Home is where the many, many vintage tea-cups are

Kitchenalia ground zero

Kitchenalia ground zero

I’m fascinated by people’s homes – the personal touches, family photos, and how they (usually) reflect a particular era or trend in interior design. Sometimes it’s only when you look back on an old photo of how your living room used to be you think “Wow!” or perhaps “Woah!”. My Mum’s former council house is a chaotic, eclectic time-warp, which makes it harder to pinpoint in time. It’s bonkers.

Mum with (some of) her French linen

Mum with (some of) her French linen

When my Mum develops an interest in something, she really goes for it. There was the vintage sewing patterns phase  – some gorgeous designs spanning 1940s to 1980s from which she hand-made some wonderful outfits. She collected enough to acquire duplicates of duplicates, it got wild.  Then there was the kitchenalia. I spent ages searching for a lovely 1950s syrup dispenser for her one Christmas, only to learn she already had four. Her current passion is French linen, particularly bedding and delicate towels.

Cruet set (on formica)

Cruet set (on formica)

There are a lot of flowers in many forms – on cups, in pictures, and fake ones in vases (with flowers on them). There are vintage-inspired tea and cake shops in Leeds that look like my Mum’s kitchen, it’s weird.


At some point this vintage boom has to implode, right? But in the meantime my Mum will keep picking up bargains from car boot sales. If your eyes can handle a full set of pictures, check out my gallery.




A Quick 2014 Slide Show

Once upon a time people used to dread the sentence “let’s get the holiday slides out.” Not me. You got 200 pictures of sunsets and statues? I’m your girl.

2014 was the year I made a concerted effort to get back into photography. I had a great art teacher back in the 1980s who taught me how to use a 35mm SLR and process and print my own films, and I’ve loved taking pictures ever since. However, I got slack. I even left a slide film in my old Pentax for two years, during which time the labs had closed down and I could no longer use the pre-paid envelope. Luckily I discovered the lovely people at Dragons in Leeds. So this last year I went mental – DSLR, 35mm, 120mm, Instagram, lomo – I took more pictures than I did wees. These are just a few samples, with links to more images on Flickr and Instagram. And the good thing about it is, you only have to look if you want to…

Bearing Flux – having joined Leeds Creative Timebank, I teamed up with a group of artists to document their work as they explored waterside walks. Hopefully there will be more to come, though I’ll happily forgo the hostile weather we experienced in Malham.


My Sister is My Muse – born around the time I first got into photography, I’ve been snapping her ever since. She’s a very good subject.

I got stuck into film again and bought my first medium format cameras – a monster Kiev 60 (I call it The Hulk) and a  Yashica Mat LM. And my 35mm Praktica cost a mere £29 from West Yorkshire Cameras. Vintage bargains that work brilliantly. Will your over-priced iPhone still be working in 50 years’ time…?

Art is where my heart is – music, dance, theatre – I’ve snapped a lot of good stuff this year, including Yorkshire Festival, Leeds West Indian Carnival and stunning aerialists Theater Tol. Twice.


I learned to love Instagram. So much so that I set myself an #instadaily challenge for the year. Also a good opportunity to muck about with double exposure apps on my phone.


And I got all Street, sneakily snapping strangers and hoping not to offend anyone.

Finally, I embraced Lomography. My Disderi Robocam sat in a drawer for a long time as I was so unimpressed with the quality, but I got back into enjoying the surprise of having a film processed (having forgotten what I’d taken), plus the Disderi has no viewfinder so it’s always a surprise! Then, in December, I won a Fisheye. More lomo fun was had, and what a great way to end the year – a winner. I was disappointed it wasn’t millions on the lottery, but still, I’ll take what I can get…



Photos from Yorkshire Festival 2014

This year I had the opportunity to photograph several Yorkshire Festival events, taking in an impressive variety of performances and exhibitions from the 100 days of culture leading up to the Tour De France in July 2014. Here are a few highlights (with links to more images):

Todmorden’s Fantastical Cycle Parade

Fantastical Cycle Parade

The Bike Show in Barnsley

Bike Show

 Bicycle with Barefoot – Annapurna Dance in Bradford

Bicycle Barefoot at Bradford Festival, Maria Spadafora_9553

Sheffield Steel Peloton

Sheffield Steel Peloton at Cliffhanger_Maria Spadafora_0349

A French farm that sprang up overnight outside Huddersfield’s train station – Hypervelocity: La Vengeance des Semis

La Vengeance des Semis

And finally, woolly bikes and a festival of light and colour in Sheffield

Festival of Colour, Space & Light,Sheffield, Maria Spadafora_1747

Blue Collar Bones

Land girls

Land girls – my Nan is first left, in the dark headscarf
Photographer unknown, 1940s/50s

Quickly browse the internet for images of “land girls” and you’ll find that, like many images of women from different eras, they’ve been romanticised, possibly even fetishized by the vintage boom. I was thrilled when my Mum uncovered these photographs of my Nan – a genuine Land Woman. Neither the women nor the work was glamorous – it was really hard, back-breaking, dirty and trying. I doubt they worried about putting on lippy when there were more pressing matters, like where to wee! There were no posh portaloos, only dikes and open fields – particularly unpleasant when on your period, and there were no handy hand sanitiser gels back then, either. And of course, with it being piece-work, the pay was variable.

