Category Archives: Music/Entertainment

An Interview With Poet Clare O’Brien

If you enjoy poetry and you had a fondness for David Bowie, then my guest this week, poet Clare O’Brien, may be right up your street! Clare has written a collection of poems inspired by the work of David Bowie, entitled “Who Am I Supposed To Be Driving?” As I am a big David Bowie fan, I was certainly eager to read Clare’s poems and discuss David Bowie and his music with her. Hi Clare and welcome…

Hi! I’m Clare. Originally a Londoner, I now live and write by a sea-loch in Scotland with my husband, my wolfhound and my black cat.  That suits me much better!  My work has most often been described as speculative, neo-noir or modern gothic, but aside from writing, my main interests are history, mythology, art and the natural world.

What was it about the work of David Bowie that gave you the inspiration to write your poetry collection – “Who Am I Supposed To Be Driving?”?

I’d loved his work since I was 14, when I first discovered him through the ‘Ziggy Stardust’ album. Like many others of my generation, I saw him on ‘Top Of The Pops’ and was instantly captivated!  He was also the first artist I saw perform live onstage, and I was never the same again! Since then he’s remained an important part of my imaginative life and I’ve always admired the way he responded to challenges and to change.  He adapted to different times, different tastes and to his own ageing process brilliantly and creatively.  He was never predictable.

Was it difficult to pick a title for your poetry collection?  Why did you choose “Who Am I Supposed To Be Driving?” and were there other title contenders? 

It’s named after a spoken line of Bowie’s in an outtake from my favourite album of his, ‘1. Outside’…the outtakes are available on the internet as ‘The Leon Suites’.  It seemed to reflect the range of different characters and personae he’s adopted throughout his career.  That’s why I dedicated the book to “David Jones – the man behind the wheel”.  I never really considered any other title once I thought of that!

I found your poems fascinating. Your book’s preface states that the poetry collection is not a critique, biography or to explain his music but “an exploration of the emotions the work creates”.  Being a big Bowie fan myself, my favourite song is Heroes – so which album or song or character is your absolute favourite?

It was difficult to choose which albums to write about – I was limited to 13 as the call for submissions at Hedgehog Poetry was for a “baker’s dozen” of poems!  In the end I chose ‘Low’ to represent the Berlin trilogy because it’s a big personal favourite.  As for characters, the spaceman, who keeps coming back in different forms – from Major Tom to Ziggy Stardust to the Spaceboy to the dead astronaut in ‘Blackstar’ – is probably the most resonant character for me. As for songs – again, difficult to choose, but maybe ‘Ashes To Ashes’.  There’s so much packed into it.

Growing up, have you always wanted to be a poet or did you have other career aspirations in mind?

I always wanted to be a writer of some sort, but for a long time I didn’t really have enough to say.  I’ve worked as a teacher, a journalist, and a PR, and dabbled in music – I was in a couple of minor indie bands in the 80s.  But poetry seems to be the form of writing I’m best at!

Although you have had poetry published in several anthologies, this is your first poetry collection.  Was it harder or easier than you expected to compose a collection? Are there any new writing plans in the pipeline?

Actually, once I had a topic, writing the Bowie collection was easier than I thought – the ideas really flowed and I ended up surprising myself with what I had to say about the music.  I’m working now on a bigger collection of poems on other subjects, called “Huginn & Muninn” after Odin’s ravens.  Their names mean “thought” and “memory”.  I’ve also got a novel about half finished – it’s set in the near future, and its working title is “Light Switch”.

Are you a bookworm? What is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book? 

Absolutely!!  I read all kinds of things and don’t have a particular favourite genre, although I enjoy science fiction (especially cyberpunk), historical novels, supernatural stories and folk horror.  My favourite authors are probably Hilary Mantel,  David Mitchell, and Alan Garner, although I recently discovered the work of the Edinburgh writer Jenni Fagan and love her novels and poetry.  Other poets I keep coming back to are Ted Hughes, T.S. Eliot, R.S. Thomas and Michael Symmons Roberts. In non-fiction, I enjoy biographies and books about the natural world. I prefer real books to reading on a Kindle.

Is “Who Am I Supposed To Be Driving?” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes!  You can buy it on Amazon and from lot of other online bookshops.

If you could visit any place in the world to give you inspiration for a new poetry collection or novel, where would you go and why?

Venice, I think.  Before it sinks under the waves!  It’s always seemed mysterious, atmospheric  and unsettling, full of all kind of resonance.  It’s also been the setting for some brilliant films, like ‘Don’t Look Now, ‘Death In Venice’ and  ‘The Comfort Of Strangers’.

Clare with her wolfhound, Hamish

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

I live deep in the country, so it’s often just jeans and sweaters under a waterproof!  When I venture into the city, I like vintage and slightly boho clothes rather then sticking to what’s in fashion.  I love deep reds, greens and browns – autumn colour.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

Nomads is a great site for ethically sourced clothes that are also hardwearing and practical as wel as pretty. I’m also tall – nearly 6ft and a size 18 – so Snag is a great place to get tights (in all the colours and patterns you can imagine) that actually fit!  I also love trawling the charity shops of Edinburgh – have found so many fantastic things there.

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

I’d love a pair of really stylish, sexy knee-high boots with heels!  I rarely get to wear heels at home because I’d sink into the mud, and my everyday boots are sensible flat chunky things.  But boots really make an outfit if you’re heading into the city in winter, especially with shorter skirts under a nice coat.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots for practicality and winter warmth.  But I love a pair of stylish sandals in summer.

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

Author website (where you can order signed copies!)http://clarevobrien.weebly.com/

Buy from publisher: https://www.hedgehogpress.co.uk/product-category/for-sale/hoglets/clare-obrien/

Buy from Amazon: https://amzn.to/3KSS1AN

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ClareOBrien

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/clareobrienwriter

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/insturbances/

Who am I supposed to be driving?  by Clare O’Brien is available now

ISBN: 978 191349 912 9    Paperback     Hedgehog Poetry Press    2022    RRP: £7.99

Available through booksellers, the publisher & clareobrien.weebly.com.

Thank you Clare for a fascinating insight into the music world of David Bowie via poetry. Thank you also for the review copy of “Who Am I Supposed To Be Driving?”….. a oh yes, I agree with you about boots! 😜


Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission from Clare O’Brien.

“Who Am I Supposed To Be Driving?” Book cover was designed by Clare’s son, Edinburgh based illustrator Ruairdhri Wright.

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An Interview With Cliff Beach

My guest this week is the groovy American musician, Cliff Beach, who has just published his book ”Side Hustle & Flow” which chronicles his music career journey as well as giving readers a detailed and realistic approach to how people can run their passion projects alongside the day job. And Cliff certainly knows his stuff – he is a successful musician but his full time day job is actually VP of Digital & Operations with online beauty company, BeautyTap. So, how does he do it all? I caught up with Cliff recently to find out… Hi Cliff, and welcome…

Hi! I am a musician and author based in Los Angeles, CA. I have a 10-piece funk band which performs regularly in Southern California and toured the West Coast this year.

