Category Archives: Music/Entertainment

An Interview With Jay Mullings

Gracing my blog this week is award winning writer/director Jay Mullings. This man is certainly a busy bee – he is the author of The Thought Book series; founder & owner of Written Mirror Ltd – a bespoke content creation business; a fellow blogger; he writes poetry & music; and he has launched his debut feature film, The Jam. Is there simply no end to his awesome talent? Let’s find out… Hi Jay & welcome!

Hi! I’m Jay Mullings, London born Jamaican bred multiple international award winning Writer/Director. On top of that I am an author namely: The Thought Book & The Thought Book 2 and I also founded Written Mirror Ltd which is a content creation company + media publisher.

What was the inspiration behind launching Written Mirror Ltd?

Having something to call my own. A space where no one could tell me what to do and I would be allowed to fully realise my creative potential. In short it was to be a space where I could practice what I preach: Truthful Fearless Creativity…

Have you always enjoyed writing/ being a storyteller as a child? When did you discover you have a talent for writing?

I knew I had a way with words, language and logic from an early age. I could hold my own with adults in a debate, trip up teachers if they were trying to hide that they didn’t know something and I could even prove my innocence if wrongfully accused of things at home/school etc. I knew I was made to tell stories from early. My teachers would often share some of my stories which were either rib tickling comedy or pushing the envelope in terms of what a youngster should be writing about in school. I read a lot as a child and even then I fancied myself to be able to do the same if given half a chance.

Your “The Thought Book” series is a unique self help title. The series encourages the reader to adopt the mindset necessary for realising their goals. Why did you choose to write a self-help series? Was it an easy road to write and publish your books or was it harder than you thought?

Yes… The Thought Book Series, have you read the books? What did you think? I like to think of the books as unhindered self development books. I took out my ego, my bravado or whatever which way you’d like to sum it up and allowed the reader to place themselves in the book. I don’t think too many improvement books allow that to happen. I chose this style to help people in the most uncomplicated manner possible. Anyone who follows my doings knows that the message in both books is exactly what I use to armour myself against doubt, small mindedness and fear… 
It wasn’t hard at all. The books were a piece of cake; it was all the red tape and pirates looking to feast on your flesh that got draining. People have tried to steal my book from under me, overcharge me only to deliver inferior results and worst of all they have tried to pass the buck whenever they could not manipulate me. The books were the best part of it but the processes of working with greedy and unscrupulous people was not rewarding at all…

What genre of books do you tend to read?

I read when I have time to. Sometimes there is a lot of reading taking place and others little to none. That is the life of a content creator unfortunately. When I do read I like books that are very well written; by that I mean I don’t like wasted pages, filler or having to feel anger at just how large the holes in terms of logic are. The main reason for that is whatever, I start reading no matter how bad I have to finish it. I only try to read books that reward my work rate. Any genre any style would interest me so long as it is written well…

Have you always wanted to be a writer/director or did you have any other career in mind?

Centre forward for the mighty Arsenal! I wanted to replace Ian Wright…

Oh Jay, things were going so well !! I’m a Spurs supporter, your rival football fan! 😂… Let’s talk music instead! What were your musical influences growing up?

I was lucky to be born in the sweet spot for music. I had the best of the old and newer school growing up. My music knowledge often surprises people as it is very eclectic. We’re talking Fleetwood Mac to Bob Marley, Bowie to Gladys Knight and so on and so forth. You name it if it sounds good or has complexity to it I’m involved!

Writing poetry or writing songs? Do you have a preference?

Poetry can feed into songs so poetry! 

What genre of music do you personally listen to? What was the last concert you attended?

Dancehall/Reggae/Hip Hop/RnB/Classical and Soundtracks. The last concert I went to was in Brixton I saw Common’s band.

Imagine you are driving – what song would be top of your list to croon to whilst playing car karaoke?

Some Bob Marley or Missy Elliott to be honest!

Let’s talk about your debut feature film, The JAM (2019), that has already received 9 official selections since hitting the film festival circuit in April. How exciting! Can you give my readers a little summary of what The JAM is all about? 

The JAM is a feature length documentary that is centred on my life, my creative process, my family and friends’ reaction to my career choice as well as their hopes for my future. It’s the story that my community needs but not the one it has necessarily known it wanted. I wrote, edited and shot it myself. Oh yeah I wrote and recorded the Soundtrack too as Wicked Penman…

Congratulations on your latest award from the East Europe International Film Festival. Does that indicate that in 2020 you have other film plans or will you be concentrating on writing books or your music or will you be juggling all avenues? 😜

I can’t say too much but yes of course more content, more energy and more life.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I’m a practical dresser. I like being able to move and feel free. So I normally dress tactical. Joggers/Shorts Tees/Hoodies. Usually Written Mirror specials.

Do you have any favourite websites? (Apart from your own!)

Youtube! No doubt! So much helpful and funny content.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots! They’re made for walking! Seriously though I like Chelsea Boots they’re formidable and functional but very stylish simultaneously.

For Pinning Later

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc. 

www.writtenmirror.com/blog

www.youtube.com/writtenmirror

www.twitter.com/writtenmirror

www.instagram.com/writtenmirror

https://open.spotify.com/artist/4dacYcT36TnsY1CbcPkmTY?si=_E2b2b5fQb6u-YjAY-HcZg

It has been great chatting to you,

Jay – I’m glad I’m not the only one who has to read a book, once started until the very end, regardless of how bad it is! Well, I did break that rule once when I read a book about the solo travels of a guy who trekked the Himalayas …. Anyhow, I’m looking forward to seeing The Jam and I wish you every success in all your ventures.

Linda x

All photographs are published with kind permission of Jay Mullings.

