To us, creative people

‘Right now the world is locked up in its own cage. There is no sincerity, no true emotions. If we keep doing this… What is going to be of us?’ – A few days ago I met up with some young professionals. These are their views towards creative people, life and opportunities.

Danny is a filmmaker and also photographer. He works as a freelancer.

‘Every one of us has their own lie, and more or less we turn it into our day-to-day truth. To some of us, the thirst for freedom keeps us alive.’ Pablo has just finished his degree. His experience as an intern was ‘awful.’ He tells us the struggle he went through as a person who is not meant to be at an office.

He describes people there as worried, overwhelmed and in general, dissatisfied. ‘They were so unhappy doing that. The office was an open cubicle and we were all meaningless – just numbers chasing profits.’ With his statement he is not judging them, he says, but he understands some people will have their reasons to stay there. Some others might not have found a way to get out, or to do what they really want.

‘Imagine yourself playing at a gig for a large audience. It isn’t impossible. Stay focused and follow every single path that will lead you to it.’ Pablo plays the guitar since he was a child. He is ambitious and perseverant ­– a key to chase his career dreams.

‘Personal development is something that nowadays schools don’t work on. From my perspective, it is really unfair on young people. We are given a choice, but it’s not the choice we want.’

‘You might be lucky enough to like doing something that fits within. Otherwise life becomes a fight. Life is about dreaming and persuading what you dream of, what your passion is, what you feel you need in your life.’ Says Danny.

And he is right. We all have something inside, something really strong, and if we listen to it and try to hold on to it, at some point, the doors will open for us.

Look inside and try to chase whatever that is telling you to go. And never, ever stop – they tell me.

Who hasn’t dreamed of being a ballerina, or a singer, or a famous author? Pablo has just started playing at bars in Madrid. Danny has done dozens of photo-shoots and is completing an important portfolio.

‘Maybe pursuing our dreams is how we get to stay young, and maybe that’s how we will never die inside.’ They just showed me a lesson to be learned. Just keep doing it. At some point, it will pay off, it will become the reality and eventually you will have that what you’ve worked for so hard. Just keep trying.

To all the creative people that have chosen career dreams over a more accessible future.

Best sewing courses in London

Situation: You show up at a party and there is someone wearing the same dress/shirt as you. How annoying. Unless you can afford super exclusive designers’ clothes, Why not design them yourself? Sewing is back! –And we will bring you the best options to start learning to sew in London.

College courses such as one evening a week are normally for independent learners. They show the theory and the students can start their designs which they will get help with. The programmes are not intensive although some people find they have lost interest in the long run as they lack on perseverance to practice on their own.

Now if you are a bad independent learner and need a push every now and then like me, I recommend a few intensive courses that I absolutely loved.

Saturday Sewing Sessions: Located in Chelsea SW10 0NS, these classes are designed to make you learn and practice at the same time. From making a cushion, to a pyjama pants or a bag, the beginner ones are easy enough and at the end of the day you take your garments home with you.

Sew Over It: A very complete session. They are friendly and they don’t mind going over things quite a few times for clumsy or slow learners. They have a fabric shop as well so there is no need to panic over getting the materials ready the day before the class –you can do it just before the lesson. There are two locations, one in North London (N12BD) and the other one in Clapham (SW99PH)

Tilly and the Buttons: How about a bag of goodies, a finished piece to take home with you and glass of wine at the end? Friendly staff and enthusiastic teachers in South East London (SE21).

Sew it with Love: Located in Central London this is a fabric shop as well and offers classes and one to one tutorials. Also, they have levels from beginners to intermediate only, however they offer a wide variety of classes and a flexible timetable.
The sewing community grows bigger by the day and most of these shops have their own blog and offer online videos to help. Most of these shops have their own blog and even online classes. The sewing community is growing bigger each day.

Prices vary from £35 (to show you how to use a showing machine) to £150 for a full intensive-day sewing. Now you won’t have an excuse not to try it! Be sure to check on each shop’s website to book in advance and get the course best suited to your level, especially if you are a beginner.

Happy sewing!

Exploring winter wonderland

The magical combination of winter and Christmas takes place in London for its 10th year. Of course we are talking about Winter Wonderland.

