It is said that you do not know what you have until you lose it, but perhaps it should be noted that you do not appreciate your own until someone else praises you. The blog written by Leah Pattem (35 years old) has fostered this effect in Madrid since its launch in the summer of 2016.
Madrid No Frills (Madrid Without Ornaments) is a channel in which Pattem portrays the capital from her particular point of view, with a special focus on the charm and stories of traditional bars. Her aesthetics and narrative have led her to cultivate 23,000 followers on Instagram, after 1,140 publications, not counting stories, which form a newspaper library of the less-reviewed corners of Madrid.
Now, however, it is diversifying. Through an alliance with the digital mediumMadrid Secreto has launched Madrid Tal Cual, a series of documentary short films for networks that replicate the vision that characterizes it.
Pattem’s voice introduces the first video . It is, just missing, about neighborhood bars. With a strong British accent that does not fade over the years, the native of Newcastle, but Madrid by adoption, explains why the city is full of them.
Many were ridden by migrants from all corners of Spain during Madrid’s first big growth boom in the 1950s, he relates. Then he wonders “if those young people thought, while they were getting their suitcases off the train, that it would be they who would forge the modern personality of Madrid”. The proposal builds on the more casual concept of a videoblog and presents it as a thoughtful personal documentary.
In each of the half dozen videos, Madrid Secreto’s team of six writes a script from a text written by Pattem about something that catches his eye about the city. In addition, the recordings respect the aesthetics of your publications. For now, only the first has been released. The next one, over the Madrid sky, is about to fall. The rest, which will be published throughout the summer, are still a secret.
For Lucía Mos, executive editor of Madrid Secreto, a website dedicated to Madrid life, what Pattem was doing became an obsession two years ago, after reading an article that went viral, in which she reviewed 100 Madrid bars “without frills ” .
“The look she has on Madrid seems foreign, but she is very lucid, because she sees things that I, as a lifelong Madrilenian, don’t see,” she explains. After interviewing him, it was clear that he wanted to do a collaboration. It took time, but two years later it has taken shape with Madrid Tal Cual.
This project is one more on the list of all the things Pattem has done since she came to town eight years ago with her boyfriend. That was a spontaneous but safe decision. He had fallen in love with the Madrid tapas atmosphere on a previous visit. “The floor covered in used napkins and even chicken bones fascinated me,” he says. In addition to the Madrid No Frills blog, Pattem has been an English teacher, has taught courses, has written for some international media and has taken photos.
The floor of the bars covered with used napkins and even chicken bones fascinated me
But what takes him the longest, even if he can’t make a living from it, is the blog. It started with a recommendation from a friend to visit a “no frills” market. She stayed with that description, which fit so well with what she saw in what she liked the most about Madrid. That same day it started.
The growth was very fast from the beginning and the peak came at the end of 2018 with the publication of the list of the 100 bars , which went viral and reviewed on multiple platforms. Now Pattem gives the possibility of subscribing for one, three or five euros per month to access special content, in a model of base patronage to try to dedicate themselves fully to the blog.
For some time now, it has also included publications on other topics, on the city’s inhabitants, on curiosities that it comes across; Recently, it even made a special coverage of the Madrid elections, aimed at the migrant population, which was translated – thanks to a legion of volunteers – into 16 different languages .
It is an attempt (as are short films) to expand the content and leave behind the superficiality of Instagram. “There is a formula that works for Instagram, with its symmetry, its colors, those of Spain, the yellows, the blues, the pinks, they are perfect. So the platform almost forces you to follow a pattern to gain people’s attention, but it’s something that bothers me, ”Pattem deepens.
Another thing he does not like is that they refer to his work as “the blog of the foreigner”, disqualifying it a priori as a product for tourists. “Many times everything is simplified to the fact that I am a foreigner, but I see Newcastle in the same way!”, She defends.
His publications are for all Madrilenians and the interest he has generated in them confirms this. Those who live outside, for example, are the ones who interact with the most enthusiasm, many say that she gives them a connection to home.
Although the guiri label is not going to go away, now his Spanish, which is slowly improving, can be heard in the videos of Madrid Tal Cual and he hopes that, at least, the disqualifications will dissipate. But above all, that a wider audience can share with her a look at the city without prejudice and, of course, without ornaments.