Article copyright © LindaHobden.

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Steampunk Day At Bressingham

In July, my husband, myself and our teenage sons went on a day trip to Bressingham – a sort of steam railway/museum/gardens centre near Diss, in Norfolk. Finding a place that would amuse us all as a family, avoiding theme parks, is becoming harder now my boys are teenagers. Having not been to Bressingham before, and we all like steam trains, it seemed an ideal place to visit. The added attraction was that it was “Steampunk Weekend” too – but I was unaware of this until we arrived ….

Bressingham

So, what is Steampunk? According to the Oxford dictionary it is “A style of design and fashion that combines historical elements with anachronistic technological features inspired by science fiction”… According to Wikipedia, “Steampunk is a sub genre of science fiction or science fantasy that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th century industrial steam-powered machinery.” I first noticed as we arrived at 10am glamorous women in Victorian lace up boots and long corset style gothic/Victoriana style dresses… men in dapper jackets … top hats and goggles . I thought they must be members of staff …. I thought Bressingham was just about steam railways ….but then I realised they were members of the public mingling in the queue alongside those in bog standard shorts and t shirts. I did feel underdressed!

My 14 year old son Jack was hooked – he immediately purchased a top hat that was customised for him whilst we looked around Bressingham and we was able to pick it up later. My youngest son settled for some groovy goggles. I enjoyed looking at the beautiful bodices being sold on the stalls … and I enjoyed admiring the gorgeous outfits being worn.

Bressingham itself is a great place to visit, with or without a special event going on, but the Steampunk event certainly added a special air to the place. Bressingham consists of many parts: Bressingham Rides, Bressingham Gardens, Bressingham Museum.

Bressingham Rides

We were lucky because on the day we visited all 3 railway lines with their impressive steam locomotives were running . The railway lines covered the woodland area, around the gardens and around the perimeter of the site. The working locomotives were all different and the journey times were longer than the usual miniature railway ride.

However, the large Victorian steam galloper occupies a prominent position near the entrance, and although my youngest son had his leg strapped up as he had broken his foot, with a bit of help, he was able to ride on the horse alongside his dad and brother. In fact, him and his brother had quite a few gos over the course of the day. I must admit, the merry-go-round looked lovely but it made me feel dizzy just watching let alone riding on it. I stayed at the side, holding Ethan’s crutches and taking photos.

There was an old fashioned fairground full of penny machines, hoopla stalls and other attractions of the Victorian age. A small crazy golf course was a lot of laughs and at £2 per person provided a good half hour’s entertainment as we battled it out between ourselves to see who would become the family champion …. my husband came first, I came 2nd…

Bressingham Gardens

The gardens are renowned worldwide for their horticultural excellence – there are four linking gardens displaying over 8,000 species and varieties within its 17 acres. The gardens are privately owned by the, appropriately named, Bloom family. Adrian Bloom and his father, Alan, have each created a 6 acre garden : The Dell and Foggy Bottom. Unfortunately we only managed to view the gardens from the garden railway train journey and didn’t have enough time to wander through the 17 acres as well. I will definitely head for the gardens on my next visit, perhaps in Spring when the gardens are in full bloom.

The Bressingham Museum

In fact there are 2 museums ….

The Locomotive Sheds were full of trains and carriages from yesteryear – bringing the glory of steam engineering up close. You couldn’t actually step inside the locomotives or carriages but there were especially built platforms along the sides so you can have a good old peek through the windows . The royal carriages were really fascinating. The old posters dotted around the walls were interesting too – the old away day trips by train I can remember well as a young girl – I remember one day railway trip we made as a family around 1974 was from London to Blackpool via Preston ( we didn’t have long there as a day trip and it rained all day!)

National Dad’s Army Collection – based on the popular TV series, Dad’s Army, you wander through the fictional “Walmington On Sea” with the original props and vehicles from the series.

Other Facilities

There is a gift shop and a cafe with indoor and outdoor seating that served the biggest slices of chocolate cake I have ever seen and picnic areas. Warranting a special mention are the toilet facilities for both men and women. They are both sparkling clean – hard to achieve in a public place – but the floors, toilets, sinks were spotless even by mid afternoon.

There were extra shops and stalls as part of the Steampunk event.

Recommend?

Oh yes, definitely.

If you are into gardens, then Bressingham gardens would delight. Steam train/train enthusiasts would enjoy. Ideal family day out – for babies the gardens would be ideal pram pushing area, for older children and adults the merry go round, crazy golf, & trains would delight. Not sure there was enough to please a toddler though.

For Pinning Later

Linda x

All photographs are by Linda Hobden.

For more details about Bressingham check out their website: www.bressingham.co.uk

Photos and Article copyright © LindaHobden.

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An Interview With City Dance Parties

It might have been the popularity of TV shows like Strictly Come Dancing or it might have been the heady days of the 1970s/1980s with the emergence of films such as Saturday Night Fever, Grease, Fame…but one thing is for sure is that on the whole the UK seems to be “dance- mad”. I’m sure the other world nations are the same, though. Since launching in January 2017, City Dance Parties have gained in popularity, and they were winners of the “Best Hen and Stag Provider” category at the 2019 British Wedding Awards. The dance parties are not just for hen nights, as I found out when I chatted with founder, Jenny Haynes. Hi Jenny!

Hello! My name’s Jenny Haynes, and I’m the founder of City Dance Parties, a nation-wide dance party company that specialises in dance classes for hen parties, birthdays and corporate events. 

Congratulations on being the winner of “Best Hen And Stag Provider” at the 2019 British Wedding Awards  – so, what triggered the eureka moment to begin your company, City Dance Parties? 

