Tag Archives: Oxford

Record Store Day in Oxford (and music shopping in Oxford)

Tomorrow (April 22nd) is the tenth anniversary of Record Store Day, I think I first heard about in 2012 or 2013 and if you’ve never heard of it, quite simply put it’s a day designed to encourage people to shop at independent music shops. They do this by getting hundreds of artists on board to release special and limited edition records (but also sometimes CDs and tapes make it) that can only be bought in Independent record shops or in their own words

A Record Store Day participating store is defined as a physical retailer whose product line consists of at least 50% music whose company is not publicly owned. In other words, we’re dealing with real, live, physical, indie record stores – not online retailers or large corporations.

So if you live in Oxford there’s a couple of choices in the form of Truck store and Blackwell’s Music. There is also Rapture (sister store to Truck) but that’s out in Witney, so if you’re visiting Oxford city centre for the day, these are your options and I’ll give you the run down having visited both in 2015 specifically for RSD (In 2016 I was in Newcastle for the weekend, and yes I checked out a few stores there and came back with a few extra records for my collection), although I’ve shopped in both quite a few times over the past couple of years (when i’m not buying directly from artists or bandcamp).

Truck Store, 101 Cowley Rd, Oxford OX4 1HU

Probably the more well known for RSD, and yes the same Truck who run Truck Festival – the queues here start early, we arrived around half 7 one morning, the shop opening at 8am – we were kept warm with their in house coffee shop taking orders down the line (it was a really cold April morning) and got in the store around 10am. I’m not really familiar with the many possible formats for running a record store day event, but Truck allow a handful of people in the store at a time to browse. This means if a group of people decide to browse for half an hour, tough you’re stuck outside, as far as I remember there wasn’t a particularly logical order to the RSD stock, so it meant literally looking through everything they had for RSD to see if they had what we wanted (yes for 1, no for 2 others). My previous experiences back in Manchester with Piccadilly Records were vastly different (people start queuing the evening before for a start, in fact as I write this people have already been queuing for several hours), they provide people in the queue with a photocopied list of what they have in stock, when items sell out it’s shouted down the queue, so if you’re queuing for that one illusive item and it’s gone, you don’t have to waste another few hours in line only to be disappointed. Another thing I like is that they also hold all the RSD stock behind the counter, so you have to go in and ask to buy/look at it – this leaves the rest of the store free for customers browsing for non-RSD items (and yes there were plenty) and also helps the queue go faster.

Queues outside Truck store 2015

Blackwell’s Music Shop: 51 Broad St, Oxford OX1 3BQ

Your second option in Oxford, Blackwell’s music :  I’ve not been here first thing on RSD, but it doesn’t strike me as somewhere that would generate large queues, and it doesn’t seem to get any press. So last year my husband sauntered down to Blackwell’s at lunchtime and picked up what he wanted, no queuing or fuss. The year before after queuing at Truck, then going to warm up and have breakfast at Tick Tock, we decided to swing by Broad street and found that the sold out items from Truck were here in stock. Obviously they don’t stock a huge range, but they do a fairly wide range of genres and we’ve picked up AIR and Jesus and Mary Chain here along with some RSD slip-mats. The staff are really friendly and it’s a proper music shop in that it sells sheet music, instruments and some pretty cheeky music inspired gifts (a Chopin board anyone?), they can also order stuff in for you.

Other places for record shopping in Oxford

The Last Book Shop Jericho, 25 Walton St, Oxford OX1 2HQ

As well as being one of my favourite book shops in Oxford, the Last Book Shop also has a second hand record section (top of the stairs that go down to the second hand book section), it’s proper crate digging, whether you find a gem or not is anyone’s guess but prices are sensible. They also sell coffee, cake, the aforementioned books – new books are £3 each or 2 for £5, large second hand section in the basement.

Gloucester Green Market, 78 The Heyes, Oxford OX1 2BU (map address)

Open Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays – I think Saturday is the best day for records and music although there are stalls on a Thursday selling old records, the guy who is there on a Saturday has a really good selection spanning plenty of genres – also the whole market is a good place to shop for vintage, handmade, quirky stuff.

