Scottish Dark Sky Observatory

Dropping jaws and blowing minds is the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory, one of the nation’s best -kept secrets.

SDSO resident astronomer, David Warrington, said: “The observatory is located within the Galloway Forrest Dark Sky Park, it has minimum street lighting, so less light pollution, and it is an optimum place to see more stars on a clear night.”

Nestled within the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere, the observatory features a 20-inch Corrected Dall Kirkham telescope, in a 5-metre dome, and a 14-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope.

 Warrington said: “Telescopes of this size are something that people don’t often get to look through. People are often in awe of what they are seeing; such as craters on the surface of the moon, or the rings of Saturn, both of which have real wow factor!”  

He added:“People get contemplative looking at the Milky Way, they talk about the massive distances of space, and it tends to get more philosophical than scientific.”

It’s no wonder then that the observatory has become a real romantic retreat.

Warrington recalled: “SDSO has lots of people come to it on date nights, a couple of times a year around valentine’s day we even hold events themed on the season, taking about astronomical phenomenon’s like the Heart Nebula.”

He added: “In fact we have had a few proposals and even a few weddings held at the observatory. It’s understandable, lots of people like to get engaged under the starry sky or to share their wedding with their friends and family here.”

Love has also been poured into developing the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory.

Warrington explained: “The SDSO started as a building to host telescopes, but now it’s taken a different direction; we now have the building with the planetarium and the gift shop, so people can take home memories and mementos even on cloudy nights.

“SDSO has also been able to turn a room into an exhibition space and we have had exhibitions around subjects such as Meteorites and Moon Memorabilia.”

The Moon Memorabilia exhibition featured artefacts such as signed posters from Apollo astronauts and Saturn 5 rockets, bringing its history to life.

Warrington said: “Astronomy used to be thought of as something only old men did in fields at night-time, but over the past ten years it has become more mainstream. The Scottish Dark Sky Observatory is working to make astronomy as accessible as possible.”

No matter a person’s age or ability, the observatory welcomes them to use their telescopes and explore the universe. The observatory also uses astero photography, to take pictures of the night sky and showcase astronomical objects.

Warrington said: “A large proportion of the work that we do is about education, getting school groups looking at the night sky in the planetarium, using the telescopes and linking it to the national curriculum.”

SDSO is open throughout the year; it has special star gazing sessions in the weekend and through the week. It also has special events, based on astronomical occurrences, which people can book online, through the SDSO website.

Warrington said: “November has the anniversary of Apollo 12 landing on the moon, so we will have anniversary events. In November there will be the Leonid Meteor shower.”

 He added:  “The Observatory has a winter solstice in December, with festive star gazing events, such as the Geminids Meteor shower.”

 “As we get into the winter months the sky gets much darker and we get the chance of seeing that lovely Milky Way, with lots of bright skies; we switch over to winter sky gazing.”

In the autumn and winter months, the sun gets lower in the sky and star- gazers have longer periods of time to see the sights.

From the observatory people can see the moon in detail, the planet Venus, and the planet Saturn across the southern sky; as well as bright patterned constellations of stars, like Obrien, Taurus and Gemini.

Warrington concluded: “If anyone has ever looked up at the night sky in wonder and wanted to take it to the next step, to use a telescope to see it in more detail, then it is well worth coming to the observatory. If you want to learn more about space and astronomy then we can help.”



Reimagining the Glasgow of Charles Rennie Mackintosh is the audio-visual installation Visaurihelix, showcasing in The Lighthouse, Glasgow, until 2 January 2019.

Visaurihelix Artist, Dr Louise Harris explained the exhibition title, saying: “It is a made up word, used to summarise the installation, its first part represents visuals, auri is related to sound and helix is related to the helical staircase of The Lighthouse.

The Lighthouse had commissioned the piece, by sending out a brief for a work that would both fit its unique space and celebrate the 150-year legacy of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Harris said:“I have been obsessed with Mackintosh design and architecture since I was a child, and I am also obsessed with spiral staircases, so it was a pretty perfect combination for me; so I applied to the brief, and there you go!”

