Category Archives: Music/Entertainment

An Interview With Poet Kamand Kojouri

Poetry this evening, my friends. I love poetry. I love reading poetry out loud – doesn’t matter if nobody else is around, poetry just needs to be read out loud. Poetry just sums up emotions and situations. My guest this week is the gorgeous Iranian poet Kamand Kojouri. Her poetry is a breath of fresh air. Her poems have been read on the radio, in sermons in churches and synagogues, used as lyrics for a rock song, and even her poem about Aleppo, “Heaven And Hell” was placed next to James P Graham’s stunning artwork at his Desacration exhibition at Biblioteca Vallicelliana in Rome. Praise indeed. I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Kamand’s 2nd collection, “God, Does Humanity Exist?” Having devoured the book word for word, I had some questions for the poet herself …. so hi Kamand!

Hi! I’m Kamand, an Iranian poet and writer living in the UK. I’ve written two poetry books and I’m currently writing a historical novel for my creative writing PhD programme.

I write to raise awareness about the injustices in the world, to remind us that we are all responsible for one another, and to instil hope and love into our lives.

What inspired you to write poetry?

It’s quite simple, really: I fell in love…

My brothers, Hafez and Khayyam, are also named after the great Persian poets. When we were little, my brother,Khayyam, would receive at least one collection of Omar Khayyam’s poems as a birthday gift. My mother often recites lines from poems mid-conversation as well, so poetry had always been an intrinsic, albeit dormant, part of my life. Funnily enough, the literal translation of my name (Kamand) is a lasso. But Kamand is actually an ornamental word used in Persian poetry to describe long beautiful hair.

“God, Does Humanity Exist?” was published on 2 March 2020 — your 2nd collection of poems focusing on suffering, resistance, and hope. I personally enjoyed reading the poems out loud. Actually, I don’t know if I can read poetry any other way. I truly believe poetry is also better understood by reading out loud. Interesting title to your book though, Kamand. So, was it hard to think up a title for your poetry collection that seemed to encapsulate the verses contained within? Why did you pick the title?

My collection is divided into four sections: Cries of Common Pain, Call to Action, Songs of Hope, and Echoes of Hope. It includes urgent poems about the devastation of war, the refugee crisis, the dangers of silence, mass shootings, the atrocities being committed across the pond and even the ones on our doorstep… And although the poems are rooted in dark realities, ultimately the message is one of love and togetherness.

I remember brainstorming ideas for the title and discussing it with my twin sister and my father. I decided to go with God, Does Humanity Exist?  and my father said that it was very interesting but perhaps sounded a bit pessimistic, and that was far from my intention. In order to eliminate any ambiguities about the title, I added an author’s note at the beginning of the book that explained my reasoning. The idea is that for thousands of years people have been asking “Does God Exist?” I wanted to turn this age-old question on its head and ask God, whether humanity exists. Of course, I don’t doubt humanity’s existence, but I want us to think, speak, and act more humanely—with more compassion, empathy, and understanding. So the title is meant to make us think, and it’s also meant to make us act.

It was hard for me to pick a favourite poem from this collection — it was a tie between “We Don’t Find God” & “ Writers Aren’t Alchemists”. Do you have a particular favourite? 

My favourite poem is “We Are, Each of Us, Refugees”. Whenever I’m reading it out loud by the time I get to this last stanza I get quite emotional:  

When home turns into hell,

you, too, will run

with tears in your eyes screaming rescue me!

and then you’ll know for certain:

you’ve always been a refugee.

Have you always hoped for a career in poetry/ creative writing or did your career aspirations as a child lie elsewhere? 

I always wanted to become a doctor to help people. As I became older, I chose neurosurgery as a speciality. I studied sciences in my undergraduate years and volunteered at a big hospital in downtown Toronto. One day one of my patients asked me to read to her. From that day on, I started renting out books from the library to read during my lunch breaks, and that’s when I fell in love with reading. It was a bit daunting because I had envisioned my entire life as a neurosurgeon but then all of a sudden I had found this ardent passion for reading and writing. I remember trying to intellectualise my decision—making a list of pros and cons for each career. I showed my friends and family the list and discussed it with them. It was a big risk but I decided I could still help people with my writing and I thought that I’d be doing something that truly complemented my soul. The greatest thing about pursuing a career in writing is that you become a life-long philomath. You develop this hunger to learn, and the more you read and the more you write, you realise how very little it is you know.  

