EVERYDAY LIFE: Midwinter Stories & Everyday Delight

I woke up after the longest night (literally) and felt the urge to write to you. I like the hummock of Midwinter, as we roll over its peak into longer days; still wintery, still bleak and cold, but hopeful. It’s a nice feeling, but maybe underappreciated.

A couple of years ago I made a hashtag on Instagram, #themidwintermovement, to celebrate this joy. Unfortunately, it got picked up by a well-known instagrammer and blended into a slow-living blur of consumerism disguised as authenticity. Such is life.

Our current Shutter Hub exhibition is called Everyday Delight, and it’s an absolute beauty. I am allowed to say that, I’m sure. 114 images from 70 international photographers, all sharing their little moments of magic in the mundane and inviting viewers to discover the beauty in the everyday. We’ve had lovely feedback (which you can read here) and Jayne took some super shots of the install (which you can see here). The Guardian gave it a lovely feature too (here) and in their Art Weekly round-up they referred to it by saying ‘Everyday life can bring spectacular joy’ which I think might be one of the most hopeful sentences I’ve read in quite some time.

Earlier in the autumn I curated Now, for the Future, a Shutter Hub exhibition for LOOK Photo Biennial in Liverpool. It’s another show I am proud to have initiated.

Our perception of the world is influenced by our environment, our education, our history, and the stories we are told. Photography may be the most accessible and inclusive tool we have for communication. We can use it to share images that reflect on the world we live in, images that hold people together, encourage creative thoughts and provoke positive actions. The more we know and understand, and the more we find in common with others, the more likely we are to succeed.

The thoughts behind Now, for the Future are deeply rooted in the need to understand the environmental crisis that the world is facing, and not only find practical solutions, but also emotional and ethical ones. Can we share something so magnificent and inspiring that it will enlighten people’s perspective on the future?

Now, for the Future asks, can we create a visual language that draws from the past, exists in the moment, and sets a positive course for the future?

International photographers examine the myths and fables of the now – will the stories we tell today survive to be the folklore of the future? And, could Now, for the Future be a visual handbook for our emotional survival?

If you’d like, you can view the full exhibition digitally here: Now, for the Future: The Exhibition.

I gave a talk at Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool, it sold out. We held a Professional Development event at Bermondsey Project Space, it sold out. I gave a talk at London Institute of Photography, it sold out. What will happen next? My head is already too big for hats!

I went to the Netherlands (Again? Again!)

I visited Fujifilm in Tilburg and toured their magnificent factory. I ate apple pie ice cream and stayed in a dodgy hotel with neon lights and a funny smell.

I joined Visit Brabant for a press trip and visited Dutch Design Week. Saw a robot babysitter, a tank full of trout, and ate parsnip fries.

I stroked a fish and got bitten by a bird. I tried to stroke a cat but he was having none of it.

I made Pickled Walnut and Pancetta muffins for Opies. First time in ages that I have worked on a recipe and I am really pleased with the result.

I managed to re-pot a couple of plants, it’s a time-consuming affair, but one that is necessary and improved by a gift of lovely plants pots from Dutch company Elho. My £1.50 rubber plant has grown into a small tree and now rides around in this wheely plant pot giving me great joy and reminding me of my favourite Modern Toss illustration (click here and swipe for joy!)

I was given a beautiful silver pouch and a grey sheepskin rug from my friend Cindi. I’ve never felt a rug so soft. I keep seeing it out of the corner of my eye and thinking it’s Tutti! Cindi’s family run a business down in Somerset making all things sheepskin and nice (Owen Barry, if you’re asking!)

Tutti got given a Nigel Farage catnip toy for Christmas. She screwed her face up and won’t go near it.

I made chai spiced fudge and wrapped presents in newspaper printed with a photo I took of flowers whilst I was nosing round Dutch castles in the summer.

I took parcels of toiletries and kitchenwares to a local young peoples hostel (you can find yours here: toiletriesamnesty.org) took spare glasses to Specsavers (did you know they give them to Vision Aid to help others?) and I dropped off bags and boxes of things to the Mind charity shop.

