Wide Open

places

August is my favourite month of the year.

A lot of this has to do with the fact that my birthday comes right in the middle of August (it’s the 15th, presents are encouraged and expected) but this year, another thing I’m looking forward to is Wide Open – a new retreat for Christian creatives.

Retreating is something I often struggle to do. Just to take some time to stop, relax, think, contemplate, and spend some time with God. Set in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales, Wide Open is the perfect opportunity to do just that. A place to reflect, to learn and to connect with God and each other, this gathering is intimate and interactive, limited to just 40 spaces.

It takes place from Friday 18th to Sunday 20th August and looks set to be a feast for the heart, soul, and spirit (as well as the stomach!) Based around being outdoors, it will be a joyous weekend of forest feasts, campfires, workshops, and loads of time to soak up nature.

With a diverse selection of workshops and sessions from the likes of photographers to singer-songwriters to stationary creators, it really will be a celebration of creativity in all its forms.

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To get know a little more about the heart behind Wide Open, I had a chat with Beth Webber – Wide Open’s founder.

What made you want to start Wide Open?

Forest Found [Beth’s outdoor events company] is all about creating opportunities for people to come together and spend time in beautiful green spaces. I’d had a vision for a long time of organising a gathering for christian creatives that would offer them the time to be with like minded passionate people, to spend evenings round the campfire engaging in rich conversations and to hear from and be encouraged by people who are trying to live out their creativity through their work and lives in a way that glorifies God and builds the kingdom.

What are you hoping people take away from Wide Open?

I hope that the people who share in this weekend will encounter Jesus in deep and authentic ways. I hope they build rich community with new people.  I want people to leave having unpacked some of the things they wrestle with as creatives, to leave with truth emblazoned on their hearts-that their identity is found in Him and through Him and with a strengthened faith that God is good regardless of their successes or disappointments as creative sons and daughters of the King!

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What makes it different from other camps out there?

There are some amazing offers out there and I knew I didn’t want to organise another conference or retreat.  I wanted it to be weekend in the outdoors, full of fun, feasting and being honest and vulnerable with one another. The opportunity to spend time with a small collective is really exciting and the intimate nature of the weekend will, I hope, enable people to really share their journey and creative practice with us, to be prayed for and affirmed individually. The connections made over the weekend will inevitably spill out into real life and continue to encourage and build up the creative settings people go back to.

It’s about being real with what it’s like to wrestle with humility and self-promotion, it’s about being realistic and hopeful for what God has planned for our creative giftings. It’s also all about filling our lungs with fresh air, hanging out in hammocks and soaking up creation.

What are you most looking forward to? 

Meeting some incredible people who are on fire for Jesus, stargazing, campfire conversations, deep worship, sharing our stories, amazing workshops, inspiring speakers. So much! Wide Open belongs to the Lord – I’m just his hands and I am so excited to see what he is going to do in our hearts and lives over the weekend.

More details can be found on the website and feel free to ask me any questions.

I genuinely can’t wait! Roll on summer

 

@ediadegbola

 

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Covent Garden

places

There are few things I enjoy more than discovering new places.

I love a good wander, but more than that, I love being shown around by a local – seeing the city from their perspective.

A couple of weeks ago, I had some time to kill in Covent Garden so I met a couple of friends for coffee, wandering etc.

After rambling around the piazza and St Paul’s Church, carefully avoiding eye contact with street performers, I stopped for a quick bite to eat at Whittard’s Tea Bar. It was lovely, though victim to the smaller than expected portions and inflated prices that we’ve come to expect from London. I’m not complaining – they have high overheads, I get it. On the plus side, the sun was shining and it was lovely eating al fresco on such a glorious day.

Hands down, the highlight of the day has to be the visit to Crosstown Doughnuts. The more perceptive among you will probably have guessed what they sell there. (Clue: it rhymes with ‘slow butts’.)