Harris used her expertise in audio-visual art to compile soundscapes from Charles Rennie Mackintosh buildings, before combining and presenting them in a new way. This included using speakers, on The Lighthouse staircase, to vertically play sound recorded from five Rennie Mackintosh sites.

Harris explained: “The majority of the pitched material in the work is mapped from those sites; I built algorithmic software patches that took the site designs and translated them to changes in pitch over time, and that made the electronic backbone of the work.”

She added: “The other audio material is sound that has been recorded in those five spaces and has been combined into the work.”

The work was then made interactive by entwining The Lighthouse staircase in a giant glockenspiel construction, the angles of which mimicked patterns of Charles Rennie Mackintosh design, allowing visitors to create their own sounds.

Harris said:“When I was working in the studio I had to make guesses as to how noises would sound when travelling vertically, not horizontally, so that was quite challenging, but it was a good challenge, it made me think more about how to work with multi-speaker formats in more detail.”

She added:“I was quite surprised how well the speakers worked together, but also how the glockenspiel element turned out.”


While Harris knew the exhibition space would be a challenging part of the project, an unexpected challenge arose when the Glasgow School of Art suffered a fire.

Harris said:“I was planning to record sounds from the Art School and include them as one of the building soundscapes in the installation; but the fire happened literally a couple of days before I was due to go in and collect the material, so it was quite poignant.”

Despite being unable to capture soundscapes from the Art School, Harris hopes that Visaurihelix will allow people to reflect on all of Rennie Mackintosh’s work.

She said: “I hope this exhibition’s visitors have enjoyed engaging with different Mackintosh spaces, from different places in the city, and so it acts as a tribute to the Art School as well.”

When first arrived in Glasgow, Harris couldn’t wait to see Mackintosh’s buildings up close.

She explained: “I am a relative new comer to Glasgow, I have only lived here for around four or five years, but the Lighthouse and the Mackintosh buildings and galleries were some of the first things that I explored when I got here.”

Harris moved to Glasgow to take up a position at Glasgow University.

She said: “When I got my job in Glasgow, my title was Lecturer in Sound and Audio Visual Practices, and that type of role was unheard of at the time, but these days it is much more common.

“The audio-visual art scene has changed hugely in the last 10 years or so, audio-visual work has become more prominent in festivals and galleries.”

Harris added:‘I think Glasgow’s audio-visual art scene will continue to develop in coming years. Festivals like Sonica are really good foregrounds for audio-visual art work, so I think Glasgow is quite ahead of the game in that sense.”

Despite this, Harris accepts that the definition of audio-visual art can still be confusing.

She said: “My audio-visual art is about creating pieces that engage your sonic and visual senses simultaneously, and give equal weight to both. If you think about a music video its is about marketing the sound, and if you think about a narrative film that is primarily about the visual; but audio-visual work is about the equality of the relationship between the two mediums.”

To explore Harris’ audio-visual art in other venues, you can see her exhibition, Alocas, in the Stephen Lawrence Gallery, in Greenwich London, from November 2018 until January 2019.

Harris summarised: “Alocas involves a dual screen speaker and audio-visual work. The audience is situated in the middle of two large screens, so it is a very immersive, physical and participatory experience.”



Spicing up Scotland’s summer is the Tramway Indian art exhibition, Pehchaan. Running from June 18 to July 31, the show captures India’s new aesthetic ‘identity’.

Glasgow Museums Curator of World Cultures, Patricia Allan said: “Focus on classical art in museums and galleries reinforces a widely-held perception that Indian art is ancient and has no connection with the present.

“Pehchaan opens the door to another India – the dynamic, creative, inspirational art from today’s streets and studios – which is somehow firmly inspired by centuries of tradition.”

The collection features folk art, textiles and contemporary works, alongside material from Glasgow Museums new collection. This collection was acquired (especially for the project) with support from the Art Fund’s RENEW programme and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

Bringing the project to life is creative designer Gabriella Marcella, who invigorates the art with public workshops, discussions and activities.

