English poet, model, and filmmaker, Greta Bellamacina, hand-selected six women who let their imaginations run wild in their work: from poet Scarlett Sabet to award-winning actress Sophie Kennedy Clark. Shot by Jessie Lily Adams.
Jaclyn Bethany: Hi, Greta! Where did you grow up, and where are you currently based?
Greta Bellamacina: I was born in Hampstead in North London and I am now based in Fitzrovia underneath the BT Tower. Recently, though, I have been traveling nonstop showing my new feature film at festivals and various UK cinemas, as well as doing a book tour around the U.S. and Europe (including readings at Shakespeare & Company, Chateau Marmont, Ace Hotel in Palm Springs, Neue House, The Albion Beatnik Bookshop, The Groucho, and more. I like to be on the move, I work better that way.
JB: What was it like growing up with so many siblings?
GB: I was quite a melancholic child. I spent a lot of time outside. I would follow the sunshine round the garden to stay warm as we had no central heating in our house. I loved having lots of siblings growing up—it made life feel complete. We didn’t need anyone else, cause we always had each other.
JB: When did you know that you wanted to be a writer/poet?
GB: I am quite dyslexic; for some reason, poetry always came quite naturally to me. I don't think I ever decided that I wanted to be a poet. I think I was just drawn to the truth and the pathos of poetry.
JB: What’s one book you believe every young woman should ready?
GB: At Grand Central Station I Lay Down and Wept by Elizabeth Smart.
JB: Has there been a piece of writing you’ve read that has changed your life?
GB: Alice Oswald’s Dart and Ted Hughes’ Crow.
JB: You are also a filmmaker, having recently directed your first feature-length documentary, which raises awareness about saving public libraries. Where did this idea originally spring from? What has the audience reaction been?
GB: I decided I wanted to direct and write The Safe House: A Decline of Ideas because I was really appalled by the way libraries in the UK were being turned into gyms and luxury apartments. I first came up with the idea a year before eventually making the film. My own childhood library, where I worked in everyday to get through my exams, had been closed down. I know so many students who benefited from that library who had no chance of going to university without it. The library is a human right.
Editor’s Note: The film is currently available online in the UK with Curzon Home Cinema.
I think [the lack of women directors] is slowly changing and I feel passionately about working with women. I have just completed my fourth short film with director/actor Bonnie Wright and have collaborated with filmmaker Chloe Pemberton many times and find her approach to film really inspiring. I also admire the work of documentary filmmaker Molly Mills.
JB: Tell me about your most recent collection of poems, Perishing Tame, as well as your poetry publishing house, New River Press.
GB: Perishing Tame is about modern motherhood—it’s quite a frank insight into pregnancy and the Freudian notion of romantic love. I also wanted to write about what was happening in the world and wrote quite a few poems about the refugee crisis in Europe.
JB: As a native Londoner, what spots would you suggest to someone visiting the city for the first time?
GB: I would suggest visiting all the London parks, especially Kite Hill on Parliament Hill Fields in the evening. I also really love Highgate Cemetery where Christina Rossetti and Malcolm McLaren are buried.
JB: What’s your favorite place that you’ve traveled to thus far? Where do you hope to go next?
GB: Morocco. There is a town all painted in blue in the mountains called Chefchaouen— it’s probably one of the most surreal places i’ve ever been to. I’d like to visit South America next.
JB: What's next for you?
GB: I am just about to launch Smear, a feminist collection of poems (edited by me) written by a broad range of female writers predominantly in their late-teens and early twenties. Next year I will film two new feature that I’m directing entitled Hurt By Paradise and I dreamed the tears were a waterfall.
JB: As a young woman and mother, how do you feel working in the arts today?
GB: I feel really empowered. I think motherhood is one of the greatest versions of sisterhood. For me, being a mother [of one-year-old Lorca] helps me to relate further to the world. It brings you closer to people and breaks divisions. I think the emotional pull of being a mother and an artist is hugely refreshing and endlessly inspiring, too; it needs to be spoken about more in the arts.
Greta Bellamacina is an English poet, model, actor, and filmmaker.
Greta wears a suit by Dilara Findikoglu.
Sophie Kennedy Clark is an actor.
Jaclyn Bethany: Hi, Sophie. What was your childhood like?