I went for a lime and kiwi flavoured number which admittedly sounds quite odd, but was fantastic. These guys seem to be all about the details – even the jam had what appeared to be kiwi pips in it to give it the proper kiwi feel.

A tiny little shop, Crosstown’s interior is a monument to minimal and monochrome style. Black and white masonic floor, black furnishings, doughnut-shaped stools, neon signs and a live Instagram counter (oh, what a time to be alive!) accompany the selection of doughnuts. Outside, they’ve decided to brighten things up a little more with a deep purple hue.

One of his favourites, my friend also took me to Magma – a magazine/bookshop. You might remember from a previous blog that I visited the branch of Magma in Manchester some time ago, but if you have any semblance of a life, you probably don’t. Anyway, this Magma was bigger than its northern counterpart and filled with even more magazines, books and odd trinkets over two floors.

My friend also took me to Reality Church – a relatively new community that meet in an art gallery in Covent Garden. I loved it there. The people were great, really friendly and welcoming, the teaching was relevant and well-delivered, and the music was beautiful.

In the evening I went for some food and cocktails at a Latin restaurant/bar called Salsa. Perhaps a little on the nose with the name there, but nonetheless their Sunday deal was surprisingly cheap so we gorged ourselves till we could eat and drink no more while a Latin dance workshop took place on the dancefloor a few metres away. It was kind of like being at a bar or a wedding party where the DJ is a little too talkative and keeps stopping the music to say something or other. Except, this time, what the DJ is saying is actually helpful to people, and he is from South America instead of Hull.

After dinner we went for a stroll through Hyde Park and up past Buckingham palace. Having recently watched The Crown on Netflix, I couldn’t help but imagine Clare Foy wandering around looking burdened and pensive while Matt Smith moans about something.

The palace and the London Eye looked stunning reflected in the water of the Serpentine – a beautiful was to end my day in London.

Teajuanas

food, places

Legend has it that coffee was discovered when a 9th century Ethiopian goatherd named Kaffi noticed how excited his goats became when they ate beans from the coffee plant. Suffice to say, we all owe a debt of gratitude to those overstimulated goats.

I love coffee. But my favourite thing about coffee is its means of delivery – the humble coffee shop.

In 17th century England, coffeehouses were places where men would gather, rich and poor alike, to discuss politics, science and philosophy. In the 21st century, coffeeshops and cafes are more likely places to discuss Kim Kardashian’s latest diet and take pictures of your food. Nonetheless, I enjoy few things more than wandering into a cool coffeeshop with a friend and chatting for hours over a flat white or two. Or seven.

There are loads of great cafes and coffee places in my city, and a few weeks ago, another one opened its doors.

Delivering an injection of Latin America to York’s coffee scene, Teajuanas (pun very much intended) serves up excellent coffees, teas, breakfast, snacks, pastries and milkshakes. Despite the Mexican pun in its title, Teajuanas boasts influences from all over the world and has the wide range of teas to prove it.

This magpie-like eclecticism and creativity isn’t just restricted to the food at Teajuanas. Almost everything is custom-made and a lot done either by themselves or by family and friends. The beauty of this is that everything features signature touches that make them stand out, like the hooks under the window bar or the hessian upholstered stools or the reclaimed church pew.

You can sense a real love of craftsmanship when you talk to the two owners (whose names I rudely forgot to ask!) You can feel the pride of men who work with their hands, whether that’s whipping up latte or putting up their wallpaper. Speaking of which, the wallpaper is textured and vintage newspaper-themed. It really is all about the details here.

Aside from the huge faux clock that adorns the feature wall, the centrepiece has to be an otherworldly golden and copper dome that rises from the table behind the counter.

This contraption is the coffee machine.

Adapted from an old boiler, this piece of Italian engineering looks like it belongs in the laboratory of a Victorian alchemist in a steampunk fanfic, rather than a cafe in York. All gears, knobs and platforms, not to mention the engraved eagle that sits upon it, it really is something to behold.