Thank you! What a bonkers surprise, I’m absolutely over the moon still. I trained as an actor at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, and to earn a bit of extra money to help with living expenses, started teaching hen party dance classes on a Saturday afternoon (we were in school Monday-Friday from 8am -7pm). It was after my partner pointed out that he always really enjoyed hanging out with me after I’d finished teaching the classes as I was in such a good mood that  I realised how much I really enjoyed the work, and thought this was something I might want to take more seriously.  After I graduated from Bristol, I started putting things into action, so I could try to forge a side hustle that would work in tandem with auditions, and acting……we’ve grown step by step from there really! 

Have you always wanted a career in dance or did your aspirations lie elsewhere? 

I’ve always loved dance/movement, and always wanted to work in the physical theatre and movement side of acting – discovering how much I enjoyed teaching hen parties dancing took things on a slightly off piste path (a path I’m very grateful for), into a career that is a mixture of event planning, dancing and teaching!  

You offer a vast range of dance classes, including Burlesque, Beyoncé, Bollywood, Dirty Dancing, 80s & 90s dance classes, salsa ….What would you say are the most popular dance masterclasses?

The most popular last year was definitely Beyonce! Everyone is loving Queen B (and with good reason in my opinion) – we once had a booking for a Beyonce class for a 70th Birthday, which I thought was absolutely F-A-B-U-L-O-U-S.  This year (for obvious reasons), Spice Girls have been making a big resurgence, and 90s dance is always super popular, as 90’s Children/Teens are all starting to get married now! Disney, which we added last year,  has been a really popular choice, and, Dirty Dancing continues to be a firm favourite! 

Which dance masterclass is your personal favourite? 

I have to say I love a bit of Roaring 20’s…..it’s the perfect opportunity to get dressed up, and get really into the feel of the class (we’ve had some fabulously dressed groups for our 20’s classes over the past few years!). 90s Dance, Beyonce and Belly Dance are also solid favourites of mine to teach! 

What does a typical Hen Party Dance Class include?

The exact details of the class can vary slightly depending on what length of class you choose, and what style, but you can expect lots of laughs, all the basics of your chosen style, taught to you by a professional choreographer, dance-offs, and a fun-filled group routine (we sometimes even crack out a MegaMix routine depending on the style of dance!) that everyone can perform together, and video, so that you’ve got a long lasting memory of your special day. 

A lot of parties like to dress up or at least have a few accessories to jazz up the weekend – what clothing guidelines do you recommend? What dressing up outfits are most popular? What has been the most unusual/unique dance party outfit you have seen?

We tend to say that as long as you can move comfortably, that’s the main thing! Some groups love to dress up, others wear dance/gym gear, and some wear slightly more relaxed clothes they’re wearing out later on. It’s all about finding what you’re comfortable in, and what will make the session most enjoyable for you. We’ve had some fantastic fancy dress, and some absolutely bonkers costumes….some of my highlights are: a group we had come in dressed as archaeologists and dinosaurs, a group that came dressed as various iconic artists from the 90’s (YES to the lady who came in a power rangers morph suit!!), and a group who donned the most stunning vintage outfits for a 20’s masterclass. One that always sticks in my memory though, is one from a few years ago, when a group of ladies came to a burlesque class slightly later on in the day (I think a few glasses of bubbly had been had by that point!), and within 5 minutes of the class, one lady had stripped completely naked, and was stood covering her modesty with two strategically placed feather fans!!  (NOT compulsory for Burlesque Classes I might add!) 

You currently operate in Bath, Bristol, Brighton, Cardiff, Durham, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle and York. Any new places on the horizon for 2019?

We actually added Edinburgh, Glasgow, Nottingham, Birmingham and Chester to the list last year! I’m always keen to keep expanding and branching out into new cities. Sheffield is one that’s definitely being added to the list, and we’re slowly taking over the UK! I never want to rush things and try and grow too quickly, as I want to really establish a good quality base in each city we offer. We do have our first international booking in May this year, so just watch this space!! 

Would the dance classes take into account those who may be uncoordinated, unfit or not as agile?  

Absolutely. With an event like a hen do, or a birthday, there’s often going to be a big range in abilities, ages, and often co-ordination, so I try to cater the sessions so they’re really suitable for all abilities, and they’re fast paced enough for those experienced in dance, but also really accommodating and fun for those who have never donned their dancing shoes before! We’ve had groups of ex professional dancers in before, and ladies who have never taken a dance class in their life; whatever the ability, our main focus is creating a class that’s fun for you, and will ensure you have the best time possible.  
Often the idea of dance can be a bit nerve-racking,  especially if you haven’t got much experience, or haven’t danced in a while, so we try to make the sessions focused around having fun, creating some special memories and building confidence. It’s actually one of my favourite things about the work….having ladies come in who aren’t confident at all, and are perhaps a little resistant about the idea of dancing leaving with big smiles on their faces, new skills, and the realisation that dance can be great fun! 

I love shows like Strictly Come Dancing – I especially love watching the Argentine Tango! Which dance style do you enjoy watching?  Is there any dance style that you would like to try that you haven’t attempted before? 

I LOVED watching So You Think You Can Dance when I was a teenager – it’s an American reality dance show, that showcases some incredible choreographers and dancers of all different styles. I personally love a bit of jazz and commercial….the sassier the better! I’ve never been particularly good at tumbling or flips, so I’d say the ‘Acro’ or ‘Gymnastics’ side of dance is something I’d love to really master one day.  

Personal now, what outfits/footwear would you normally wear for a dance class?