Fopp, 96-97 Gloucester St, Oxford OX1 2DF

OK not independent (well not anymore), the recently opened Oxford branch is conveniently located on Gloucester Green Market so you can kill 2 birds with 1 stone if you visit on a Saturday. Good range of vinyl as well as CDs, DVDs, books and good prices, as they’re now owned by HMV they can afford to be more competitive. For me Fopp fills certain gaps that Truck leaves in terms of range but is by no means comprehensive for my tastes. Side note it has a very good foreign DVD range, particularly Nordic/Scandi noir Tv series.

Charity shops

Oxford has a plethora of charity shops, really I’ve never seen anything like it in a city so small. I pretty much only visit them for books, but plenty sell records, obviously this is another crate digging expedition to find anything worth while – and the Oxfam shops here are very switched on so you won’t necessarily snag a ‘bargain’. In fact some prices are just ridiculous, one ‘vintage’ shop that shall remain nameless had a box of ‘vinyls’ (yes really) priced from £5, for items that wouldn’t sell at a record fair for 50p!

Aurora & Xamvolo, Oxford o2 Academy

Tuesday night for me was almost a year in the making. You see, I’d somehow missed seeing Aurora play at Iceland Airwaves last year, I don’t recall whether it was a schedule clash or pure exhaustion, but either way I missed her show and regretted it. Then to rub salt into an already raw wound, I found out she was supporting Of Monsters and Men who I was seeing in later that same month, but not the date I had tickets to. So unsurprisingly when news of a full UK tour came around and by some stroke of luck an Oxford date was announced, I was on it like the proverbial car bonnet and snapped up a ticket. I’d also like to state for the record that my love for Aurora’s music has everything to do with the Running with the wolves EP and nothing to do with that John Lewis advert (I also wasn’t a fan of the song when Oasis were one of my favourite bands).

So on with the support act -21 year old Xamvolo came on dressed in black, cutting a sleek silhouette in amongst the stage smoke and really blew away those cobwebs between my ears. having checked out the video below on youtube I was expecting good things. I was perhaps not expecting a an upbeat jazzy set that had the crowd dare I say, dancing? He has such a powerful voice and stage presence, as well as having a cheeky sense of humour, the crowd really started to warm up.. in his words ‘ I play this jazzy upbeat stuff, then I play … other stuff and played Down’ (also from the Chirality EP like Runner’s High). You can check out more of this stuff on soundcloud I think he will be one to watch in future.

In the swift break between Xamvolo and Aurora I grabbed a beer from the bar – the O2 Academy sells one of the Wychwood ales in an orange bottle – either a ruby or halloween ale, it was dark, malty and a nice respite from the 3 or 4 types of lager they seem to overly promote – hidden in the fridge out of view, would be nice if they promoted it a bit more, or even had a drinks list visible, so I’m just putting it out there!

Norwegian singer Aurora Aksnes performing at the Oxford O2 Academy

Aurora @ O2 Oxford Academy 2

On to Aurora, when she enters the stage looking several years younger than her 20 summers the crowd go pretty wild. There’s a good mix of people here- from young kids with parents, to people old enough to be my parents. Stood in front of a backdrop of a woodland scene she immediately starts with Black Water Lilies her voice mesmerising the crowd as she waves her arms around reminiscent of a Hindu goddess. We get treated to almost the whole of All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend, as well as the whole of the Running With The Wolves EP. My 2nd favourite track from the latter, In Boxes was particularly drum heavy which I loved – Aurora later told us that any variations to the tracks were down to a new band member Noel (or possibly Noah sorry if I’ve gotten that name wrong.. I couldn’t hear that well) who was ‘very creative’ and bringing new things to the music.