What to expect this year: It’s much bigger than last year and has new attractions for the bravest ones. We recommend you to spend the whole day there, as there are so many things to see and do. These are main ones:

  • Ice Rink. The biggest one in London but also one of the busiest ones! Book your tickets in advance to avoid disappointment.
  • Magical Ice Kingdom. Easy to miss. Keep an eye on the map –it’s definitely worth it.
  • Giant wheel. Amazing views of London. Also available to book online and skip the queue.
  • Bavarian village. Bratwurst sausages, German beer and live music.

 

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Dos and don’ts

Do bring cash, as the cash machines inside will charge you a £2.50 fee and most places don’t accept card payments.

Don’t come with your pet during the weekend –it will be uncomfortably crowded to walk with your dog.

Don’t even try the chips shop –they are cheap for a reason.

Do eat from any of the Bratwurst stalls. They serve affordable tasty food.

Do come prepared for cold temperatures. A hat and a scarf are a must if you want to stay there for quite a few hours, even though they have fire pits at some of the bars.

Do not bring any water bottles –they will take them at the entrance.

Do go on the giant wheel for spectacular views, but be aware of the waiting times in the queue. Best do it during the sunset but consider the 40 min waiting queue.

Do risk it at the fair games if you want to win a small teddy. We recommend the balloon darts. Easy and fun!

Top tip: Coming from Green Park tube station, go to the closest entrance to the festival, then towards the ice rink. See the attractions, then towards the circus and the Munich Looping, in the center. After that, at the back you’ll see the Artic Lodge Bar ideal for a snack. If you keep going right, –best at nighttime– you’ll find the pretty Angel’s market, full of stalls. When you are done, you can go to the Magical Kingdom and take great pictures of the undersea creatures. Finally, have dinner at the Bavarian Village and leave through the Knightsbridge exit for a complete visit.

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H&M sparks controversy again

Magazine articles By M.S.

It was over a month ago when Danish TV programme Operation X accused H&M of burning 60 tonnes of unsold clothing. H&M then denied the accusations and a spokesperson said ‘The clothes featured in the program are stopped orders that have been sent to incineration because of mould or not complying with our strict chemical restrictions.’

The Danish TV programme then took two garments from the incineration plant and tested them to find nothing. H&M published their own findings as well –high levels of lead and mould which the Danish did not test for.

Sweden’s Prime Minister for the Environment, Karolina Skog said ‘the first question that strikes me is why are there so high levels of chemicals in the product that they can not be sold.’

Unfortunately the incineration of harmful, dangerous or unwanted clothing is still common practice and not only H&M was found guilty. Vero Moda, Only and Jack & Jones were splashed with accusations too. H&M nevertheless has captured the media’s attention with their alleged interest and commitment to recycling.

H&M in a statement to FashionUnited responded ‘all products that are safe to use are sold in our stores or are reused and recycled. In addition, we want our customers to know that the clothes we have collected in our stores through our garment collecting initiative are directly sent for reuse and recycling.’

As well as burning 19 tonnes of new clothes in Västeras in 2016, the Swedish Company has now been found guilty of falsely claiming the donation of goods to charities.

H&M claimed on their website that Caritas, Red Cross and Oxfam have received clothing from them. This has been denied by the charities. Communications manager at Oxfam Sweden said ‘Of course it’s regrettable when the published information is wrong. It’s sad if our brand is used in this way’.

The Swedish company declared the information on their website to be out-dated, instead giving the name of another charity they donate to – Helping Hands. Yet this one stated to have terminated collaboration with H&M and having not received any clothes in a year and a half.
H&M then decided to remove any content from their website that involved charities.

The clothing brand has set up goals to remove all hazardous chemicals from its products by 2020. We’ll have to wait and see…

Cuba from different angles

The fact that Cuba is a communist dictatorship where people live in limited conditions is widely known. Many Cuban people emigrated to United Estates and many others to Europe – mainly Spain as we share the same language. Five different people are able to talk about the way they lived and their impressions of a great country for a few, and a very repressed for the majority.

Sanchez works at Buena Vista, the famous Cuban restaurant in Clapham, London. I interview him behind a massive Che Guevara flag. He dislikes Cuba, as it has disappointed him for life. Long before, he was an activist for Cuban rights. This 42 year old man shares his experiences about the situation Cuban people were living back at home and tells me with passion his fight against the system.