My Nan worked on the land her whole life, from being a teenager to an old lady. She only stopped working aged around 70 because of heart problems. In Lincolnshire (my family are from Boston) land and factory work was always something you could rely on, regardless of your age, skills or education (or lack thereof). Most of my family worked on the land at some point, as well as jobs on market stalls, in supermarkets and cleaning (which my Mum still does, despite hitting retirement age). I wanted to go to college after school to get some O Levels, maybe even A Levels – the sort of thinking that was unheard of in my family,  and it didn’t go down too well initially. College led to University, and my Nan was there with me at graduation, super-proud.

Ivy on the right, 1940s
Photographer – possibly my Grandad, Massimino Spadafora

As a child I’d often go to work with my Nan during school holidays. The ganger would pick us up very early in the morning, and we’d sit along a mud-caked bench in the dark back of the van, passively smoking everyone’s endless fags as we travelled to whichever field needed harvesting  – potatoes, daffodils, etc. As a child it was fun, particularly if my cousins came too. We’d help Nan out, picking tates, chucking them on the riddle, bagging (the contraption that twisted the wire to fasten the sack was fascinating to me) but we’d also play, as kids do. As a teenager I did the work for real and absolutely hated it, particularly the factory work, which was more repetitive and incredibly boring. Marigolds, warm squash, wind burn, black nostrils, blisters, flower-rash, RSI, and images of the conveyor belt on repeat when you closed your eyes at night…

It was also exploitative. I worked for one ganger during the holidays when I was at college and was baffled by the huge cut she took from our pay each week. She claimed it was for tax and national insurance (and they naturally took money for petrol and pick-ups), but as I was earning below the taxable threshold I spoke to her about claiming it back from the tax office (not my idea – I was pretty ignorant, someone else had advised me).  Anyway, the panic was visible across her face as she told me not to make a claim, that she’d sort it out with me. (She never did, and the tax man never saw a penny of it either – no surprise!). And working for LMO Onions was my initiation into the realities of gender inequality in the work place, as before then I had no idea that men got paid more than women for doing exactly the same work. This was the late 80s and “Thatcher’s Britain”. No wonder I started reading Spare Rib.

Nan and Grandad

Ivy and Massimino
(Nan & Grandad)
1940s, photographer unknown

You covet the “better” jobs doing this work – wrapping the cauliflowers in cellophane was better than the cabbage line, because it demanded different skill and concentration, helping the day pass a little quicker. And when batches of onions came in rotten and maggot coated it was impossible to earn a decent days’ pay on piece-work. Instead, you dreamed of being in the fruit section, sticking labels over apple spots and bruises (as instructed). Many of my school friends did this work too, and I remember when we first got jobs as sales assistants in shops one Christmas – it felt luxurious in comparison. And we got paid the same rate every day!

These days working on the land in Lincolnshire is generally associated with immigrant labour – people from Eastern Europe who are doing this work because the locals are now allegedly “workshy”. I don’t know how true this is, it’s a long time since I lived there. My brother worked in a factory for a few years and saw the benefits (i.e. things such as time and a half for working a bank holiday) being stripped away. He once queried this and was told that if he didn’t like it his job would be given to a “fucking foreigner” (definitely not my words). The tensions that existed/exist between Bostonians and immigrants were no doubt fuelled by attitudes and changes like this, so a spot of capitalising on cheaper labour really wouldn’t surprise me. And I feel very sad when I hear stories of over-crowding, exploitation and even trafficking. Honest work isn’t always that honest, is it?

I only did this sort of work on and off over a few years, but my Nan did it solidly for around fifty, and well into retirement age. She wanted me to grow up to be “a secretary” – that seemed glamorous and freeing to her. She once said she’d have loved to have run a café (whilst making jam tarts, with a fag in her gob), but I don’t know what her real dreams were or if she had any. She worked with one ganger, Charlie, for a lot of years and I can still picture him crying at her funeral. She was a genuine, unrelenting, hard-working woman, always providing for her family.

These pictures, the land, the women are not glamorous.

But they are beautiful.

Cut the Crap, Dave!

These ladies say "Cut the Crap, Dave!"

Cut the Crap, Dave is a creative response to the ConDem government’s public spending cuts, which first hit in 2010. The cuts have decimated services such as day care for older people and devastated lives – consequences that only seem to raise snorts and sniggers from the benches. I’m in the camp that says we should be chasing tax avoiders (yes, you “austerity advisor” Philip Green) not penalising the poorest. You can see the whole set on my Flickr page.