And now we’re about to have a Midwinter feast with my family.

Sounds idyllic, perfect, even a bit braggy?

Life, for us all, on so many different levels, is far from perfect. But, I’d rather aim for optimism, and share the joy and the inspiration, in the hope that things can be better for everyone, and if you want to join me in that please do. We can go into the next decade with power and kindness. Not a bad new years resolution really! I live in hope.

HOLLAND: Factories of the Imagination (Food, Thought & Innovation)

99 Red Balloons played on the radio as we rushed across Tilburg. Windows down to let out smell of cigarette smoke. My driver pointed at a house in the middle of a roundabout, ‘They call it art!’ she laughed, as her curly hair blew in the wind.

She dropped me at Fujifilm’s Manufacturing and Research Laboratory. Sleek white and grey buildings, trees everywhere, oak saplings pushing their way up through acorns in piles. And huge toadstools, the size of berets. I had a brilliant meeting, a fascinating tour and a croquette for lunch. Magical. Come with me next year!

My driver on the way back, a very sweet older man who told me all about his three daughters, recommended the Intermezzo ice cream parlour to me, and as I was less than comfortable in my hotel room, I decided it was worth the walk there, in the rain. It was. Apple pie ice cream was the right choice.

I stayed at the City Hotel Tilburg (don’t stay at the City Hotel Tilburg!). Orange velvet curtains lit by a fluorescent tube, framed the view of St Jozef’s church, which was not really a ‘view’ as such, more just a wall, due to its immediate proximity. Dong, dong, dong– every hour for the hour, and a dong for half past. All night long. By 4am I was beginning to get used to it, and then… did you even know there is a Happy Hardcore version of Let it Be? I didn’t, but I do now.

In the morning I headed over to Eindhoven to meet up with the Visit Brabant team and joined them on a fabulous journey of food and innovation – starting at the Creativity World Forum.

I had an egg sandwich that wasn’t egg, and there was a pumpkin you could put your hand inside – a bit like that tree stump scene from Flash Gordon.

Eindhoven was once the famous home of Philips lightbulbs, when the company moved away jobs were lost, and factories stood empty… but not for long. The city invested in its people, and its people innovated. Those empty factories became centres of creativity and imagination, and now, amongst many other things, they house the annual Dutch Design Week– the biggest design event in Europe!

We ate French fries made from potato, sweet potato and parsnip, whilst Missy Elliot’s Pass the Dutch played in the background. I found a lamp that looked like a roast chicken.

Filling the fifth floor of one of the old factory buildings is the most interesting city farm I’ve come across. With a massive tank full of trout and hundreds of plants growing under LED lights, Duurzame Kost demonstrates aquaponics at its most efficient.

Dinner in Eindhoven, at DOYY, with Europe’s finest caviar ‘Anna Dutch’ made sustainably by sturgeon who live in big tanks outside the city. I ate a cone filled with ginger ice cream and goose liver, out of a miniature bucket, and I don’t regret it one bit.

After a rich and indulgent dinner we spent the most peaceful night at Teugel Resort in Uden. So quiet and calm. Such a relief!

In the morning we headed over to another repurposed factory site, CHV Noordekade in Veghel (if it sounds good to you, then watch this short film and be amazed).

This old animal feed complex blew my mind and lit a fuse with my imagination (as soon I arrived home I started googling ‘disused silos near me’). Built in 1918 by Escher (the cousin of Escher the artist) the facility made feed mix and cattle cakes. It is now home to cafés, restaurants, events spaces, a cinema, theatre, food hall, coffee roasters, bakery, a beer shop selling 1500 beers, a distillery, a small brewery (200 litres per day), a JUMBO supermarket, and the only car ever made in this small village – the prototype Bambino Sport.

I stroked a fish and got bitten by a bird. All the good things.

Lunch at Silly Fox.Thank you very much. The chicken and kimchi bao was da bomb. This duck with yoghurt and sauce, made on the barbeque with duck bones and orange, was delicious, and well-lit through the factory windows.

