of community, run with the help of volunteers, including young people doing community service or work experience and little ones who can work there from the age of 8. From the first moment I stepped through the rickety door and into the yard (heels swapped for a trusty pair of boots and denim shorts) I thought it was a brilliant story that I couldn't wait to investigate further.
The course I am studying at the London College of Fashion is print and broadcast journalism. For the broadcast part of the course we had to create a 30 minute documentary about an aspect of our assigned area. Watching children pushing wheelbarrows through the yard whilst birds sang in the trees and a train clattered past I decided I wanted to use our 30 minutes to tell the story of this extraordinary city farm.
I took some photos and went back to my group buzzing with tales of city chickens and Farmer John, the gruff yet affable head of the farm who swaps between barking instructions at the children and fondly smiling and joking with them.
I was pleased when the rest of the group fell for the same charm that had me hooked.
For the next few weeks I became a regular visitor at the city farm. At 9 o'clock on a weekend I would be there with camera, microphone and notepad, ready to spend the day interviewing workers and visitors or filming pigs rolling happily in their muddy enclosure.
When I approached families to ask them if they minded me filming their visit to the farm they would inevitably ask what university I was studying at.
"Bizarrely - the London College of Fashion," would be my general reply. When I applied to LCF I never thought I would find myself here: holding my camera above my head and jumping backwards into a bank of nettles to avoid two huge and boisterous pigs charging down the path towards their enclosure, or climbing onto a stack of hay bales to record the colourful chaos of a May Pole dance.
The farm is first and foremost a working farm, but it arose through a need in the community as somewhere to provide both an escape and to give young people an education that goes beyond the classroom.
One day we filmed a school visit in which the farm's education officer took the children around the farm, showing them young potatoes in the soil and explaining why it is important to sheer sheep as one ewe wriggled uncomfortably under the arms of Farmer John and his whirring razor blades.
At one point a girl spotted the resident farm cat hiding in the corner of a barn. The education officer took this opportunity to try and explain why cats are an important form of pest control on any farm.
"Now children, what do cats eat?" he asked.
A tiny hand shot up in the air, "cat food!"
In our documentary I tried to tell the story of the farm and show the role it plays in the Kentish Town community. In today's world we are so often surrounded by negativity that I wanted to show a modern day success story. 'Big Society' seems to be David Cameron's buzz phrase and an ideal he is looking to create. But over the past few months I have found that if you look closely and venture to places like Kentish Town City farm, you will find a society that is already bursting at the seams.
Filming our City Farm documentary was definitely one of my favourite things about this term. I have completely surprised myself: of all my lectures at LCF my broadcast lessons have been by far my favourite. With this in mind I have decided to specialise in broadcast journalism next year.
When I arrived at LCF I was completely focused on print journalism and would never have even considered getting behind or in front of the camera. The past year has been a huge learning process for me and has opened my eyes to exciting new opportunities.
I have found that finding a story and planning and filming it isn't all that different to writing an article. Although I always want to write, I ultimately want to be a journalist. Journalism is undergoing such huge and exciting changes at the moment that I think to emerge in 2 years as an employable journalist I have to really embrace these changes. Moving image is becoming so much more important that I hope an understanding of how to film and edit will stand me in good stead.
I do find the prospect of broadcast journalism a little daunting. As I said before it is never something I would have seen myself doing in the past. But I have realised that I am at university above all to learn, so I should make the most of the facilities and opportunites available to me to learn the most I can about this dynamic and ever-changing industry.
For now at least though, the wellies are off. But if journalism doesn't work out you will know where to find me: I will be down at Kentish Town City Farm, chatting to Farmer John and sitting in the sunshine admiring that view.
In a bright reception beautiful faces look down from frames on the walls whilst next-door a studio is buzzing with assistants. In the flat upstairs Rankin's two dogs wait for their walk.
Since 2009 the impressive facade of Rankin's gallery, studio and home has stood on an unassuming patch of Grafton Road. "I always wanted to have a gallery and studio space of my own, I'd been dreaming of it for a long time," says Rankin.
