Spellbound exhibition witch, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford - The LDN Gal

Spellbound exhibition, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

The Spellbound exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, features a quirky and eccentric collection of oddities, thwrawt in superstition. The exhibition illustrates over eight centuries of magic, ritual and witchcraft.

As a country, we have always been wary of magic and Spellbound illustrates this fear, showcasing many a mystical and fascinting object and artwork to entice discussion and reflection.

It looks at our ongoing and emotional relationship with magic, superstition and ritual Рever avoided stepping under a ladder or putting new shoes on the table? 

Within Spellbound, discover a collection of “spellbinding stories, fascinating objects… from crystal balls and magic mirrors to witch bottles and curse poppets.”

Spellbound: Magic, Ritual and Witchcraft exhibition

Exhibition highlights include a witch in a bottle, a heart in lead and silver casing and a copy of The Discovery of Witches by Matthew Hopkins, 1647.

You will explore the history of magic, ritual and witchcraft over 800 years. The objects and artwork on display highlight people’s superstition, witches practice and the tools used to eventually condemn them.

Magic and the unknown has always historically caused people to be fearful, and when married with religious views, it was linked closely to devil worship and ultimate despair.

Once inside, you will discover Medieval texts, binding jewellery and crystal balls, as well as magical objects aplenty alongside contemporary art instillations. If you are a fan of magic, the supernatatural, the cosmos and the occult, this enchanting exhibition is for you.

To book tickets for the magical Spellbound exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum, please take a look here. The exhibition runs until the January 6, 2019.

Are you fascinated by magic? Which exhibition highlight would you be most intrigued by?

Stephanie xox

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Library Lates: Tolkein exhibition, Oxford

Library Lates: Tolkien exhibition

This weekend gone, the Bodleian Libraries held a very special evening, a Library Lates: Tolkien exhibition. As the largest J.R.R Tolkien archive in the world, they certainly know a thing or two about Tolkien.

Curator of Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth, Catherine McIlwaine, held the first talk of the exclusive evening. Detailing her journey, she told the audience how it took 5 years to plan the exhibition, which included travel across to the US on more than one occassion and the approval of the Tolkien estate.

Her expert knowledge was simply astounding, and Catherine wrote two publications to compliment the exhibition itself. It was originally meant to be an exhibition solely on hobbits, to tie in with Peter Jackson’s films.

After visiting Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books, she decided that this exhibition needed to be bigger and better. It needed to present more than just hobbits and it must delve deeper into Tolkien’s world –¬†it was to be a never before seen event.¬†

The Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth exhibition itself, all stems from the creative genius of its curator and the dedicated work of many within Oxford University.

Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth exhibition review

When planning, Catherine sought to borrow Tolkien’s manuscripts and visual items which had been sold to Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for the sum of ¬£1,500 in the 1950’s.

Tolkien had been informed by his publishers that Lord of the Rings would not sell well, so he agreed to the selling of his manuscripts after two years of no revenue. The Tolkien archive is highly prized to Marquette and includes plot notes and visual items which are now on loan to the exhibition.

These include interesting things such as character name changes, plot amendments and alternative endings. Catherine said that she “was looking for items that would shed new light on Tolkien’s work” and that each item had to speak strongly for itself. “I chose items that would surprise the visitor,” she added.

Tolkien’s attention to detail was phenomenal. So much so that not only did he map the realistic distance a hobbit could walk but also invented his own Elvish script for the books. As Tolkien said, “mythology is language and language is mythology.”

He agonised over numerous elements of the book, frequently changing his mind back and forth as shown is his rapidly written plot notes within the exhibition. He finished Lord of the Rings in 1949 and it was meant to be one text but proved far too long for the publishers, eventually being split into three.

Discover Tolkien’s family, educational and literary history in a city which proved a massive influence in the creation of Middle-earth, right in the heart of Oxford. You can book tickets here¬†until the 28 October, 2018.

Are you going to attend the Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth exhibition? Who is your favourite Lord of the Rings character?

Stephanie xox

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#MeToo

Social Media and the #MeToo Hashtag

Spreading around the social media world in a frenzy, the #MeToo hashtag has caused some confusion.

So, what does it mean? Well, anyone keeping up with the latest Hollywood news will be familiar with the Harvey Weinstein scandal circulating and worsening each day.

For those who are unfamiliar with the story, here is a quick recap. Weinstein is a very famous and influential film producer with a lot of power in the entertainment circuit. In the last few weeks, many an actress (nearing almost 40 now) has come out against him, speaking of his sexual harassment in one form or another.

This unification has led to a string of accusations, with many women detailing their harrowing experiences at the hands of the producer.

