Amelia’s Magazine | Life Cycles: an interview with cyclist, world record breaker and author Julian Sayarer

Life Cycles book cover

We have been following the adventures of Julian Sayarer for several years, since I first met him in the now defunct (and much missed) Foundry Pub in Old Street. This week sees the official launch of his debut travelogue Life Cycles at cult cafe Look Mum No Hands, so we caught up with him to find out more about cycling, breaking records and writing books.

Julian-Sayarer portrait

It’s been a while since you cycled around the world – would you do it again? And what would you do differently if you set off on a similarly long cycle ride?
I’ll definitely be cycling a long way again sometime in the future. There are vague plans for riding to Beijing in 2015, and Latin America still has a really strong appeal. The chances are that, if I set out again, there wouldn’t be a world record involved. Once you get into a routine, riding 110 miles a day isn’t quite as daunting as it sounds, the element of a race did add some fun, and I really like the intensity of all those fleeting impressions, but that said, I wouldn’t mind going a bit slower… it’d be nice to stop for longer in the really amazing places, and not having to cut short some of the encounters. 


How did you find a publisher for your book, and what would you recommend to other would be travel writers looking for a deal?
I went for the Writers & Artists yearbook, which includes a directory of agents, and submitted the standard first thirty pages to those that sounded suitable. A handful offered to represent me, and I went with my instinct, and the advice that most people in the industry had given: to go with whichever agency I felt most comfortable with. I’ve got a good relationship/friendship with my agent now… he’s really helped me to develop my writing, and gives me a lot of time of day, and feedback, that I don’t think the bigger agencies I turned down would’ve had much interest in helping with. 


In retrospect, I potentially could have got a publisher with just a sample chapter and a covering letter of what I’d done, but that isn’t always the case. Although the agent takes a cut, they certainly open up options that quite probably wouldn’t otherwise exist, and allow you to focus on the creative side of the work.

I think the main thing, with any sort of writing, and however cliché, is just to do it for the love of it. It’s a slow and poorly paid world, and unless you simply love the act of writing, it’d soon get a bit dispiriting. 


What is the book about and who do you think it will appeal most to?
Human scenery… the politics of the world at 12mph? I’d like to think it would appeal to anyone with an interest in the world or writing, really. There are a lot of cycle touring books that just describe headwinds and hills and mechanical problems… it ends up a bit of a list of everything that happened (with a dash of self-help and motivational stuff thrown in) and that’s really off-putting to me. I try and create places and experiences with the words, and only really mention the bicycle when it’s really necessary. I always loved writing, and storytelling in particular, so it was always my intention to go for something that tried to be a bit literary, creative, experimental. I’m not sure how much that’s been done before, on this subject. 


What do you love most about the act of writing?
The absolute freedom of a page, the fact that it’s mine to create anything I want with. The fact that I can put all of my thoughts into words and then, for good or bad, they lose their weightiness and become only a form upon a piece of paper. My writing has become a really good friend to me, it’s helped me through a lot.


You are also making films and I believe that you recently spent time living with the Moken sea gypsies – can you tell us more about this particular adventure?
I’d written a series on the EU financial crisis, for the New Statesman, as I cycled through Europe to Istanbul in 2012. A producer had read the articles, really liked them, and got in touch in search of a writer for a documentary project in Asia and the Pacific. The Moken are an indigenous people of southeast asia, they live on the water, but that life, and the islands they move between, are all being threatened by the usual advances of modernity: land speculation, overfishing, mass tourism, oil exploration, border disputes between Myanmar and Thailand


The documentary is still in post production, but Aeon Magazine commissioned an article from the trip. I looked a lot at indigenous culture, the way that economically developed countries can fetishise it. The Moken lead a hard life, many of them would perhaps like it to be easier, many young Moken are abandoning their traditional ways of life to move to the mainland, but often experience a lot more difficulties than they do on the water. It’s not to say that anything or anyone is timeless, Moken included, but development and change should be sensitive to culture, and too often it isn’t.

You have also been involved with arts projects – have you got anymore of these in the pipeline and if so what?
I’ve exhibited photography, and am a trustee with a charity that does participatory arts workshops with youngsters who are marginalised by either poverty or social stigma. I don’t know really, I think writing is more my natural calling, and it probably helps to focus on one thing. I’ve got a few ideas for exhibitions, but they’re kept company by lots of other ideas, most of which are unlikely to come to fruition, or will crystallise into something that right now I don’t see coming! 