Now…I’m a sucker for a lace leotard. I have some customised City Dance Parties leotards I wear for classes I teach (I mostly work on the admin side of things now, but always try and jump in and teach on quieter weekends!) , and my absolute favourite is a backless black lace number. Combine it with some bright, funky leggings (my wardrobe is 99% lycra so I need to make sure I’m kitted out properly!) and some bright trainers and you are good to go! A brand I’ve been LOVING recently is KYODAN, which I buy through TK Maxx; they’re really gorgeous designs, fab fitting, and won’t break the bank. 

Boots Or Shoes?

I have to say shoes…..in particular trainers!! I grew up wearing high heels on any occasion (Geordie Girl born and bred!)  but after a back injury in my early 20’s switched over to trainers pretty much full time, and I’m now a convert to trainers for pretty much whatever occasion I can get away with wearing them! 

For Pinning Later

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can learn more about City Dance Parties

City Dance Parties – www.citydanceparties.co.uk Facebook – www.facebook.com/citydancepartiesTwitter: @CityDance_UK Instagram: www.instagram.com/citydanceparties

Thanks Jenny! Those classes sound a lot of fun! Talking about loving lace leotards – in the 1980s one of my favourite “disco” outfits was a bright yellow lace leotard/bodysuit which I wore with black satiny leggings and a bright yellow/black kimono style shirt/jacket held together with a wide black patent belt! And black patent court shoes with a high thin metal stiletto heel! 🙂 Couldn’t dance in heels like that nowadays though!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission from City Dance Parties; apart from the Pinterest photo which is by Linda Hobden

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An Interview With Global Sound Group

The world of music, live music and promoting music is changing. As a musician you want to be getting yourself into venues, perhaps wanting to broaden your horizons by stepping out of your comfort zone of the local pub circuit, perhaps wanting somebody who could help promote and guide you. As a promoter you want to find the latest star. As a venue, you want to attract the musicians that will attract audiences and keep music live. Global Sound Group are a London based music and sound company specialising in music promotion. They’ve just launched the ground breaking virtual booking agent …. online musicians (and booking agents) can get in touch directly with over 20,000 venues & promoters worldwide, allowing them to submit their music directly for consideration. The virtual booking agent is just one highlight on their peer-to-peer website, Sound Finder. I caught up with MD James Dyble to find out more…. Hi James…

Hi! My name is James Dyble and I am the managing director at London based music company Global Sound Group. 

What was the inspiration behind launching the peer-to-peer website, Sound Finder?

We have recently created our peer-to-peer website, Sound Finder with the intention of connecting musicians with professionals worldwide. It was inspired by many years of noticing that musicians struggle to find the best professionals to work with on their projects. 

 What benefits can the musician have by logging onto Sound Finder?  

The musician will benefit from a FREE membership and also the ability to work with the best professionals worldwide from as little as $5 ranging from graphic designers to mixing engineers. Also the website is completely secure and we offer a 100% money back guarantee on all services. 

One of the latest additions to the website is the ground breaking virtual booking agent. In a nutshell, what does the service provide?

The virtual Booking Agent enables musicians to submit their music to more than 20000 music venues and promoters worldwide for gig consideration. It is an extremely powerful tool for musicians to get more gigs and get paid more for their shows. 

What were your musical influences growing up?

I have always been influenced by the major record labels, I have always been interested in how they work. 

Have you always wanted to be in the music industry or did you have any other career in mind?

Since I can remember, I have always wanted to work in the music industry. 

Are you a musician yourself?

I am indeed a musician and I can play various instruments although I do not play in a band and just play at home in my free time. 

What genre of music do you personally listen to? What was the last concert you attended?

I listen to a broad range of genres, however the genre you would most likely catch me listening to is Indie/ Rock. The last concert I attended was The 1975, in Yorkshire. 

Imagine you are driving – what song would be top of your list to croon to whilst playing car karaoke?

Most probably The Killers – Mr Brightside. 

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Formal clothing, suits and formal shoes. 

Do you have any favourite websites? (Apart from your own!)

I am a big fan of YouTube and spend time listening to new music on there. 

Boots or Shoes?

Boots. 

For Pinning Later…

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can learn more about Sound Finder.

Main website – www.theoutsourcer.cohttp://www.theoutsourcer.co

Virtual booking agent – www.virtualbookingagent.co

www.facebook.com/soundfinder1

www.instagram.com/soundfinder1

www.twitter.com/soundfinder1

If any of my readers are musicians, then check out the Soundfinder website today! There may be a venue just waiting for you!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of the Global Sound Group

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Problem Solving In The 21st Century

According to a recent Carphone Warehouse Survey of over 2000 adults in the UK, 83% turn to the internet for help – whether it’s to solve a personal problem, self diagnose an ailment, read up on facts, getting a DIY tip or recipe, get career guidance, find love and friendship.  I know in my household, that for awkward homework questions and project work in general, “Google” is our friend rather than the set of Encyclopedia Britannica and World Atlas that used to occupy my bedroom shelves in the 1970s.  I do still have an updated World Atlas in book form and I do enjoy poring over the maps in a geeky kind of way – however, there is no denying that for fast information, the internet is kingpin.

In order to highlight some of the changes in problem solving in the 21st century, Carphone Warehouse also commissioned a set of 5 fun illustrations, reimagining the storyline of 5 iconic pre-21st century movies for the digital age:

BRIEF ENCOUNTER….

According to the results in the survey it seems that the internet gives us social courage and, in some cases, a silver tongue.  25% of Londoners look for help finding friends online.  16% of men are more likely to look for help regarding their love life than women (9%).

PSYCHO…

Before going to any hotel, motel or inn, do you check out the place nowadays online before booking? Do you read the reviews?  I know I do! 

PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS…

How many of us shop online or use auction sites such as eBay? To sell & buy used items locally it used to be an advert placed in our local village shop window … and hastily try and find a pen & paper in your coat pocket to note down a number or address of the item you wanted.