Your book, “Side Hustle & Flow” is a detailed & realistic approach to how you can successfully run your passion projects alongside your day job, as well as providing practical productivity ideas and real-life techniques. What was the initial inspiration for writing this book?

It was my bucket list, pandemic project. Originally the book was titled “From Full to Fulfilled” as I wanted to learn why some people had full lives that were full of busyness, and some had fulfilled lives that were about their business. As it progressed, I realized that I had inadvertently curated my life to be able to work full-time and work on my side hustles full time by becoming very good at goal setting and time-management.

I loved the questions at the end of each chapter – they really helped to frame idea and to sort out priorities – and it made it easier to feel that having a successful side hustle is certainly achievable! What do you feel is the biggest hurdle people face when trying to run their passion/side hustle alongside their day job?

First, many people do not think it is achievable, because they have an all or nothing mindset or have self-limiting beliefs or have never learned how to make and set goals. The biggest hurdle is facing your fears. Fears are triggered by anxiety and stress that set in, and we don’t want to look foolish or fail publicly so we talk ourselves out of it. I am trying to live by a rule “Love the idea for 5 mins” that I learned from Mel Robbins because often in life we kill our own ideas before we even have time to believe it could be possible. If you try, you might, achieve it but if you don’t try, you won’t achieve it.

Were there any aspects of writing “Side Hustle & Flow” that surprised you, either by being harder or easier to write about than you expected?

The writing of at least the first draft moved right along, but it was the ten rounds of editing that almost killed me. I never thought I would hate my own ideas or reading my own words, and now that I have done the audiobook it was torture all over again, but once you have some distance from it, you get graduation goggles on and think ‘it’s not so bad.’ I didn’t know how much I didn’t know about the English language until my editors humbled me in the process. But it did make the book better each time, it is a labor of love.

Your full-time day job is VP of Digital & Operations with online beauty company Beautytap. Do you feel that your side hustles/passions – music, TEDX speaker, Toastmaster, author – have helped you to be productive in your day job too? If so, in which ways?

Yes, I think many firms should think more intrapreneurial. Just today I interviewed a person for a job at our firm and they expressed that outside of their normal work they owned a few Boba tea shops in LA, which was very impressive to me. Without telling me I can understand that for a person to work and have a side hustle and manage not, 1 or 2 but 3 locations, plus other endeavors, that person is a go-getter, that person wants to continually improve, and they can set goals and time manage while dealing with a high level stress. I’d take a person with soft skills and hustle any day over someone who looks good on paper. They used to say the proof is the pudding, but I say the proof is in the output. What your produce matters.

What attracted you to the role of Toastmaster?

I learned Warren Buffet displays no degrees on his wall, only a public speaking certificate. I think people think they speak well but can still improve, while others are afraid to speak in public. Effective communication is what changes someone from good to great and not just at work and career but in interpersonal relationships. In the world of texting and shorthand, people are not using as many words, and we have a more passive than explicit and direct nature when we speak now. In Toastmasters practicing persuasive, humorous, impromptu, and succinct speeches have helped me immensely, by having a warm, supportive environment to practice and a methodology that has evolved over the past 90+ years to be tried and true. 

Music also plays a very big part of your life – having a hit song “Confident”; winner of 2 Global Music Awards and the John Lennon Songwriting Contest Grand Prize; House-band leader for Josh Gates Tonight on Discovery Channel; and host of Deeper Grooves on 88.5FM KCSN; plus, a spell on “American Idol”. So, growing up, did you want to have a career in writing or in music or did you actually have other career aspirations?

When I was young, I wanted to be a chef. I used to love watching cooking shows. I almost became a doctor, but I decided last minute to go to Music Conservatory at Berklee instead. It worked out in the end though I do love to cook, I can’t stand the sight of blood.

Are you a bookworm? What is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book?

I used to read a lot of books, but I am more into audio books and book summaries now. I read mostly self-help. I love Tim Ferris, Tim Robbins, Jim Rohn, Les Brown, Zig Ziglar Brian Tracy and more, but mostly I read Success Magazine, which is all substance and no fluff and over 100+ years old.

 Is “Side Hustle & Flow” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, on Eyewear Publishing, it is available worldwide in hard cover first edition and will soon be available on audio and eventually digital.

Have you got a passion project bucket list of activities you would love to try but haven’t as yet?

Yes, I am working on a lot of music projects at the moment, one more contemporary project, three jazz projects, a soul project and possibly a blues project. I created a legacy document at 30 almost 10 years ago on my first ep info and beyond and now I am looking to plan and plot out the next decade. I said I would make ten albums in 10 years, and I have done almost that in nine so far.

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

Depends on the day sometimes more casual, sometimes dressy but always in my brand/band colors which are red and black. I liked the White Stripes, who wore red and white so I chose red and black. Red is the first color you see, so it makes me stand out in a crowd.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I shop a lot at Ross Stores and Amazon. I am not brand specific, and I do like a bargain. I never go to the mall.

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

You can never have too many hats. I just got a wide brim red fedora, but I’d like a regular brim red fedora as well next purchase.

Boots or Shoes?

Shoes, because boots are too heavy and unlike the song they are not made for walking.

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

Sidehustleandflow.net

Blackspringpressgroup.com

Facebook.com/cliffbeachmusic

Twitter.com/cliffbeachmusic

Instagram.com/cliffbeachmusic

https://Cliffbeachmusic.com

https://Californiasoulmusic.com

Red is one of my favourite colours to wear also – it definitely sends out a powerful message – and the colour suits you too, Cliff 😊

Linda x

Photo Credits: Sheldon Botler. Header photo: Linda Hobden. All photographs published with kind permission of Cliff Beach.

Book cover credit: Image Stricken

Thank you to Cliff Beach & Ben Cameron (Cameron Publicity & Marketing) for the review copy of ”Side Hustle & Flow”. All opinions expressed in this article are 100% my own.

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An Interview With Rosie Wilby

From music journalist to musician performing at Glastonbury; from singer-songwriter to author; my blog guest, comedian and podcaster Rosie Wilby has been wowing audiences with her podcast ”The BreakUp Monologues” and the accompanying book and has toured some major world cities with her solo shows investigating love and relationships. She recently performed at the 2022 Margate Bookie Festival to promote her Break Up Monologues book. I’m so excited to welcome Rosie onto the blog …. hi Rosie!

I’m Rosie Wilby, a comedian and author who has been obsessively investigating the psychology of love for a decade for a trilogy of live shows, two books and a podcast. I’ve conducted surveys asking ‘what counts as cheating?’, participated in a sex lab experiment and even performed comedy at a sex party – all in the name of ‘research’. 