Aurora

Aurora

After several upbeat songs, the stage cleared leaving just Aurora and the guitarist (who may or may not be called Olaf), and sometimes co-writer to perform a new song Animal Soul, where Aurora declared she thought there were several of us audience members with animal souls. It is these sort of whimsical comments that endear her to the crowd instantly, that we all feel like we’re living in her fantastical world with her, just for tonight. After another acoustic track by way of Murder Song, where we’re reminded how dark her world can go we remain fairly mellow with Remain and Runaway (where I muse that I still can’t believe she wrote this when she was 12!). But soon enough the energy is fired back up with I Went Too Far and Running With The Wolves – where the intense, more danceable drum beat was back, reminding me of the remix that’s included on the deluxe album version. And just I was thinking, well the show can’t be over yet, she hasn’t sung Conqueror, Aurora announces that this will be their last song, as the inevitable drum beat starts the crowd cheers and we all start dancing again, then I realise I need to leave and get the bus, to beat the rush. I get on the bus happy and exhausted put my headphones in and relive the last hour and a half, blissfully unaware that there was one more song…

 

full photo set here.

Blog Challenge: Choosing Your Adventure

Day 8, should have been Saturday, but I was feeling rather under the weather and didn’t go out. So Sunday was my day for fun, I started out after brunch and went into Oxford to do a bit of gallery hopping and maybe some shopping. When I got into Oxford it turns out there was an arts and craft market on Broad Street. This turned out to a great opportunity to see what sort of price points others were using and whether I was way off bat with my calculations for a Christmas arts & crafts fair I’m doing in about 2 months time. Good news, similar products were on sale/selling at approximate prices to what I’d intended, also I noticed that the frames I’d picked up from a well known design store to trial some prints in, were also widely in use, so I’m in good company.

After I’d perused and picked up many a business card (I like to have a nosy at people’s websites as well), I headed to Modern Art Oxford to check out some more art. For the whole of 2016 to celebrate the gallery’s 50 year anniversary they are running continuous exhibitions, which means the galleries don’t shut down during change over like they normally would, it also at least feels like there’s more exhibitions on than there would be in a normal year.

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Exhibits from Gothic and MAO

The main space upstairs was dominated by a Richard Long piece on the floor resembling a maze, the gallery was flooded with light and there were some kids making up games walking over the/through the maze, which was pretty cool. Also in this room there was a sound installation of an orchestra replicating a thunder clap, I liked this too although i’m struggling to put into words why, maybe because galleries can often be too quiet so a bit of noise is good.

After looking at the rest of the exhibition including some instructions to ‘Imagine the clouds dripping. Dig a hole in your garden to put them in.’ from Yoko Ono (you were allowed to remove the instructions to take away, but I didn’t), I headed downstairs to the cafe which has temporarily moved into the outside foyer. Here I had the best cookie, salted caramel and tahini. It was amazing.

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Latte and world’s best cookie, courtesy of the Missing Bean at MAO

Then I went for a walk, taking some photos (with my film camera, so not ready yet) and then up to St John’s college, as I’d spotted a sign saying ‘Gothic’ outside when I went past on the bus. It turns out that Gothic is the name of the exhibition of architectural objects, photographs and films by the MA Architecture students from Oxford Brookes. It was a great exhibition, the lighting of the textures in the photographs and the objects themselves in the exhibition were really interesting and not at all what I would expect from an architecture exhibit.

Today reminded me that it’s good to get out there and see what other creatives are up to, refresh your mind, feel inspired and just take things easy. I’m looking forward to the week ahead for once, rather than having that Sunday night blues.

This blog post is in response to Natalie’s 10 Day Freedom Plan Blog Challenge Day 8

Blog Challenge: Finding Your Tribe

Day 6, and the challenges are getting more challenging. This time we’re supposed to think of 1-2 people we would like as mentors, and the 1-2 questions you would ask if you ever got to meet these people in person.