SCHOOL OF ROCK…

With sites such as Link’dIn and Facebook, how many of us check somebody out online before meeting them?  You can be sure that nowadays employers check out potential employees before interviewing them …. their appearance, credentials and lots more besides! I read some wise words in a meme recently that said “Never post anything onto your Facebook/Social Media profile that you wouldn’t want your granny reading!” …

THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT…

Got to go to a new destination? Finding locations and addresses and directions is so much easier with Google maps, SatNav devices and smartphone apps that can locate your position easily if you get lost.  

Isn’t it just amazing how quickly society has absorbed the internet and how much we rely on the internet! Other interesting data findings from the survey found that 45% go online for meal inspirations; 56% of women are most likely to be looking for health and wellbeing advice; 49% of men are most likely to turn to the internet for help with their personal finances; and 73% of respondents find it easier to approach their crushes online. 

Interesting stuff! What  problem solving help do you use the internet for?

LINDA x

My thanks goes to the Problem Solving CarPhone Warehouse Campaign & Study for giving me permission to publish both the data findings and the commissioned illustrations. https://www.carphonewarehouse.com/broadband/internet-problem-solving.html

Header/Pin photograph by Linda Hobden.

 

 

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An Interview With Melissa D

Described as having “the style of Karen Carpenter with the whispering of Melissa Etheridge”, my guest on the blog this week is singer/songwriter/recording artist and down to earth nature girl Melissa D from the New England state of Vermont.  Hi Melissa & welcome….

Hey, My name is Melissa D and I am a recording artist and singer/songwriter. I do Americana Folk Rock.

What made you decide to pursue a solo musical career as an independent singer/songwriter?

I have been in bands for years and have always written songs on my own but never had the courage to perform/record them.  As I got older, I realized that my worst fear was that I would die with my music inside me so I started taking steps to make these dreams come true.  I live in a rural area and I am an independent artist so I cannot do it in the conventional way (big tours and major record deals), but I am finding my own way in a grassroots/on the ground kind of way that feels so empowering and enjoyable! The internet has made it possible for independent artists to have a voice and get themselves out there. I am so grateful for this!

Your single – “Love Of My Life” – was written for your husband, Alan.  You kept the single a secret until your wedding day, when you surprised him by having the recording played at your wedding. How romantic! Obviously your husband was the inspiration behind this particular song – but your your other tunes, where do you most often find inspiration?

My inspiration comes mostly from being out in nature.  I love the quiet and calm of sitting by a river or smelling the night air and looking at the stars. It helps me to think and process things.   I also get inspired by road trips and doing mundane household tasks like dishes or cleaning.  I like to write about life experiences and other people’s experiences.  I have had a lot of relationships gone bad before my husband Alan, so this gives me lots of material to work with…lol

You are currently a solo artist, but in the past you were a former rock front-woman for The Alley Katz and a previous member of CHILL, an acoustic act.  What are the main advantages & disadvantages of being a solo artist?  Do you miss not being part of a group?

Being solo is cool in that I don’t have to run my ideas by a bunch of people. I can do what I want.   I tend to be a people pleaser (I am working on curing that….lol) and I would do songs or stuff I didn’t want to do to make bandmates/band leaders happy.  Also, it is challenging as a woman being in a male dominated industry when you are in a group. Often your ideas can get dismissed or you are seen as “just the singer” or you get hit on.  But on the flip side of that there is a challenge when you are solo in that as a woman you feel more vulnerable plus I am an introvert (which means I tend to be more reserved and quiet and I need alone time to “recharge my batteries”) so that heightens that sense of vulnerability.  This has been a challenge but the immense freedom and excitement that I feel being solo is amazing.  I have a wonderful network of musician colleagues that I continue to work with in terms of gigs, recording and jamming so I still get to grow professionally but at the end of the day, I feel more empowered than I have ever felt with my music.

You are a classically trained vocalist – but, what were your musical influences growing up?

Oh so many! John Denver, Stevie Nicks, Karen Carpenter, Amy Grant, Linda Ronstadt, hymns and Christian music that I would sing in church, Pretty much most 80’s pop.  James Taylor and Melissa Etheridge songs were the anthems of my young adult years!

Have you always wanted to be a musician or did you have any other career in mind?

Music is a calling  and I have always done it at some level. Its just what I do.  For my “day job” I have a master’s degree in counseling and I work in the helping profession, which I feel is another calling for me.

Hypothetically speaking, if you were able to perform a duet with any singer, dead or alive, who would you sing with and what song would you pick?

Wow, tough one to pick….I would say, John Denver – Leaving on a Jet Plane.

What genre of music do you personally listen to?

I pretty much listen to and am open to all genres except for hardcore rap, but tend to gravitate mostly towards 80’s rock, Americana, folk rock, blues, blue grass, meditation, ambient music.  I also love instrumental piano and guitar, gospel and Gregorian chant (accepela music).

What was the last concert you attended?

Enerjazz, my brother’s jazz band.

Imagine you are driving through your country lanes of southern Vermont – what song would be top of your list to croon to whilst playing car karaoke?

“You got a friend” – James Taylor

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I love jeans and t-shirts and hanging out clothes like cozy flannel shirts, but I also love anything with bling and bright colors and lace like when I am dressing up.  I think my favorite outfit is a well broken in pair of jeans with a cool, funky shirt with a bit of bling.  For shoes, I love hiking boots, pretty little flats and of course cowboy boots! I am not one for heels, never have been but admire them but more like a piece of art…lol

Do you have any favourite designers?

Not really, I just buy what is comfortable and looks cool!

Boots or Shoes?

hmmmmm, well living in Vermont, you have to have boots, that’s how you survive the long winters, but I do have quite a few shoes.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can learn more you & follow your career.

