Sunday, 23 December 2012

All I Want for Christmas is a Job that Pays

Dear Father Christmas,

When I wake up on Christmas morning I will not be looking for any packages under the tree. All I want for Christmas is a job that pays.

I value my future more than any gift tied up with paper and ribbon. But is it wrong that I want to feel valued too? I have been good this year. I have worked hard; both at university and on the internships I have done in the hope that they will get me ahead in my career. But I have never been paid for my time, I am tired, and I cannot afford to work for free anymore.

I am told that if I want a successful career internships are the passport into the land of the employed. My CV should be full of them, they say. I am also told that I should not expect to be paid, even after I graduate. Does that mean I should not expect to eat or pay my rent either? Because without a wage how can I afford to live?

The only Christmas present I want this year is the knowledge that 2013 will bring me closer to my future, and that I will not be held back by my inability to work for free. I want to have the same opportunities as those with wealth to support them and send them on their way. I want to apply for a job where the criteria will be my skills, not the number of places I have interned, or effectively the number of months I have managed to scrape by on zero income.

I want to see real graduate jobs instead of six-month ‘internships’ that I could never afford to do. I want to see the government support young people like me by enforcing the National Minimum Wage laws they created that say workers, interns included, are entitled to a wage. In the vast majority of cases unpaid internships are illegal yet they are as abundant as glitter at Christmas.

I understand that times are tough and jobs are scarce, but the current system of unpaid internships set only the rich up to succeed. Does that mean I deserve to fail?

It may sound like I am asking for a lot but it doesn’t really require Christmas magic for my wish to come true. All it needs is the government and employers to accept their moral responsibility and the law.

Could 2013 be the year that my dream becomes a reality?

Yours hopefully,

The Unpaid Intern

P.S I sincerely hope your workers are paid a decent wage. Because we interns are like elves; they may not be as glamorous as Santa Claus, but Christmas would fall apart without them.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Coming home for Christmas


The sky is the colour of wet tarmac as the train sighs and pulls out of Waterloo. The towers of Battersea power station pierce the low fog that rolls as silently as a shadow across the city. A jigsaw of terraced houses and a web of streets flash past the window, then the train shrugs off the final suburbs and bursts into countryside. A forever of fields and sky.

I am sitting on the 11:20 train from London in a Christmas jumper with reindeers leaping across my chest and snowflakes falling from my shoulders. It is the 20th of December, five days until Christmas.

My suitcases are heavy with presents and jumpers. A roll of gold wrapping paper pokes out of the corner of one bag.

It has been a long term. When I started the first week of my final year at university I was still shaky with the memories of glandular fever. I realised it had been nearly six months since I was last in class and working at my full capacity.

September was only four months ago but so much has happened. Perhaps most notably I have gone from being an unpaid intern to becoming a campaigner for fairer internships. In January I will start a new job at Intern Aware, the campaign I have been involved with for the past few months. My work so far has taken me to the Houses of Parliament and seen my name in the Huffington Post, the Guardian, the Independent and the Observer. I have met some incredibly interesting people and feel fulfilled doing something I believe in. The more people I talk to and the more campaign work I do the stronger I feel about this issue: it is not fair that young people are excluded from jobs just because they cannot afford to work for free. I am looking forward to an exciting 2013: joining Intern Aware in January and graduating in the summer.

But for now I am heading to the Dorset countryside and to the small town where my family will be waiting for me behind a wreath bedecked front door. As I sit on the train I can nearly smell the pine of the Christmas tree and feel the warmth of the Aga. I think of my mum, my sister and my step-dad and my heart glows like a street full of Christmas lights.

I may be looking forward to 2013 and getting my teeth stuck into a new job and my final university project, but now it is time to pause. Christmas is family time.

I am coming home.


Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Why I wear colour

7 day colours transparent low pink and red weeks

First there were the Minnie Mouse leggings. I was four (one, two, three, four sticky fingers counted and held up proudly to show my age). They were my first experience of fashion, and my first experience of love. A shouty shade of pink, they clashed with the orange curtains that parted around my chubby face. I paired them with an acid green t-shirt, accessorized with a half moon grin. I would like to think that my taste has developed since then (I got a haircut and ditched the Disney), but some things will never change.

My name is Libby and I am a colour addict. My wardrobe looks like a Skittle shower. It is colour co-ordinated like a rainbow with only two or three black items acting as a full stop at the very end of the rail. I hardly ever wear them. Dressing in colour is an important part of who I am and bright shades are like the anti-shadow that follows me wherever I go.

I cannot imagine my life without colour, and I cannot imagine my life without Sally. Sally is my mum’s name and the name of the nanny who helped look after me ever since I was two. Both women have been huge influences in my life and have painted it many different shades.

When I think of my childhood and my mum I think of a soft pink jumper she wore when I was little, a jumper that felt like falling asleep it was so gentle to the touch. I think of the powder green stalks of her favourite flower (tulips), her forget-me not blue Aga and her marshmallow pink fridge. All of these things and all of these colours sum up how I felt about her as a little girl: she was my safety.

Nanny Sally is the most colourful person I know. Red was and still is her signature, but if it is not red it is purple, or fuchsia pink, all accessorised with vibrant handmade jewellery and a personality as warm as the colours she wears. Nanny Sally’s love of colour extends into her home, where cereal is eaten out of rainbow stripe bowls and cupboards are painted turquoise and apple green. I didn’t know this was allowed. 

My memories are punctuated by colour, like bright map tacs pinned into the collage of my life. A toothpaste green gingham dress marks my early school years. I saw in the millennium with dark green beads and a velvet skirt that felt soft and comforting to the touch. Bright tie-dye and a suede coat the colour of squashed blackcurrants signalled the transition into my early teens.