Born in Tehran, raised in Dubai & Toronto, currently residing in Wales; you have been to places that must have influenced your writing somewhere along the line. Hypothetically speaking, if you were able to visit any place in the world to get inspiration for a new collection of poems, where would you go and why?

That’s such an interesting question! My mother’s greatest passion is travelling. Every summer, she’d try to take my siblings and me to a new country. I have visited around forty countries and I think I don’t necessarily need to visit a place to get inspiration from there. For instance, the novel I’m currently writing takes place in three different cities that I have yet to visit.

I think it ultimately depends on what you have in your heart and your mind at the time of travelling. A few years ago, there was a revival of a very popular musical (based on Victor Hugo’s novel) in Paris called Notre-Dame de Paris. At the time I was doing my Master’s programme in London, so I hopped on the Eurostar to see it on opening night. I’d been to Paris a few times prior, so I planned to revisit my favourite places (the cathedral, Place du Tertre in Montmartre etc.) and a couple of new museums. I had taken a collection of Hafez’s poems with me and I remember being so inspired by the beauty (the music, architecture, paintings and sculptures) that I filled a small journal with Sufi poems. It’s uncanny to think that I wrote my most spiritual poems whilst on a trip to Paris to see a musical… Anywhere in the world that has beautiful artwork, a little bit of nature, a place of worship (like a temple or a church—perhaps it has something to do with the higher vibrational frequencies), inspires me. And if I go to a classical concert when I’m there, then I’m in heaven.

Are you a Bookworm?

I’m definitely a bookworm, but because of my OCD I’m quite a neurotic reader. That’s why I used to dislike reading as a child. What it means now is that I’m not a fast reader, because I like to highlight beautiful lines and often rewrite them into a journal. My favourite genre is poetry and I also love philosophical novels. I have too many favourite authors!My favourite poets include Nizar Qabbani, Rumi, Pablo Neruda, and E.E. Cummings. Favourite writers: Javier Marias, Virginia Woolf, Vladimir Nabokov, Sarah Waters, and Anton Chekhov.

It’s funny because I bought my dad a Kindle (he reads many books concurrently like I do) but he regifted it back to me. I haven’t used it in years as I prefer actual books.

Is “God, Does Humanity Exist?” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, it’s available on all the Amazon websites in paperback and eBook. It’s also available on Barnes & Noble and third-party booksellers online. For every copy sold, a tree is planted in Sub-Saharan Africa to help provide families with food, income, and a sustainable way of life. All of the royalties will also go to children’s charities in Iran.

Which other forms of writing, other than poetry, would you love to try your hand at? Songwriting, thriller, children’s books? 

I would love to write a children’s book one day! 

A brilliant American composer used my poem “War on Silence” to compose a piece for a choir recently, and a band used my poem “They Want Us to Be Afraid” as lyrics for one of their songs. Music is one of my greatest passions as well so I’d love to try my hand at songwriting—best of both worlds.

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

I’m always in business casual and a pair of black suede ankle boots, unless I’m going to a nice dinner or jazz night then I’m in stilettos.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I lived in Canada for about eight years so my favourite shop is Aritzia, a Canadian boutique.

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

I don’t have a wish list right now, but I’d be very happy to purchase a bright-coloured top in-store because that’d mean that the pandemic is over and we can celebrate summer.

Boots or Shoes?

Heeled ankle boots all the way! I’m average height but my twin sister is much taller than me and my brothers tower over me so I like the extra bit of heel.

For Pinning later

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

Instagram: www.instagram.com/KamandKojouri

Twitter: www.twitter.com/KamandKojouri

Facebook: www.facebook.com/KamandKojouri

Linked-In: www.linkedin.com/in/KamandKojouri

Website: www.KamandKojouri.com

Thank you very much Kamand for chatting to us today. Thanks also for the copy of your fabulous poetry book and thanks also to Ben Cameron. All photographs have been published with kind permission of Kamand Kojouri.

Linda x

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An Interview With Dean Hodgkin

Keeping your body fit and healthy during lockdown … and for life beyond, is paramount. It’s difficult though and many of us need help to practice social distancing from the fridge, from the wine bottles and from the biscuit barrel. For tips and advice on keeping our bodies fit and healthy and to help us develop an understanding on how to maintain that fitness, I was lucky enough to chat to Dean Hodgkin – Head of Programming on TV Fit, fitness expert, karate champion, writer and speaker. Hi Dean!