Sophie Kennedy Clark: Fancy free climbing one tree to the next in the wilds of Scotland. A magical landscape for play-pretend.
JB: Were your parents supportive of your decision to pursue a career in the arts?
SKC: They are my North Star. They’re wildly supportive and wonderfully eccentric. They have given me the tools to pursue my career in an adventurous yet sensible fashion.
JB: When did you know you wanted to be an actor ?
SKC: My mother tells the story that, when I was a little girl, she would go for a bath and I used to run in behind her, lock the door, perch on the windowsill while she bathed and would regale her with stories, ideas, and performances. I still do it to this day. Storytelling is something I have always done. Acting has come first, but there are lots of other ways I would like to create and communicate.
JB: How do you feel as a young woman working in the arts today?
SKC: I feel it is a pivotal and liberated time for women in the arts. I'm so happy and excited to be a part of today's melting pot of art.
JB: What other creatives in London are inspiring you at the moment?
SKC: My dear friend Charlotte Colbert, with whom I made a short film, A Silent Man, is a huge inspiration! She is an artist, photographer, filmmaker, writer, and mother. She takes everything in her stride and nothing for granted! She’s force of nature and a wonderful, wonderful creature.
JB: Who is your favorite actress working today?
SKC: Only one?! God that's impossible…. Tilda Swinton, Samantha Morton, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Helena Bonham Carter, Susan Sarandon…. how long do you have?
JB: Two of your earliest roles were in two prolific projects. You worked with Lars von Trier in Nymphomaniac and you also played a young Judi Dench in Philomena. Tell me about those two remarkable, albeit very different, experiences.
SKC: I have been incredibly lucky in my career working with amazing auteurs and radicals! But in terms of both of those films, they firmly set me up as a character actress rather than as “eye candy.” They were such powerful movies, and the effect they had on people really taught me that I have a responsibility to continue making such emotive movies.
JB: What do you look for when reading a script?
SKC: A story worth telling. I enjoy controversy and progressive films. Art house, surrealist madness or campy, quirky indies! Something that makes the audience feel something strongly—a feeling they can take away with them and that's worth discussing over a drink!
JB: If you could have dinner with any woman (dead or alive), who would it be and why?
SKC: Mary Pickford. She started United Artists with Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and Charlie Chaplin. She was the first-ever movie star and female studio head, creating Hollywood as we know it today! I'm actually playing her right now (in The First). I went to her grave with a psychic (very LA) so I feel like, in a way, we have met…. spooky!
JB: What's next for you in 2017?
SKC: As I mentioned, I’m currently set to play Mary Pickford. But I've also just completed leading two British indies, the first called Obey about the Hackney riots, and the second called Lucid about the perils and pitfalls of lucid dreaming. Honestly, I feel like I've been living entirely fictionally for the last four months. But hell, there's no rest for the wicked and I don't plan on behaving any time soon, so long may it continue!
CREDITS: Dark Shadows (2012), Philomena (2013, Won Scottish BAFTA), Nymphomaniac (2013), Stonehearts Asylum (2014), Two Missing (Short, 2014), The Marriage of Reason & Squalor (2015), The Danish Girl (2015), The Phenom (2016), The Silent Man (2016), Upcoming: Go North, Lucid, Tomorrow, The First, Obey (Upcoming)
Sophie wears her own clothes.
JB: Hello, Sadie! Where did you grow up, and where are you currently based?
Sadie Brown: I’m originally from West Sussex, but I’ve lived in London for over 13 years. I used to come up to London a lot as a child and later as a teenage singer to audition, so London has always felt like home. All of my most important life lessons have happened to me here—the heartbreak and the breakthroughs. I always wanted to live here for as long as I can remember.
JB: When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in the arts?
SB: My mother told me I literally came out of the womb singing, so for me I have never had to think about pursuing a creative career, it’s just who I am. I wrote my first song when I was eight about searching for my love in the mountains—intense. Although my creative form has changed shape along the way: singing and songwriting came first, then creative writing and film followed. Right now I’m feeling the best ever creatively, more so than in my 20s, as I’m combining music and visual writing for the first time in a long time. I’ve gone full circle and it feels good.
JB: What is a book you believe every young woman should read?
