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The magic of coincidence Create an urban myth Superpowers and sisterhoods issue 33 ď‚&#x; ÂŁ5


contents Features


18 The pop artist Will Wiles is the world's tallest bubbleologist

74 My son's superpowers He can change traffic lights. Zoe McDonald investigates childhood wonder

28 Magic hour When the light is golden, we capture it on camera

80 Stories of the senses Six writers investigate sight, hearing, taste, smell, feeling and that sixth sense of knowing it's time

36 Bebe Cave It's just the start of a fairy tale career for the teenaged Tale of Tales actor 44 Toys talking We take a closer look at Leanne Shapton's new illustrated book

Photo (left): Law Holt by Lauren Maccabee, illustrations on this page by Leanne Shapton, Eleni Kalorkoti and Will Jarvis

54 Enchanted forest An otherworldly fashion story 66 Anna Meredith How do you see sound? We interview the experimental musician 76 T  otal transformation Meet magician, Megan Knowles-Bacon, aka The Black Swan 94 A botanical journey Textile designer, Rebecca Desnos, tells us about the often surprising nature of plants 96 Law Holt The singer-songwriter on artistic integrity 106 Isabelle Huppert We chat to one of France's most-loved actors about throwing sentimentality out of the window 118 To the edgelands The haunting photographic process of William Arnold

104 Museum of you An entirely fictional tale of when you just can't let someone go 114 A phone rings in the universe Jason Ward on everyday magic


In every issue 12 Reader’s letters 14 Curious things The team’s pick of treats this summer 24 What we’re reading Books whose wonderful worlds have taken us on a journey 48 Three questions We quiz artist Emma McGuire 64 Subscribe Treat yourself to a year of Oh Comely 69 Wunderkammer Mikala Georgia Grante on the healing properties of her crystal collection 109 Oh Comely Coffee Partnership

16 Magical corners of the world Wanderluster Sian Anna Lewis shares her travel stories

110 Women who changed the world Clarissa Pinkola Estés 121 Infrequently asked questions #3 We pose a question in prose for you to answer

42 The truth behind urban myths We expose rumours (and encourage you to make a few up) 72 The best witchy films Our pick for your Halloween get-together 100 Walking after midnight How to be a noctambulator 102 Automaton, and on, and on The marvel of early robotics 112 The spiritual sisterhoods of Instagram Find your online coven 126 Lesser-known folklore Ghost story inspiration for your next sleepover

122 Recipe Let's cast some spells with food 128 Playlist This issue, it's all about dark magic 130 Mischief A quick trick in mind-reading

Cover portrait is of Nejilka by Ellie Smith. Styling by Charlotte Melling. Make up by Anna Payne using Bobbi Brown. Hair by Chloe Frieda. Pages four and five feature Luna Craig's gorgeous photography. You can follow Luna's atmospheric Instagram account at @wisemamawolf. On the back cover, you'll find a tiny crystal cave inhabited by faeries.


The pop artist Bubbleologist Will Wiles creates magic out of soapy water words and portraits liz seabrook

At 6’10”, Will Wiles is possibly the world’s tallest bubbleologist. We met at dusk by a canal in East London and headed to the nearby filter beds. The sun was peeking through the clouds and the air was still; the conditions were pretty much perfect for bubbles. Out of a long case, Will pulled out a big net, followed by a small purple bubble wand, exactly the same as you’d expect to see a child playing with. Into a measuring jug he poured the traditional solution of Fairy and water, with a secret addition to help the bubbles hold the shape a little better. Over the next hour, bubbles of all shapes and sizes floated around us: small spheres, giant tunnels, arching rainbows, some floating into the distance, others popping almost instantly. A crowd drew around us, including a couple of boys on bikes, five children and their father on their way to the station and a girl wandering with her mother. Much like the bubbles, some lingered for a few moments, others stayed to see as many as they could, and no one tried to pop Will’s creations. Soon, the solution was gone, the sun had set and we went our separate ways; heads full of rainbows. 