Hi! I’m Dean Hodgkin, a veteran of the fitness industry with over 30 years on the clock and with varied experience that includes working in spas, premium health clubs, budget gyms, leisure centres and more recently boutique studios. I’ve co-authoured 2 fitness books written a large number of magazine and newspaper articles and I’ve also appeared in a number of broadcast formats as a health and fitness expert.

You’ve appeared at fitness events in 36 countries and collected the Best International Fitness Presenter at The One Body One World in New York, the ECA International Career Achievement Recognition Award, also in the US, in addition to the Lifetime Achievement award at Europe’s largest group fitness event, the International Fitness Showcase. On top of this you were also 3 times World and 2 times European karate champion so what triggered your love of sport and keeping fit? 

That’s a great question as I’m not sure I’ve ever really analysed my odyssey before! My Father was a semi-pro footballer so when I was very young I would spend every Saturday standing on the touchline, come rain or shine. My elder brother was also a particularly good player so naturally, I followed suit, becoming captain of my school team. There was a brief heartbreak when my Mother forced me to attend the best grammar school in our area – where they didn’t play soccer! However, I threw myself into rugby, again becoming team captain and realised the specific discipline was irrelevant…….I just loved participating in any sport. Like many kids in the 70s, when the Bruce Lee movies hit the cinemas, I was desperate to try martial arts. At first I was too young to join the local karate club so started my journey with judo but transferred as soon as I was allowed. I became absolutely immersed, training in every spare moment and perhaps as a result of such, I became quite proficient. When it became clear that I could actually achieve something through fighting, I began to get involved in fitness training, realising it would help me to perform better, although in those days it was simply running, basic calisthenics and stretching.


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

When I graduated from university in the mid-80’s, the fitness industry in the UK was in a nascent state, concepts and experiences were only just drifting over from the US, so I didn’t view it as a career choice, particularly as fitness training was just something I did for fun. Additionally, having studied mathematics and management studies, my intention was to go into investment banking in the City of London. However, at the time I had already been selected for the British under-21 karate team but realised that to progress to senior level, I’d need to put in some serious graft so I negotiated a ‘gap year’ with my parents, allowing me to put finding a job on hold and instead to train full-time. This 1 year actually turned into 3, during which I spent so much of my time in sports centres and gyms that it occurred to me it would be great if I could combine my choice of vocation with my love of physical activity and so I enrolled on a fitness trainer course and progressed from there.



In your capacity as  Head of Programming on TV Fit ….What would you say are the most popular genre/programmes/classes?

This is a great question as the answer is actually 2 dimensional. In terms of the market, resistance training and high intensity interval training are leading the pack, hence our results-guaranteed STRONGER and LIMITLESS programmes an incredible numb of views. As an individual, however, the most popular workouts are the one’s you’ll actually do so pick what you enjoy, rather than those everyone else seems to be doing, as then you’re much more likely to adhere to it and see the results you desire. Working out shouldn’t feel like a chore, so try many different classes to find your flavour. Remember, exercise isn’t something you do TO your body – it’s something you do FOR your body, so enjoy it.

Which genre/programme/classes is your personal favourite?

Whilst, for obvious reasons, I love STRIKE, I honestly have no favourite so you’re just as likely to find me dancing or lifting weights as shadow-boxing or trying to fold myself into a downward dog. I truly love the freedom of movement exercise brings and enjoy exploring my body through the different physical challenges involved.

Must admit, when exercising, I hate doing “burpees” … even more than push ups!! Which exercise do you dislike the most?

I’m totally with you on that one – I’m pretty sure that a straw poll would result in near unanimous agreement!

Being in lockdown, keeping your body and mind fit and healthy is a must. Any top tips?

Due to the reduced amount of walking within our daily routines, the inability to play sport or go to the gym, the potential stress related to being cooped up with others or perhaps anxiety about future job prospects, I’d argue that exercise has never been more valuable. In addition to burning calories (helping to balance out the extra trips we might be making to the fridge!) the positive impact on mental health has been proven in an abundance of scientific research studies.What’s more, there are huge mood-uplifting benefits of exercising outdoors, something the Government recognised in the lockdown guidance by allowing us to venture outside once each day, so it’s vital to optimise this modicum of temporary freedom. If you’re a runner, fine but if you’re just beginning your fitness journey our SWEATCOIN WALK was created specifically for you, providing a personal trainer in your ear for motivation and visual tips to perfect your technique.Just in case you need further convincing, the father of medicine, Hippocrates, is quoted as declaring, ‘Walking is man’s best medicine’……..and he knew a thing or two about how to stay healthy in both mind and body!