The gallery gives the public the first chance to see Rankin's work exhibited in a solo space. "When this building became available I jumped at the chance to make it my own," he says.
Rankin was heavily involved in the design of the building itself. Inspired by a 35mm film, it is a sleek silhouette stamped against the cluttered backdrop of Kentish Town.
"It's very modern, quite stark, and all monochrome," says Rankin as he describes the flat he lives in on the top floor, " it has incredible 360 degree views around London. I never tire of the view."
The gallery may be situated on a still and leafy street just a stone's through away from the bleats and oinks of the City Farm, but it couldn't feel like more of a contrast.
You are not likely to find any animals in the all white interior of this building. Apart from Rankin's dogs, of course. When I meet with Kerry Schofield, head of house at Rankin Photography, she is on her way towards the door. As well as overseeing the gallery's upkeep, helping in the studio and organising events, it seems 'dog walking' is an important job requirement.
"It's great to have everthing in one building," says Schofield, "although we have nearly doubled as a team since 2009 being here feels homely. It's like a family."
Despite the family feel, working for one of Britain's most famous fashion photographers isn't without its surreal moments.
"The only time I have ever felt properly star-struck is when Jude Law was here," says Schofield. "He had a lovely bum," she adds with a smile.
With Jude Law (and his bum) coming through the doors and a project with Damien Hirst in the pipeline, Rankin's gallery on Grafton Road seems like the place to be. For now at least though, it is time to leave. I have kept Rankin's dogs waiting quite long enough.
110-114 Grafton Road, open 11:00am to 6:00pm Monday to FridayUrban Decay
Andrew Pegram has lived in North London all his life. Little surprise, therefore, that the title 'urban artist' fits him like a well-crafted suit. "If I go to the countryside I see beautiful things but I don't feel like an artist," he says, "I want to rush back to the city to what I know and love."
With a background in interiors Pegram made the leap to the street in 2005 when he became unhappy working in the family cabinet business. Supported by his wife he embarked on a career change that saw him setting off, camera in hand, to photograph buildings around London.
A self-described 'print-maker, photographer and collector,' Pegram's work draws constant inspiration from his urban environment.
Many of the buildings he captures become colourful prints, whilst others found their way into his book 'Devine Decline,' a collection of images showing London buildings that have fallen into disrepair.
Not the most likely subject for a photographic book, perhaps?
"A lot of my art has to do with finding beauty in what other people don't find beautiful," says Pegram, "in the book I'm showing things that people are predisposed to think are ugly and sad and trying to show that they have an inner beauty."
Yet there is a political message to Pegram's work too. "Although I find the decline divine, it should never have happened," says Pegram, "the main point I'm trying to make is that these are beautiful buildings that should never have been allowed to fall into disrepair."
Peeling paint and empty shop fronts are not uncommon here in Kentish Town. In fact such buildings could be said to be threads in the rich tapestry that is the community. So we have it: the paradoxical beauty of urban decay.
See www.blurb.com for details of Andrew Pegram's book
Watch this Space
If a building could speak, I wonder what stories it would tell?
Number 3 Leighton Place would certainly have a lot to say. It was originally a piano factory and throughout its history it has also been a musical school for the blind.
Ten years ago Greek artist Stathis Lagoudakis converted the dilapidated building into a studio and modern flat. The one-time factory became an artist's sanctuary carved into a quiet corner of Kentish Town.
The greatest transformation, however, takes place at the weekend. From Monday to Thursday the ground floor operates as a gym. Come Friday, dumbells, yoga mats and motivational tunes are packed into the cupboard and the room becomes Leighton Space, an exciting exhibition space for cutting edge artists.
"It is not a gallery per se," says Lagoudakis, who opened the arts space in November last year, "it is a space where artists can come and do whatever they like. Apart from destroy it!"
Whether it be a group of university students looking for a space to photograph their work, or a local artist seeking a platform, there is a thread that runs throughout the work exhibited in Leighton Space.
"I look for artists who don't want to do something simply as a commercial enterprise. I want something exciting and different."