I am giving away a “care package” of 4 songs plus access to my Kindred community @ vermontmadesongs.net  My website is melissadmusic.com.  All the links to my SM are on there.  I also have a facebook group for Introverts and Empaths called “Innies who love music & stories”: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1984956098449512/?source_id=563170250437106

Great talking to you Melissa – fabulous choice for car karaoke – “You’ve Got A Friend” is one of those tunes I belt out (badly) in the car too!

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission of Melissa D

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An Interview With Vartan Melkonian

I am privileged this week to talk on my blog with renowned composer, musician & conductor, Vartan Melkonian, who also happens to be UN Ambassador for Street Children.  Vartan’s life story is one of courage – he was born in a refugee camp in Lebanon, orphaned soon after, became a street child in Beirut, fled to the UK in the 1970s – but even on the streets of Beirut his musical abilities began to emerge… Hi Vartan!

Hello. I am Vartan Melkonian. I am a composer and musician and I work as the UN Ambassador to Street Children.

You are an UN Ambassador for Street Children. What does being an ambassador entail?

My work involves certain countries – developing countries – who ask the UN to give them advice on street children. The UN takes a team of experts to those countries. As I am a key-note speaker – I open and close the conference about life on the streets. I encourage the developing countries to adopt the programmes the UN suggests.

You were born in a refugee camp in Lebanon – your parents died when you were very young- you then lived in the Birds Nest Orphanage until you were 8 years old. You must have felt very lonely & anxious being an orphan in a strange country.  When you were 8 years old, did you flee the orphanage or was care only provided until you were 8?

I was 8 years old when I left the orphanage, to live on the streets. I was there till I was eight because boys had to go to the army compound to make room for new children. I chose not to work for the Lebanese army and took a cattle-train to Beirut. That’s where I started my life.

After leaving the orphanage, you then lived rough in the slums of Beirut. What was the worst thing about living on the streets?

People take moments of pleasure by looking at the sunset. For us, for me, it was the worst time of the day, there was nowhere to go. I had to find any alcove to sleep in. We, the children of the streets, were often chased away with sticks and stones (even by the police) so we were not seen on the streets, as if we were some sort of living plague.

 

Teaching your fellow street children how to hum in harmony so as you could all make some money by busking… how did you discover you had a musical talent? What other jobs did you do in order to survive? 

At the orphanage, I was chosen to be a member of the choir. I had a severe speech impediment but when I sang there was no problem. My musical skills must have been in-born – the gift of music.

I did many jobs to survive from shoe shining, selling chewing gum and shovelling sand onto lorries to illegal fishing and being a mechanic.

When civil war came to Lebanon in 1972 you fled to the UK and began to work as a singer, at the beginning on the Northern Clubs circuit – eventually at West End nightspots.  What sort of music genre did you sing?  What influenced your song choices?

I used to impersonate Engelbert Humperdinck and Tom Jones!

You wrote a symphony that was performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – and later you came to conduct the London Symphony Orchestra, the Philharmonia, and many other world-class orchestras in London’s most famous halls and around the world. When you started to busk as a young lad on the streets of Beirut, did you harbour musical ambitions? 

When I was in Lebanon I used to play the guitar, and I thought I was really good. Arriving in the UK in the early 70s, I went to Kings Cross Station and I saw a busker playing the guitar and my eyes widened. I thought ‘I know nothing!’ It was like being born again at the age of 26.

Looking back over your incredible life story so far, what do you think helped you to survive the conditions you faced? 

When you don’t have things, your imagination flourishes and when you achieve something, you’ve already lived it. If you want to, you will finish a race, not necessarily first, but you will get there if you aim for it.

Being a refugee is hard, I know.  What are the toughest things you face being a refugee? 

I was happy to leave Lebanon because it was the 1970s and the conflict was starting. I went from sunny Beirut to Skegness. The UK is a wonderful place. I am a guest in the UK. And I feel very welcome.

When you give speeches worldwide about street children, what are the main messages that street children would like to convey to the public in general?

The children of the street are not the problem, they are the assets of the country. Invest in them and they grow up to become someone like me who provides good things for the community.

Links you would like to share:

http://vartan-melkonian.com

Untold Stories – Animation of life of Vartan Melkonian

Thank you so much Vartan for taking the time to talk to me today about your life and your mission as ambassador. 

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission of Vartan Melkonian.

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An Interview With Incredibly Cool Events

Embarrassingly, I had always associated cheerleading competitions with America – along with baseball and American Football – until recently, that is, when I discovered that cheerleading competitions are alive and kicking in the UK too!  I’m delighted to introduce onto my blog this week, Kimberley Mason, founder of ICE (Incredibly Cool Events) who gave me an insight into the cheerleading scene in the UK. Hi Kimberley!
Hi! I am Kimberley Mason I was born in the West Midlands and was raised on dance classes and competitions.

What inspired you to start up ICE (Incredibly Cool Events)?

After running my community interest company and working in sport for disadvantaged communities I felt there was a big need for affordable accessible cheerleading and dance competitions.

ICE organises cheerleading and dance competitions, workshops & Coaching. What would a cheerleading team expect if entering an ICE event?

They would get a help from a friendly team during the lead up to the event, affordable prices and all the support needed to get their teams feeling confident so they could give their best performance on the floor. There are big trophies, a medal for each competitor and a beautiful back drop to perform in front of. We have a highly trained judging team that offers constructive feedback at each of our events.

When did you start “cheerleading” & what was it about cheerleading that attracted you ?