Proudly, he tells me: ‘when I was young we always talked about politics in my house. Then I grew up and I went to Florida for work. I started to make friends with other Cuban people who liked politics and they were not allowed to come back to Cuba. They were frustrated. So I asked myself what I could do for Cuba, or what I wanted to do with my life. The repression that we live in Cuba led me to the idea of fighting against the system from the outside as I was in a hurry to leave. I wanted to help reconstructing the country I was born in, but the only way was by coming back, so I did’.

One of the reasons he wanted to change things came from the time his parents started renting a flat to tourists, but they experienced some kind of totalitarianism: The couple were not allowed to make money out of their flat, and they got threatened. Someone came to their home and told them they would lose their flat and their license if they carried on renting it. The authorities were trying to cut down their extra income. Dictatorship and Totalitarianism are not the same, he explains, and when there is totalitarianism the government controls every aspect and element of your life. ‘They didn’t let us have our own income. We were seen as potential creators of a capitalist project that would defy the government’s ideology and would spread the word of a better lifestyle that had nothing to do with humble communism’.

The government analyses every single threat. To say that Cuban people are able to generate their own means in order to contribute to a change, as the government preaches is an utter lie, he explains with nostalgically.

As a tourist, the impression I got when I went there is very different. At the luxury hotel in Varadero I could see people smiling all the time, very friendly and so kind. But I guess nobody wants to speak about the life they are living, they seem scared to do so or to criticise the government.

Then I wonder what kinds of consequences exist for those people fighting against the regime, so I ask him. ‘Well, we’d been threatened many times’. He looks uncomfortable and I know I shouldn’t ask him anymore. I’m thirsty for more information so I go ahead. He briefly tells me an intruder got into his political group and he was very conflictive – he was sent from the government in order to have an excuse to shut them down. Some of his mates went to prison for a few days. I ask him about the personal threats again. But instead of a diverged answer I get the one I didn’t want: ‘I don’t talk about it, sorry’ so I apologise as well and I proceed to my next question: ‘Is there political parties in Cuba or are they all gone?’ He seems more comfortable with my question now so he answers in a more relaxed way.

Mr Sanchez tells me that there are political parties but they are hidden as they are not legally recognised or even allowed. It’s difficult to make politics when there isn’t a base to what you’re doing or who you are, he says. The regime is in charge of dissolving any kind of political association that goes against them. ‘It was very effective in my case. We just stopped and moved on’. Unable to fight for Cuban people’s rights, Sanchez moved to Spain where he lived until the economical crisis hit the country back in 2008.

But as Mr Sanchez said to me, not everyone wants to fight Castro’s dictatorship and some of them simply left to improve their lives when they felt oppressed. Vilma Castro, a shop assistant at Ladbrokes, tells me her experience: ‘I left Cuba after I finished my degree. The government forces you to work for them doing some placements for two years all over the country, wherever they need you, and during that time you have no freedom at all, so I felt overwhelmed and when I got a job offer I simply left’.

Vilma, a happy and kind-hearted woman has always belonged to the Communist affiliation. She was never against the government’s politics as her parents had good salaries when she was young. She didn’t feel the crisis. ‘I only left Cuba because I wanted to have a good job really’. Mrs Castro emigrated to Spain and a few years after she got the citizenship, which allows her to come back to Cuba at any time. Cuba is not in a good situation at the moment. There is no freedom or democracy, things any country need in order to prosper, she tells me. But she still wants to come back at some point. ‘My generation decided to leave as a way to protest against the lack of freedom’.

Until now, all the people I’ve interviewed agreed on one thing: The problem is Fidel Castro. Apparently everyone on the streets talk about it in Cuba. People know that the responsible for the situation Cuban people are living is that elite on the power that Castro allows who are accumulating luxuries. They all live very different lives from the normal Cuban citizen.

Microbusinesses also get restrictions at the frontier, so businesses are very limited. Also, many Cuban people have a better life because they get family in the United Estates sending them medicines or money. They also get new technology that otherwise would be very difficult to get, as a normal shipment can take months to arrive and pass all the controls to the island.