How much do you cycle today and what kind of bike do you ride?
How much I cycle depends a lot on where I am. Sometimes I’m cycling somewhere and working on a piece of travel writing, sometimes commuting on a bicycle in London, sometimes in a city without a bicycle and just walking around a lot. To be honest, I do miss it when I don’t ride at all for a while… cycling really gets me thinking, somehow looking at the world differently, and I think the exercise is good for the brain as much as the body.

I have a steel frame touring bicycle which was given to me as sponsorship, and I generally find too expensive to leave anywhere. I also find it hard to get attached to things that are worth a lot of money. I cycle around London on a shabby old fixed gear that must have done just as many miles, on the streets of the city.. I find that one much more charming.

Julian-RTW-Flies Malay

I hear there is a second book in the wings… can you tell us more about it?
I spent three years working as a cycle courier in London, and if I see the first book as the story of the world on a bicycle, the second is the story of the city, plus a bit of me adjusting to standing around with strangers in lifts, while I could still remember riding through deserts in central Asia.

It’s a bit of an unseen London really; my brother delivered flowers to the MP who was stabbed by a young constituent in Whitechapel, I had the painful experience of delivering flowers to congratulate Cameron and his wife when they formed the government in 2010. I delivered administration notices to Lehman Brothers in 2008. There’s a really strong subculture to the couriers, I wouldn’t say I’m one of them as such, but there’s a really tender sense of kin there, and it’s valuable to work with the sort of people that it’s all too easy not to come into contact with in society… bicycles are good for that in general. 


I know a courier who occasionally rode around with a beer can, with pierced holes in the side, where normally you keep a water bottle. He used the can to smoke crack, clear as day, off a fairly busy street in Soho. There are a few riders who’ve done time in jail, a lot of them have perhaps made their lives harder than they needed to be, and a lot of them were probably just born into lives that were always going to be difficult. They’re all incredibly good, tender people, and the job and the culture of London’s roads is hard enough that it can really harden your soul. I don’t know, I think we live inside a system that doesn’t honour human beings as it should, and I want to make some small mark against that, by chronicling a lot of the realities of cities, poverty, class. It’s probably quite ambitious, but you’ve gotta try. 

You can buy Life Cycles from Hive here, and help support independent bookshops. Julian will launch the book at Look Mum No Hands at 49 Old Street, London on Thursday 5th June at 7.30pm and all are welcome, join the facebook event here. He will be on tour in the autumn too, so look out for him then!

Categories ,Aeon Magazine, ,Album Launch, ,Author, ,beijing, ,book, ,Cycle Courier, ,cycling, ,Foundry Pub, ,Hive, ,interview, ,Istanbul, ,Julian Sayarer, ,Latin America, ,Launch, ,Life Cycles, ,london, ,Look Mum No Hands, ,Moken, ,Myanmar, ,New Statesman, ,Record Breaker, ,review, ,Thailand, ,travel, ,Travelogue, ,Writers & Artists

Similar Posts:

Amelia’s Magazine | Swatch Watches Over the Rainbow and Be Black, designed by artist Jean-Michel Othoniel

Jean-Michel Othoniel Over the Rainbow swatch by catherine stone
Jean-Michel Othoniel Over the Rainbow Swatch by Catherine Stone.

Last week I was invited to Venice to find out about the newest Swatch watch: created by the artist Jean-Michel Othoniel. Swatch fell in love with his decorative use of Murano glass in incredible jewelled artworks that began life for an exhibition at the Peggy Guggenheim gallery in Venice itself. Jean-Michel was told there was no official space in which he was able to showcase artworks due to strict instructions left in Peggy Guggenheim‘s will, viagra but looking around he wondered whether the branches of a tree in the gallery courtyard could be exempt from this rule and his aerial bound sculptures began to take shape. Jean-Michel Othoniel draped strung baubles in the tree at the Guggenheim and the rest, as they say, is history. He has continued to work in the same way using all the colours of the Murano glass rainbow to create ethereal installations more akin to giant jewellery than art.

Jean-Michel Othoniel jewels
Jean-Michel Othoniel sculpture
Jean-Michel Othoniel sculpture
Jean-Michel Othoniel Guggenheim
Some of Jean-Michel Othoniel‘s art, including the necklace draped over the Guggenheim Venice.