What has been the most unusual Fitness class/ genre you’ve come across?

To be honest, there are way too many to mention! Dog Yoga and Naked Yoga have to be right up there and I still need to be convinced of the value of Napercise. Others include Voga (yep, that’s yoga with a few Madonna shapes thrown in) Kangoofit (bouncing around on boots with springs) Mermaid Fitness (wearing 1 huge flipper) Crowd Surf Ready (for lifters and liftees) High Intensity Interval Painting (sweat then paint then sweat then paint….) etc, etc, etc!


Being a world champion at karate, I can take it that that must be one of, if not your favourite sport. Are there any other sports you take part in or enjoy watching?

I’m a complete sportaholic and regularly achieve nothing of any significance at weekends due to camping out in front of the TV, so the lockdown live sport ban has left me totally disorientated on Saturdays and Sundays. Favourites are rugby, soccer, basketball, MMA, american football, tennis and athletics.

I love shows like Strictly Come Dancing – I especially love watching the Argentine Tango! Hypothetically speaking, if you were to take part, which dance style would you love to try?

I’m also a Strictly addict, primarily as I appreciate the amount of training they put in and the incredible improvement in their performance level through the course of the series. I also watch in wonder at the pros who are so athletic and appear to be excellent at every discipline. I’d love to learn the more technical dances but fear I’d only have a chance of mastering the jive due to it clearly being a fast and very physical challenge for which I hope my years of fitness training have prepared me.

Personal now, what outfits/footwear would you normally wear?

Over the years I have been very fortunate to have been, at different times, sponsored by Nike, Reebok and Puma but now I’m a total brand whore – I’ll purchase and wear whatever takes my fancy.

Boots Or Shoes?

For fitness – high tops for lifting and basketball, lows for dancing and HIIT, barefoot for combat and yoga. Out of the gym, boots in winter and flip-flops for as long as the weather allows.

For pinning later



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

www.deanhodgkin.com
https://www.facebook.com/dean.hodgkin.7
https://www.instagram.com/deanhodgkin/

Hmm.. Voga sounds fun but Naked Yoga sounds pretty embarrassing , unless you’re doing it on your own! Ha ha! Thanks for chatting with me Dean – I particularly liked your advice regarding picking a workout that you enjoy rather than one that is trendy and you are doing it “just because”.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Dean Hodgkin

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Spotlight On Apocalypse Survival Training

During lockdown, or indeed just keeping fit, there are a plethora of online classes, apps, videos and ideas just waiting for you to explore. Going for a run or a jog? Plug in your headphones and listen to the music as you achieve your 10,000 steps. BUT WAIT. Are you craving for a totally different way to keep fit? I think I’ve found what you’re looking for – Apocalypse Survival Training. This is a story based fitness app created by London based fitness trainer Adele Andersen. Using the app, you can immerse yourself into a different world, a world where you are a secret agent trying to save London from an alien invasion whilst all the time getting fit to with running, circuits and yoga workouts. Sound intriguing? I thought so too, so after doing a quick spin of saving London, I had a chat with Adele to find out more… Hi Adele!

Hi I’m Adele Andersen, creator of Apocalypse Survival Training. I’m an Aussie who came to the UK 14 years years ago but somehow never quite made it back home. I’ve been working as a fitness instructor for 11 years and run a west London bootcamp. I live in Acton with my metal singer/music producer husband Rasmus and our three cats. 

What inspired you to create the story based fitness app, Apocalypse Survival Training?

7 years ago I was doing a lot of script writing and had just had a radio play performed at a Discworld fan event, Hogswatch (essentially the Christmas celebration of Terry Pratchett’s novel series). In a conversation after in the pub, a group of friends were complaining about how boring exercising is but how they wished they could be fit like I was, which came around to the question of what would make exercising fun for them – an entertainment factor – and whether I could combine my fitness coaching with my writing to make story based workouts which people would want to keep going with, to find out what happened next in the story. It’s been a looooong process from that night to now! 