Allan said: “The colour and energy of Gabriella Marcella’s set design adds a buzz and excitement to the immersive event; there’s a surprise around every corner.

“Pehchaan is a fun experience, a snapshot of the sights, sounds and mystery that is India.”

Pehchaan showcases three art traditions: Punjabi painted trucks, West Bengali wax cast brass sculptures and contemporary sculpture from Assam.

Collation of the work and interviews with the artists were filmed, before pieces of the documentary were added to the exhibition.

Allan explained: “The edited excerpts of the film are an important part of the exhibition experience.”

This experience spans two continents and five years of work, shared between Indian curators, Glasgow Museums and community artists.

Allan added: “Pehchaan gives tribal, street and geographically isolated artists from three regions of Northern India a unique opportunity to showcase their skills to a larger audience.”

As well as introducing new art to Glasgow, Pehchaan attempts to introduce new visitors to Glasgow museums.

Allan said: “A key part of the project has been to use this collection to engage with communities who do not normally visit museums. We intended the RENEW collection to be a springboard for creativity, dialogue and imagination.

“Therefore, as part of the project we ran six months of community art workshops inspired by the new collection, culminating in a community event at Scotland Street Museum.”  

She concluded: “Community workshops are also part of Pehchaan in a specially designed workshop area within the exhibition space.”

Pehchaan image: Painted truck back with image of lion by Jarnail Singh, 2013.

Girls and their Mothers


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Busting the myth ‘like mother like daughter’ is Scottish photographer Kim Simpson. Showcasing in East Kilbride Central Library – from May 28 to June 30 – Simpson’s exhibition, Mothers and their Daughters, celebrates individuality.

She said: “I have been inspired by the experiences of raising my daughter, Lamaya, who is of mixed race. She has been raised in the same Scottish town that I grew up in, and while our experiences are largely similar there has unfortunately also been some negativity due to the colour of her skin.”

Simpson explained that as Lamaya grew her peers became more conscious of image and how hers differed to their own.

Simpson added: “My daughter had a particularly difficult school year in Primary 7, when a class full of children who she had been with for the last six years seemed to view her differently all of a sudden.

“I found it extremely hard to get the school to take action on this and felt that my concerns were being brushed off.”

Being white from a largely Caucasian town, Simpson saw there was apathy for the challenges faced by mixed race families. Realising others were also experiencing these frustrations, Simpson used her art to connect individual’s narratives.

She said: “Spending time with girls and women of mixed race who had grown up experiencing what my daughter had, and flourishing in spite of it, was inspirational.”

Simpson photographed sixteen families all together, resulting in a total of 48 images.

She recalled: “There were many stories shared, both positive and negative. People who lived pockets of the same city – some only minutes apart – had huge differences in social interactions with their local areas.”

Recognising the differences in maternal relationships, as well as the common challenges, Simpson’s work struck a chord with many.

She said: “I am overwhelmed at the amount of support this project has received from its infancy to exhibition planning. I am pleased to have created something that has been so well received.”

As well as personal significance, the project has professional significance as Simpson’s first solo tour.

She said: “Co-ordinating a solo touring exhibition has been a huge learning curve and great experience. I am now able to respond to the feedback gained during my exhibitions; allowing me to think bigger by incorporating talks and community projects in to my work. I am also looking to expand my existing projects with a real national significance.”

This is no mean feat, considering Simpson juggles exhibitions with paid work and parenting. Despite this challenge, she explained motherhood was what led her back to her passion for art.

Simpson said: “While most kids want to grow up to be a vet or a police officer, I wanted to be a wildlife photographer and work with David Attenborough. I also used to love sketching and painting, but never saw art as a viable career option.

“However I came back to art as an adult, during some time out of work when my daughter was born.”

While on this break Simpson took up painting again, working on leather and 3D objects. She began painting more intricate designs on shoes, a skill which eventually saw her win Best Customizing Designer at the UK Urban Fashion Awards, in 2007.

Despite this passion for paint, Simpson yearned to focus on photography.