The split personality of Leighton Space affords Lagoudakis this liberty. The money made through the gym pays the rent, leaving Lagoudakis free to indulge. "I look for new ideas, for things that aren't just about packaging and selling. Renting spaces puts too much pressure on artists, they need to be able to show their work and experiment."
So why Kentish Town?
"I used to live in Hoxton before it started being Hoxton. The more places like Dalston and Hoxton grow, the more they become pretentious," says Lagoudakis, "this place has a real feel about it. There is an audience here and an energy, the energy you get from having lots of artists and galleries in one area."
It is an energy that Lagoudakis has seen before. "I studied in Chicago and saw how the city changed," he says, "I watched how development followed artists and the places they chose to set themselves up. It's almost like artists are used to develop an area."
The metamorphosis of Number 3 Leighton Place is not just the transformation of a building, but the development of a burgeoning arts scene in Kentish Town. Watch this space? Watch Leighton Space.
3 Leighton Space, available to hire from Fridays 10:30am to Sundays 9:00pm, email@example.com
A few months ago the Cosmo girls asked me back to help out: they needed a student to photograph for June's issue of Cosmo on Campus, their student publication. Over the last few weeks I have received many surprised text messages from friends at universities around the country: "I was just eating my cereal and flicking through Cosmo on Campus when I saw a smile I recognised..."
Welcome to the first issue of FOX magazine... Walking through Kentish Town is like crossing back and forth between a country village and an urban metropolis. We foxes are at home both stalking the street at night or eyeing up the chickens on a country farm. In our first issue of FOX magazine we bring you a varied representation of these contrasting sides to Kentish Town.
Photographers Alex Pielak and Victoria Mullins were assigned the task of giving us their view through the lens of Kentish Town. The results give a snapshot of the many facets of Kentish Town and can be found on page 25.
FOX heads to Kentish Town City Farm for a glorious fashion shoot, shot by Bonny Sadr and styled by Zadrian Smith. Kentish Town is teaming with young talent and with this in mind Zadrian sourced clothes from a range of young designers. He and Bonny have created some beautiful images of a girl who is more than she seems. Sipping water from a pond swarming with tadpoles she becomes a creature in herself (Ey Iy Ey Iy Oh, page 13).
As a complete contrast to the city farm, FOX also pays a visit to one sleek black building on Grafton Road, which just happens to be the home and studio of world famous fashion photographer, Rankin. Be sure to see his interview on page 23. In his own words, "Kentish Town is a place to watch."
With Rankin's stamp of approval, North is officially the new East. Kentish Town is growing as a destination for both artists and galleries. In this issue we present to you Leighton Space, an exciting new arts venue that doubles up as a gym during the week and is the definition of both versatility and cutting edge art (Watch this Space, page 22). FOX also speaks to North London artist Andrew Pegram about the paradox of urban decay and what it means to be an urban artist (Urban Decay, page 24).
Back to the countryside and one of the integral parts of any rural community: the country pub. Kentish Town isn't short of pubs, and in this issue Drunken Fox Tom Williams visits the best of the bunch. A week spent eating and drinking; his dedication is surely admirable. Our resident foodie Ellie Mathews also brings you a round up of the best independent food stores in Kentish Town, as well as catching up with John Grayson of Earth Natural Foods. You may have walked past countless times, but did you know the story of its pioneering co-owner? (page 8)
Another stalwart of the Kentish Town high street is currently looking ahead to a sad future. Zadrian Smith interviews the owner of Bluston's, revealing the history of the family business that has been a part of Kentish Town for decades but which is now facing its downfall (Bluston's Last Ration, page 20).
In a lighter vein, Fox About Town Maria Medvedeva reports from the HMV Forum as Snoop Dogg makes his UK comeback in Kentish Town. Continuing the musical note: Map Café may be well-known for its weekly jazz nights, but it is also a recording label that promotes fresh new talent. Mona Maahn meets the man behind the Map (page 12).
FOX has also found the best things to do in Kentish Town over the summer. See our summer calendar on page 6.
Now for a flash of orange tail as FOX is off, on the hunt for the best that Kentish Town has to offer in time for next season's issue.