People know you as a comedian &  the podcaster on your podcast The Break Up Monologues; so what inspired the launch of the “The Break Up Monologues” and the accompanying book that has recently been published?

My fascination with breakups all started when I was dumped by email years ago. I did joke at the time that I felt better after correcting my ex-partner’s spelling. Ha! But in reality, of course, being dumped is such a bewildering experience. You lose yourself. So I really wanted to learn more about how heartbreak actually works – and ask other comedians and friends about how they recovered from it. 

You introduced the “The Break Up Monologues” at the recent Margate Bookie Festival; and you have performed solo shows investigating love & relationships with The Science of Sex and The Unconscious Uncoupling around various venues in the UK, New York, Los Angeles, Sydney and Berlin. What do you enjoy most about doing live shows?  Any notable incidents or highlights?

There’s something magical about communicating an idea or joke to a live audience. Although performers were glad of online events during the pandemic, it’s really not quite the same. The Breakup Monologues will be continuing to tour to lots of festivals this Summer. So look out for me and say hi! 

In the late 1990s you were a music journalist for Time Out London, NME and you had your own column “Rosie’s Pop Diary” in the now defunct Making Music Magazine. Interviewing stars such as Beth Orton, Suzanne Vega, Stereophonics (well jel😀) and the band, Muse;  did you interview anyone that made you a bit starstruck? Is there any musician,  alive or dead, you would have loved to interview if you had had the chance?

That all feels like a lifetime ago now. I was so young and naive! I once interviewed kd Lang and that was quite scary. She really is such a legend. 

Music also plays a big part in your life. What or who inspired you to become a singer-songwriter?   

I wrote songs from a very early age and formed my own band when I arrived in London in the 1990s. I think it just seemed like a great way to express myself. Especially for a shy young woman. It was only later in life, I was able to emerge from behind the guitar and do comedy. 

You performed at the Left Field Stage at Glastonbury in 2005. What was it like performing at such a prestigious music festival? What moments have personally stood out for you in your musical career?

Performing at Ronnie Scott’s was probably a bit of a highlight. They had us headline the Sunday night there back in 2000 when my album Precious Hours came out. 

Having performed on stage musically how easy or hard was it to step on stage to do stand up comedy?  What made you take the leap from music into stand up? 

My band broke up around the time my album came out. But I didn’t really enjoy performing solo. What I had noticed, however, was people laughing at my self-deprecating comments between the songs. So I entered a few comedy competitions, including Funny Women in 2006, and found myself getting through to the finals. 

Growing up Rosie, what were your initial career aspirations?  

Initially I wanted to be a cartoonist. I was obsessed with Snoopy and would spend time creating my own characters. 

Are your books, “Is Monogamy Dead?” and “The Break Up Monologues” available to purchase worldwide?

They certainly are. You can find them on most book sites or order from most book shops. I also narrated both of the audio books which you can download worldwide on Audible. 

Are you a bookworm?  If so, do you prefer “actual” books or kindle?  What genre(s) do you enjoy reading? 

I love actual book.

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

I love to be comfortable in jeans and a shirt. 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I like getting clothes from All Saints. 

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

A really warm long winter coat. Although it’s the wrong time of year to be thinking about that I suppose. Ha. 

Boots or Shoes?

Trainers, particularly Vans. Do they count as shoes?? 

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

Check out The Breakup Monologues book at https://linktr.ee/breakupmonologues

Check out the podcast at www.podfollow.com/breakupmonologues 

Check out my news and gig list at http://rosiewilbynews.blogspot.com/

I’m on Twitter @rosiewilby and on Instagram @breakupmonologues and I’d love to hear from people there.

Thanks for the chat Rosie !

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Rosie Wilby.

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Spotlight on Margate Bookie Festival

Oh I do like to be by the seaside …. and I do like to read a good book … and when you put the two together … it’s definitely worth having a look!”

OK, my poetry skills may need polishing but I can’t think of a better place to wallow in everything books, writing and storytelling. From the first tiny audience of 80 people in 2015, the Margate Bookie Festival has grown to 5,000 a year. In 2022, The Margate Bookie Festival will be running from 2nd June to 5th June with a bumper programme of workshops, book launches, author readings, live performances, poetry recitals…. all by the sea! I caught up with CEO & Founder Andreas Loizou to find out more…Hi Andreas!

Hi! I’m Andreas, and I started the Margate Bookie in a single room in a warehouse in 2015. The Bookie’s grown in ways that I never imagined. We now host a four-day day litfest at different venues in Margate, including the iconic Turner Contemporary gallery. Audiences are bigger, more people want to get involved, and I no longer have to explain where Margate is.

What was the inspiration behind the setting up of the Margate Bookie Festival?

I wanted the events that didn’t exist when I was a bookish youngster growing up in the town. It was fun from very the first moment. Everyone told me I had to continue. So I did!

Margate is heaven for writers. Big skies, lots of cafes and bars, long strolls along the huge beaches. We’re lucky that so many want to come down to Margate to talk about their work.

What are going to be the main attractions of the 2022 Margate Bookie?

It’s a big festival this year. Really big. The line-up includes Maggie Gee, Dr Radha Modgil, Daisy Buchanan, Lauren Bravo, Rosie Wilby, Jude Cook and Felicity Hayward. I’m knocked out that Monique Roffey, who won the Costa Book of the Year, is joining us. And we’ve got children’s events, a poetry slam, the launch of our zine, hip hop and workshops. And it all finishes with a special live reading of TS Eliot’s The Waste Land directed by Richard Skinner, who heads up the Faber & Faber Novel Writing Academy.

You are going to be launching your own new book “The Story Is Everything” at the Margate Bookie this year – an enjoyable experience I’m sure it will be – do you get nervous at book launches? What do you think is so special about launching a new book at a book festival?

I split the world into two types of party people – you’re either a host or a guest. I’ve held a party every year since I was eight, so I don’t really suffer from party fears.

Writing a book is a big commitment. The Story is Everything took a year to write and a year to revise and edit. It’s good to mark its appearance in the wider world. There’s something magical about seeing your original ideas printed in a beautiful book. It’s a moment to celebrate, the time to crack open a bottle of champagne as she slides down the slipway…

Apart from being founder of the Margate Bookie and an author, you also teach business storytelling and writing skills at companies and universities around the world. What does that entail?

I’ve taught courses all over the world to many different types of people. NGO workers from Madagascar, bankers in Rome, security chiefs in the shadow of a heavily-guarded oil terminal jutting into the Thames. All of my lovely students want to influence how their readers think, feel and act. They want to feel confident and in control as they write, and proud of what they publish. They smart ones are very clear about what they want to avoid – dull, corporate and boring are all on the shit list!

Have you always wanted a career in the world of literature or did you have other aspirations?