Luis Manuel Álvarez is only visiting London for Christmas holidays. This tourist lives in Santiago de Cuba and has a very different opinion. He tells me Cuba is a very safe country and there is not much crime or homeless people, which I agree with. Cuba is the only country in the world where there is not child malnutrition. There are social services and everyone has a house where to live. Many people are satisfied with the National Health Service as it’s free and we have very prepared and competent doctors. ‘Our doctors are pioneers in investigation, the government invests a lot of money in health, we have one of the best medical systems in the world, but not many people know that. It’s not all misery, but the USA and Europe portraits it like that as they are scared of communism so they are constantly making bad publicity against my country’.

Álvarez tells me his big fear of becoming like Mexico, where the mafia controls the estate. From his point of view, around his circle in they feel they are under risk of becoming an authoritarian country supported by the rest of Latin America. ‘What I wouldn’t like is to evolve into a system in which the government in charge leaves their power to allies or family and we end up with an authoritarian capitalism regime for the next 30 years. The final result would be ending up like Mexico, and mafias would be created, organised crime would take over control, there would be drug traffic, human traffic… Actually human traffic already exists through the cartel group Los Zetas, which take people from Cuba to the Mexican coast to cross the frontier’.

When I share my experience as a tourist in Cuba back in 2013, Yoel Perez shares his thoughts. He’s a Cuban musician currently living in London and playing a few times a week at a Cuban restaurant in Camden Town. Between cocktails and laughs he tells me how everyone talks about politics but not many people will open themselves to tell what it really is to live there. People in Cuba compare their lives to TV shows from the USA and Europe and feel embarrassed because of the conditions. Compared to western countries, where they get their references from, their lives seem so much limited and simple.

‘People won’t tell you that they don’t have Internet at home, or that is really slow and you only get to use it a couple of times a week at universities, but mainly because the are used to it and for them is not a shocking thing, is just different cultures’.

In Cuba everything is under control, the government works really hard to make sure what you’re looking online is safe as well. He believes police work blindly for the government and if there were a revolution they wouldn’t doubt to go against people. Police are a mechanism of control. They won’t inspire safety, he says. Many people in Cuba are afraid of a change because they know what the government is like, they don’t like it but they are used to it. ‘What many people seem to think is that if we change we are going to get a right wing dictatorship which would be even worse, or that’s what they think anyway’.

In order to leave the country you have to apply to a permission to leave that you might get or you might not. Some people are denied it and cannot leave the country if the authorities think the person wants to emigrate or might go against them. With that excuse a wide percentage of people get their visa denied. For short holidays it is really difficult to get one, although if you are visiting family that leave abroad you are entitled to leave the country up to 6 months. If you do not return before the deadline you lose your right to come back, as the authorities see this as civil disobedience and you become a ‘risky person’.

Sagrario López is a Spanish woman who married a Cuban man and the inspiration of this article. She told me long ago how her family in law managed to get out of Cuba and emigrate to Florida. Around twenty years ago, fourteen people crossed the 94 miles of sea that separate United Estates and Miami by using a raft. Many other Cuban dissidents before them have tried, but many others have lost their lives at the sea.

This family faced a storm as they were approaching Miami’s coasts. It ended up with the lives of three of them. On the raft, there was a baby that miraculously survived the storm. It was dragged to the coast and appeared a few hours after on a beach. The survivors managed to swim to the nearest land. They had lost the raft and the baby on it. They still today cannot explain how the baby was dragged to the beach alive, but fishers in the area said they saw dolphins dragging a rough raft onto the beach.

The desperation that many Cuban people must have felt to risk their lives like that is enormous, and although some people live a good life in Cuba, the impression I get is that the lack of freedom and frustration they have to cope with is sometimes insufferable. The majority of the people interviewed for this article are opponents to Castro’s politics, and only people who are allowed to have money do actually enjoy the regime, as they are not affected by the cuts on basic means, but the percentage of this people is minimal. When I went to Cuba I only got one person, a taxi driver in Havana who wanted to talk about the real situation they were having there, and he told me how low on means they are, as in to hitch-hike to work every day because buses don’t run that often. Sadly, and as surprising as this seems, it is actually a very common practice in Havana and other big cities. We will have to wait and see what happens after Castro; hopefully this beautiful country will experience an enormous social and political change that leads into freedom and equality for its good people.