Venice Biennale 2011 Swatch review
Venice Biennale 2011 Swatch review Jean Michel Othoniel
Venice Biennale 2011 Swatch review Jean Michel Othoniel
Jean-Michel Othoniel showcases his Over the Rainbow watch.

On the glorious sunny rooftop of the Biennale building in Venice the soft spoken artist described how pleased he was to be asked to create a little piece of art that will be available to lots of people. Ever the romantic he hopes that wearing one of his watches will offer the wearer that bit of otherworldly magic and wonder that he aims for in his sculptures. He described how using Murano glass within the design was key, because the beads look like beautiful precious stones.

Venice Biennale 2011 Swatch review-jean michel othoniel over the rainbow
Venice Biennale 2011 Swatch review-jean michel othoniel over the rainbow
Venice Biennale 2011 Swatch review-jean michel othoniel over the rainbow

I can certainly appreciate this in the sparkling Murano beads of the colourful Over the Rainbow limited edition version which is slightly oversized so that it can be worn on the wrist the wrong way round – as Jean-Michel demonstrated this to me I was most taken (as a non watch wearer myself) with the idea of wearing a private timepiece which on the exterior just looks like a pretty bracelet. It comes presented in a beautiful blown glass bubble – difficult to achieve but an absolute necessity for Jean-Michel Othoniel, who conceives his watch as art. The Be Black version sports slightly bigger and more manly black beads with a clasp, though both are unisex watches.

SWATCH in Venice Be Black by Abi Heyneke jean michel othoniel
SWATCH in Venice. Jean-Michel Othoniel‘s Be Black by Abi Heyneke.

swatch Be Black by Laura Godfrey
Swatch Be Black by Laura Godfrey.

Venice Biennale 2011 Swatch review Madame Emch wears Jean Michel Othoniel
Swatch president Madame Emch wears Jean-Michel Othoniel’s Be Black watch.

Even though the watches (which use the Swatch Skin model as a base) cost a very reasonable £190.50 for Over the Rainbow and £76 for Be Black, both Swatch and Jean-Michel very much hope that these will be more than throwaway watches – instead they are designed to become fetishistic charms, reminders of the need for fantasy and fairytales. Sound far-fetched? With the light glinting gleefully off the Murano beads in the Venice sunshine, a world of enchantment doesn’t seem that far away.

swatch by Daria Hlazatova
Swatch by Daria Hlazatova.

Categories ,Abi Heyneke, ,artist, ,Be Black, ,Beads, ,Bracelet, ,Catherine Stone, ,Daria Hlazatova, ,Glass, ,Jean-Michel Othoniel, ,jewellery, ,Launch, ,Laura Godfrey, ,Limited Edition, ,Madame Emch, ,Murano, ,Over the Rainbow, ,Peggy Guggenheim, ,review, ,Swatch, ,Swatch Skin, ,Venice, ,Venice Biennale, ,Watch

Similar Posts:

Amelia’s Magazine | The Kickstarter campaign for Amelia’s Colourful Colouring Companion launches today!

Kickstarter campaign image Ameliasccc
I am super excited to announce that the Kickstarter campaign for Amelia’s Colourful Colouring Companion launches today! Make sure you grab an EARLY BIRD BARGAIN

Amelia’s Colourful Colouring Companion is a unique collaborative colouring book for adults, featuring the work of 40 artists from all over the world. If you are hunting for an unusual, beautiful, high quality colouring book that stands out in the crowd then this is the one for you! It would make an ideal Christmas present

Alex Mcginn
Double page spread by Alex McGinn.

Eleanor Percival
Double page spread by Eleanor Percival.

Amelia’s Colourful Colouring Companion was put together through an open brief and each artist has contributed a double page – with a full colour left page on the left, and a complementary black line image on the right to colour in. This limited edition book will be printed on gorgeous thick paper and bound using the lay flat binding process ensuring that it is a delight to colour in. 

Nanna Prierler
I am already colouring in the pages! Here’s one by Nanna Prierler.

Steph Moulden
And another by Steph Moulden.

I have released some early back issues (1,2,3 and 4) as rewards to help raise funds and there are some fabulous Early Bird bargains that are sure to be snapped up fast, so please do visit the campaign page to view a short video featuring a mock up of the book… I hope you enjoy the little surprise at the end!