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

Absolutely not! Never even stepped inside a gym before I came to London! I only ever wanted to be a Grand Prix dressage rider and write fantasy novels. Tragically, I was not a particularly gifted rider and feel like I will never be able to afford horses again 😭 I’m finally finishing my first novel though! 
I started on horse yards in the UK but quickly ran out of money and ended up in London looking for a job. I started working at Sky in the winter, where I left and got back home in the dark and cold, and had no natural physical labour to do anymore. The office had a lunch gym group so I went along for a Body Pump class, which I liked, and then a Body Combat class, which I adored. I ended up in the gym a lot – I’m pretty high energy and not well suited to a desk job – so when the financial crash of 2008 froze hiring, one of my best friends suggested I train as a group fitness instructor to at least be paid for the many hours I was taking part in group exercise classes. It was loosely intended as a 3 year plan, but it turned out to be something I’m really good at. The first job I’d ever had that I was naturally good at. I qualified in 2009 and am still teaching – and loving it – 11 years later! 

In your capacity as a fitness trainer, what type of fitness training or exercises are most popular with the classes that you have taught?

Broadly speaking, exercise to music. There’s true magic in exercise choreographed to music because the music is a driver but also an amazing emotional connector, and so people work harder but experience genuine enjoyment while working out, which makes them more likely to keep exercising. 

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

I only teach classes I am truly passionate about and so can deliver with heart and soul. Body Combat is my absolute favourite, it’s an incredibly exhilarating class and the reason I have a career in fitness. I also love Body Pump and Body Balance, which have big performance elements on my part, and then my own freestyle HIIT cycle and a complete switch to my outdoor bootcamp, which is community driven, social and requires very creative planning to keep it super interactive for members. 
I love exercises and movements that use the whole body – never ever got the hang of machines. The feeling of moving your own bodyweight around is incredible, and that feeling of having worked all over at the end of a session is the best. 

Must admit, when exercising, I hate doing “burpees” … even more than push ups!! Which exercise do you dislike the most? 

Well the one that’s beating me hard at the moment is pull ups. I’ve had a few years of issues with my right arm which stopped me being able to pull my bodyweight, but in lockdown Ras has challenged me to do his workouts, and those rings are just kicking my ass! Anything I hate though I know is an opportunity to push my comfort zone and I love the feeling of conquering a problem though, so I’ll keep hanging off them and swearing through negatives until I’m able to pull properly again!

Back to the app, how difficult was it to organise the sound effects, storyline and to choreograph the exercises to create the effect that you wanted to create? 

Just after we recorded the original test episode, Hardman’s Army, I met Ras, who is a singer, composer and audio producer. I dated and then married my audio producer! That made life a LOT easier 😉
We got lucky with a recommendation from a friend to Adam Hay, a BAFTA award winning game sound designer, who did the sound effects on Part 1. I sent him scripts, he sent me back amazing sounds, and Ras mixed those in with the dialogue and music (which is SUPER complicated). 
The storyline took ages, and I actually rewrote episode 1 about a dozen times. We recorded and edited two or three versions before the one on the app, and it’s still the episode I wince the most about. The storyline itself came out of a throwaway line from Hardman’s Army about a city being completely destroyed by aliens – that was the obvious place to start (although it took a friend to point that out to me!). Finding a story frame that allowed us to put in the Strength and Control episodes with the Speed episodes, in a reasonably natural way, was also very challenging. 
The Control (yoga/stretch) episodes were the hardest. I think I wrote 4 full scripts and we definitely recorded and edited that three times to get to what’s on the app. I had to keep simplifying and simplifying, because the app is primarily an audio experience and so it’s essential that anyone could follow the exercises, largely by audio cue only (there’s also a player screen on the app for visual reference). 
Now that I’m making TALON: Lockdown, a video based workout series as a leader to the app, I’m having a ball because they are visual workouts, so I can work so much more with the music! My only worry with Lockdown is that people who come to the app from the video workouts might prefer the video workouts (even though the app story, audio design and characterisation is far superior – plus you’re the main character of the app, and only implicitly present in the video workouts). 

Having downloaded the app & tried it out myself ( the running part at any rate) I was impressed by the clear instructions in my ear. It certainly made it a different experience than running with music in the background. What other workout options are on the app and what levels of fitness do you cover?

