Community Street Fair

Now that the Summer is here and I am back in Lancaster, I am finding new ways to get involved in my community. As a student, it is rare to live on a street that has a community feel. Lancaster is plagued by ‘student’ streets that suffer from the constant changing of residents.

But, just a short walk away from town there are estates that house more permanent residents, including families, elderly couples, and young professionals. And, I’m fortunate to have finally found one of those streets!

Since I moved back to Lancaster in May, there has been talks about hosting a Street Fair. Arranged by key members of the community, the fair was an opportunity for residents to meet in person in an open, safe environment. After months of isolation and chatting primarily through a community Whatsapp, the street hosted a crowd of smiling faces on Sunday 27th June.

Packed with stalls selling homemade crafts, jams, and locally sourced bric brac, residents from neighbouring streets came to join in the celebration, dancing to musical performances and donating to beloved charities. Children decorated the road with chalk drawings of sunshine and rainbows, while fabric bunting hung overhead.

Despite a cloudy sky, the smiling faces, singing, and colour lit up the street, bringing it to life after months of quiet.

Before the event, I approached the main organiser, Jill, and asked to capture the day. As an amateur photographer, I’m keen to get experience and improve my craft where I can and the Street Fair offered the perfect opportunity to delve into portraiture and event photography – a skill that may come in handy through my Marketing career.

Myself and another amateur photographer spent hours snapping shots of smiling faces, petting pups, and sipping on sangria. It was the perfect chance to get to know my new community as I waded through the crowd and captured my neighbours in deep conversations, singing ballads, and passionately discussing their homemade products.

Typically drawn to nature, this was an out of box experience that encouraged me to engage in small talk and request permission from my subjects, something I don’t normally do when shooting flowers. nature Plus, unlike plants and flora, event photography involves a chaos that I struggled with, especially as someone who has an audio processing disorder working in a loud environment.

However, I had a brilliant time chatting to everyone while snapping their picture!

I honestly cannot wait to see what our community does next! I have my fingers crossed for a Christmas Street Fair or a Garden Party, but we’ll have to wait and see. And I’m sure I’ll be there, camera in hand, no matter the occasion.

Still Learning About Myself

One thing no one taught me growing up is just how long it would take for me to know myself.

How I wouldn’t be aware of certain aspects of myself, my personality and identity. Whether that’s being oblivious to the fact that I was a lesbian until I was 20, only just realising at 23 that I am Autistic, or knowing that it will take years for me to learn what my physical health conditions are.

I’m still learning about myself in so many ways. For years, I’ve known that I’m not neurotypical. I was diagnosed with Depression and Anxiety at 18 and I remember thinking, “well now I have a reason for not feeling right”. But as I explored what those labels meant, developed coping mechanisms, and started on medication, I could always feel like there was something else ‘wrong’ with me. And I want to say now, there is nothing wrong with being neurodivergent. But sometimes trying to find the right words to describe how I felt years ago is difficult, and I wasn’t aware of the right words at the time. I felt ‘wrong’ and that’s all I knew.

I’ve always felt different. The outcast, unwanted and unliked by everyone. No matter how nice I was or how much I did for people, how I changed myself to fit their tastes, people would always misunderstand me. Call me weird, cancel friendships with no notice, tell me I wasn’t doing enough when I couldn’t have tried any harder.

Since 2016, I’ve thankfully slowly developed a circle of friends and other people in my life who do understand – and even when they don’t, it’s not a negative thing. They are patient, kind, and allow me to feel comfortable leaning into my weirdness – and I hope I make them feel the same way. These positive relationships have given me the time and space to explore who I am as a person. When you’re weighed down by negativity it can be all that’s on your mind. It can cause you to detach yourself from who you are in order to cope with your surroundings. That’s why, over the past few years, I’ve began to come out as different things.

As I mentioned above, in 2018 I came out as a lesbian. Without my relationship with my best friend and the support system I had around me, I may not have felt comfortable verbally or even mentally exploring my sexuality.