What we’re reading A few of the Oh Comely team share thoughts on the fantastical worlds of their favourite books

The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks words jason ward A throwaway joke in the 2009 film Star Trek may be one of the most sublime questions ever posed in science fiction. Exiled to a remote Starfleet outpost, Scotty meets a version of Spock who has travelled decades back in time. On realising that his visitor is from the future, he asks: “Do they still have sandwiches there?” What this illustrates so elegantly is the divide between what human life is like now and how we imagine the future to be. For much of the world, sandwiches are the base unit of lunch, so why would there come a time when people didn’t enjoy them? It’s reasonable to assume that technological advances will render parts of our daily lives unrecognisable, but we won’t suddenly stop being us. Along with the sandwiches, the other item that tends to go missing in these future visions is a sense of humour. At a certain point, it appears that our species becomes awfully po-faced. The consistent repudiation of this notion by Iain Banks is one of the things that makes his Culture novels so engaging. The books, written under the name Iain M. Banks, depict an anarchist utopian civilisation called the Culture – a post-human society in which its 30 trillion citizens are free to pursue their enlightened, hedonistic lives however they wish. As the post-scarcity Culture is wholly stable, the stories usually involve characters meeting other groups that don’t share the same outlook, leading to dazzling, thrilling, heady sci-fi. The real draw, however, is Banks’s dry Scottish wit: it’s difficult to resist a world in which spaceships

have names like Passing By And Thought I’d Drop In, Frank Exchange Of Views and I Blame Your Mother. For years I mostly stuck to the author’s M-less efforts, but I needn’t have been afraid. I became a convert after gulping down The Player of Games, which focuses on the Culture’s finest game player as he attempts to topple a brutal empire built around a complicated board game where one’s societal rank is determined by proficiency. Like the rest of Banks’s work, The Player of Games bristles with daring invention, but what I appreciated most was the idea that even a thousand years from now, as part of a pan-humanoid civilisation capable of changing genetic make-up on a whim, we would still enjoy board games and give ships names like Of Course I Still Love You.

Wildwood by Colin Meloy with illustrations by Carson Ellis words liz seabrook A guy I was seeing told me about Wildwood; he liked telling stories and a girl he’d been in love with in a past life liked to paint. I think he imagined that one day they’d find each other again and make a book, just like Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis had done. After a spring of listening to the same Decemberists album over and over, he called off whatever we had. As with most breakups – however big or small – there came a period of anxiety ridden with restless nights. All too aware that there were only so many times that my Amélie DVD could come to my rescue, I turned to the twisting paths of Wildwood. Based on the sprawling forest on the edge of the 


Fairy tale beginnings We met Bebe Cave, the teenaged star of Tale of Tales to chat about ogres and princesses and first steps interview jason ward portraits liz seabrook stylist alice burnfield hair & make up alice oliver

“It was wonderful. It was terrifying.” Bebe Cave’s description of filming Tale of Tales could be a blanket statement for her current state of mind. As a princess who rescues herself she gives the standout performance in Matteo Garrone’s dizzying fairy tale, an impressive feat considering that her co-stars include Salma Hayek, Toby Jones and Vincent Cassel. At only 18 years of age, when we meet she finds herself at the precise moment where a childhood of occasional acting roles has become a fullblown occupation, and her excitement is indistinguishable from panic. If she seems poised for a healthy career, it is merited: Bebe’s undoubted precociousness is ultimately winning because of her evident passion for her work. Even if she is afraid, she likes to dive in head first.

Faux fur coat, Shrimps; Jumper, Bella Freud; Skirt, Antipodium; Hoop earrings, Rokit.

You’ve been acting since you were 11. How did you get into it? I’m the youngest of five, so all of us are competitive for the spotlight, and also I’ve got two older siblings who are actors. It was a very dramatic household! I never went to a particular drama school, I just did it alongside my studies. Now I’m out of school for the first time and life is scary because I don’t have a safety net anymore, but I’m fortunate to have known for such a long time what I want to do. Part of it is that it’s something

hugely imaginative. I never had many friends. I had a lot of imaginary characters to interact with and I suppose I never quite let go. Did you ever consider anything else? I really loved school and was a massive classics enthusiast. I was one of those people who’s a bit of a teacher’s pet because I was always more used to adults. I used to chat to the teachers. I was not popular as you can probably imagine. I wanted to do all these different things but it never even occurred to me that there would come a point where I’d need to decide. Last year was very stressful, choosing whether I wanted to go to university, but the decision I came to was that this is the thing I want to do more than anything else, and it’s so competitive that if you don’t give your heart to it you might be left behind. You can’t ever predict anything really, so it’s quite exciting that I don’t know what’s going to happen. As I tell my father: it’s the life I’ve chosen. University isn’t the only form of education. I can self-edify, that’s what I’m trying to convince him. He still thinks I should be a doctor. You appeared in Great Expectations and have acted on television and the stage, but Tale of Tales is your first major film role. What was it like to work on something on a much larger scale? 