SB: My authors were songwriters growing up: Paul Weller, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Marc Bolan, and Jimi Hendrix were the biggest influences. As a young woman today, I turn my attention to the women around me, as they hold more realism than anything else.
JB: Do you feel empowered as a young woman in the arts today?
SB: Yes, I do. Being in the music industry from a very young age made me very tough and aware that I needed to protect myself. Everyone around me was male, from my band to my manager, but if I’m totally honest, apart from the odd record company sleaze, I never paid too much attention to being ‘female’—I just got on with it. I generally ignore anything negativity and steam ahead with my work, but I know some female friends, particularly those in film, that suffer the most horrendous sexism. I’m definitely grateful for my early start in the arts.
JB: Why do you think women's voices need to be heard?
SB: Can you imagine a world without them? Women are everything. Full stop.
JB: If you could trade places with any woman dead or alive for one day, who would it be and why?
SB: There are so many, but I’ve always loved Diana Vreeland and the way she used to talk about New York in the ‘20s. I would love to know what the city was like then, as it’s my second favorite place after London. Plus, Diana’s energy and all that red—that would be a ride! More importantly, she took risks with fashion and broke some of the most loved females into the industry single handedly at a time when no one else was [doing so]. She’s a legend.
JB: London is one of the international capitals for young creatives. What other young artists in the city inspire you?
SB: I love Scarlett Carlos Clarke’s photography. I love the female form, and Scarlett celebrates that with color and attitude—what’s not to love? Obviously, Greta Bellamacina is not only like family, but an incredibly honest and modern voice for poetry and women everywhere, and so London in her style, which I love. My friend Lucy Tcherniak is an inspiring screenwriter and director for me, too. Anyone trying to do something creative that they believe in should be admired.
JB: What are your favorite spots in London?
SB: Socially, anywhere where the people I love are, which is usually nestled into a corner in Soho somewhere, but my favorite area of London will always be the North. I first moved there, and Hampstead and Highgate hold a lot of important memories for me; I find the North to be the most romantic, too. I also love to be near water wherever I am in the world, so for solo peace I head to the riverside—I can literally walk for hours and I get most of my creative ideas while I stroll with a caffeine companion.
JB: Fashion is also significant to you. How would you describe your personal style? Who are your favorite (female) British designers working today? Any favorite vintage shops?
SB: My friends always say I’m a Bardot/Faithfull hybrid, but I’ve always been a retro girl and flit between the ‘60s and ‘70s on a daily basis. My mother would speak about Brigitte Bardot and show me her ‘70s photographs from when she was a Go-Go dancer, so I soaked that in from a young age. Growing up near Brighton had a huge impact on me, as the vintage there is incredible and way cheaper than London. By the time I was 20, I was driving my MGB GT into town, recording songs, and wearing suede—I haven’t changed a bit really. I love Paris and Brighton best for finds, but I never shop in London, I do everything online. eBay has some great pieces if you have the patience to look. I’m not a huge designer lady, but I’ve loved Stella McCartney from her days at Chloé, to today. Every collection is heaven.
JB: Tell me about your online journal, All These Things, and how it came about.
SB: I ended an abusive relationship which had literally sucked the life and creativity out of me, and I needed to write about it. Whether it’s a script or a song, writing is the only way I can move on from something. So I started to write a diary, which I shared with female friends, and my friend Freya suggested I get online and start journaling. I never intended for it to be anything other than an outlet for me, but it quickly took up pace and I started getting approached to write for various female platforms and one thing led to another. That was a few years ago now and I’m much happier within fiction and scripts, but those few years of my life were so rewarding. Speaking honestly about body image, mental health, and relationships was a nice way to give back to women anywhere in the world. I use that space more as a website now, and I’m planning to showcase my films and music there, too.
JB: What's next for you?
SB: 2017 is all about making for me. I unexpectedly returned to music this summer and wrote my first new songs in nine years, which I will be recording in the new year. I’m not too sure what I will be doing with them yet, but that’s part of the joy. I have a short film project that I really want to see get made, but my priority is my first comedy feature script, which I am into deeply right now. It’s Greta and I’s first work together, and we are both very excited to bring this story to life together!
Sadie wears a vintage dress.