I’ve always wanted to do too many things. I like to be challenged and to learn. I’ve still got a lot more books to write.

What advice would you give to anybody thinking of starting a career in writing?

The more you imagine a single reader, the more your writing connects with many different people.

When I prepare my work, I always visualise the same listener, Clare, sitting in the chair opposite me. She’s a smart person, but not an expert in my subject. She has high standards when it comes to grammar, logic and presentation, but she’s also supportive and forgives my mistakes. If I keep Clare in her chair just through my words, I know I’m on the right track.

Think more about the writing than the career.

Personal now, what outfits/footwear would you normally wear at the Margate Bookie? Any “lucky socks”??

The Bookie is normally held during warm months, so there’s no chance for me to wear my lucky writing cardigan. Looking through the photos of the last seven years, it’s clear that red Campers and old Paul Smith workshirts have been staples.

Boots Or Shoes?

Got to be shoes. I cover a lot of ground during the litfest!

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

www.margatebookie.com
@margatebookie on TW, FB and Insta

Photographs by Ben and published with kind permission. Header/Pinterest photo by Linda Hobden

Linda x

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Interview: Brit Punk Artist Mark Sloper

My guest on the blog this week is Brit Punk Artist, Mark Sloper, whose artwork is collected by celebrities such as Sir Elton John, Sting, Boy George and Sex Pistol drummer Paul Cook, to name but a few. Probably most famous for his image of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II with blue hair, nose ring and tattoo; Mark’s new collection is based on antique flags of the world that played a part in military history. The new launch has been dedicated to the people of Ukraine facing the horrors of war with a warning that history can so easily repeat itself. I caught up with Mark to find out about his new art collection and about his love with punk too…. Hi Mark!

I’m Mark, illuminati, I’m a punk artist that uses fine art techniques. I like to use neon to finish my pieces. I’m Cornish by birth, from a long line of artists, I’m now based in Shepherds Bush, where the almighty Sex Pistols hail from.

After a career as a cameraman, director of photography for bands, documentary maker; what inspired you to become a Brit Punk artist at the age of 45?

I was always good at art – I went to art school in Sheffield, but having grown up skint in a council house, I thought that art would continue my life of nothingness, so I did extra studies in TV and fell into the BBC in my 20s and never really left. When I got to my 40s, I thought is that it?? So I learnt to fly a helicopter and took up art seriously overnight. I overload everything!

You celebrate the punk era & lifestyle  – what is it about punk that inspires you?

I got into punk at 12 years old and ran away from home with the then punk band Adam and the Ants. I still wear Westwood clothes, still see bands live and have never changed. I still have a questioning punk attitude which many find aggressive, but we grew up angry. I’ve had to kick down a lot of doors to keep a roof over my head

Your latest art collection is based on antique flags of the world that played a part in military history. What is the history and inspiration behind this collection?

I didn’t have parents as a kid, my grandad dragged me up. He incessantly rattled on about the war, jumping out of planes and killing the enemy with his bare hands. He was a champion bare knuckle prize fighter and a huge bear of a man. He would get out all his flags on royal occasions and the damp smell and raggedy feel of them has stayed with me. In my new flag collection, I’ve sourced flags from the Dunkirk rescue, French partisan freedom fighter flags, Italian fascist flags, WW1 German trench flags and some Victorian suffragettes flags. A whole load of history brought back to life.

You are probably most famous for the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II with a nose ring, blue hair and a tattoo! But do you have a particular favourite image that you have created?

I love “queen in residence”. I have one at home, they’re really special 1900s royal palace flags that are up when queenie is at home.

Your paintings are collected by many famous celebrities, and I am sure you have met many famous celebrities through your work as a cameraman, band photographer and documentary maker. Have you ever been starstruck or in awe of a celebrity?  If so, who?

Frank Sinatra. I spent a week backstage with him at the Albert Hall. He said I was a stupid punk and over the week tried to change me into a worldly gentleman. Didn’t work!


Do you paint in situ or do you take photos and illustrate from there?

Everything is from my imagination.

There are obviously topics that you can paint very well but is there anything that you find really difficult to depict?

Nope, there’s a technique to cover all aspects of art, however, you won’t find me painting animals, landscapes or the flipping sea!

Mark with Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook

Have you always wanted to be an artist or did your career aspirations lay elsewhere?

Its always been in the back of my mind, but you need a lifetime of experience to get out what’s in your head, to translate it into art.

When you are not painting, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I love Soho, I love good restaurants and great wines. I’m lucky to have a beach shack in Spain so you’ll find me there a lot. I’m a mad keen biker so I love tearing around on my Triumph.

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

I’m head to toe in Vivienne Westwood and have been since I was 12! I also wear Lewis Leathers jackets and for special occasions I wear bespoke Mark Powell suits – he calls me the punk soho mp

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Yes, Mark Powell on Carnaby St, and Lewis Leathers on Goodge Street.

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

Anything from Westwood new collections, the clothes fit me perfectly and make me look smart.

Boots or Shoes?

Always boots, just bought a third pair of Grensons, really comfy and hardwearing. Everything I own doesn’t last long as it gets covered in paint.

For Pinning Later

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

@mark_illuminati.  Insta

Brill to talk to you Mark – my personal favourite is the Sid Vicious painting ( the one I used as the Pinterest photo). 😊

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Mark Sloper.



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An Interview With Ace of Skunk Anansie

Design-led streetwear meets rock music this week on the blog as my guest is the uber talented Ace, guitarist with the UK rock band Skunk Anansie , who has just designed and launched his ”Muzzled” range of eco friendly streetwear on the new ethical marketplace, Beyond Bamboo. Hi Ace and welcome….

Hi! My name is Ace, I am the original founder member of Skunk Anansie, playing guitar and song writing for the past 28 years. I’m also an educator, author and entrepreneur. I have a love of illustration and graphic design, and a history of working with merchandising. 

People know you as Ace, the guitarist with UK rock band Skunk Anansie; so what inspired the launch of “Muzzled”, your new range of streetwear?

I was inspired by the fact that I’ve already been running the Skunk Anansie merchandising for the last 15 years, and I studied graphic design and art college when I was young, so decided to bring out my own brand that would display my own creativity and voice for fun. 

Music and graphic designing has shaped your working life, but did you have other career plans whilst growing up? 

From the attending of my first concert at the age 12, I acquired a strong and persistent desire to become a rock musician! I had no other career plans apart from wanting to go to art college and do art. I actually ended up doing graphic design at college and working in an art studio until I gave that up to become a professional musician. 

I’m interested in your brand name – Muzzled – why did you specifically pick that name? Were there any other contenders?

The name really came about from a conversation with one of my road crew when I was on tour thinking about a cool T-shirt brand… I can’t really remember the concept to be honest it just popped up out of the conversation! Then it was just about Googling it and seeing if it was already used. 

