Saturday, August 7, 2010

Yellow Plastic Ball = Fun For All.

WE WERE HANGING AT THE Little London Fields festival in Dalston and we ran out of beer.

So, we walked over to the nearby convenience store, grabbed a few bottles of Red Stripe and approached the cashier. Near the checkout counter, however, we found a little, yellow, plastic ball.

It's not a soccer ball but it's painted like one. It weighs next to nothing. Hit someone with it and they might not even feel it.

I bought it. It cost me £1.49. And it may have been the greatest purchase of the trip, so far.

Of course, the early moments of my time with the ball were rather inauspicious.

When we left the store, it started raining. We retreated to the dance tent where the drum n' bass was pounding. I had to hold onto my ball, which was awkward since I was drinking and dancing. I waved the ball in the air to the beat and Meghan said, "Throw it."

Next thing I know, it was bouncing all around the tent. It took on a life of it's own. I thought I'd never see the ball again. But it seemed to be having fun.

An hour later, when the rain stopped, I was eating by the main stage. And wouldn't you know it - the ball flew through the air, soaring over the crowd.

We made our way over to the ball and wound up kicking the stupid, little, plastic ball for hours with random people.

Really, hours.

We wound up meeting a bunch of folks and just having fun, laughing and playing, until well past dark (we arrived at the party around 4:30, I think).

That ball was an amazing cultural icebreaker. And it was tons of fun.

Luke (below, left) and Kevin continued kicking the ball all the way home on the tube. They hit numerous people with the thing. In Philly, that might earn you a beat down. Here, in London, even the tube passengers joined in the game. And they seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Pretty stunning.

Publishing a Magazine and Loving Life.

THERE IS A young, creative vibe in the East End of London, with so many things happening under the radar.

So Elizabeth Barrett and Luke Edge created a magazine, STATION, to show off the scene - as well as their own talents. They've published four free, bi-monthly issues so far and they have big dreams.

Elizabeth (in the center of the above image) is a trained journalist who previously covered fashion for the conservative newspaper, The Daily Mail ("After a while, I quit telling people where I worked," she said. "People hated it.").

Luke (in the hat) is a designer. They do the majority of the magazine themselves, with the assistance of unpaid columnists and family members forced into a variety of tasks - proofreading, babysitting, distribution, etc.

They had considered doing a website but they like print.

"With a website, you can change things anytime," Luke said. "It's not real. Holding a magazine is like having your balls in your hand. It's permanent."

That has its ups and downs. With such a small crew doing so much work, minor little details often get messed up along the way.

"When it comes back from the printer, I don't even read it," Elizabeth said.

The mag focuses on the arts, music, fashion and lifestyle. They try not to thrust their opinions on people, saying this or that is the cool new thing. Instead, they just highlight interesting people doing interesting things.

It is beautifully designed - simple, with great use of images and white space. They have evolved their product with each issue. For instance, they no longer print the publication date on the cover, giving every issue a feel of timelessness.

They print and hand-deliver 6,000 copies. The publication is financially supported by advertising, though they have yet to make any profit worth noting. The couple, who have an 18-month old son together, do other contract work to support themselves. They recently produced the magazine for the Lovebox music festival. They are currently negotiating a deal to produce a magazine for a major UK retailer.

After they celebrate their one-year anniversary, Elizabeth wants to expand the mag from it's current 64 pages to more than one hundred. One year after that, she'd like to take the magazine monthly. And it will always be free to readers.

Ultimately, the magazine is a labor of love.

"It's lovely just to be able to do something I really like," said Elizabeth.

It's the Jumpoff, UK Style.

WHEN TAKEN AS an entire collection, well, I fear I may have abused my powers as a university professor. I made my students jump in the air at numerous locales around the UK, like at the Fuller's Brewery (above and below).

On the beach in Brighton and at the Royal Pavilion.

On the tube.

At the Hackney Wicked festival (including with artist Adam Beale and his 8-foot tall wooden chicken).

In pubs (The Lexington).

With a street performer in Bath.

At Stonehenge.

Near Brick Lane.

We have five more days here in the UK. I'll likely have more jump pics coming.