I am from Istanbul, Turkey and currently based in London. I came here to follow a dream, really, and I’m still here! I have been drawing female figures on the walls since before I could talk. As a child, I was really into magic, witches, and otherworldly stuff. I hated wearing daily outfits; I always wanted to wear costumes. I am inspired by myths, politics, social issues, metaphysics, religion, science….
For every collection, I create a story based on a subject that really bothers me. In my SS17 collection, I portrayed how women were treated and limited throughout history and within different cultures. I looked at [everything from] child marriages in the Middle East to Elizabethan England, where women were not allowed to perform on stage and were played by men (how degrading).
I don't really want to label myself—I want equality and I will work hard to make women’s voices heard and [their power felt]. But I am totally against stuff like t-shirts that say “the future is female.” It was such an exciting moment for me when Rihanna wore my pink velvet corset on the cover of CR Fashion Book.
If I could meet a woman from history it would be Marlene Dietrich or Elizabeth I. Today, I admire women such as Ellie Grace Cumming, Hetty Douglas, Greta Bellamacina, and photographer Harley Weir.
As an artist, at the end of the day you want to sell your work to survive. But I think independent designers should be more brave in their creativity. They should shape the trends and how things work, rather than follow what the the industry tells them to do. I think there should be a barrier that separates high fashion from fast, more accessible fashion, because with social media, everything gets too mixed up and loses its value... Unfortunately, we cannot stop technology from [moving] too fast, so we need to find new ways to protect the value of our work. There’s a big surprise with my FW17 collection…. I have a very exciting few months ahead! —Dilara Findikoglu, Designer
Dilara wears her own designs.
Jaclyn Bethany: Hi, Scarlett! Where did you grow up, and where are you currently based?
Scarlett Sabet: I grew up in Dorking, Surrey, and I now live in Holland Park, West London.
JB: What do you recall about your childhood?
SS: My childhood was full of climbing trees and fantasy, reading books under the covers with a torch, writing in my diary, and listening to Radio 4. All the children that lived on our road would knock on each other’s door to ask if they wanted to come and play and run for the ice cream van—it was a pretty innocent time. I have two younger siblings so I'd play with them, too. My parents’ house was full of books and records; I absorbed everything they had, whether it was age appropriate or not. I remember reading Günter Grass’s The Tin Drum and Margaret Atwood’sThe Handmaid's Tale pretty early on…. My mother would also take us to the library often. I remember borrowing quite a lot of books on World War Two; I had this fixation on the Holocaust; I guess as a child I was really perplexed and disturbed that something like that had been allowed to happen. I read The Diary of Anne Frank.
JB: What other creatives in London are inspiring you at the moment?
SS: Honestly London is full of the most beautiful, arresting, creative women. I'm inspired everyday. I'm a big fan of my friend Greta Bellamacina; Rosalind Jana; my friend, the artist Alice Stallard; and another artist, Emma Hopkins, who I work with. I love and deeply respect the poet Anne-Marie Fyfe.
JB: What are your favorite literary spots in London?
SS: I love Worlds End Bookshop on the King’s Road in Chelsea, and also the Chelsea Arts Club. The Troubadour on Old Brompton Road is one of my favorite places to perform my poetry, it has a serious vibe about it. Bob Dylan performed there in the 1960s. I also love writing on the tube.
JB: What are you currently reading?
SS: I'm reading through lots of the poems that will be in my third collection, which will be out later this year. I'm halfway through Perdurabo by Richard Kaczynski. Next on my list is Diane di Prima’s memoir.
JB: Has there been a piece of writing that has changed your life?
SS: The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. [It taught me to maintain] the belief in your artistic vision, regardless of people’s reaction or [your] popularity. The Crow by Ted Hughes made me realize I must be totally fearless. The sonnets of Dante Gabriel Rossetti changed my heart.
JB: How would you describe your poetry?
SS: My poetry's unique to me and my voice. Mine are poems to be read and poems to be heard.
Scarlett’s third collection of poetry will be available exclusively on her website www.scarlettsabet.com.
By Scarlett Sabet
Thousands of years of conflict
Come to this
A small body
Wrapped in sheets
It can't silence the screams
He realises he has forgotten
What it is to sleep,
Real and deep,
As he carries his daughters body
Through the streets.
Such an Unnatural Act.
And far away we scroll and click back,
Retweet what we've never seen,
Power down destruction
Check out of human suffering,
Lost on our borders
Feeling some vague sense
We're going against the natural order
For we were not birthed to be slaughtered.
