HERE’S TO GAP YEARS: singer songwriter and Courtauld student Marie Naffah talks about her year out


A level results.  Less than a handful of letters that can make you go:





(*These weren’t my grades, I promise.)


You may have bagged your chosen grades and packed your bags- ready to roll straight out of school, on into university. Sorted. You may be staring at some unwanted, isolated letters, having loaded your school portal three hundred times on a dodgy Wi-Fi server, only to find out that the future you thought was yours, well, isn’t.

BUT DO NOT FRET. Here is why a gap year was one of the best decisions of my life:


With an entire year, I was able to research internships that really interested me. I contacted several companies, and landed a 3-month placement at Palazzo Strozzi, in Florence. Not only did it fill some space on the old CV, but it also allowed me to experience the business world of curating and marketing, giving me a clearer idea of things I’d perhaps like to do after university.


Travelling is arguably one of the most significant reasons why one should consider taking a gap year. It’s a perfect time to see and do things you have never done before, and perhaps may never have the time to do again. I did the Art History Abroad Summer Course of 6 weeks. I joined the course not knowing anybody, but from day one I was fully immersed with the 19 other like- minded students and the fantastic tutors. Starting in Rome and ending in Venice, passing through places including Naples, Siena, Florence and Verona, we were able to skip queues of the Academia, eat where only locals would eat and continuously develop such an enthusiasm and appreciation for the profuse amount of art that Italy has to offer. And that’s only 6 weeks. As a musician, I toured around the UK and travelled to Paris, playing shows and building the foundations of an international fan-base. I was recently named MTV’s Unsigned Artist of 2014, and I look back on my gap year as a crucial turning point for my career.


You can take your well earned break from exams and really research the course you want to do.


From climbing mount Vesuvius in Naples to playing one of the most magical shows of my life in Montmartre, Paris, one thing I learned was, on a gap year, you can say yes to everything.


I got a job in a café, I ran my own music night – do what you want but you’ll be thankful for some dosh!


For the first time in your life you can be totally selfish. I made a list of everything I wanted to achieve and just went and did them.


Forgive me for ending on a very cheesy one, as I try to avoid the ‘I found myself on my gap year’ cliché. But whatever you choose to do, your Gap Year can teach you a lot about yourself. You roll your eyes , but trust me, it’ll stand you in really good stead for the future years.



Hanging Out in Dalston House: Marie Naffah


Being an art history undergraduate, I know it’s probably a crime to admit that I don’t always feel like heading into central London to rub shoulders with flustered mothers tripping over their tired children who are bored of Gauguin and have seen enough Rodin and are ready to queue the hour and a half for a mediocre sandwich and well-needed cup of coffee at the gallery café. Sometimes, I’m not so keen to stand on my tip toes and crane my neck over the overexcited school children that surround Van Gogh’s Sunflowers.


And before you ask – no thank you, I wouldn’t like a headset.


Cynicism aside, obviously, with these mainstream exhibitions that have been so ruthlessly executed down to the colour of the walls, it is understandable that everybody wants to climb into such a treasure trove of gems. But sometimes it can prove a little too much, hence why I was delightfully humbled after stumbling upon Leandro Erlich’s encapsulating, three dimensional pop up installation of Dalston House recently commissioned by the Barbican.


Above: First photograph of the cast of ‘Buoy’

Modest in its exhibition space, the work occupied an understated lot on Ashwin Street, displaying a Victorian façade of a terraced house that has been created on the ground. Through the placement of mirrors, the façade had been reflected, replicating a lifelike upright representation of a house as we know it. It’s a photographer’s paradise, toying with the different angles as members of the public lie on the ground pretending to hang, fall, jump and climb from the various windows and doors. I found the atmosphere of this ‘hands on’ project so very uplifting, and although the free admission meant there was a queue, time flew by as you watched each individual bring their own imagination to Erlich’s innovation.


Above: Second photograph of the cast of ‘Buoy’

For those that have read my previous entries, you will be aware that a recurring theme and personal fascination of mine is art’s ability to involve the viewer. Erlich takes this concept to a whole new dimension as the boundary between the work and its viewer is not only blurred, but indeed, fully abolished as we interlock ourselves within the spectacle, a powerful development of a common 17th century characteristic of creating a new found role of the viewer (As discussed in my previous blog which you can read here.) The facade itself was executed from the foundations of a house that had been bombed during the Second World War, lending the artwork the capability of linking past and present, as the artist unites contemporary society and historical architecture.


Above: ‘Pip’ – Digital Photograph with poster edges filter

A definite exhibition highlight of my summer, Dalston House left me wanting more amusingly perceptive works from the artist, for those days where you just crave something a little different.

For more information on Leandro Erlich and where to see his work visit his website.