It’s Our (Half) Birthday

It’s now been six months since we started this blog so we felt like it was a good time for a photoshoot on Portobello Beach and a bit of reflection.

LANA:

To The Front has always been intertwined with our personal lives.

Seonaidh and I came up with the idea sat in my bed together on my birthday. We were eating Minion cupcakes she’d bought for me as a joke, waiting for my boyfriend to get the presents he’d left behind at his flat. We took money from my birthday cards (thanks, Gran) to fund the first payment to WordPress.

A nineteenth birthday is an odd time. For so long, your entire life really, everything has built up to eighteen. Without even realising, your eighteenth birthday has become symbolic of an ‘end point’. A nineteenth birthday feels wrong somehow, like counting to ‘infinity-and-one’. I think it’s natural that it’s a point where a lot of people feel a bit purposeless, and I definitely needed a creative project.

Me and Seonaidh would be sat in the same bed together one week later, the birthday cards still up on the desk, crumbs from the Minion cakes still in the tin, but a very different atmosphere in the room.

I was filling in the blanks from the night before, blanks she didn’t remember because she’d been spiked. She was still experiencing visual disturbances as we spoke, spoke about me and my friends dragging her up the stairs to the hallway, waiting for a boyfriend to arrive to lift her into bed, begging the taxi driver to help us.

Between us, we felt angry and bitter, and above all, helpless. ‘What can we do?’ we kept asking each other, exhausting the possibilities that existed – the police, the hospital, CCTV. We shared anecdotes of friends who’d pursued these routes to be met with suspicion, invasion and ultimately nothing.

After about five ‘what can we dos?’ were passed back and forth, we came to the conclusion: ‘write about it’. My only input was the title: ‘An Open Letter to the Man Who Spiked Me’.

Seonaidh did the rest, and I was stunned with how she took that bitterness and anger and helplessness and used it to create something so concise and articulate.

SEONAIDH:

I can often feel creatively restricted inside my degree and To the Front has really helped me expand my interests and explore my hobbies without boundaries. Our intentions were always to make the platform a place to focus on the achievements of young female creatives so working with so many talented gals means we’re never short of a little inspiration or encouragement.

But what I didn’t expect the site to do was also work as my therapist. I had never felt so nervous to publicise a piece as I did for An Open Letter to the Man Who Spiked Me as it was typically something I would keep locked away in a diary.

Once up the positive response received genuinely helped me feel a whole lot less upset about the situation. And changed the way I thought of To the Front, I don’t just think of it as a hobby of mine or some kind of CV booster, it feels safe to me.

TOGETHER:

The piece really changed the website from just a creative project into something more personal and meaningful to both of us and gave it a clearer mission.

If any other girl is sat on her bed thinking ‘what can I do?’ and decides to create something, we’ll always be here for them to find a platform and a supportive audience.

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Six Months Later:

Six months, 22 contributors, and over 40 posts have now passed since we hit publish on our first ever article ‘What’s Going On?‘ where we advise anyone wanting to send work in that:

“We found that in feminist spaces there is a lot of focus on misogyny, oppression and how terrible the world is for women. We wanted to create a space for girls to create art that isn’t focused on the negative parts of being a woman.” 

Three days later we published ‘An Open Letter to the Man Who Spiked Me‘ (about as lighthearted and fluffy as it sounds), completely throwing our own brief out of the window. This was the first indication of how much of an unpredictable learning curve running a website together was going to be.

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Six months ago the only piece of artwork we had for the website was the logo, the eyes designed for us by the very lovely Rowan Monk.

The other artwork on our website was a pretty random assortment of old pictures from our laptops, which didn’t do much more than confirm that Lana deserved more than a C at Higher Photography.

We since added some artwork which we love and feel really suits the website, thanks to Emma Barlow, a really talented illustrator who we worked with on a piece and allowed us to use some of her work.

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We also kept some of Seonaidh’s photography in places around the website, and Lana watched hours of YouTube tutorials and learned how to use Photoshop properly to upgrade our front page photo.

 

As 2018 rolled in we started the On Our Radar series where each month we share a list of new releases and re-discoveries by some of our favourite female creatives. We’ve managed to release it on the last day of every month of the year so far, and it’s helped us to keep discovering new, creative things.

We realised that in order to do everything we wanted to on the website we needed to make a bit of money, so we published this post, and began selling To The Front badges to friends and family.

It was really lovely how many people wanted to buy a badge and showed an interest, and we quickly achieved our goal and upgraded the website.

View this post on Instagram

repping a cute @to_the_front badge ❤️🌸

A post shared by caits (@caitlinvwallace) on

This got us on to thinking how practically opening the website up to people around us could get more people involved and creating stuff, so we decided to put up some posters locally advertising the website and appealing to writers and artists.

 

This is definitely something that we’d do again, and in the future, we plan to approach some local creative businesses to hopefully display more posters.

Opening up the website for submissions meant communication from many people who are way cooler than either of us. Our personal highlights include Seonaidh having to lie down after she saw her favourite photographer followed our Instagram page and Lana considering a career re-brand to become a music journalist when every Midlands music blog started following us post Peach Club EP review.

But whether you be a friend, stranger, acquaintance or the boy Seonaidh met one time at T in the Park (hello Lachlan) every single piece of feedback we have received has been massively appreciated and definitely been screenshotted and exchanged over messenger where we discuss how wholesome you all are.

Highlights:

LANA:

FAVOURITE PIECE I WORKED ON:
My favourite would probably have to be ‘Trans Boys Don’t Cry‘, which I wrote back in January when I was home for Christmas.

When I wrote over a thousand words on society’s expectations for transgender boys to be masculine I was being very self-indulgent about something that interested me. When people read it, and liked it and wanted to discuss it, it really took me by surprise and made me feel more confident in my writing.

FAVOURITE PIECE I READ:
I really enjoyed working with Storm Robertson to publish ‘Quit Calling Me a Girl Boss‘ because it was something I’d never really considered before, but when I read her piece I 100% agreed with her.

Another one I’d have to mention was ‘Behind The Pictures: Gemma Gates’, where Gemma told the stories behind photographs she’d taken, I found it really interesting to read her writing as well as take in the pictures.

A FUTURE PROJECT IM EXCITED ABOUT:
I’ve been reading lots of feminist literature for a project that Seonaidh and I are planning to work on over the summer, which really excites me as a big ol’ book nerd.

SEONAIDH:

FAVOURITE PIECE I WORKED ON:

My favourite is probably How To: Film Photography, an article where gave a step by step guide to shooting in film and got to showcase some of my own work.

Studying journalism means most of my time can be taken up with writing (and although I do enjoy it) getting to publish an article revolving around something disconnected from writing felt like the ultimate form creative escapism.

FAVOURITE PIECE I READ:

Reading Ending the STIgma written by my best pal Elle was my favourite. From the perspective of watching your friend struggle with something so personal to reach a point of comfortability added even more depth to the story. I was blown away by Elle’s talent, intelligence, kindness and stellar creative energy.

But even if I was reading the article from the point of view of a stranger I know I would have been emotionally invested and learned a lot on the subject as the piece is so well written.

A FUTURE PROJECT IM EXCITED ABOUT:

Although this is something far off into the future, a goal of mine has always been to pull articles from the site and turn them into a real-life magazine.

Written by Seonaidh McGuire & Lana Stone