She recalled: “I began spending more and more time considering themed images for each of my shoe designs, until eventually I was painting to match photo-shoot ideas. It was at this point I listened to my inner child and pursued photography full time.”

Simpson went on to study photography at City of Glasgow College, staying for four years, and earning a First Class honours degree.

She said: “The final two years of study saw me hone an interest in to the Visual Norm.”

This theme continues to be seen in Simpson’s Mothers and their Daughters exhibition, as well as providing inspiration for her next project.

She concluded: “I will be continuing this theme through an exhibition of new work, at the Dysfunction Gallery, in September 2016. This work will then be included in Glasgow’s Black History Month exhibition, during October.”


The Labyrinth Inside 

The lab inside

Exploring inner turmoil in inner London is the modern art exhibition, The Labyrinth Inside. Running from 4 – 21 November, at Lacey Contemporary Gallery, the show features work from Katrine Roberts and Angela Smith.

Roberts said: “Angela and I met through Lacey Contemporary Gallery; we were both approached a little over a year ago by Andrew Lacey, who founded the space.

“In this instance we were selected to show alongside one another. We share a common ground in our visual language and overlapping concerns with woven, tangled forms depicting strange, abstruse creatures or environments.”

These environments are featured in paintings and an installation at the Lacey Contemporary Gallery. The works explore themes of the psyche and body, in an interactive way.

Roberts said: “The Gallery space is used as a metaphor, the materials’ movements and audience participation bringing attention to the life breathed into any space once inhabited.”

This affect is achieved by splitting the Gallery in half, with Smith’s work at the front and Roberts’ at the back.

Roberts detailed: “We chose to divide our work, to allow each of our ‘worlds’ to breathe, with a pendulum-like interaction between the two.”

Roberts’ work consists of paintings on canvas and board, as well as an installation that paints the gallery structure.

She said: “I have made a number of installations in the past, often using paint, paper and tools to cut into the walls; but each piece takes on a different form, as every space is different.”

Having graduated from the Royal College of Art in July, with an MA in Painting; Roberts first gained a BA in Fine Art Painting at London Art School, in 2011. Since then she has been working as a professional artist.

Recounting her proudest achievements, Roberts said: “I was so excited to be selected for the Catlin Guide in 2012. Then it was great being included alongside artists I admire, such as Carla Busutill, in South Korea’s Space K Galleries. But more recently my proudest achievement has been being shortlisted for the Griffin Art Prize.”

The Griffin Art Prize is a competition that celebrates the UK’s best emerging artists. Its winner will be announced at the Private View, on 18 November.

An exhibition of work by all of the shortlisted artists, including Roberts, will be held at West London’s Griffin Gallery, from 19 November to 18 December.

As well as exhibitions, Roberts has been busy founding a contemporary art forum called ArtNow.Discuss, which focuses on discussion and projects.

Roberts concluded: “Based in London, AN.D takes the form of interviews both online and offline with Artists, Curators, Gallery Managers, Project Managers, Collectors, Investors, Educators and Writers. It offers a multifaceted view of what is happening at this moment.”

The One Where We Wonder What Friends Did

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Autumn 2015 saw the abstract sculpture of Oliver Braid fill Wasps’ Hanson Studios. As Braid’s show, The One Where We Wonder What Friends Did, drew to a close he explained the inspiration behind it.

He said: “As a project this new sculpture was inspired by relationships in late 20th century culture; collaborative and curatorial practices across early 21st century culture; as well as distortion and medieval mereological thought.

He added: “As an object the sculpture was developed with two questions in mind; what is the use of artistic embroidery atop philosophical carpentry; and what is the relationship between use and not-use?”

Braid’s exhibition uses papier-mache, embroidery, architecture, optical illusions, and semiotic art; encompassed in sculpture. His work forms a hut, the outside of which is covered salmon coloured foam, and adorned with the bust of Margaret Beaufort.

On the side of the hut is a peep -hole, through which the viewer can see a reimagining of the Friend’s set for Monica’s apartment. It has a checked floor, purple wall, sculptures, and gold -framed impressions of other artists’ work.