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If you’re hungry pop in for breakfast (served “8am till noonish”) or a sandwich, but Teajuanas’ passion is pinchos – Spanish snacks served on bread, spiked with a toothpick (basically tapas as finger food). A rich medley of flavours, you’ll find chorizo, chilli, olives and balsamic vinegar, sat comfortably next to ham hock and gherkin. Pick a few, mix and match and share with friends.

In parts of Spain, pinchos are considered an essential socialising tool. Cafes will have hundreds laid out on the bar and customers are encouraged to take as many as they like as they relax with friends. They pay at the end by displaying their used toothpicks which are counted and charged appropriately. “Unsurprisingly, customers occasionally ‘lose’ the odd toothpick or two before it’s time to pay,” the Teajuana boys laugh.

This kind of relaxed attitude to food and drink is what Teajuanas want to bring to the UK. Somewhere you can pop in for a snack, a coffee and a chat. Maybe flick through one of the books on their windowsill, maybe have a go on one of the instruments dotted around the place. Though perhaps give the didgeridoo behind the pew a miss.

“York is just the start,” they say. The boys have big plans and even bigger dreams. Ideally they’d like to open more cafes all over the country.

They aim to start in smaller cities like York (Harrogate and Beverley were also mentioned as potential future locations) because bigger cities, Leeds for example, are already over-saturated with so many different options.

Leeds’ loss is York’s gain as we now have the best cafe this side of Tijuana.

The Botanist

food

Before he was a household name with a passion for undertaking impossible missions, Tom Cruise starred in 1988 film Cocktail. In it, Cruise plays a bartender who goes on an adventure of self-discovery or something like that. To be honest, the storyline is somewhat overshadowed by its perfect 80s time-capsule soundtrack and costume.

Anyway, just like Tom Cruise’s character Brain Flanagan, I love cocktails.

Since I was a little boy I’ve enjoyed mixing up drinks, creating overly sweet concoctions of fruit juice and cordial and occasionally milk. But the less said about milky juice drinks, the better.

Not long ago, a branch of the plant-loving cocktail bar The Botanist opened in York where I live, and I got a chance to head down and try it out with a good friend. It used to be part of the same group that owned The Alchemist – its potion themed sibling – but they have recently parted ways.

Deriving its name from the profession of studying plants (or basically gardening), The Botanist has a passion for drinks that involve herbage in interesting ways.

Walking in, the decor was understandably rustic and earthy, given its theme. It felt a little like I’d stumbled upon an 18th century florist. I quite enjoyed the little details like the mismatched wood panelling and the pewter-effect taps, as well as the big details like the upstairs courtyard/greenhouse/function room.

We ordered a pitcher of an apricot gin cocktail garnished with basil. Yes, basil. It was great watching our brace-clad bartender whip it up, mixing the drink and adding fresh basil to our cups, before pouring it into its watering can. They’re really serious about the whole gardening thing

I’ve had cocktails in teapots and the like before and I love a fun gimmick as much as the next man, but I couldn’t help but think of We Want Plates – a campaign for food and drink to be served in regular vessels that never fails to make me smile.

While sufficiently quirky and aesthetically pleasing, the can’s long spout didn’t make for good pouring (especially the first few pours when it was full) and I managed to spill it everywhere, though that probably says more about me than it does the drink’s container.

Like I said, our cups (and by “cups” I mean tiny chrome buckets) were garnished with generous helpings of fresh basil. It sounds quite odd but it actually adds a great layer of smell to the drinking experience as you raise the cup to your mouth, as well as enhancing the taste. Hipster pretension does have its benefits.

If you haven’t already, now’s definitely a great time to try out The Botanist as, this month, they are having their “Ginuary Sale” with half price gin (I assume in all branches).

Plus I’m pretty sure a visit counts as a couple of your 5-a-day.

 

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