And knowing shadows are foreboding
Conflict cannot breed peace,
Fathers carrying babies bodies on their backs,
Children waiting for mothers who won't come back
Young boys becoming men
Before their time,
Unnatural acts will make us learn
Like the class of '39
Horror harbours hate,
Brutalization with no grace.
Luisa Le Voguer Couyet
Jaclyn Bethany: Hi, Luisa! Where are you originally from, and where are you currently based? What is your heritage?
Luisa Le Voguer Couyet: I was born in Hackney, East London, and I now live in Brixton, South London.
I was given two French surnames by my parents, neither of whom is directly French. My heritage is mainly Celtic on both sides—my maternal great-granddad was the French Le Voguer, and my paternal grandfather was the Argentine Couyet.
JB: What was your childhood like? Were you brought up in a way that empowered you creatively, and how did this translate into your adult life?
LLVC: My childhood was a little bit hectic, but I was also given large amounts of freedom to explore. Both of my parents encouraged me to create. My dad’s an artist; they were actively engaged in making a mess with me. I didn’t have a TV until I was about 10. I’m an only child, so I spent a lot of time playing alone, which I think developed my imagination and sense of independence. My parents took me to festivals and I spent a lot of summers surrounded by nature. Both my mum and dad were really great in educating me about feminism and empowering me as a woman, so much so that I only properly realized this in retrospect when I hear about other parents! My dad introduced me to so many feminists, all my birthday and Christmas presents would be novels and feminist literature, and my mum’s strength and nurturing was a brilliant example—she was a single parent quite early on. No one grows up in an environment without faults or mistakes or hardship, but I know I am lucky for the ideals my parents instilled in me. I was really allowed to be myself, they never put any pressure on me to choose a certain path or lifestyle. I was afforded total freedom.
JB: What do you find both challenging and inspiring about women’s relationship to the arts? What do you find beautiful about women and how do you try to portray that beauty in your work?
LLVC: The fact that the word ‘women’ has to precede the word ‘arts’ is challenging, I suppose it is necessary, but it shouldn’t have to be. I also think women who possess or portray ‘male’ characteristics or aggressive expressions of art are not received as well as women who fit the stereotype that society wants us to [fit]. Maybe we are still expected to be small [and] introverted—fragile, delicate— in our actions, and I don’t feel like I am those things. I’ve never had any problems. I don’t think my gender ever comes into question, but then, I am working quite independently of any institution. I like the way women think, and knowing I can collaborate with women really inspires me, as I find a lot of my strength in this.
I think a woman’s beauty is found in her spirit, in her energy. You could be the most aesthetically beautiful being on earth, but if you’re a horrible person, then beauty means nothing. Women who are confident in their bodies are beautiful, and that can pull you in; it’s very attractive to be present in your body. Women who are shameless or unafraid to reject the way they think they should be, that’s what I think we should be aspiring toward.
JB: Tell me about Hate Zine: How did you start it? What's the message of this project?
LLVC: Hate started because Scarlett [Carlos Clarke] and I were bored of not being able to do what we wanted with our work—writing and photographing what other people had told us to, for free. If we were going to work for free, we thought we should at least have creative control and all the credit. With Hate, I want to present and promote the ideas and ideologies I think are important. For me, social justice is something I really believe in. I want people to be able to be open and to talk about whatever they want and to not be ashamed of themselves or their ideas. There’s a great deal wrong with society, and I wanted a way to encourage others to express themselves.
We’re really lucky we have great creative friends who have contributed in the past. Hannah King is an amazing artist who emailed us out the blue, Darren Cullen’s work is very fitting, and Dan Mitchell has contributed to all our issues—we love his style! I feel really proud to know some younger women like Vida Adamczewski, who wrote an amazing piece for our first issue, and photographer Holly Whitaker, who contributed a self-portrait for our mental health issue. In terms of content, I think it’s really important that people understand what we’re trying to do and appreciate that Hate is about collaborating to present ideas that challenge the majority of shit that’s out there.
JB: What are your thoughts on the idea that print is dying? Why do you think women’s publications are particularly important, especially now?