The story progresses episodically over three types of workout, what we term Speed, Strength and Control. This means episode 1 is a running workout, 2 is a bodyweight circuit workout, 3 is a yoga stretch workout and then 4 is back to running, and so on. 
The Strength and Control episodes have Intro and Advanced options to select at the start, which determines which level of each exercise is shown to you on the player. Then, within the story, we have characters of different abilities, who are all taught to. This is exactly the same as a group exercise class, where I need to coach to the super fit 20 year old and then the middle aged person who hasn’t exercised in 10 years. But we can do that through character, within the story, which is super fun. The hope is that most users will find themselves recognisably represented by one of the characters, and will follow the coaching directed to them. 
While the episodes are of fixed duration (as they’re essentially radio plays), meaning the workouts are all around 30 mins length, your ‘handler’, Skyler, who is like your best friend and personal cheerleader, spends a lot of time assuring you that you only need to do what you can, and assuring you that it’s ok to take breaks. I can DIE doing the circuit episodes by pushing very hard,  but also people who are not fit can get through them by pacing themselves. That’s the convenience of programming to time intervals – everyone can work their own pace within that time. 

Why did you specifically pick an apocalypse survival story as your app? What came first – the idea for the story or the workouts for a story to fit around?

Hardman’s Army, a test episode to see if I could write a fitness audio drama, came first. It was a circuit workout in the story frame of the whole world has been sent to the army to be trained for an alien invasion, and most people don’t want to be there (which made the characters sympathetic to users who don’t like exercising – everything they would be thinking, a character was actually saying!). That tested really well. 
Then I wanted to test a concept: that multiple types of exercise could be put to story. At that time, Zombies, Run! was starting to gain traction, but it was only running. So I didn’t really want to do running, BUT I needed a vivid plot/concept, and people ‘got’ the idea of story based running better than say story based circuits! 
I did a request on my Facebook for gripping titles – AST was actually called ‘Catalyst’ right up through the first video we shot for the kickstarter, at which point a friend Dig rang me and was like ‘Adele, you have to fix the name.’ There were dozens and dozens of comments and we ended up crowd sourcing the title Apocalypse Survival Training. I mean, it’s vivid, right? And the story was built around this challenge of incorporating 3 types of workout: running, bodyweight strength, and flexibility. We termed it as ‘giving you the speed, strength and control you need to get Apocalypse Ready!’ which was fun.

As you are based in London, is your app available to download worldwide, iOS & Android?  

Yes, world wide, although the dialogue with its many accents I think would be very difficult to follow to people who are not native English speakers. Everyone said do iOS first, one of my mentors had an Android phone and I really wanted to be able to make the kickstarter for everyone, so committed to doing both. HUGE mistake, which we’re still paying for! I would now also advise anyone else to do iOS native first. 

Personal now, what outfits/footwear would you normally wear?

Leggings, EVERYWHERE. I’m so lazy. I have one or two fav tops at a time and they’re all I wear when I can. Because almost every day involves teaching, I’m usually in my sports gear from the morning, save changing later. I work from home or cafes in the area, there’s no office or dress code so convenience and comfort are the name of the game! 

Boots Or Shoes?

Boots – or trainers! Boots look better with leggings than any shoe other than sneakers 😉 

For pinning later

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

ANDROID app: http://bit.ly/2wCsy9ziOS app: https://apple.co/31fgzg4Promo Video: https://youtu.be/hyUqsP-3bo8Web: https://www.apocalypsesurvivaltraining.com/Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/apcocalypsesurvivaltraining/Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/a.s.t_fitness_app/TALON: Lockdown Ep 1: https://bit.ly/TALONep1

Many thanks for the interview Adele. I hope Adele’s app has given you, dear readers, the encouragement to get up and train, apocalyptic style!

Linda x

Photographs by Richard Wakefield and Sean Kelly, published with kind permission of Adele Andersen.

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Knights At Warwick Castle

One evening last July, whilst watching television, an advertisement was aired that immediately caught my family’s attention. It was talking about the “Dragon Slayer” Light & Show extravaganza at Warwick Castle. Apart from the stunning light show & fireworks, the Castle looked magnificent and there was a plethora of medieval activities going on. We thought it looked good & having not visited Warwick Castle before, decided to book an impromptu weekend away in August. Having sons in their early teens, Warwick Castle looked as though it was fun enough for them as well as mum & dad!