Braid explained: “Inside the room you can take a closer look at the display of five objects, which I made based on existent artworks produced by friends of mine. Over the past fifteen years these friends have influenced my own thinking about art.”

 He continued: “When someone moves into this room space and walks across it they grow in size, and it becomes clear the space and the objects have been distorted to create an optical illusion.”

 The challenging of perspective is central to Braid’s work ethos; as he explained: “Throughout my work I wish to maintain a critical perspective on local and global contemporary art.”

He added: “By the time I am designing a work it’s sort of chosen itself, there doesn’t appear to be any other way to respond to the world at that time.”

Braid explained that he was first drawn to art at the age of thirteen, upon seeing the exhibition Sensation (in 1997). He then went on to study at the Falmouth College of Arts, before Glasgow School of Art.

Now an established artist, Braid lives in the Glasgow and works from Wasps Hanson Studios. He uses the studios to develop a cultural space he calls Phew.

He said: “The exhibition that I have at Wasps right now is also an off-site project for Phew’s first season Tell Me Less & Tell Me More, which explores practice of over-relating and withdrawing.”

Withdrawal from expectation is a method Braid uses to avoid cliché; as he explained he no longer courts exhibition opportunities or popular approval.

Braid briefed: “I’m bored of the arts trying to persuade people to come to something, it seems self-defeating all this begging. My vibe is like, I’m doing this thing that I am focused on and that I believe in and think is valuable.

“In an ideal world art will be allowed to become as hermetic as science, and also be given equal respect.” 

Looking to the future, Braid is developing the first season of Phew (running September 2015 until March 2016).

He will also bring a solo exhibition to Vane, Newcastle, in January 2016.

Hip Hop Vibe


Bringing urban to Dundee is Hip Hop Vibe; an event that celebrates street dance, art and music.

On October 20 from 2-9pm, Bonar Hall will host choreographer Andy Instone; who has worked with artists such as Dizzee Rascal, Sean Paul and Alexandra Burke.

This time working in union with Dundee Dance Partnership, Instone will deliver a programme of urban tutorials and a closing party.

Scottish Dance Theatre Head of Creative Learning, Dawn Hartley, said: We open with Andy Instone giving us a presentation about the history of street dance; and after that it’s practical dance, graffiti art, and DJ skills workshops; finishing with an after party where everyone can get their groove on.”

Attending the event will be Leisure & Culture Dundee’s Urban Moves Dance Company, but Hartley explained guests with no urban knowledge were also welcome.

She said: “The event is open to all over five years old. We want a wide range of age groups, because dance is for everyone.”

Hartley added: “Attendees need only bring enthusiasm, a smile, and clothes they can move easily in.”

Tickets to access all areas cost £25; with a discounted rate of £40 for two. Tickets to the after-party, which runs from 7.30 – 9pm, are £10. Guests can book tickets and register for workshops via the Dundee Rep website.

Hartley said: “We are very privileged to get Andy Instone up to Scotland for this event, his passion is contagious and knowledge is priceless. The event is a must for all dance enthusiasts!”

Leisure & Culture Dundee Dance Officer, Alex Hare, concluded: “Leisure & Culture Dundee are delighted to be part of this event. We have been busy organising an exciting timetable for the day and are looking forward to the community celebrating all things urban.”

Wasps Hanson Studios

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Hidden inside a Dennistoun building is a feast for the eyes; Wasps Hanson studios. Here ceramics, stained glass and drawings are just some of the treasures tucked away. But – once a year – the studios hosts an open weekend, to show the public what it has been missing.

Speaking from the event, ceramicist Eleanor Caie said: “Open weekends are a rare treat, and a lovely chance to let the public explore our working space.”


Caie’s shared space showcased her Scottish landscape pots; Japanese style bowls and sphere lamps, which cast patterns from tiny holes.

She said: “I spend a lot of time making things and developing ideas, and the Glasgow ceramics studio [at Hanson] is the best space for this kind of work.”