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Well a couple of people sprang to mind immediately, you may remember a post I wrote a while back about some amazing people I met on the Oxford Instameet, real inspiring genuine people with a love for what they do, whether they do it as a proper day job or not. I came away from that feeling fit to burst with ideas. What I hadn’t mentioned was that a few weeks later, i went to one of the networking events that Indie Oxford organises that had some of the same people and some new faces, again a really positive and inspiring experience where I got the opportunity to ask questions and advice from people who’ve been realising their dream for a while now. So I think if I had to choose, it would be Rosie who is not only one half of Indie Oxford but also runs Kinship of Oxford and A Rosie Life pop up store, the second person (it was honestly so hard to choose) would probably be Sarah Wiseman who runs the gallery of the same name in Summertown and who gave me some good advice at the aforementioned networking event. As for the questions, I’m really stuck? I’d love to know when they each felt they’d become successful, and how they would handle  disappointments?

This blog post is in response to Natalie’s 10 Day Freedom Plan Blog Challenge Day 6

Five Fab Coffee Shops in Oxford

When I first had this idea for a blog post, I only had three coffee shops to recommend. Thankfully since then I’ve A. explored a bit more and B. a new coffee shop opened adding to the list. I’m in no way a coffee aficionado, in fact my favourite tipple is a latte – but it’s also one of the coffee types that is more often made incorrectly. How many people are thinking eurgh a latte is just a milky coffee? If you are, you’d be wrong, or perhaps a customer of several high street chains, who just throw in extra milk to make a drink medium or large: a good latte is all about having the right ratio of coffee to milk and so few places seem to get this even close to right.

Like all lists, this is by no means comprehensive or finite. It’s my list of places to go first and foremost for quality of the coffee, service, and atmosphere – and I’d love to hear your suggestions to expand the list!

1. Joe Perks – 76 St Clement’s St, Oxford OX4 1AH

28587369230_772ba17e18_oProbably known more for their cocktails and dogs (although as I finished this post, I got wind that the dogs were gone, in place of a much fancier menu), their attention to detail is on point with everything. After my first coffee here, I was heard sighing “why are they not closer to where I live/work/the centre of Oxford”.

2. The Missing Bean Roastery Cafe – 1 Newtec Place, Magdalen Road, OX4 1RE

The place where beans are roasted for the Missing Bean Cafe on Turl Street, where you can pick up your weekly supply of freshly roasted coffee, try a new blend or pick up a wee treat from A Rosie Life Pop Up Shop. They are also proponents of reusable takeaway coffee cups which gets a big thumbs up from me.

3. Barefoot Cafe – 74a, Walton Street, OX2 6EA

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What not to love? apart from the great coffee, the absolutely beautiful cafe, there’s also the super amazing cake! Their loyalty card (collect 9 stamps to get a freebie) gives you a stamp for each coffee or cake. During the recent heatwave, they served me with a coffee with cold milk, I found it way more refreshing than an iced latte, I may be converted. Oh, did I mention that the cake is great? I recently tried the courgette cake and it lasted 3 sittings – immense! Don’t even get me started on the bread….

4. Brew – 75B Banbury Rd, Oxford OX2 6PE

Ok so technically listed as Banbury Road, the entrance is on North Parade – not to be confused with the further north, South Parade. North Parade is a small shopping street, ull of independant delights and regularly closes to traffic to hold their street market. They have this amazingly fancy copper.. coffee machine? (maybe it just heats the water, I really don’t know), and also a record player so you can pick your own tunes if you’re lucky enough to grab one of the handful of seats.

5. Delicatessen Cafe – 42B Abingdon Rd, OX1 4PE

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I don’t even know what this cafe is actually called – it’s not listed on google or any where else that I can find on the internet and the address I’ve given is for the hairdressers next door. I stumbled upon this place during Artweeks 2015 and it stuck in my mind. There’s also a good selection of weekend papers to browse whilst you’re there.

So these are my top 5 coffee places in Oxford, all a short walk from the city centre, and coincidentally, all independent businesses – what are you recommendations? I appreciate that not everyone wants to walk outside the city centre just for a brew, so another alternative from high street chains could be Oxford’s own mini-chain Taylors. They have two cafes on the high street (one at either end), and two on the opposite corners of Little Clarendon Street/Woodstock Road. My preference is the high street ones, top tip – a large coffee on the high street is the same size/price as a medium at the Clarendon Street outlets.