I started Irish dance at the age of 7 and although I loved it the heavy shoes were not for me. I then tried freestyle dance and loved it. Dance became my passion from then onwards and I took part in competitions on a weekly basis. I found cheerleading at the age of 18 and the more I learnt the more I fell in love with it. I loved the fact that it was a team sport and the way the competitions were organised. The cheer spirit and the team ethos were definitely the main attraction.

What are the benefits of cheerleading?

Cheerleading has many benefits; it improves fitness, helps with life skills such asworking as team work and co-operation, it helps build confidence and there is a fantastic social side.

Is cheerleading suitable for everybody?

Yes all ages and abilities, cheerleading is done on a level basis so there is a level suitable for everyone. There are different elements to a cheer routine, dance, tumble, stunt and jumps.

Do you enjoy any other genre of dance?

Yes I enjoy all styles of dance, we offer pom dance, jazz, contemporary, lyrical, hip hop and next season we will be offering Acro.

Although you are based in the UK, are teams outside of the UK allowed to enter your events?

Yes of course we welcome everyone.

What ICE events are planned for the rest of 2018/2019?

We have lots of dance and cheer events lined up for the next season and they take place all over the country :

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

At the moment I’m pregnant with my second baby so a big maternity dress with expandable sandals for my swollen feet. When not pregnant you will find me in leggings and jeans and flats, usually covered in George’s (my toddler) latest  meal.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I love ASOS because there is so much to choose from and outfits and shoes for every occasion.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

I would love some fashionable day wear but I have a feeling with baby boy number 2 on the way it will be a while until I make any major investments into my wardrobe, although I will be investing in some winter boots at the start of the winter season.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots, they look lovely and are very comfortable plus there are lots of different styles, long, mid length, ankle, flat etc so there is something for most occasions.

For Pinning Later

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/IncrediblyCoolEvents/
Website: www.incrediblycoolevents.co.uk
Twitter: @ICE_Events1
Intsagram: incrediblycoolevents

I wish you the very best for both your impending nappy event and your programme of events, Kimberley. I think the name of your company is incredibly cool too….

Linda x

All photos published with kind permission from Kimberley Mason (Incredibly Cool Events).

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An Interview With DJ China L’One

Today would have been my dad’s birthday and as my dad was a great music fan, I think he would have loved reading about my guest on the blog this week.  The utterly gorgeous DJ China L’One is gracing my blog – she is a top international female DJ as well as being CEO/Founder of London’s 1st All Female DJ agency.  Did I mention she is drop dead gorgeous too?! I couldn’t wait to ask the stylish diva some questions…. Hi China !

Hi! My name is DJ China L’One, I am an International Female DJ, and the Founder and CEO of London based No1 all female dj agency “We Run The World Female DJ Agency”.

What inspired you to become a DJ and also, what inspired you to start London’s first all female DJ agency, “We Run The World Female DJ Agency”?

It all began when I was unexpectedly invited to take the DJ position at a friend’s birthday party in 2000. The crowd just loved the music and the vibe my presence gave that I was inspired to take DJing up as a way of earning money. Since then my profile became more public but I soon realised there was not an agency that catered for solely female DJ’s like myself. And so I began to build up my own agency, independent  and hard-working as I am!

The music you play includes funk, R & B, hip hop, house, remixes, classic commercial sounds –  but do you have a favourite music genre?

I grew up listening to POP music, so I don’t have a favourite music genre per se. If the music is “popping” it’s a big tune! Hehehe.

You have performed at many of London’s top clubs such as the Ministry of Sound, Pacha, No 5 Cavendish Square – to name a few – do you stick rigidly to a set playlist or are you able to ascertain the mood of an audience and adapt accordingly? 

I never set a playlist, I play accordingly to the crowd and audience.  I read the crowd, based on their age, and the type of event.

What are the highs and lows about being a DJ?

The highs are getting to DJ for super cool brands, events, venues and travelling to different locations in the world. The lows have been when business is quiet and you are just waiting for gigs. .

Growing up, have you always wanted to be a DJ or did you have other aspirations?

Growing up, I wanted to become a singer, actress or dancer. I want to the famous Itali Conti Theatre school when I was 16 years old. I have recorded a few songs and have featured on other artist songs in the past. I did go to acting school as a teenager.

You have DJ’d in Norway, Sweden, Germany, Ibiza, Italy, India & on luxury cruise ships! Do you have a favourite party destination?  Is there any place in the world where you’d love to DJ but haven’t done yet?

I would  love to Dj in Las Vegas one day.

We all have our favourites…but what music genre are you not so keen on? 

I am not so keen on Trance music.

Apart from being a DJ, you published an e-book called “You Are What You Think” – a book about the importance of confidence and going after your dreams. You have certainly had the confidence to go after your dreams. What advice would you give to young aspiring female DJs?

Be single minded.

There are no rules to the game. Do it your way and with your own style.

Understand that some people will like and love you and others will not, and that is fine.

Do not change who you are as a person, your personality is very important as a whole.

Know your music. Knowing your music is more important then being able to beat-match a song to keep your guests dancing.

Don’t try to be like any other DJ, just be you!

Work hard and the right people will find you!

Although you are based in London, do you and your agency accept jobs worldwide? 

We are based in London, but work with clients worldwide, hence why we are named, “We Run The World Female DJ Agency”  hahaha!

Tell us a bit more about your clothing line. What inspired you to launch your own brand?

I wanted to create something where people can be confident about what they are about. For example, my t-shirts bear quotations that portray power-thinking messages. It was a venture that led me to sell products on-line.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I am super feminine so you will always catch me wearing a colourful dress, skirt or event shorts. I love wearing bright colours like red, yellow, and orange. I also love wearing different types of hats, together with jewellery and fashion accessories.