As well as studio work, Caie helps run an arts fare on Royal Exchange Square, showcasing her and other artists’ produce.

Such multitasking seems common among Hanson’s artists, as stained glass specialist, Alan Robinson showed.


He said: “I am a full-time artist; I create work here at Hanson, but also use the space to run stained glass classes, for people interested in learning the craft. Students come as beginners, develop their skills, and often end up honing them over years.”

These skills, Robinson explained, are vital to a city renowned for its stained glass.

He said: “Glasgow is the UK’s leading stained glass city; so restorations make up about fifty per cent of my commercial work.”

The other half he listed as original wall mountings, windows and sculpture.

Robinson explained: “I have sculptures on display which I showed at an exhibition in Edinburgh, called Number, Sign and Pattern. These pieces include both fused, and cast and painted glass, with layered surfaces. The pieces explore the relationships between marks and signs, textures and patterns, images and objects.”

Another artist using glass in a different way was Alicia MacInnes. MacInnes showed functional jewellery and sculpture, made via bottle slumping and multiple firings. Tartan patterned glass pendants and bottle dishes were some of the results.


MacInnes reflected on the changes she had seen during her time at Hanson.

She said: “I originally came to Wasps Hanson about fifteen years ago, to work in the collective glass studio. Long before that the Hanson building was a tobacco factory, which was eventually turned into artists’ studios. Then – in 2001- the studios were further refurbished with Lottery funding.

“At the time they looked fantastic; since then they have worn a little around the edges, but are still a good space.”

Another long-standing resident showing at the open weekend was artist Susan Eaton. Eaton joined the studios fourteen years ago, after leaving art school.


She said: “I have always enjoyed the space here. The Hanson Studios have a huge variety of artists working across different mediums.”

Eaton’s medium of choice had recently been pencil, as she explained: “I have been focusing on drawing for the past few years. I work with fine leads and build up layers to get a dense black effect; it’s time consuming but worth it.”

She added: “The works I have on display are incomplete portraits of women, focusing on the texture of their clothing and the weight of the limbs, as opposed to the identity of the subject.”

Also focused on the human form was artist Lindsay John, who showed a series of drawings he had made in Japan, 1981. Each drawing depicted several stylised characters in motion.


He said: “I have had these drawings hidden away, and have just recently had them framed, so am showing them for the first time. They are very special to me.”

John added: “The images were made with a pen brush, common in Japan, which I used to show movement and performance. The figures are a mix of human and animal; reflecting different aspects of the human condition.”

Further anthropic thought was put into John’s screen sculpture, a fan-like object that unfolded into landscapes.

He said: “I made the screen as a gift for one of my friends who recently had a child. It can be held by an adult and shown to their child, to sooth them.  Then, as the child grows up, the screen can be a memento.”

John concluded: “The screen shows landscapes from different places in the world. Each scene has a person in it; these represent the journey that the child will go on.”

Escapism was present not only in John’s work, but throughout the Hanson studio. The open day showed how the space works to bring bespoke experiences to a diffident district.


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With our hearts set on a music festival, seven friends and I booked a week in July to Lisbon. Liberdade was our area of choice for its proximity to the venue; but there was a catch, it was ‘save- a- year-ahead’ expensive.

Being Portugal-virgins we had unwittingly booked accommodation in its premier shopping district. So bedraggled from the plane, we did the walk of shame past Gucci to reach our hotel foyer.


Since none of the group was shopaholics, our motive for choosing NH Lisboa Liberdade was simple, it had a pool. The thought of a city break in 30 degrees heat was too much for my Scottish soul so, like a prima donna, I pushed for a pool.

Having assessed the competition, we decided that Lisboa Liberdade had not only the best pool (for our budget) but best balconies. However, we soon realised not all balconies were created equal (two of our crew hit jackpot with room 803’s huge terrace).

Contending with balcony envy, the hotel staff consoled us with travel advice and charm in excellent English.

This charm extended to the rooms, which had spacious interiors, comfy beds, decent bathrooms and mini bars.