Glamping section of the Knights Village

Having looked on the website, we decided to book a Woodland Lodge in the “hotel” Knights Village, located in the grounds of the Warwick Castle Estate. The lodges were semi detached wood lodges consisting of a double bedroom with the usual tea making facilities; a twin bedroom with bunk beds; and en suite shower and toilet facilities. My sons found their bunk beds slightly uncomfortable – possibly because they are designed to accommodate younger children. Being that the lodges were semi detached, I was worried that the walls might be paper thin – but they were totally soundproofed and a peaceful night was had by all.

Our bedroom. Woodland Lodge, Knights Village.

The Medieval Banqueting Hall was the main restaurant where dinner and breakfast was served. A buffet breakfast featuring both continental and cooked traditional food. Breakfast was included in the cost of the lodge – there was plenty on offer. We had also purchased a dinner and “Dragon Slayer” show package – Hot buffet style 3 course dinner with free soft drinks. I had a delicious homemade steak pie but I found the salad starters rather bland and unappetising; and desserts consisted of mini doughnuts with a plethora of toppings or a fresh fruit salad. The children liked the doughnuts, of course! I suppose, in keeping with food in medieval times, it was more focused on hale and hearty meat dishes with an array of delicious seasonal vegetables. I can’t remember if there were any vegetarian/vegan options. If you are an adult, and you are not a fan of drinking water, cola, lemonade, tea or coffee with your dinner – there is a bar where you can purchase wine and beer. Beware, the price for a small glass of wine and a bottle of lager is expensive! We stuck to tea & coffee for the rest of the evening. If you do enjoy a glass of wine in the evening, I would suggest bringing your own tipple to consume on your lodge decking. The Medieval Banquet Hall, of course, was decked out like it would have been in the Middle Ages – long trestle tables, low ceiling, light was from candless dotted around – it was really well done BUT it was August, it was hot outside, there was no ventilation apart from the entrance doors, no air conditioning (of course) so it was stiflingly hot inside, and the restaurant was full of diners. You had to wait to be seated, and I’m glad that we were positioned both days near the doors! It was slightly claustrophobic so we did not linger over our meal.

Medieval Banqueting Hall

We travelled to Warwick in torrential rain, but by the time we arrived mid afternoon the rain had cleared. Check in time is 4pm but when we arrived, just after 2.30pm our lodge had already been cleaned and was ready for arrival, so we were handed our keys. After a quick freshen up & a mug of hot tea we were ready to explore. The castle closing time is 5pm, so we decided to spend the last hour and a half in the castle grounds – we had a whole day pass for the next day too and as the weather forecast was hot and sunny we decided that was the day to spend in and out of the castle itself. Not forgetting the “Dragon Slayer” show later in the evening….

We made our way to the jousting field just in time to catch the final Wars Of The Roses Jousting show. There was adequate seating and standing room on both sides of the field – and an area dedicated to wheelchairs. To be honest, most people were standing and if you were seated on the benches you probably wouldn’t have seen a thing! Each stand represented either the House of York or the House of Lancaster – audience participation in the form of cheering and booing your “knight” was very much encouraged. The horsemanship was brilliant.

Audience Participation
The winner!

After the show, which was more enjoyable than I had imagined we headed over to the Birds of Prey field which overlooked the river. My youngest son likes watching Birds of Prey shows and we have been to many over the years. This was slightly different. As we perched upon the benches, with coffees in polystyrene cups in our hands, we were warned to keep as still as possible. There was a good reason for this because as the show progressed with displays from owls, kestrels, vultures, eagles and other rare birds of prey – not only did they perform in front of us but they expertly glided between the benches and over our heads with only inches to spare. The finale: all the birds swooped in a display literally inches above our heads. It was hard to take a picture!

Archery lessons

Back at the Knights Village, once the castle is closed, entertainment for the family is provided in the riverside field, free of charge – Lessons in archery, learning to be a knight, learning to be a princess and handling birds of prey. These activities are available in the castle grounds, during the day, but at a cost. As you can imagine, the knights and princess lessons were not of interest to my boys – but the classes were packed with excitable 5 and 6 year old boys and girls in long dresses and tiaras, both sexes brandishing foam swords! My sons opted for the archery lessons instead.