Categories ,#ameliasccc, ,Adult Coloring Book, ,Adult Colouring Book, ,Alex McGinn, ,Amelia’s Colourful Colouring Companion, ,Back issues, ,Coloring, ,Coloring Book, ,Colouring, ,Colouring Book, ,Early Bird, ,Eleanor Percival, ,Kickstarter, ,Launch, ,Nanna Prierler, ,Steph Moulden

Similar Posts:

Amelia’s Magazine | Introducing the New Illamasqua Fragrance: Freak

Illamasqua Freak Perfume by Francesca Harris
Illamasqua Freak Perfume by Francesca Harris.

Freak, pill the first perfume from Illamasqua, is officially launched tomorrow. The Illamasqua brand is of course known for its bold approach to bodily decoration, so it follows that their first foray into the world of fragrance is strong and unique:

Illamasqua Freak by Jessica Knight.

Freak is concocted from extracts of Datura, Opium Flower, Frankincense, Black Davana, Poison Hemlock (presumably rendered harmless in perfume form) and Queen of the Night. These ‘mysterious midnight blooms‘ create a heady mix which is certainly not for the faint hearted.


Also launching on 20th October are some limited edition complementary make up products, including Pure Pigment in Queen of the Night, which is a deep blackened plum that can be used to create a dramatic eye.

ALEX BOX by Faye West
Alex Box Love by Faye West.

If all of this sends you into a tizz, then why not immerse yourself fully in the intoxicating world of Freak? There’s a chance to win two highly prized tickets to the Freak Masked Ball on Saturday 29th October, hosted in conjunction with The Last Tuesday Society. The winners will also receive £200 spending money and exclusive dance lessons. What are you waiting for?

Categories ,Black Davana, ,Datura, ,Faye West, ,Fragrance, ,Francesca Harris, ,Frankincense, ,Freak, ,Freak Masked Ball, ,Illamasqua, ,Jessica Knight, ,Launch, ,Limited Edition, ,Make-up, ,Opium Flower, ,Perfume, ,Poison Hemlock, ,Pure Pigment in Queen of the Night, ,Queen of the Night, ,The Last Tuesday Society

Similar Posts:

Amelia’s Magazine | Album Review: Gazelle Twin – The Entire City

Gazelle Twin - Polaroid

Gazelle Twin‘s debut album opens with the threatening bass horns of new single The Entire City, stuff and straight away the mood is set for what is to come. Singer Elizabeth Walling‘s coos clatter in just before the kicking drums. but there are no lyrics and the atmosphere is heavy and pounding, viagra 40mg not for the fainthearted.

Gazelle Twin The Entire City

Concrete Mother starts more softly, seek meandering undulations back whispering sighs before vocals kick in. ‘She’ll teach me love…‘ Then comes upcoming single Men Like Gods, which features Elizabeth’s tremulous voice at the forefront. What at first makes sense becomes more and more vague: tantalisingly mysterious. The back beat emulates the disjointed foot steps of the Sardinian mummers in the video. I am Shell I am Bone twists the beats against angelic vocals ‘Made of concrete, made of gold. I am young and I am old…

Gazelle Twin by Sophia O'Connor
Men Like Gods, Gazelle Twin by Sophia O’Connor.

One of my very favourite tracks is Changelings – the first that brought Gazelle Twin to my attention at the end of last year…. and it’s an ideal introduction to this most unique of talents. Bell Tower starts as its name suggests, but the bells are muffled, as if heard from far away or behind layers of padding, under water. Again the angelic notes back the mournful questionings… it’s hard to understand the lyrics, but as with the whole album it’s the atmosphere that is important – the song building confidence and momentum through sound.

Gazelle Twin by Lea Rimoux
Gazelle Twin by Lea Rimoux.

Fear is driven out in When I Was Otherwise: confident vocals sit astride the infrequent bass squelches. Obelisk begins with beats battering back and forth as if on a ping pong table, but a melody ‘waking up from a deep sleep we don’t owe ourselves‘ soon takes over, curling around and engulfing the beat. Then we are straight into Far From Home, a small interlude that features cascading Madrigal-esque vocal harmonies, a nod to Elizabeth’s classical inspirations.

Gazelle Twin - The Entire City

Nest again starts low, deep, muted before the song begins. It’s perhaps the most ‘normal’ of the songs on The Entire City, a simple tune taking pride of place, and a chance for Elizabeth to show of crystal clear vocals… ‘When it’s too late… will we ever learn?