Mini bar prices were enough to make us shudder, but the hotel’s surrounding shops had surprisingly cheap fare to substitute.

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Cheap prices continued in Lisbon’s pubs and bistros. With a beer around three euros, bottles of wine for ten, and cocktails for five; Lisbon’s bars were a joy.

To digest both drinks and cityscape we headed to Bairro Alto (an alfresco area). On Bairro Alto’s plaza we chose the further of two open-air bars, to enjoy sugar cane cocktails while listening to buskers. The music perfectly complimented the plaza’s fountain and vantage point.

Across the road from the plaza we found The Decadent a bistro that, despite its name, was a reasonably priced. Its earthy interior provided respite, along with tasty cornbread, cocktails and seafood.

Seafood also stole the show at Pinóquio, a restaurant across the road from Restauradores Metro station. With packed tables, Portuguese dialogue, and tanks full of crabs it provided perfect taste of local life.

Another local treat surfaced near Cais do Sodré Metro, where we tracked down Mercado da Ribeira: Lisbon’s fab food fete. Here deli, drinks and dining units offer visitors a choice of global cuisine at cafeteria tables.

With a huge range of stalls as well as desert, wine and chocolate shops, we enjoyed post- dinner shopping.

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High spirits continued at Nos Alive music festival, which filled three of our seven nights in Lisbon. Situated in Passeio Marítimo de Algés (a 15 minute drive from Liberdade) the festival had four stages, indoor toilets, food, bars and walking beer tenders.

With headline acts including: The Prodigy, Muse and Mumford and Sons, Nos Alive 15 tickets were surprisingly cheap (costing £90 for all three nights). Each night ran until 3am, providing miles better value than a UK festival.

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The only disadvantages of the festival closing at 3am was fighting competition for a taxi home; and suffering a post- midnight fare hike.

Aside from post-festival fares, Lisbon’s taxis were by large cheaper than those of the UK. As were its trams, buses and trains. While only the taxi’s had working air conditioning, each mode of transport had its appeal.

Aero-buses acted as punctual transfers from Lisbon Airport to the districts, while trams offered a vintage view of Lisbon’s ‘seven hills’. For travel outside of Lisbon centre, the trains offered quick and spacious speed.

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Art appreciating

To escape the city, my boyfriend and I boarded a train to Sintra, Lisbon’s neighboring old town.

With regal buildings, museums and cliffs, the area had plenty to see. But we bee-lined to the Quinta da Regaleira, a World Heritage Site complete with chapel, underground tunnels, grotto and Gothic mansion. It really was the stuff of dreams.

The mansion house offered Portuguese history briefs, as well as drawings from the architect’s restoration. With multi-coloured tiles, intricate wooden paneling and fresco painting, signs explained that António Augusto Carvalho Monteiro (Monteiro the Millionaire) bolstered the manor’s splendor, as testament  to Portugal’s golden age.

After two hours of exploring my boyfriend and I resigned ourselves to the journey home, but not before scouring Sintra village’s crafts and wine shops.

As the trip drew to an end the group reflected on all we had done and all that we would have done, had we booked more time. Turns out a week isn’t long enough to see all Lisbon has to offer.

RCA Graduate Show

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Art is for everyone; and to prove the point the Royal College of Art (RCA)  welcomed the public, without fee, to its Graduate Show 2015.

RCA Head of Communications & Marketing, Áine Duffy said: “This year saw the biggest ever graduating cohort – 648 MA, MPhil and PhD students in total, across six Schools: Architecture; Communication; Design; Humanities; Fine Art and Material.

“The Show Team, led by Dean of Fine Art Professor Juan Cruz worked tirelessly on every aspect – from ensuring that each student had the right space for her or his work to delivering the online catalogue, with 648 different profiles.”

The show featured work from its latest Alumna, across all disciplines; letting viewers wander from sublime sculpture to ridiculous renditions.

While performance art contrasted with material; the show had one constant, it was thought provoking. Throughout the exhibition artists used form to reflect preoccupations such as: fetishes, science and politics.