I love the Muzzled skull & serpents tee –  what items from your collection are proving most popular amongst your customers?

The Skull and serpents is based on my re-drawing interpretation of an old 14th century would cut that just seemed to catch my eye, as I am really into mediaeval history and iconography. Other popular T-shirts seem to be, the Swallow,  Sk8ter Dumbskull, Dead on Time and Tree of Knowledge

Do you have a favourite item from your collection? 

I think the one that I presently wear the most is probably ‘Dead on Time, but my favourite always changes when I release a new one!

Your range is available via the new ethical marketplace, Beyond Bamboo.  What are your reasons that you picked Beyond Bamboo to launch your collection?  Are the products available worldwide? 

I chose Beyond Bamboo for a couple reasons: 1. My whole brand is ethically sourced and climate friendly, and 2. it is because of the people behind it, their reasons and their morals and ethics. 

Music also plays a big part in your life. What or who inspired you to take up playing the guitar? 

At the age of 12, I went to a Motorhead concert with my big brother. As soon as the show ended, I just decided that that was my direction in life. The Next step was to make it a reality and go out and buy a guitar and teach myself!

There have been many memorable musical moments – Skunk Anansie has headlined at Glastonbury; toured with bands such as U2, Bon Jovi, Rammstein, Muse, Lenny Kravitz … as well as selling over 6 million physical LPs.   What moments have personally stood out for you in your musical career with Skunk Anansie?

There are so many, and we are still lucky enough to be making more! Milestone moments probably include playing for Nelson Mandela for his gift to Nation concerts, playing for the Dalai Lama for his charity concert, headlining Glastonbury, and more recently headlining Polish Woodstock to 700,000 people!  

I hear that in your “spare” time you are Global Change Ambassador for Roundtable Global Charity and Ambassador for The Music For All Charity.  Busy man!  What do those roles entail?

This basically sees me being involved with the Global Youth Awards. From actually presenting at the awards to working behind the scenes and arranging acts and artists to play, as well as volunteers to work there. 

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

Currently, I’m just getting into a new brand called No Fixed Abode London which was founded by a lady called Emma Man who found herself homeless many years ago and brought herself out of it to create this brand. I also wear my Muzzled T-shirts all the time… Ha, ha, and you’ll probably see me lounging out in Skunk Anansie Hoodies too.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites? (Apart from your own)

I tend to just go with how I’m feeling, what catches my eye and most of the time recommendations from other people. I’m not sure if I have a particular favourite, apart from No Fixed Abode (NFA) at the moment. 

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

Some shoes for the tour from NFA. 

Boots or Shoes?

I like both to be honest, but I tend to like hi top sneaker boots as they’re great to jump around in on stage, and leather boots as they are hardy against the cold! 

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Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about Muzzled, Beyond Bamboo and Skunk Anansie 

https://beyondbamboo.life/collections/vendors?q=Muzzled%20Streetwear

@officialskunkanansie

Thanks Ace for the chat ! Love your artwork, tees and music!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with the kind permission of Ace/Skunk Anansie.

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An Interview With Jessica Bell

My guest this week is the multi-talented Jessica Bell : she is author of the fantastic dystopian novel “How Icasia Bloom Touched Happiness”; a poet with 3 poetry collections under her belt; a writing/publishing coach; graphic designer; voice over actor; daughter of iconic Australian indie rock legends; singer-songwriter; and singer with the ambient electronica band ”Keep Shelly” (where she is known as the ballsy alter -ego Bruno). Phew! How does she do it all?! First, let me tell you about her book, ”How Icasia Bloom Touched Happiness” …..

MY BOOK REVIEW

I was sent a copy of the “How Icasia Bloom Touched Happiness” book by Ben Cameron of Cameron Publicity & Marketing for reviewing and are my views are entirely my own. “How Icasia Bloom Touched Happiness” is written by Jessica Bell.

Let me admit from the start – I’m a thriller fan that also likes to read the odd historical novel, travelogue and classic literature. So, when Ben approached me with this book, a dystopian genre offering, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I’m glad I welcomed the book with open arms though, as the story kept me riveted from the very beginning to the very last word. The story is set in a near -future world that is ruled by happiness and the pursuit of happiness is everybody’s goal in life – without happiness you are doomed to die young; with happiness you are granted immortality. But finding real happiness isn’t easy especially when time is running out. Selma Beyett runs the new local bakery, and her husband, Jerome, must die in six months unless he finds perpetual happiness. He has a loving family, a job he adores … so why can’t he find happiness. Icasia, a misfit and ”tatter” doomed to die young for the crime of her child’s unhappiness. Icasia gets food for herself and her son by bartering, and when she walks into Selma’s bakery to barter new customers for food, Selma and Icasia strike up on an unexpected friendship. In a desperate effort to save Jerome from death, the two ladies go on a profound search for happiness and what they discover leads to some questions about what we take for granted and what happiness really is. Very thought provoking, highly entertaining and a great read. Loved it. 9/10

THE INTERVIEW

I’m so pleased to be able to welcome Jessica onto the blog! Hi Jessica!

Hello 😊I am Jessica Bell and I’m an author, designer, singer/songwriter and publisher and I work from a little corner in my loungeroom. I’m also a mother of a two-year-old boy named Madoc Maximus, whose first spoken phrase was ‘half a moon,’ and who once claimed the renovation banging next door, was ‘the heartbeat of building’.

“How Icasia Bloom Touched Happiness” is set in a near-future society ruled by happiness. Where did you draw the inspiration to write this futuristic novel? 

I was watching The Giver. And I wondered what would happen in these kinds of stories if the characters didn’t fight against these totalitarian societies, but instead learned to live happily within them, and of course, whether that would make an interesting story. Would these dystopias potentially become utopias, or a mix of the two? And how/why?

I loved the variety of characters – Who were the hardest characters to portray? Who were the easiest?

I love getting inside the heads of my characters, so I wouldn’t say any were particularly hard or easy. I did very much enjoy writing Jerome’s character, though, I think because I love the challenge of writing a person who is totally different from myself. I think I most enjoyed the very first time he attended DeathCare Therapy. I also loved writing the secondary character of Phyvwonoh, the therapist that behaves a little like AI … but perhaps isn’t!

I loved the main character Icasia Bloom –  and I did have a soft spot for Selma’s husband, Jerome, too. Do you have favourite characters?

Jerome is a clear favourite. But since the antagonist of this story is actually the Globe and not one particular person, I pretty much fell in love with all them for one reason or another.

You have, so far, written, a memoir, 5 novels, 3 poetry collections and a “Writing In A Nutshell” series and a variety of publications. Were there any aspects of writing “How Icasia Bloom Touched Happiness” that surprised you, either by being harder or easier to write about than you expected? 