As I grew up my relationship with my mum changed: she wasn’t just the pink parent who fed me Calpol and put my school uniform on the radiator each morning, she was a poster for the kind of woman I wanted to grow into. And she was red. I would watch her put on her red lipstick or hug her through her thick red coat when she came back from work, and I would think to myself, “I won’t be a grown up until I can wear red.”

As I got older I also became more conscious of the clothes I wore. Now the first thing I think about when I wake up is what I’m going to wear. It is important to me, not because I want to look like a walking magazine (or think that I ever could) but because the clothes I wear have a huge effect on how I feel. Colour is a big part of this.

Last year I spent two weeks in two colours: one week dressed head to toe in pink and another dressed head to toe in red. I was interested in how colours affect my mood and the way people treat me, but most of all it was the one thing that fashion should be: fun.

People often tell me that I must be confident to wear such bright colours. Most mornings when I wake up I don’t feel sunshine yellow or confident cobalt. In fact I often want nothing more than to hide behind a mask of grey and black. But that is exactly why I wear colour. If I’m feeling blue I’ll put on blue tights instead.

I have always worn colourful clothes, but my wardrobe is definitely the brightest it has ever been. Earlier this year I became unwell. I spent six months in a glandular fever cloud. Most days I felt as though I had been on a treadmill for weeks and my body had turned to jelly. But I wasn’t just drained of energy; I felt like a deflated balloon with all the personality squeezed out of me. I spent several months in my pyjamas and developed a relationship with my duvet that was nothing short of possessive. When I eventually managed to escape the clinging arms of my bed I wanted to wear all the shadows of my mood. But instead I dressed like a sunbeam. Like a sunflower draws energy from the sun, I drew energy from the bright colours that I forced myself to wear. I still do.

The clothes you wear are the first things that people see of you. I want mine to smile hello.

Colour is my coffee in the morning and the person I want to be. But it is also my story. And although it may not be earth-shattering or twinkling with the sparks of fireworks, I think my story is more colourful than a little black dress. Isn’t yours?

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Busy Libby

Picture 7

I’ve been busy. So busy that this blog has become neglected and when I clicked onto my website today I realised it was not up to date with all the things I have been doing. So I have given it a bit of a makeover (although it's always a work in progress).

I have been putting all my time and energy into my final project for university, which is a film I am making about unpaid internships in the fashion industry. Along the way I have met and interviewed some interesting people, attended protests, given official evidence at a government hearing and been interviewed myself, like for today's article in the Observer about the class divide created by unpaid internships. To read more about what I have been up to, have a look at the blog I have been keeping:

If you have two minutes (well two minutes and 57 seconds to be precise) have a look at the short film I have made, a film that involved hours spent playing with Playmobil, Barbies and Lego as I made my own stop motion animation...

My box room

IMG_9466 IMG_9448 IMG_9425 IMG_9340  IMG_9339 IMG_9333 IMG_9342 IMG_9335 IMG_8823 IMG_9421 IMG_9450  IMG_9453   IMG_9456 IMG_9415 IMG_9414 IMG_9343 IMG_8813 IMG_9427

My bedroom this year is essentially a box. But that doesn’t mean it has to be a boring box. In the few months that I have lived here I have made it my own, and made it home.

Home, wherever it may be, is my sanctuary. With winter closing in and squeezing us in an icy embrace there is nothing like coming in from the cold and into the fairylight glow of my bedroom. I shed my coat and scarf and shed the stresses of the day as I flop into a heap of cushions and blankets on my bed. I turn on my music and lie on my back looking up at my wall of photographs: photographs that make me smile and that are just as much a reflection of who I am as the colourful clothes that I wear.

It may just be a small box but my room is proof that you can do a lot with not much. A good motto for life I think. 


Sunday, 18 November 2012

Stop and smell the flowers

Never give up
Columbia Stallholder
Cabbages and Kisses
cabbages, tulips and thistles
Columbia Road singers
snack time
street scene
pink flags
prickly flowers
never never
happy place

"They seemed to be hardly Railway children at all in those days, and as the days went on each had an uneasy feeling about this which Phyllis expressed one day. 
"I wonder if the Railway misses us," she said, plaintively. "We never go to see it now."
"It seems ungrateful," said Bobbie; "we loved it so when we hadn't anyone else to play with..." 
 The Railway Children, E Nesbit

 When I first moved to London I chose my student accommodation based on its proximity to Columbia Road Flower Market. It is one of my favourite places and in my first year I found myself there most Sunday mornings, smelling the flowers and listening to the stallholders calling out the prices of snapdragons and tulips.

If I'm honest though, one of the reasons I would go there was because I didn't have much else to do on a Sunday, or anyone to do it with. Leaving home for the first time was lonely. But instead of feeling lonely in my room I went out and explored. The flowers and coffee shops and markets were my company.

That was two years ago: I now feel lucky to have made lovely friends and to have a busy balance of seeing them and working on my final university project. But this morning I woke up and realised that it has been nearly a year since I visited Columbia Road.

Final year is hectic so technically I should probably have spent today working on my dissertation, but after spending a stressful Saturday at university I decided that flowers would be good for my soul.

I headed to Columbia Road with my camera and enjoyed a day of perfect loneliness. I ate cake alone and smiled at strangers and bought myself roses - because everyone deserves roses every now and then. It is lovely to have other people to make me happy (and even to buy roses for me) but it is also nice to spend days like these by myself, taking joy in the smell of the flowers. Friends make me very happy but it is good to remind myself that I can make me very happy too.

(Cake and roses help.)


Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Dreaming of Paris

Last night I dreamt of Paris. Here are some photos I took last time I was there visiting my best friend Juliette...