A quick stop at surplus food factory De Verspillings Fabriek, (they were busy making soup from MacDonald’s surplus tomato slices – the end bits that you never see in the hamburgers) and then, on to the Glass Farm in Schijndel.

Created by architect Winy Maas (the same chap who designed the fabulous mirrored Depot building in Rotterdam) for the empty square at the centre of his hometown, this glass building is covered in photographic images giving it the appearance of a semi-transparent traditional Dutch farmhouse. It felt a little bit ‘theme park’ to me, and I think that’s down to the scale, it’s oversized, being 60% larger than the original buildings on which it was modelled.

I met a most attractive (in my eyes) cat, but he hissed at me. So sad. I think this is the first time in my life that my cat whispering skills have failed to serve me. Must be a language difference. Later on, I met a man who was feeding him. He told me he feeds several strays, but this is the only one who calls at his door daily. Beautiful.

In the evening we dined at Wollerich in Sint-Oedenrode. A very peaceful restaurant, with one Michelin star, simple décor and delicious food presented on exquisite plates. At one point, my lovely Italian colleague Germana, in between singing opera for us, whipped out the Wheel of Fortune from her tarot cards and told me, ‘You are a ten. Small steps forward, no stopping!’

I stopped for a while, for another good night’s sleep at Teugel Resort. It’s really unusual to spend two nights in the same place when on a press trip, but this was a really welcome treat for me.

We drove into Den Bosch, Nothing Compares 2U played out on the radio as we slowly passed by convoys of farmers driving their tractors into town to protest against the government. We ate Bosch Bol for breakfast at Bolwerk, fresh from the famous Jan de Groot bakery, and then headed over to our final factory site, Tramkade.

Anne Reijnders, the food activist behind De Lekkere Man, gave us a tour of the Tramkade industrial heritage site. Previously a chicken feed factory, cookie factory, cigar factory all on one site, the area has been given over to developing social inclusion and a circular economy.

Lekker is one of the first words I learnt in Dutch,  it kind of means tasty, but also good and yummy, and is used all the time, not just for food. So, Anne’s ‘Lekker Man’ is a play on words and a bit of fun, but with a very serious undercurrent. She wants to put male meat on the table.

In the food production industry where many female animals are reared for their eggs or milk, the male animal is often born, sexed and then killed. As different breeds are grown for different reasons, and for example, the breed of chicken you have for eggs is different to the breed you have for meat (they grow at different rates and yield different results) the males, in mass industry, have previously been seen as a by-product and destroyed. If we are going raise animals to eat meat, Anne wants us to eat all of it.

Aside from the fascinating tour (the chicken feed factory is full of music producers, artists and designers, the cookie factory is now a cultural space, and the cigar factory a cinema and theatre) Anne also gave us man goat sausage in bread covering.

However much I am behind her ethos, man goat sausage is not my scene. (Anyone remember when I tried goats milk kefir and was poisoned by the taste of 1000 goats? Ah, Jesus!)

Koning Willem I College gave us their Dutch Cuisine ‘Impact Lunch’ (which included no goat) designed by the students who dutifully served us with shaking hands and charming smiles.

We made a quick phone call to an angel at Den Bosch Cathedral (It’s a thing, an €0.80 per minute thing) and then headed back to the station – trains to Schiphol, flights home for everyone. The end, again.

Halfway home on the plane the woman next to me whipped out a full McDonald’s burger banquet from her back pack. ‘I love cold fries!’she exclaimed as she tucked in vigorously. Could have slipped her my leftover breaded man goat too!

With the greatest thanks to Visit Brabant and Visit Holland for making this trip possible. As always, my opinions are my own (and my ability to Doctor Dolittle all the animals, clearly something that needs some work!)

RECIPE: Opies’ Pickled Walnut and Pancetta Savoury Muffins

This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Opies.  

The first time I came across a pickled walnut was at my Aunty Phips’ house. We used to visit her for boxing day lunch, always well welcomed and well fed. I remember standing in the kitchen at the Ercol table, Midwinter Roselle plates laden with exciting seasonal food, and beside the bowl of pickled walnuts, my mum wielding a pickle fork and exclaiming, ‘They are very special!’ as I screwed my face up and looked on.

Once I got over the idea that they would be anything like a nut, and embraced the soft, sweet and tangy flavour of the pickled green walnut, there was no going back. They’ve been a regular on my shopping list ever since.

When Opies’ asked me if I’d come up with a new recipe for their pickled walnuts, I said yes please and thank you with great enthusiasm and gusto. I knew what I’d make… muffins.

I once won Gold at the local village show for my honey and bacon muffins and I’ve never looked back.

Welcome out of the oven, pickled walnut topped beauties. Yes, I am still the muffin boss!

Pickled walnuts are not just for Christmas, you can pick them up any time of year from the major super markets (Tesco, Sainsburys, Morrisons, Waitrose, Asda etc) or bulk order online (whilst arranging your next cocktail cherry consignment).

The walnuts are picked from the tree whilst they are still green and before any shell has formed. Opies’ preserve them in a special secret recipe of spiced malt vinegar. They say it takes a lot of effort and is a real labour of love, but they also say that Mary Berry would prefer a pickled walnut to a chocolate, so I am with them all the way.

Pickle power!

Here is my recipe for Opies’ Pickled Walnut and Pancetta Savoury Muffins. Easily  adapted, quick to make and tasty to eat.

Ingredients (makes 12):

250g Self Raising Flour
200ml Low Fat Natural Yoghurt
1 Large Egg
4 tbsp Olive Oil
Opies’ Pickled Walnuts – 2 for filling, more for topping!
120g Pancetta (or smoked bacon lardons)
80g Cheddar Cheese


Pre-heat the oven to 190˚C/170˚C (fan)

Fry the Pancetta in a little of the olive oil until crispy (save the frying oil for later)

Chop 2 pickled walnuts into small squares and do the same with the cheddar cheese.

Put the flour into a mixing bowl. Add the pickled walnuts, cooked pancetta and cheddar.

In a jug, mix together the olive oil (including the bit you fried the pancetta in), yoghurt and egg. Pour into the mixing bowl and stir everything together.

Lightly grease a 12 hole muffin tin and spoon in the mixture evenly. Add sliced pickled walnuts to the top of each muffin.

Put in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Remove from the oven, and after a couple of minutes remove from the tin and place on a cooling rack.

Eat them while they are hot or leave them to cool. Eat them like a muffin or treat like a scone and add butter.

The pickled walnut topper, whilst looking quite decadent, does also add a lovely chewy crispy tang and is well worth the addition in my honest opinion.

For me, the combination of the salty smoky pancetta with the sweet smack of Opies’ pickled walnuts is an absolute winner, I hope you’ll agree!

This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Opies’.

As always, my opinions are my own (and my ability to eat pickled products something that I am honing in hope of eating competition opportunities – hit me up!)

EVERYDAY LIFE: Sleeping Bags & Neon Socks

I’ve been watching the Jays flying in and out of the Holm Oak tree, beaks clasping green acorns that they’ve plucked from the branches ready to push firmly into the lawn. Apparently, they store them there for winter food, but I have a sneaking suspicion that they’re in cahoots with the back-garden moles.

These past few months have possibly been some of the busiest I’ve experienced. It doesn’t feel like I’ve stopped at all. Until last night. We drove to London to take part in the CEO Sleepout and I was forced to be still and just exist, under the stars. The air was cool, the sky was clear, and I even managed an hours sleep. It was no real hardship at all (and so much better than last year!) but an important conversation starter – with people I met last night, and with you. What can we do about such an extensive and overwhelming issue as homelessness? Well, we can make a start with the small things.

Something we are trying to do with Toiletries Amnesty is put an end to hygiene poverty by encouraging community interaction and social engagement. Do you ever feel you’d like to do something, but don’t know where to start? If you don’t already know about Toiletries Amnesty then please do head to the website and find out more – get involved, because you can. Immediately you can do something to improve the lives of others (and your own). We can all make a positive difference, and collectively that can be something pretty special.

If you’re feeling the urge to retrospectively sponsor me for sleeping in a puddle, well, I won’t say no!


So, in all of the other news that I’ve not shared when I perhaps should have…

We went to Ghent, ate the most excellent meal in Cochon de Luxe and saw a great exhibition at the Design Museum. On the way home we got to hang out on the bridge of the ferry and watch the captain reverse park it at Dover. (Read about it here!)

We went to RollHard and saw a lot of cars with nice shiny bits. (Enjoy mostly photos here!)

I spent the best part of two weeks in Rotterdam delivering the STREET / FORM exhibition as part of Pow! Wow! Rotterdam, Europe’s largest Street Art Festival. It was wonderful. I urge you to read about it here and here.

I stayed a night at the Nova Hotel in Amsterdam, with a little Japanese-style garden outside my window, catching all the calm sounds of the rain falling.

I gave portfolio reviews for Photo020 in Amsterdam and took a walk along the canals in the rain.

I bought some fabulous neon socks, got given a super cool Pow! Wow! Spray can, walked 49.7 miles in 7 days, visited a dairy farm on a pontoon, and held a random stranger’s baby on the train home.

We saw 24 horse and traps go by our front window. We live in the middle of nowhere.

Festival Pil’Ours asked if we’d extend the Shutter Hub Time to Think exhibition until the end of November, and we said yes, because we are sensible like that.

I photographed my friend, printmaker Louise Stebbing, in her studio ahead of her retrospective next year, and I also photographed her cat because, well, just because!

Then I went to Wales to install and launch HOME.

HOME is a very beautiful exhibition, created from the generosity of 80 photographers who donated their work to be sold for homelessness charities – Crisis, Shelter and Toiletries Amnesty. Shutter Hub teamed up with Gallery at Home in Usk and together we made something really special (see the full exhibition in photos, here).

I stayed in the Greyhound Inn (didn’t see any greyhounds, did see a shiatsu called Harry though) and it was lovely. Proper old school. Horse brasses, and peas with everything.

There’s a five-page feature about HOME in Be Kind magazine this month. If you want to read the interview with me and see some beautiful images the full PDFs are here on the Shutter Hub site, but really, you could just pick up a print version and read all the other things too.

HOME prints are for sale here until 05 December 2019 for just £35 each. That, in case you need it spelling out, is a mega bargain.

M E G A  B A R G A I N !

And now what am I doing?

I’m working on Now, for the Future, an exhibition for LOOK Photo Biennial with Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool. I’m also working on (and will be for many months) a touring exhibition project called POSTCARDS FROM GREAT BRITAIN (and you can get involved too!) and, one more exhibition for good measure – Everyday Delight. If you’ve spotted the obvious face in your wallpaper, caught sight of an autumn leaf spinning magically in a spiders web, or noticed a finger nail that looks like Paul Daniels (I’ve done them all) then you’ve had a glimpse of ‘everyday delight’ – the joy in the everyday. Keep looking for it.

Shutter Hub will be hosting a Professional Development day on 30 November in London, and if you’ve any interest in photography you should sign up for a free space, it’s going to be a super day. I’ll be there (is that encouraging?!)

I’ll also be talking at LOOK Photo Biennial on Saturday 02 November (book here), and London Institute of Photography on 06 December (book here).

And hopefully, in between these things I am going to find time to walk more, pot plants, stroke cats and get a haircut.

HOLLAND: Worlds First Floating Farm, Rotterdam

I’ve been wanting to visit the floating farm since I heard that it was being built, I’ve been patient. I’m interested in food production, in processing and processes, in environmental innovation, and I like cows.

I was welcomed by Minke van Wingerden, who handed me a small plastic bottle of cold velvety milk, fresh from the previous day – pasturised, homogonised and bottled on site. (I had been expecting unhomogenised milk with the cream on top, but apparently this is not in demand in the area).

The floating farm opened in the summer of 2019 in the busy port of Rotterdam and now houses 35 red and white Maas-Rhine-Ijssel cows. It’s a compact and fascinating production plant which I am yet to fully understand, or maybe just yet to embrace.

The cows live, work (I class milk production as their job, even if it is forced employment), eat and sleep on the platform as it moves up and down on the water by up to two metres, tethered by the piles it’s centered on.

They are fed with hay, laced with leftovers from beer production and other tasty waste. Food troughs around the outside of their enclosure allow visitors to get up close and personal with the cows – whether they like it or not!

A robot milking machine lures the milk laden ladies with cookies, the machine reads the tag on their ears to determine if they need milking yet or they are just abusing the snacking station. The milk is then sent straight downstairs for processing and bottling.

Unlike on grass, the cows waste doesn’t have the space or other environmental factors to enable the formation of dried cow pats or the natural filtration through the ground. Instead, on the platform, a robot scoots round and scoops up the poop. The poop goes into a poop chute. A poop processor separates solids from fluids, and the liquid is piped off into large tanks to be collected for disposal elsewhere, whilst the dry matter is repurposed as bedding materials for the cows to sleep on. There’s no mud on the platform, everything brown you see there is excrement – cows make a lot of poop!

Across the bridge from the milk production pontoon is a small paddock for the cows to exercise and graze in. In the few months they’ve been there they’ve not yet had the chance to leave the platform, but when they do, now they have their sea legs, I wonder if the cows will get motion sickness.

From the platform, looking across the water, on the land, you (and they) can see the calves that have been removed from them. Three girls, two boys, destined for milk and meat. Skittish little things, big eyes, soft coats, very cute.

The concept of the floating farm is to bring food to the city, save food miles, and save space. I can see the benefits for the humans, but I’m not sure what the cows get from it.

Minke told me that they developed this farm because of concerns about rising water levels, the changing environment, transport and space, and because they want people to be able to come and see how hard the farmer works.

They call it Transfarmation.

I have so many questions, and I think the floating farm team do too. We should always ask questions – that’s where true innovation comes from. This floating dairy farm is the first in the world, a prototype, something to be learned from, a work in progress to be developed, and improved.

What happens to the land the cows would have normally grazed? Animals grazing land is a big part of land management, a big part of fertilization and regeneration, what will that space be used for instead?

Will the cows be as happy on a floating farm as they would be in fields? Does this affect their milk production, or quality of produce? Does it affect their longevity of production? More importantly, does it affect their quality of life?

What’s the difference in ‘food miles’ between bringing milk from a rural farm to a city shop for sale, and having one city spot where everyone goes specifically to buy and collect milk?

Will that paddock be big enough for 35 cows and their 140 hooves, stomping, grazing, pooping? The slurry robot is struggling to keep up with the job on the platform. Where does all that waste go when the lorries come to collect the full tanks of fluids?

Where do the tiny plastic milk bottles come from? Where do they go? Could they be replaced with glass?

What about the cost of the materials (financially and environmentally) of creating platforms for cows? For the building and maintaining, for the shipping of materials, for the production of the solar panels that run the machines, for the robots that have replaced the work of men – milking, feeding, muck shoveling.

Have we just got really lazy and selfish?

Ultimately, if we don’t have space to meet our demand, perhaps we should stop demanding so much?

I don’t know the answers, and I certainly don’t mean to sound righteous – I drink milk, I eat meat. I’m kind of asking, kind of thinking out loud, looking for conversation and thought, for explanations and further innovations.

I really hope the floating farm encourages people to learn about food production, to think about their own intake and waste, to think about animal welfare, and to cut down on consumption. I hope the extra knowledge about where food comes from helps us to reconsider what we buy, what we use, and what we might otherwise throw away.

As a visitor attraction as well as a working project, I hope the balance here swings away from that of a novelty cow petting pontoon and more towards a place of education and development. And really, I’d like to see the cows back in the fields where they belong.

These living creatures exist solely for our purposes and every day I wonder, are doing the right thing by them?

Floating Farm Gustoweg 10, 3029 AS, Rotterdam

With thanks to Floating Farm for inviting me to visit and ask questions. As always, my opinions are my own.


Welcome to the World of Karen Harvey: photographer, writer, creative consultant… self proclaimed cat whisperer, chicken wrangler and chief cake taster!