The #MeToo hashtag is an extension of this unification. Originally, it begin circulating on social media, a declaration from women who have faced similar experiences. The sad reality is that the #MeToo hashtag applies to the majority of females on the planet (and many a male also).

So, why in this day and age are we still afraid to speak out against predators? There are two reasons, power and fear.

Power: Power is a terrifying thing and many try and attempt to justify the abuses of power they have had to ensure in order to progess with their lives and succeed.

Fear: Fear that you will not be believed and your complaint disregarded.

It is a truly terrible combination, especially when looking at this particular case and all of the women who have spoken out, all too afraid that their careers would suffer and even more worringly that noone would believe them.

The #MeToo hashtag continues to encourage, shaking away the ‘shame’ and enabling women to come forward in their masses.

Everyone has a #MeToo story and the more we condemn the perpatrators of these stories and speak out against them, the less of a norm these stories will become. No person should ever fear for their personal integreity, no person should ever feel unsafe.

#MeToo

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A Wellcome Kitchen Afternoon TEA REVIEW

I have to admit, I was rather excited for my visit to the Wellcome Kitchen. Not only because it looked exquisite, but also because I was very eager to take a peek around the many exhibits and galleries at the Wellcome Collection in London, known as being the “free destination for the incurably curious.”

The Wellcome Collection is a truly spectacular and unique museum near Euston Station, brimming with intriguing exhibits and collections on science, health and life – blurring the lines between all of this and art.

As curious as I was, I soon dashed to take our summer-inspired afternoon tea in the Wellcome Kitchen, on the museum’s second floor. This boutique venue is divine, with fabulous bright and simplistically elegant decor, including a focal display of the celebrated Pill Dress by artist, Susie Freeman.

What is included in the Welcome Kitchen Afternoon Tea?

So, what did we get in our Wellcome Kitchen afternoon tea for two at the Wellcome Collection? Check out the menu below:

  • A selection of finger sandwiches including cucumber and cream cheese, smoked salmon and coronation chicken
  • A selection of mini cakes including 2 raspberry and cream tarts, 2 nutty brownies, 2 lemon mouse macarons and 2 red berry cakes
  • Two fruit scones, Cornish clotted cream and Tiptree strawberry¬†jam
  • A pot of loose leaf tea (a variety of flavours) or a hot drink each

So, what did I think of the Wellcome Kitchen Afternoon Tea?

In all honesty, I loved this afternoon tea experience. The venue was bright, quiet and the food divine, with a fabulous mix of sandwiches and selection of cakes (these were all sampled but not all finished – cake overdose comensed).

Everything was so well presented, with lovely floral china and welcoming staff who graced you with big smiles. All the food is freshly prepared on site and they even made our sandwiches to order (I cannot have butter, it makes me feel very unwell –¬†odd I know, but, alas)¬†which was a wonderfully helpful touch.¬†

The food is locally-sourced and tends to be seasonal produce, you can even indulge in a glass of sparkling pink Moscato if you feel inclined!

It is the perfect venue to unwind and get lost in great company or even solo. The Wellcome Kitchen is so quiet and calm, away from the vibrancy and bustle of the intrigued visitors of the Wellcome Collection downstairs.

Once you have finished your delicious afternoon tea, you will discover the spectacular Reading Room adjacent, which allows you to unwind with a copy or two and take a peek at an eccentric collection of sculptures, paintings and artefacts.

Overall, a perfect mini-day out wrapped up with lots of culture and food –¬†what’s not to love?¬†

Have you tried the Wellcome Kitchen Afternoon Tea? Where is your favourite place to have afternoon tea in London?

Stephanie xox

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Ghibli by hyung86

The great animation debate: Studio Ghibli versus Disney

Disney is a universal brand, a timeless reflection back to our youth, brimming with fond memories of cinema trips and cosy nights in with the family. Tales of traditionally perfect Princesses, talking animals and sing-along-songs. The companies ability to hold a special place in the hearts of each generation for almost a century is admirable. So, why is Studio Ghibli, the Japanese counterpart for the East, so much more?

For those who do not know of Studio Ghibli, it was founded in 1985, around 62 years after its fair-to-say rival, Disney. The Japanese company has created over 20 beautiful animated feature films to date, with their own array of wonderfully crafted heroes and heroines.

The two animation giants undoubtedly share similar traits, their work is utterly timeless and adored globally. However, it is a belief shared by many that the East began to take over the West when it came to quality animation, and there are a fair few reasons why Studio Ghibli will always surpass Disney.

Growing up, I watched both Disney and Studio Ghibli films, and the latter continues to move me as I edge towards my mid-twenties (a scary prospect). The heart of Studio Ghibli stems from its animation team, especially from the creative brain of the former lead director, Hayao Miyazaki, who created something with a far deeper moralistic and feminist meaning.

Japanese Studio Ghibli Posters - Ghibli versus Disney - The LDN Gal

Why are strong female leads so important in animation?

Like many, I found myself learning far more from Studio Ghibli, with their tales of female struggle and empowerment (most films tend to have a strong female lead). Unlike the Disney Princesses, the heroines are relatable without the patronising undertone and the magic and depth of their fantasy tales awakens the attention of adults, as well as presenting important moral dilemmas and messages for children watching.

Looking at the female leads in Disney films (predominantly the Disney Princesses) in comparison to those in Studio Ghibli, a striking difference will continuously manifest itself. Time and time again in Disney, it will be seen that these princesses are overtly defenseless without the men in their lives to rescue them (Mulan, Merida and the new Princess Moana being the few exceptions).

Compare this to Studio Ghibli, and you will find feminist icons in abundance,  the majority of Ghibli films have an admirable and strong female lead. Miyazaki says:

“Many of my movies have strong female leads – brave, self-sufficient girls that don’t think twice about fighting for what they believe in with all their heart. They’ll need a friend, or a supporter, but never a savior. Any woman is just as capable of being a hero as any man.”

Not relying on a man (or anyone for that matter) is a recurring theme, everyone is seen as equal in the gender Olympic’s and this is just wonderful for the self-esteem of a small child, who doesn’t love feeling empowered and equal?

Why is female empowerment needed in animation?

An example of utter reliance on men is presented to us in The Little Mermaid (Disney). Our leading mermaid, Ariel, plays centre-stage under the sea, she is beautiful, feisty and terribly naive. Of course, she falls head-over-heels for the ‘wrong’ guy in the opinion of her father, whom she then desperately seeks out upon the land in exchange for her voice. He notices her, but not enough to avoid being bewitched and ensnared by a witch. Says it all but a happy ending is guaranteed, this is Disney.

Old Sophie Howls Moving Castle - Ghibli versus Disney - The LDN Gal

Compare this with female protagonist Sophie of Howl’s Moving Castle (Studio Ghibli), and you are presented with a self-conscious wallflower. Sophie is plain and unnoticed, obviously reinforced as viewers see that even her own mother fails to realise her transformation from a young girl into a twisted hag. This ordinary girl, no ‘beauty’ on her side, must seek out a wizard whose attention she had caught in her youthful state. The issue being that she cannot speak a word to anyone about the curse and therefore must lurk around until she can figure out how to break it herself, while her wizarding companion is on a quest to find himself also.

There is far more depth to Sophie, she’s opinionated, brash and stern (probably something to do with the aged state and being utterly fed up). Whereas Ariel¬†is presented as emotionally motivated and stroppy, only seeking her happiness as an end goal and caring little for the loss of those around her (particularly her somewhat overbearing father who is terrified about her disappearance). On the other hand, Sophie seeks to help all those around her, she is a complex character whose love and compassion motivates her throughout, perhaps even at her own expense and happiness at times.

The problem with Disney is that helplessness, ‘love’ and beauty define the Princesses. With Studio Ghibli, beauty isn’t key, the female leads are admired for their strength, journey, and powerful hearts. It is a stark and reoccurring difference, just select any Disney or Studio Ghibli film.

Some critics argue that Studio Ghibli films exploit these young heroines. However, It would seem that the consensus argues that Ghibli, in fact, challenges girls to solve their own problems. Saying this, modern Disney appears to have approached this too with ‘stronger’ characters such as Mulan and Merida, to name a few. In contrast, Studio Ghibli has been doing this with his characters since day one, in a culture often perplexed by such dominating female empowerment.

Another perk is that Studio Ghibli animations provide far more cultural exploration for us Westerners and prove themselves to be culturally apt. Whereas Disney often fails to truly embrace the cultures of their Princesses in their locality.

Often you will hear of Disneyland being the ‘most magical place on earth’, its stories the basis for this magic. I argue that Studio Ghibli offers far more magic, it teaches us to be kind, to not judge, to respect and cherish our environment (nature being of great religious importance to the Japanese), that pacifism can work and childhood transitioning is tough, no one can save you from it but you.

Their stories are creative, with complex and challenging storylines, developed and iconic characters, heartwarming and meaningful messages, embellished with beautiful animation. Studio Ghibli will remain timeless to its audience, holding many an animated heart for a lifetime with their emotion invoking work. The core and important message will stay the same, despite your gender, appearance, size or background, you can achieve anything you want to, and this is why Studio Ghibli will always surpass Disney.

Does your heart remain with Disney or Studio Ghibli? What is your favourite Ghibli film?

Stephanie xox

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