LLVC: Print will never die—if anything, I think it will see a massive resurgence as people tire of the intangible nature of the internet. It’s always important to hear from underrepresented voices, so publications like Orlando, gal-dem, and One of My Kind (OOMK) are great, especially as the political sphere turns increasingly more right-wing.
JB: Who are some of your favorite female artists working in London today?
LLVC: Lydia Ourahmane is a really great contemporary artist, Kayleigh O’Keefe is my favorite performance artist, painter Hannah King is amazing, and Anna McDowell and Georgia Keeling run a curatorial project called SPLEEN, which put on really cool events.
JB: In such a bustling city, where do you find inspiration? What are your favorite spots for a drink or to read/people-watch?
LLVC: I find aspects of London really overwhelming despite it being my home, so I tend to find inspiration in my friends and quiet spots. I love Abney Park Cemetery and parks like Brockwell Park and Clissold Park. I really love the bridges; I like getting the bus over Westminster Bridge and watching all the tourists with their selfie sticks. The Windmill in Brixton is such a great venue for live music; we’ve had a few Hate parties there.
JB: What does 2017 hold in store for you?
LLVC: I’m excited for 2017. We need a clean slate, even if that’s just a symbolic one. Everything seems to have accelerated really fast, and I think it’s left a lot of people feeling out of control and dizzy. I hope that we start listening to and appreciating the younger generation a bit more. The 16-19 year olds I meet and speak to always amaze me; they’re switched on! For myself, I want to take things a bit slower, to reconnect with the stuff I care about, to really try and live the things I stand for. I think this year may be politically testing, which gives us even more reason to invest our emotional time in the things that matter. I’ll be working on Hate 4, which is focusing on the environment, and working with other magazine projects, as well as my own Awkward Sex Stories zine, which people can contribute to anonymously here.
Luisa wears a t-shirt of her own design.
Chloe Pemberton is a London-based photographer and filmmaker.
JB: Hello, Chloe! Tell me a bit about your childhood.
CP: It was very fun and magical I went to an odd school where personality was encouraged—it didn't matter what age you were, just whether or not you were interesting.
JB: You come from a large family who all seemingly work in the arts, too. Was this an inspiration to you growing up?
CP: Yes, my family have had a big impact on my life. They are the most hardworking, inspiring people I know. One of us is always working with each other…. I'm currently editing a behind-the-scenes video of my brother for Gold, directed by Stephen Gahan.
JB: When did you know you wanted to be a filmmaker?
CP: I actually started out wanting to be an actress…. I was 18 when I had a go at co-directing a play at Wimbledon Youth Theatre and then realized I much preferred directing.
JB: What other young artists in the city inspire you?
CP: I am mainly inspired by people I know— my mother is one of my greatest inspirations, along with all my sisters (Jessy, Verity, Amelia) as they are always creating. I’m also inspired by my friend Greta [Bellamacina], who is so encouraging and keeps pushing boundaries in the poetry world. Zoë de Pass, who I have been working with recently, is an awesome boss and just “gets” the creative world and then there’s Amma Asante, who was the first director I got to work with on set—I think what she’s doing is bloody brilliant.
JB: What’s the best cinema in London?
CP: There are two: Curzon in Soho on Shaftesbury Avenue, and Cineworld (formerly the iconic Leicester Square cinema)—it has an amazing main screen.
JB: Tell me a little bit about your film work, both on Birds of Paradise and Safe House: A Decline of Ideas, and what’s next for you.
CP: [As far as what’s next], who knows! I always have many projects that might happen, but you never know. Currently, I’m writing a play with my friend Izzy Rentons.
Birds of Paradise has been something I’ve wanted to do for a long while. I never went to university, so I thought I could treat it like my final piece. I had the most amazing crew working on it, and it was my first time serving as a creative director and director on a project. I’m very happy with how it turned out!
Safe House: A Decline of Ideas is a project that Greta phoned me up in 2014 asking if I wanted to work on with her and told me it would be a one month project, max…. A year and a half later, we finally finished. But it was a great process, and I have always worked well with Greta and will continue to do so. We’re both determined to create amazing work. ★
Chloe wears her own clothes.
Portfolio curated by Greta Bellamacina. Interviews by Jaclyn Bethany. Photographs: Jessie Lily Adams. Shot at Recession Studios London. Hair: Natalie Shafi. Makeup: Fiona Gallagher.