On the ground floor a huge print loomed over guests; its black and white puffs suggested tree canopies. Yet artist, Kate Fahey, explained the ‘trees’ were actually mushroom clouds, looming over Syria. She sourced aerial pictures of explosions before layering them into a dystopian textile.


She said: “The gap between what we see (and our reaction to it) and the initial, functional intention of the photograph on its capture is becoming further from our grasp.

“In the fragility of the work I reference both the ephemerality of the ‘poor image’ that ‘operates against the fetish value of high resolution’ and the instability of the subject matter.

“In its form and placement within space I reflect on our relationship with contemporary images – screen based perspectives, aerial, satellite and elevated views.”

While Fahey used excess to highlight atrocity, another graduate used it to harness energy. Ghanaian artist, Nana Asafua Dawson, used his home-land’s heat as inspiration to make a (huge) magnifying- glass furnace.

Nana furnace

He said: “Back in Ghana I had worked with craftsmen who used an open- air, electric powered furnace to melt their wax and metal.

“I got to asking how craftsmen could work in an environment like this, without wasting so much fuel. So I came up with the concept of using heat conduction, conversion and rotation to harness the power of the sun.”

Dawson explained: “I bought a 1.1m squared lens; created a solar powered furnace; tested it in London; and it worked! I managed to get the lens to produce temperatures of 1500 and above. Then I used it to melt scrap metal, and create the jewelry displayed at the show.”

Nature again inspired metalwork, as artist Victoria Shennan displayed her jewellery and musical- collaboration about bacteria. The graduate first researched the quantities of human bacteria, before making jewellery that reflected its proportion and place in the body.


She then sought to replicate its patterns, in a musical collaboration with Exeter University Medical School Research Fellow ; Dr Linda Long, and creator of Molecular Music, Jack Hurst.

Shennan said: “The body is a landscape, host to many habitats, vastly uncharted, and part of a wider ecosystem. Through the medium of the body we experience the world.

“My exhibition asks: ‘what if you could experience the world hidden in plain view and hear the rhythms of nature that underpin existence or weigh the value of these invisible worlds?’”

Invisible forces also acted as inspiration for artist Alexander Duncan’s installation. At the show, Duncan flooded an area and added (partially concealed) machinery to create a fake tide.

RCA Alex Duncan

He said: “In this work a loading ramp becomes a slipway; somewhere intertidal and uncanny. An artificial lapping wave powered by a pointless machine.

“I’m fascinated with how people react to water; to want to be close to something potentially harmful and control it.”

Control is a theme which resurfaced in artist Yunjung Lee’s work. Her jagged jewelry showcased rings and necklaces with fangs, snakes and stilettos.


She explained: “I found that there are two female stereotypes: the princess and the monster. Barbie doll is an example of the princess; Medusa and Vagina Dentata the monster.

“I fused the two different representations and created something in between. Throughout the project I tried to shed the new light on the representation of women, and make the jewellery that can be part of the wearer’s identity.”

Identity formation also prevailed in RCA photographer Ruidi Mu’s work. Mu’s centrepiece was a wooden hut, papered in passport photos of similar looking people. These pictures sat behind test tubes (containing hair) in a combination that suggested cloning.

RCA Rudi Mu

Mu said: “My works revolves around the idea of ‘happening’; trying to find the boundary between art and life, and shrinking it as much as possible; using photography to recreate the environment.”

Another artist using variable environment to manipulate form was Isabella Kullmann. Kullmann’s glass vases and bowls showed clean edges that responded well to light.


She said: “This body of work is all about the glass object in its domestic environment or architectural setting- the play of light, the fall of shadows, the reflection on the surface, and the refraction of colour.

“These transitory properties stand in contrast to the permanence of the material itself. The situated environment becomes active: adding colour, movement, and light to the object, while the hardness of the glass dissolves into the space surrounding it.”

Reactive and proactive in parts, the RCA Graduate show offered something for everyone.

Head of Communications & Marketing, Áine Duffy concluded: “The RCA 2015 show has been an unmatched showcase for the talented designers and artists graduating this year.”