This is the first book that has ever started with a clear outline and chapter summaries. I usually write by the seat of my pants, but this book needed clear organization. When reading the final product, the world doesn’t actually seem very complicated, but in order for everything to make sense, and slot together, a lot of backstory needed to be written that actually didn’t need to end up in the book. It was very hard for me to cut it all out! I’m going to provide access to all that backstory to subscribers of my newsletter soon.

 If “How Icasia Bloom Touched Happiness” was to become a TV film, who would you pick to represent the main characters eg Icasia Bloom, Selma Beyett, Jerome and Leila?

Oh gosh, I never do this. I always create a unique picture in my head. Okay, after a bit of Googling, I’d say the following:

Icasia: Claire Foy

Selma: Nicole Kidman

Jerome: Matthew McConaughey or Colin Farrell

Leila: Sophia Lillis

Music also plays a big part of your life – being the daughter of iconic Australian indie rock legends as well as being a singer/songwriter and singer in the ambient electronica band “Keep Shelly”. Have you always wanted to have a career in writing or in music or did you actually have other career aspirations?

I wanted to become a dancer as a pre-tween. I would make up my own choreography in my bedroom to artists like Madonna, Prince, MC Hammer and Technotronic! As a teen, I wanted to become a rock star. That dream has never left me. I still want to become a rock star! But I guess I’m getting on a bit now, so I’ve accepted my fate. As a young adult I aspired to become an archaeologist, so I started out at university studying archaeology. But I was terrible at maths and continued to fail the research methods modules, and therefore quit. I then asked myself, what do I already know how to do? (I was a lazy young adult!) and decided that I already knew how to speak English, so signed up for a Bachelor of Arts, with a major in English. Ha!

Are you a bookworm? What is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book?

The last two years since having my son have been difficult to find time to read, but before that, oh yes. I devoured around one book a week. I’m open to any genre if the writing hooks me. I do especially love speculative fiction, especially Margaret Atwood’s. Also a big fan of Marilynne Robinson, Rebecca Miller, Roz Morris, Jeanette Winterson, and Magdalena Ball.

 Is “How Icasia Bloom Touched Happiness”  availableto purchase worldwide?

Yes!

If you could travel to any place on Earth to get inspiration for your next novel, where would you go and why?

I will most likely be diving into the sequel to my memoir ‘GO: A Memoir About Binge-drinking, Self-hatred, and Finding Happiness’. The sequel is tentatively entitled, ‘STAY: A Memoir about Self-love, Changing Your Life, and Living Your Dream’. So, the place I would ‘travel’ to again, is the STAGE. I’ve really missed performing live since the pandemic.

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

Pre-mother/pandemic days:

Outfit one: ripped black faded jeans, a band t-shirt and a black pair of laced ankle boots from Camper (flat no heels).

Outfit two: Bright coloured leggings, and a body-fitted casual black mini dress, and black converse sneakers.

Post-mother/pandemic days: Barefoot, viscose lounge wear from Oysho!

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Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Love Oysho for me, and Mori Baby for my son.

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

To be honest, to fit back into my performance outfits! I haven’t been able to get back to my skinny self since having a baby. My favourite is a pair of black sequined fitted pants and an apricot-coloured semi-see-through tank. Yes, I wear a lot of black.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots! More rock ‘n’ roll.

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

Best I just share my portfolio site iamjessicabell.com where you can access all the different facets of me and all my socials. 😊

Fabulous chatting to you Jessica! I love your style of writing and you’ve probably converted me to including some dystopian genre books to my reading list! Thanks also to Ben Cameron of Cameron Publicity & Marketing for sending me a copy of ”How Icasia Bloom Touched Happiness” to review.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with the kind permission of Jessica Bell.

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An Interview With Author Martin Gore

British theatregoers relish the theatre all year round but at Christmas time, nothing can beat the lure of a traditional pantomime and at the height of summer, the seaside revues. The Cromer Pier Show is an iconic piece of British theatre that is of the standard of a London West End production. Author Martin Gore set himself a real challenge – a work of fiction set in a real place, namely Cromer Pier. Having written, to date, 9 pantomimes, 3 plays (and 3 novels), as well as dabbling in Amateur Dramatics himself, I believe Martin is possibly well placed to write such a book. And what a lovely, feel good read it is too! This book has it all : a goody, a baddy, a misunderstood, a love interest, a starlet, a has been and a hero. The ideal book to curl up and read during the Winter before planning your road trip to Cromer, of course. I caught up with author Martin to find out about the lure of Cromer …. Welcome Martin….

Hello, I’m Martin. I’m a 64 year old Accountant who semi-retired in 2015 to explore my love of creative writing. In my career I held Board level jobs for over twenty five years, in private, public and third sector organisations. I was born in Coventry, a city then dominated by the car industry and high volume manufacturing, but when I was nine years old I told my long suffering mother that as I liked English composition and drama I was going to be a playwright. She told me that I should work hard at school and get a proper job. She was right of course.

I started as an Office Junior at Jaguar in 1973 at eleven pounds sixty four a week. I thus grew up in the strike torn, class divided seventies. My first career ended in 2015, when I semi retired as Director of Corporate services at Humberside Probation. My second career, as a Non Executive Director, is great as it has allowed me free time to travel and indulge my passion for writing, both in novels and for theatre.

The opportunity to rekindle my interest in writing came in 2009, when I wrote my first pantomime, Cinderella, for my home group, the Walkington Pantomime Players. I have now written nine. I love theatre, particularly musical theatre, and completed the Hull Truck Theatre Playwrite course in 2010. My first play, a comedy called He’s Behind You, is now available on:

https://www.silverbirchingtonplays.com/product-page/he-s-behind-you-by-martin-gore

Pen Pals was my first novel, but the two that followed, The Road to Cromer Pier, and the newly published sequel, The Road from Cromer Pier, are based on family holidays as a boy, including trips to the end of the pier show, known then as the Summertime Special Show.

I’m an old fashioned writer I guess. I want you to laugh and to cry. I want you to believe in my characters, and feel that my stories have a beginning, a middle, and a satisfactory ending.

The Road From Cromer Pier” is the follow up book to your previous novel, “The Road To Cromer Pier” – although it can be a stand alone book –  the story is set in 2019 in Cromer.  How difficult was it to write a work of fiction based around and about a real place? 

Very difficult, for a number of reasons. When I approached the theatre in 2017 they kindly invited me to a meeting to discuss the current show, and I discovered that far from being an archaic piece of British theatre it was, in point of fact, a West End standard show. This in itself required a pretty fundamental rewrite as I needed to do justice to the show and its cast. Another practical difficulty were names. To inadvertently portray a person with the same name as a baddie was one of my biggest fears, so I went for relatively obscure names, and googled them first. On the other hand, readers who love Cromer love the story too, so being set in a real place does have an upside. Some places are renamed too – in particular you won’t find a Majestic Hotel in Cromer!