Yes, I am still alive. Things have been rather quiet on here recently as for the last few months I have been somewhat distracted by my third term's project at the London College of Fashion.
Term 3 at LCF has been by far the hardest, but also the most rewarding. At the beginning of the term we were split into groups and given the task of creating a magazine and a 30 minute documentary about an area of London. We were assigned Kentish Town, and I was the Editor in Chief of our project.
Over the last few months my laptop and I have become like young lovers: rarely apart and unable to keep our hands off each other. Sleepless nights have been spent creating layouts for the magazine or editing articles and images. At one stage I was seriously considering bringing my sleeping bag with me to the edit suite where I had spent another 12 hour day editing our documentary.
But somehow, remarkably, after a term of stress, disagreements and lots and lots of hard work, it is all over and my project has been handed in. I have finished my first year at LCF. A few pages from our magazine...
Let's go to (Kentish) Town I must admit that when our group was assigned Kentish Town as our area to write about, I had never been there before in my life. I wasn't even sure where it was. Unusually for me, I wasn't jumping off my chair trying to be the leader of this project. In my first year at LCF I have been lucky enough to work with some incredibly talented people whom I have learnt a lot from. When it came to our first group project I wanted the best person to do the job, so if that meant stepping down and sitting this one out, for what was probably the first time in my life, that was fine by me. I was more than a little surprised, therefore, when the group came to a unanimous decision: they wanted me to be the Editor in Chief. Maybe I was just destined for writing lists, creating timetables of deadlines and yaberring away in front of a room of people about our ideas after all... FOX Magazine To best explain the concept of our magazine, I am copying the first paragraph of my editor's letter (the writing of which was a surreal and inspiring experience. The first of many I hope...):
"Walking through Kentish Town feels like crossing back and forth between a country village and an urban metropolis. We foxes are at home both stalking the street at night or eyeing up the foxes on a country farm. In our first issue of FOX magazine we bring you a varied representation of these contrasting sides to Kentish Town."
FOX became not just our name, but a concept that shapes the whole magazine. When we visited Kentish Town one of the things that really struck us was the mix of urban and rural: Kentish Town City Farm is a rural haven and many streets here look like postcards from a country village, yet you are still in the heart of the city. From this idea, 'FOX' was born: our magazine would be a mix of urban and rural in the same way that you get country and city foxes.
Just like foxes wander the streets we aimed to sniff out the best of the best in Kentish Town in order to create a reinvention of the community magazine. Why shouldn't the community have a trendy, fun magazine serving the same purposes as a traditional magazine or paper?
When we picked up our magazine from the printers they told us that they had all been looking through our magazine and loved it. One of their drivers, they said, had lived in Kentish Town all his life, yet he said he found out things he never knew about the area from reading our magazine. That is something I am proud of and have enjoyed this term: meeting new people, discovering new things and feeling like a proper journalist.
I am really proud of what we have produced, with a little help from the artists and photographers we commissioned. I loved being Editor in Chief and have learnt so much from the process. Of course I have learnt technical skills: I designed the layouts for the magazine using Photoshop and Indesign and although I had never picked up a film camera before in my life before starting LCF, together with one of my coursemates I filmed and edited a 30 minute documentary. But I have also learnt a lot about myself.
When people hear that I have a whole drawer dedicated to baking supplies and a room decorated with bunting, they often jump to the conclusion that I'm as soft as the pink cushions scattered across my bed and not up to a career in one of the most vicious of industries.
At the end of this project one of my group mates went around the group asking everyone what I had been like as an editor.
One response in particular made me laugh: "you could ask Libby to do anything and she would get it done. She is to the point and straight in what she wants. When she asks you to do something you know you have to do it, because if not, you're in for a ride."
These past few months have been full of stress and have left me exhausted. I have had to deal with the problems and inevitable setbacks that come from editing a magazine as well as working with a group of strong-minded people. I have had to defend my ideas and fight the corner for our group when faced with difficult questions about our magazine from our peers and lecturers. But despite all the stress it has definitely been worth it. I have a copy of FOX magazine sitting proudly on my shelf, and have proven to myself that you can be and Editor in Chief and still bake cupcakes and love pink.