Dragon Slayer Show part 1

We didn’t spend too long in the entertainment field as it was time to venture back into the castle for the main Dragon Slayer Show. First half was taking place back in the jousting field, where the Wars of the Roses show had taken place that afternoon. The show is about the brave knight, Guy of Warwick. As legend has it, Guy of Warwick was a 10th-century English hero who travelled the world on a series of daring adventures in order to impress the Earl of Warwick’s daughter – Lady Felice – and win her hand in marriage. Sir Guy’s daring exploits include slaying a dragon, fighting a giant and battling in holy wars. In this part of the show, the legend unravelled using fire eaters, daring deeds on horseback and a lot of audience cheering & even a unicorn ….

It was soon time for Part 2 – the slaying of the dragon, which took place inside the castle walls, in the central courtyard. The castle walls were the screens as in front of our eyes, the dragon came alive, with a spectacular light show with flames that kept the audience absolutely mesmerising. It was the most dramatic light show I have ever seen – absolutely brilliant. There was a lot of standing, approximately 3 hours, but it was absolutely worth it. Unfortunately, I was so mesmerised watching the show that I didn’t take a photo or video. Yes, it was one of those wow moments. There are plenty of videos on YouTube though of the show.

Warwick Castle

Day 2 – Warwick Castle itself. Blazing sunshine and warm temperatures greeted us this morning – just right for visiting Warwick Castle itself. The terrain is pretty hilly – so make sure you’re wearing comfy shoes, trainers or walking boots. There are sweeping pathways suitable for wheelchairs & pushchairs – however, apart from the grounds, the state rooms, main castle cafe, dungeons and ramparts are not. Warwick Castle is a medieval castle developed from a wooden fort, originally built by William the Conqueror during 1068. I loved looking around the Great Hall, State Rooms and Chapel. The Great Hall was first constructed in the 14th century, rebuilt in the 17th century and restored again in 1871 after being badly damaged by fire. various suits of armour line the Hall. The State Rooms are lovingly recreated with wax figures depicting the various centuries. The Queen Anne Bedroom has her actual bed that she died in, in 1774. The 1st Earl of Warwick, Francis Grenville was given Queen Anne’s furniture by King George III, along with some gorgeous Delft tapestries, dating from 1604.

The Castle Dungeon Tour is where the ghoulish history of Warwick Castle comes alive with the help of some talented actors and special effects, including smells. I’m a bit squeamish so I baled out of the tour, relaxing with an ice cream in the castle courtyard instead, whilst my husband and sons merrily explored the depths learning about the days of the Plague to the tale of Moll Bloxham.

If you have a head for heights, and mobile, then climbing up the towers and ramparts is a must. The views from the top are astounding. There is a strict one way system in place as the stairways up to the ramparts are so narrow, so the only way is up! Caesar’s Tower is the tallest tower at the castle, standing at an impressive 44.8m tall. It was built on the orders of Thomas de Beauchamp in the 14th century. The lowest chamber of Caesar’s Tower is the Gaol – the original dungeon. You can still see graffiti from prisoners 100s of years ago on the prison walls.

A big surprise was the beautiful gardens, 64 acres of rolling landscaped gardens with peacocks strutting around. The gardens were transformed in the 1750s, under one of Britain’s greatest landscape gardeners, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. It is believed that Warwick Castle was Brown’s first independent castle commission. There are over 20 peacocks and peahens running around the garden. The Peacock Garden was designed by the Victorian landscape gardener Robert Marnock and consists of topiary peacocks, manicured hedges, pond and fountain.

The Horrible Histories Maze is also in the castle grounds and it is quite fun, whatever your age! Due to uneven flooring, pushchairs and the wearing of high heels are banned – although the maze is wheelchair accessible.

For pinning later

My Verdict

Weather is very important. If the weather is dry then this is a fantastic castle to visit as apart from The State Rooms & Great Hall, everything else takes place in the open air. For an estate of this size, there isn’t a lot of seating but plenty of grassy areas for sitting on the ground. There is a lot of walking, and a lot of standing (especially for the shows) . There is a castle cafe, which we didn’t visit, and plenty of food stands selling everything from pulled pork rolls to ice cream, tea & coffee to soft drinks. There is a lot to do, activity wise, for all the family – some activities have an added cost eg the archery, Dungeon tour, Knight training – but the jousting and birds of prey are included in your castle entrance fee. Young children will adore the knights and princesses; adults will appreciate the castle, gardens and everybody will love the jousting!

Warwick Castle itself 8/10

Knights Village. 4/10


Linda x

All photographs © Linda Hobden


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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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