What was it particularly about Cromer Pier, Cromer and its Theatre that inspired you to write your novels?

My father was from Norwich, and we lived in Coventry, about as far from the seaside as you could get! So, for a seaside holiday Cromer was an inevitable choice, given his love of fish & chips and Cromer crabs. We stayed in several different holiday flats, included Mrs Rippingales on the sea front, called Bloomingdales bed and breakfast in the first book. As I grew older I came to love musical theatre as my father did. I’ve been involved in the Amdram world for sometime as a writer, sound technician and actor, so writing what started out as a play about the end of the pier show seemed interesting. I liked the idea of someone suddenly faced with a life changing disaster running away to a place where life was so much simpler, the safe haven of his childhood holidays.

I loved the variety of characters – are the characters based on observations of people you’ve come across in the past and incidents you’ve experienced ?  Who were the hardest characters to portray?

Having spent a good deal of my career in financially troubled companies I guess Tom Stanley is a bit autobiographical, so the business stuff in the book has a basis in first hand experience. Portraying his feelings for his wife in bereavement was very difficult of course, but comments I received suggest I pulled it off. As a male writer, writing female characters is inevitably challenging. The second book deals with stage fright and domestic abuse, so I researched those topics very carefully to make sure that the story line was credible. 

I had a soft spot for the widowed turnaround expert Tom and for Janet, Karen’s mother. Do you have favourite characters? 

Lech Wojiek is probably my favourite, as he makes a journey from hapless magician who could barely speak English at the start of the first book to successful mainstay of the show in the second. Lauren’s developing relationship with Cyril in the first book, in particular when he turned up at the railway station and talked her out of leaving, is probably my favourite moment, and it was the lack of Cyril’s back story that gave me the idea for the sequel, which I never intended there to be.

You have, so far, written 9 pantomimes, 3 plays and 3 novels. Were there any aspects of writing your Cromer Pier book series that surprised you, either by being harder or easier to write about than you expected?

To be honest I’m most surprised that I’ve written three full length novels at all! I’m delighted that they have been well rated on Amazon, and earned the lovely comments people have made about them. I learned a good deal through my first novel, and the work of my editor, Alice Bayton, who ruthlessly culled my tendency for repetition. I guess that commencing my writing journey with pantomime was a good way to start, given that you start with the framework in place. The most difficult pantomime to write was Beauty and the Beast, because there is no natural comedy in the story, but it’s still my favourite. Hearing people laugh at what you write is simply wonderful. My biggest frustration is that I haven’t managed to get the play version of the first Cromer Pier book performed, but I haven’t given up yet!  

If “Cromer Pier” was to become a TV film, who would you pick to represent the main characters eg Tom,Karen, Lionel, Cyril  ? What about the singers, Hannah & Amy?

Well obviously, they’d need to be Britain’s greatest! Emma Thompson as Janet? Bill Nighy as Cyril? Jim Broadbent as Lionel? Lily James as Amy? Colin Firth as Tom? Kate Beckinsale as Karen? Kate Winslet as Hannah? Well, I can dream!  

Have you always wanted to have a career in writing or did you have other aspirations? 

Only as a nine-year-old, then the reality of earning a living and raising a family took over, and I don’t regret that. As a council house kid who made it from Office Junior to Director, I’m committed to building aspirations and life chances of our young people, and launched the ‘Song for Hull’ project as part of HullCity of Culture, linking schools with NHS careers via a rock concert experience. The last one featured 400 kids and an audience of 1100 at Hull’s Bonus Arena.

Are you a  bookworm? What is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book? 

No, I’m not really. I tend to read more biographies to be honest, on ebook. When I read fiction, I tend to go to Hailey, De Mille and Goddard, but my wife is trying to broaden my horizons. My writing is rather Archer like by way of genre; family sagas with lots of interwoven story lines.

Is “The Road from Cromer Pier”  available to purchase worldwide?

Yes indeed, via the mighty Amazon.

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

Smart casual is a far as I go really, even for Teams meetings in my Non-Executive board meetings. I haven’t worn a suit in two years, and I don’t like formal wear like DJ’s. I do have a couple of formal pairs of shoes, one brown and one black, but I mainly wear casual now.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I wear a lot of Crew, but I do like shopping, unusually for a bloke. I like independent shops, and Jarroldsin Norwich and Cromer have stocked my books when others will only accept orders. I like to support the smaller guys whenever I can.

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

To be honest I daren’t buy any trousers as I’ve put on some lockdown weight and won’t admit it! My golf shoes are pretty near worn out, so my trusty Echo’s need replacing. I have big size eleven feet with a wide fitting!

Boots or Shoes? 

I only have walking boots, so casual shoes are all I need now.

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

www.martingore.co.uk / @authorgore on twitter / Martin Gore on facebook / instagram

Fabulous chatting to you Martin! Thank you for the copy of The Road From Cromer Pier for reviewing.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Martin Gore.

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Spotlight on NABAS

Party season is fast approaching and if you are looking to decorate your party room with balloons and other event accessories then who better to give advice than NABAS – The Balloon And Party Professionals Association – the only registered trade association for the balloon and party industry in the UK. I caught up with current chairman, George Oustayiannis… hello George and welcome…

Hello! I’m George Oustayiannis and the current Chairman of NABAS, and Director at GO International, the UK’s leading importer and wholesaler for everything party!

What is the story behind setting up of NABAS?

NABAS was set up almost 35 years ago (2022 will be our 35th Anniversary). All the leading manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers and decorators came together to form a non-profit association, run for the members, for the members, with a number of benefits. It was created to be a voice for the industry.

What would you say are the pros of hiring, say a balloon professional that is a registered member of NABAS?

 Without doubt, the knowledge that a NABAS member is insured, and that they have a network of over 650 members willing and able to help and support them.

What perks does being a NABAS member offer a balloon and party specialist?

The ability to network with your peers, as well as having access to leading manufacturers, wholesalers and balloon decorators. We also have dedicated team of NABAS approved instructors, as well as the most comprehensive insurance on the market.

Apart from being Chairman of NABAS, what specialist balloon & party profession are you in?

I’m also on the Board of Directors for The Impact Group – an invitation only organisation of the UK’s leading wholesalers.

Have you always wanted a career in the balloon/party professional spectrum or did you have other aspirations?

As the eldest son of a very traditional Greek family, I had two choices. I could be a lawyer or a doctor.  But if I wasn’t that bright, they’d settle for accountant. I actually started in law, and became a city broker, and was the youngest divisional director for one of the city’s leading firms. But my wife decided I didn’t want to be a broker anymore! I’m afraid I took away my parents “Church Bragging Rights” with the “What does you son do for a living?” question.

What advice would you give to anybody thinking of starting up as a balloon and party  professional?

Join NABAS! The wealth of knowledge and support is unparalleled.


Personal now, what outfits/footwear would you normally wear when in “party mode”?