I love wearing heels, got to have a bit of heels at least, and of-course colourful shoes. I try to get away from wearing black if I can help it.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I do love Boohoo online, they do have some amazing colourful clothes and super cool accessories. You can also catch me at charity shops. You would be amazed at some of the coolest hats or bags, that you’d never see elsewhere. .

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

Errmm, I want to buy some pink, and orange open toes shoes, and a white hand-bag. I do like wearing white but its hard to find really pretty white shoes or a stylish white bag – you have to look hard to find them.

Boots or Shoes? 

Shoes!  Shoes makes me feel sexy and slightly taller ha ha!

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about you and your work.

www.femaledjagency.com

https://www.facebook.com/Djchinalone/

https://www.instagram.com/djchinalone/

https://twitter.com/djchinalone

Thanks for sharing an insight into your DJ life and I love that you adore wearing bright coloured clothes too! I try to avoid black although I have to wear black for work.  I prefer navy blue if I have to wear a dark colour.  Keep on spinning those discs China! 🙂

Linda x

All photos are published with kind permission from China L’One.

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An Interview With Lina Usma

I’m pleased to welcome onto my blog, the lovely Lina Usma, who runs the largest newspaper in London for the Spanish speaking Latin American community.  Originally from Colombia, Lina has lived in London for over 20 years and has been active in the local community. I wanted to ask Lina some questions about her newspaper and her career as a journalist … as well as her fashion tastes! Hi Lina and welcome!

Hi! I am  Lina Usma (short version of Lina Maria Ospina Usma) I was born in Colombia, in the beautiful city of Manizales, I am wife  ( not much a housewife!) a mother and a professional working woman.

What was it like growing up in Colombia?

I grew up in a matriarchal family with 3 mothers:  My mum, my auntie and my cousin all full of love, passion, hardworking and warm hearts.  Although there was no paternal figure in my house I have an uncle, but my mum was the dominant role in the household.  She passed away in 2012 and even in the last days of her illness, she was so strong and wise. I married quite young, to a great guy, who is very passionate about life. We have a beautiful daughter who is my proudest achievement – maybe all mothers say that, but for me personally she represents all that my mothers taught me about being a woman:  strong, professional, independent with a good heart and determination to do something good with her life.

We all have preconceived ideas of what a country will be like – what took you by surprise in England and what was totally opposite of what you thought it would be?

In 1996 we travelled to the UK, looking for a better opportunities for our family. We were a young couple with a baby. At the beginning it was quite difficult, adapting to the new city especially the weather and the society, as we come from a place where you can talk with someone in  the street without any prejudice, but here  even approaching someone to ask for directions was so difficult (remember 20 years ago there was not google maps). But as time passed and we worked our way through life, like many other people doing different jobs that we have never done in our lives:  like a waitress, cleaners, shop assistants etc.

What made you decide to launch Extra International?

I studied business management in Colombia, but here in London my profession focuses around media; together with my husband William we started a magazine as a business investment, since then we have run other publications and other related projects such  as Extra International newspaper which is now the most popular publication in the Spanish speaking communities in London.  I am an editor and journalist, and as my mother always said never stop learning”, and as a way of respect with the profession and colleagues,  I studied Media and Journalism in East London University, to learn and be able to do my job in a more efficient way.  

What do you enjoy most about running a newspaper?

One of the most interesting things about working in media is the opportunity to meet interesting people and talk to them on a level of closeness, where they can feel confident to talk and open up for more questions. I had the opportunity to interview figures like Shakira, Celia Cruz, Michael Schumacher ex F1 driver, Boris Johnson former Mayor of London, some presidents such as Juan Manuel Santos from Colombia.  I met  Hugo Chavez; writers  like  Isabel Allende and Vargas Llosa; Cressida Dick,head of Scotland Yard Police; also so many other important and relevant  personalities, which is a privilege in this profession.  Running a newspaper is challenging, especially in the world we are living now with the multimedia. I was very much into writing and editing writing articles – not so much visually;  but  today journalists need to have a digital presence so I am still learning how to deal with the cameras and lights, but it is interesting and you learn every day something new, especially when working with new technologies and devices.

Another string to your bow is your radio station. How did that come about?

To be able to reach other audiences and create an online presence, I started a radio show called “Mujeres al Dia“  (Women Today) which also has its own blog/website.   The aim of the show is to give voice to all fantastic women doing great things out there. I believe everyone has something to tell and that is why I am so happy to host this radio-show.

You are involved in many projects, apart from your job. Can you tell us a bit about them?

Besides my job, I have been involved in many projects related to our Latin communities, migrants and women. I  am a trustee member for Su Mano Amigo  ONG  providing support for victims of domestic violence in the UK,  also I am a trustee in FUNDAV an ONG  giving support for people suffering rare diseases in Colombia.

And in the last local elections in London,  I was a candidate with the Green Party. We came second in our ward, which was a great experience for me and put a frame to ideas and projects I have supported all my life.

Talking about myself is not easy, as usually I am the one asking questions but this interview has to help me a lot to review what  I have done in life!   

Personal now- what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I wear a lot red and black. My daughter is trying to sort my clothes with different colours! 

Do you have any favourite shops or online stores?  

London is a city where you can find lots of different trends and the most importantly,  is that you can wear whatever you like! I am not a fan yet of buying online – I prefer to go to shops wandering around, trying before I buy.  

Boots or Shoes?

Forever shoes! I am always in high heels and for me, it is just a basic in my wardrobe. I can’t get used to walking in trainers, and I leave boots just for very cold winter days.

Want to know more?

If you would like to know more about me and my work you can follow us

www.extramedia1.com

www.mujeresaldia.co.uk

Thank you for answering my questions Lina … I hope it wasn’t too bad an experience! 🙂

Linda x

All photographs published with kind permission of Lina Usma.

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