Now, following a very difficult 18 months, I’ve had the space to really think and introspect. Because of this, I have finally been able to find a label that encompasses a number of issues I have. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). I am not going to get into the nitty gritty about what issues I have that fall under this label. I’m still exploring what is and what isn’t part of being on the spectrum and I don’t want to say something that may be incorrect, misinformed, or offensive. But, I’m comfortable enough to recognise that the label fits and that it’s part of my identity.

I do know that if it was not for the people I have around me today, I may never have looked into this. I grew up hiding and surviving and now I am in a place where I am loved unconditionally by open-minded and kind people. Their love has allowed me to actually become who I am, which then allows me to improve immensely as I become more authentic and kind to the world.

My experience reminds me of a quote from The Good Place:

I argue that we choose to be good because of our bonds with other people and our innate desire to treat them with dignity.

Simply put, we are not in this alone.

Chidi Anagonye, The Good Place

Our bonds with others have the ability to make us better people. Part of that is becoming more self-aware and caring for your own needs, identifying yourself as a person who has value and deserves kindness. Someone who deserves to know and express their true self and be loved by others.

I no longer feel so unwanted by the world. While I have a long way to go in unpacking things, I know that I am surrounded by patient, kind, and supportive people who will be with me as I do.

Amateur Photographer Devon Louise

Over the past 3 months I have been attending Teesside University’s ‘Introduction to Photography’ Course, an online learning experience with weekly classes. Before this course, I’ve loved capturing vistas and landscapes with my phone; especially holiday highlights and views from hilltops – I mean who doesn’t? I really thought that the more I captured, the better. Particularly greenery and red bricks against sunny blue skies. The contrast of architecture and nature never fails to capture my attention.

Here’s some examples from the Champs-Élysées in Paris, Whitby Harbour, and The British Museum in London:

However, as I expand my Marketing portfolio I realise that photography is an essential skill that I’m missing – and I can’t exactly help a small business take great shots with just my phone! So, where better to begin than with an online course and a borrowed high-end camera!

Continue reading Amateur Photographer Devon Louise

Lancaster Arts: Marketing Internship

This Spring and Summer term, I’ll be joining the team at Lancaster Arts for an internship in Marketing!

My job will involve helping students become more connected with the arts, creativity, and their community through artistic projects hosted by Lancaster Arts. I’ll be posting on their social media, making posters, writing blogs, and generally creating fun creative content around upcoming projects, online and on campus.

Lancaster Arts is all about:

the questioning of what constitutes the artistic, the social, the political and the personal

Something I, as a sociology and literature student, am very passionate about. Every project of theirs is different and unique, using place, space, and community in inventive ways that I want to see more of in mainstream art, performances, and music.

I’m hoping that this internship will not only help me maintain my Marketing skills, but improve and encourage creative thinking, build artistic connections, and help me move away from the formulaic agency Marketing I had become accustomed with.

Continue reading Lancaster Arts: Marketing Internship

Goodbye Lancaster

*Please excuse the choppy writing. This is a post I have tried to make for so long, editing, deleting, and reworking to no end. So I decided to just write my thoughts and feelings and publish what came out. Enjoy*

I’ve spent the past month trying to write this post. This time last year I published my blog post ‘Here’s to the New Year‘ where I outlined my goals for 2020. The very first goal I had was to ‘Say Goodbye to Lancaster’. I wanted to move away from the student city and find somewhere better for a budding professional. I thought I’d grown tired of everything Lancaster had to offer after four years, when actually I just didn’t realise how good I had it.

Typical.

Now that the worst year in World History has come to an end, I’m back in Middlesbrough living with my Mum and her Partner. It’s not exactly where I expected to be, but after months of financial insecurity due to COVID-19, I had no choice but to return home. The move meant leaving behind my best friend, the catering aspect of my current job, and a city that I truly loved.

Back in September 2016, I moved to Lancaster with only a car full of boxes and enrolment at the University of Cumbria. They were the only Uni to give me a chance and I will forever be grateful for that. Lancaster city had my heart from day one because of it’s heavy stone architecture. It looked historic and it was small enough that I’d never need to get the bus, but also big enough that there were plenty of areas to explore.

Continue reading Goodbye Lancaster