As casual as the host allows. I spent far too many of my earlier years in a suit and tie. I try and avoid fancy dress, and only ever looked remotely acceptable as Batman, because I could hide my true identity behind a mask!

Boots Or Shoes?

Shoes, as a Piscean, I hate any kind of footwear and  can’t wait to go barefoot! Shoes are so much easier to kick off, or quickly put on when need be!

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

www.nabas.co.uk  

www.gointernational.co.uk 

Thank you George for chatting to us today. Let’s hope the parties can go ahead as safely and as healthy as possible this year!

Linda x

All photographs (apart from the Pinterest and header pic ) have been published with kind permission of NABAS.

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An Interview With Author Shaun Hand

During lockdown I read a book that was sent to me to review by book publicity agent Ben Cameron – a book which made me laugh, cry and pine for a night down at my local pub to “people watch”! This book was called “The Sadness of The King George “ by author & musician, Shaun Hand. It was a book that was laugh out loud funny; the characters were absolutely believable; and, as it says in the book blurb, “unflinchingly honest”. The story is set in a local, rundown pub “The King George” in the West Midlands – an old style pub that has sticky carpets and tables, soggy bar towels, regular customers who sit or stand in the same places exchanging the same words of wisdom; the Saturday night aggro; run by the pub landlord, the Gaffer, who no one sees; the mouthy barmaid, Siobahn, who runs the place like clockwork although no one really appreciates her; the pompous barman; the young 20 year old barman who wonders if there is more to life than pulling pints, pondering over love and looking forward to the next fag break; and Amy, the new young barmaid – full of hope and object of desire. Written from the viewpoint of the 20 year old barman as he tries to find his way through life especially when it comes to love, work and being cool. So, it was with great pleasure that I was able to catch up with the author Shaun … Hi Shaun & welcome…

Hello, I’m Shaun Hand. A life-sized writer, musician, charity shopper, and amateur gardener from Birmingham (the UK one).

“The Sadness of the King George” is a refreshing modern tale of life from the old pub – a young 20 year old unconfident lad who serves the locals, the confident barmaid, the landlord, the characters who frequent the local on a daily basis –   What made you decide to write “The Sadness of The King George”?

Thanks! I wanted to write it ‘cos that’s the world I lived in from the time I was 18 to 35, pretty much half my life! It’s a world that’s dying as the 21st century establishes itself, and so I wanted to capture it realistically, good and bad.

The book characters are all absolutely believable and probably found in most pubs in the UK – as you worked in pubs and bars in your twenties too, were your characters based on observations of people you’ve come across in the past and incidents you’ve experienced ? Who were the hardest characters to portray?

Totally — although some were exaggerated or embellished for effect. The hardest one to portray was probably the narrator because although he was partly based on me at 20, he was also based on about four other people, and so I had to be careful sometimes not to just make him do or think what I would do in real life.

Copyright © LindaHobden

Your first book was “Pop Art Poems: The Music Of The Jam”  – vastly different genre to “The Sadness Of The King George”. Were there any aspects of writing your book that surprised you, either by being harder or easier to write about than you expected? 

It was the first time I’d ever written a long-form piece of fiction, and I think the biggest, most pleasant surprise for me was a point pretty early on where one of the characters started telling me what they should say and where the story should go rather than the other way round — I realised that they’d come to life and that it was becoming more of a novel than an idea.

Hypothetically speaking, if you could go anywhere in the world to get inspiration for another book, where would you go and why? 

I don’t think I’d need to go anywhere specific, really. I tend to write about smalltown, suburban England, so maybe somewhere to escape that! I’ve got a romantic notion of going off to a B&B in Llandudno or somewhere for a week and just writing.

Have you always wanted to have a career in writing or did you have other aspirations? 

I always wanted to be a professional musician, but having tasted the reality of the work involved to barely make ends meet (leaving your family for months on end to go touring etc)and some of the darker side of it, I think I’m happier and more fulfilled being a writer who does books, music, poetry, whatever takes my fancy. Right now, that feels more liberating to me than any amount of distance I could travel to play to four people for no money (or even no people for four money).

Copyright © LindaHobden

Are you a bookworm? What is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book? 

I am, and I read more and more avidly as I get older, but I don’t have a favourite genre. I love anything with a good story and vivid characters, but then I also love a good music or author biography (I’ve just finished Billy Bragg’s book about skiffle, which was brilliant). The only author I’ve read everything by (even the bad stuff) is George Orwell. My wife put me on to Sarah Waters, and I’ve really got into her; Fingersmith is a brilliant book. Also slowly working my way through David Bowie’s 100 Favourite Books list, although some of it’s a little too dry for me.

And books, absolutely, every time. I can’t walk past a charity shop without having a nose. Kindles just don’t have that magic, or the smell.

 Is “The Sadness Of The King George ” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes. You can either line Jeff’s Bezos’ pockets or contact your local indie bookseller. It’s orderable through Waterstones too.

You are also a musician with your band FABRIK – what instrument do you play? What music genre?

My main instrument is the guitar, but I also play piano and bass and make drum loops for us to write songs over. We’re pretty trip-hoppy but a bit weirder. If you like stuff like Portisheadand Massive Attack, then we’re probably your kind of thing.

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

I flit between two extremes: trackies and trainers if I’m round the house, just nipping out, or just want to be comfortable. If I’m going out, DJing, gigging, or just want to look good, then it’s a suit with some nice loafers or these black-and-white 1920s-style shoes I got from one of those “4 shiny suits for £10” kind of shops years back.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

For clothes? Probably H&M. I live in Wolverhampton and everywhere else decent has shut down. Increasingly, I’m getting stuff from charity shops; I don’t like buying clothes online really.

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

I’ve got me brother-in-law’s wedding coming up, and I’d really like to get a decent dark blue, fitted double-breasted suit for it, but I can’t find one that wouldn’t make me look like an early ‘90s Tory MP. Beyond that, I’ve got a few suit jackets from charity shops that need taking in.

Shoe-wise, I’d love some decent brogues and could do with some boots — trainers with jeans limits the kind of top you can carry off, and loafers with jeans can be dangerous territory. I need some new wellies too for me gardening.

 Boots or Shoes? ( & Why?)

Shoes because I like wearing brightly coloured socks (teddy-boy style, not ones with novelty patterns).

For Pinning Later

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

Buy book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sadness-King-George-Shaun-Hand/dp/1916084575/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Instagram: @shaunpatrickhand

Twitter: @shaunhandauthor

FABRIK: https://www.fabriktheband.co.uk/

Thanks very much for the nostalgia trip – I really enjoyed the book and the customer antics! Thank you Ben Cameron for sending me the book to read and review in the first place.

Linda x

The photographs of Shaun have been published with kind permission of Shaun Hand; the other photographs were taken by LindaHobden.

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