Three questions with… Emma interview mikala georgia grante photos liz seabrook

Artist Emma McGuire works in an East London studio named Molly McGuire, after her grandmother. Focusing mostly on photography, she examines identity, particularly myths involving the human body and our perceptions of beauty and sexuality. She uses a range of materials, such as clay, wood and metal, to turn traditional ideas of printmaking and photographic reproduction on their head. We caught up with her after a successful New York show to find out more.


Your work on the female form has taken many shapes over the years. How does the magic of women inspire you? I really tried to capture the quiet ferocity of women in ‘Female Warrior Army’. The idea behind this was that women are airbrushed to be one colour, so I’ve addressed that by creating a uniformity that’s powerful rather than being bland and devoid of any identity. In a way, the army represents both: the repetition is a reflection of the sameness we’re expected to convey, but if you get close up, you see there’s actually a great deal of variance in the forms of the figures themselves. 


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Total transformation We took our seats to be mesmerised by Megan Knowles-Bacon, the first female magician to be elected to the upper ranks of The Magic Circle interview lara watson portraits ellie smith

Out of costume, Megan Knowles-Bacon looks like any other smilier-than-average 24-year-old. If you were to walk past her on her way to the day job at the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, you would never guess how she spends the majority of her free time. In fact, this speaks volumes about how niche her hobby is and how much rarer she is within it. Megan is the Secretary of the prestigious Magic Circle, a society formed in 1905 to promote and advance the art of magic and illusion. Mysterious by its very nature, the Circle – whose Latin motto, Indocilis Privata Loqui, means ‘not apt to disclose secrets’ – was, for many years, guarded in another way too. Until 1991, it was a Gentlemen’s club. Of its 1,500 worldwide members there are still only a couple of hundred women in the fold. That Megan sets the agenda and manages new members among other important senior duties – as well as being an incredibly talented magician herself – is a remarkable achievement. How long have you been fascinated by magic? Since I can remember. Aged five I played with a plastic Marvin’s Magic set I’m sure many of us had, and at my eighth birthday party we had a magician, Roy Marsh, who absolutely captivated me. That same day,

my little brother was born, so it’s all bundled up into an exciting life-changing moment. I joined the Young Magicians Club at 10. I imagine it was a time where magic was on the rise, what with the Harry Potter series being quite new at the time. Yes, it was, and is, a very popular society, and Harry Potter definitely had an impact on it! The magic world is a massive community and I got to hang out with other kids who were really into it and visit the local magic shop every month. Looking back, it’s incredible how many amazing performers I met during those years. It really opened my eyes to a new world, where I could actually be a magician. Did the performance side of it come naturally to you? Not at first. I’ve always been quite shy. But I enjoyed drama at school because it meant I could play at being someone else. Like everybody, I had to overcome my jitters – I had a tendency to rush things which isn’t ideal for magic! The trick to calming your nerves though is simply practice. I give myself a hand by starting my routine with a straightforward trick that’s short and snappy and hard to get wrong which sets me off on a positive start. 


Stories of the senses There’s much debate on how many senses we posess. Traditionalists say five, but scientists now believe there could be as many as 21. We’ve gone for six here, and a writer for each, sharing personal prose of the sense that speaks to them photos by deborah dewbury-langley





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Oh Comely 33  

Abracadabra – I create as I speak. All the wonder of the universe: alchemy, coincidence, a sleight of hand, a turn of phrase. There's a li...

Oh Comely 33  

Abracadabra – I create as I speak. All the wonder of the universe: alchemy, coincidence, a sleight of hand, a turn of phrase. There's a li...

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