Oxford Instameet

A couple of weeks ago I headed out on an Oxford Instameet organised by the wonderful folk at Independent Oxford and Natasha from Candy Pop, billed as the chance to meet with other local creatives, I was curious as to how it may differ from other photo-walk type events I’d been to in the past.

We met in the café of Modern Art Oxford, somewhere I’d been meaning to visit for ages as their twitter and instagram feed is full of delicious looking food – I opted for the coffee cake and was not disappointed! The most obvious difference for me was that the ratio of female to male had swapped considerably as I’m usually one of the few women (if not the only one) on other photography based meet ups. Also most people there (if not all) were in some way, whether full time or along the day job, trying to make a living/business out of their creative endeavours – some rather successfully. The ladies were all brightly dressed and ready to jump, jump, jump for photo ops in front of many of Oxford’s colourful houses and doorways, you know you’re making a splash when the tourist groups stop to photograph you, instead of a historic landmark!

It was also really inspiring talking to everyone and finding out what they were up to, and I guess my biggest take home lesson, was that success doesn’t happen overnight and that’s ok. Now I know that may sound obvious, but in today’s super social-networking universe it seems that people go from bogging zero to dragon’s den hero in a couple of years. It can leave you (ok, me mostly) feeling a bit of a failure when a business doesn’t go anywhere for the first few years. I was quite happy to throw in the towel a few months before moving to Oxford and give it a rest for while….

But after speaking to one of the ladies who’d spent 8 years building up her online business to the point of taking it on full time, living the dream, quitting the day job, I’ve felt a renewed energy.  So almost two years after moving here I’ve started working on my website properly, and looking to get back in the print studio (something I was going to do over a year ago!), basically sorting my sh*t out.

Overall it was a really fun day, with fab people and I can’t wait for the next one – if you fancy coming on the next Oxford Instameet check out the Facebook event page

 

 

Decision time

I’ve been busy this week trying to select between 4-6 images to get printed for Oxford Artweeks in May. I’m exhibiting with a group of 9 other photographers who know each other through the Oxford Flickr Group (anyone remember when Flickr group meets used to attract upwards of thirty photographers of a wide range of knowledge and skill?) and we’re privileged to be exhibiting in the Mathematical Institute aka the Andrew Wiles Building, part of the University of Oxford.

One of the main challenges for everyone involved is that the hanging space is fixed to a size of A0 in a portrait dimension. This means that we either have to: present portrait images in a large scale format, present multiple landscape images within the the same frame, still at a fairly large scale or become creative with our presentation methods and present multiple images of varying sizes within the frame.

 

Lómagnúpur

So far I haven’t moved much past the point of selecting images, and I need to get a move on because my regular, tried and tested printing company currently have an offer on large scale prints which means I can do some test images without breaking the bank too much.

I’ve included a couple here for perusal, in case you hadn’t guessed I’m choosing to display some images from my road trip in Iceland that I blogged about many months ago.



On the road

I’ve been asked many a time why Iceland? I’m not sure I know myself yet. What I do know is that I’ve met physically and in the realm of the internet many people who become self confessed ‘Icelandophiles’ falling instantly in love with the island, it’s culture, landscape, people and particularly the music. For me it was definitely more of a slow burner, I’ve always been much more of a city gal. Prior to visiting Iceland some of my favourite places were New York, Prague, Paris. Cities full of people, places full of bustle, sensory overload where I could find my inner calm and joy at the same time.
But then until this last visit, I’d not experienced the same ‘small fish in huge pond’ sensation that excites me being in a city, in a barren and empty landscape before. Because that’s how it is to me, I’m still the outsider, sitting there quietly observing, even is that something is not ‘doing’ very much.

Now I feel its time for bed, to sleep and think some more about this.

Adios.