Gazelle Twin by Nicola Ellen
Gazelle Twin by Nicola Ellen. Read her mini review of the album here.

The quivering notes of Fight or Flight only last a minute, drifting off into the ether, and then we’re on to the final track, View of a Mountain. Here the synth reigns queen against the clattering background.

Gazelle Twin The entire city

Think of Gazelle Twin as a folky female Aphex Twin, a mysterious little sister of The Knife, choral madrigals for our uncertain 21st century, something utterly unique and very very exciting. The official album launch is on 1st September at The Islington Metal Works and I for one will be there.

gazelle_twin by gaarte
Gazelle Twin by Gaarte.

Elizabeth Walling eschews the controlled machinations of the music machine: with an image carefully crafted to mystify, to hide, to enhance the sound rather than her body as most female musicians do. This is music as performance, as art and as something all engulfing… but equally at home listened to on your desktop. Since I was sent the album The Entire City has never been far from my itunes playlist. I suggest you download it too: it came out on digital download on 11th July. And then see her live.

Gazelle Twin - The Entire City Gazelle Twin - The Entire City

Make sure you read my previous interview with Elizabeth Walling of Gazelle Twin to find out more. There is another very good review of The Entire City on Drowned in Sound.

Categories ,album, ,Aphex Twin, ,art, ,Bass, ,Bell Tower, ,brighton, ,Choral Madrigals, ,Concrete Mother, ,Drowned In Sound, ,Elizabeth Walling, ,Far From Home, ,Fight or Flight, ,folk, ,Gaarte, ,Gazelle Twin, ,Harmonies, ,I am Shell I am Bone, ,Launch, ,Lea Rimoux, ,Men Like Gods, ,Mummers, ,Nest, ,Nicola Ellen, ,Obelisk, ,review, ,Sardinia, ,Sophia O’Connor, ,Synth, ,The Entire City, ,The Islington Metal Works, ,The Knife, ,Twisted beats, ,View of a Mountain, ,When I Was Otherwise

Similar Posts:

Amelia’s Magazine | Album Review: Peggy Sue – Fossils and Other Phantoms

Illustration of Peggy Sue by Antonia Parker.

Peggy Sue have been around in various incarnations – previously accompanied by the Pirates – for sometime. So already engrained in the indie consciousness as they are, viagra sale it comes as a real surprise to discover that their first long player has only just come out. A true band of our internet led times.

Released at the end of April on Wichita Recordings, visit web Fossils and Other Phantoms therefore finds the work of an already mature band with a strongly identifiable sound of their own. A combination of indie and folk with a strong streak of the blues and even doo-wop, and husky vocalists Katy Klaw and Rosa Rex take turns to lead the tunes against a firm rhythmic backbone courtesy of drummer Olly Joyce, who comes crashing in halfway into opening track Long Division Blues after a slowly spiralling build up. His presence is never far away, even when the girls resort to the glorious simplicity of a simple guitar, kazoo or uke to back their playfully tumbling harmonies – I Read It In The Paper, Green Grow The Rushes and The Shape We Made soon grow into bigger songs with the addition of percussion.


Single Watchman is a tuneful favourite that is accompanied by a gorgeously surreal animated video by Betsy Dadd. Soulful lyrics sound heavily influenced by complicated love lives (though I discovered this is not quite the case when I interviewed the band) and render this album the perfect heartbreak sound track, but the point when you most definitely feel it’s time to pick yourself up and stand proudly independent again. Yo Mama sees them stand defiant “I’m gonna go downtown and find myself someone,” they assure us.

The album was launched with a free gig at Rough Trade East, which also happened to fall on Katy’s birthday. Accompanied by extra violin and cello “the one who bought me the cake is my favourite out of our string section” the trio powered through an energetic set in front of a clearly adoring though somewhat coy crowd. Despite problems with feedback and tuning “normally we tune up properly before a gig but we drank beer instead cos it’s my birthday” it was a great showcase for these talented and very individual multi-instrumentalists.

Illustration of the Peggy Sue string section by Antonia Parker.

Read my in-depth interview with Peggy Sue here.

Categories ,album review, ,Antonia Parker, ,Betsy Dadd, ,ep, ,Fossils and Other Phantoms, ,gig, ,Katy Klaw, ,Launch, ,Lover Gone, ,Olly Joyce, ,Peggy Sue, ,Rosa Rex, ,Rough Trade East, ,Wichita Recordings

Similar Posts: