Thursday, 22 October 2015

When Alice DJ'ed at Wonderland...

The other weekend, I was transported into a fabulous adaptation of 'Alice in Wonderland' at the Solstice, Peterborough, to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the novel. I was honoured to be asked to curate a series of tracks to set the mood throughout the daytime and night time activities. 'Wonderland' was a collaboration of over 20 artists, including the nationally toured 'Circa69' and their virtual reality experience, 'The Cube', as well as live painters, acoustic artists, dancers, bands and spoken word performers. Local musican, Paulo Morena was also one of my highlights, he entertained everyone by playing several instruments at once, and I thoroughly enjoyed some of the other acoustic performances throughout the day. In addition, we were fortunate enough to be treated to some visual delights at a 'Mad Hatters BBQ' installation, curated by some very talented artistic interns as a part of the local youth arts network, 'Emerge', and my friend and professional actor, Ross O'Dell. And who did I go as? Alice, of course!

The Emerge installation was a key point for me, as I have been working with them in my day job in our city centre incubator centre. We recruit three artists on a paid contract every 6 months as a part of the 'Peterborough Presents...' Arts Council funded programme, where my role is to then support them to work in an established arts placement relevant to their practice (usually outside of the city in bigger cities, like London). We also deliver a bespoke business training programme to them, to assist them on their journey towards becoming sustainable artists. Generally they can be from any artistic background, but this time we've recruited three visual artists, so they were all put to the task of creating some impressive displays!

Musically, this was a real challenge for me, because using new styles of music that I am not used to means that learning how to work with it and create something can be hard to master straight away. A few months ago I encountered a similar experience when I was asked to DJ a 1920's Gatsby party. To be honest, initially I had no clue how to do this, as as great as 1920's style music is, I didn't think it would get this particular crowd onto the dancefloor. I used this as an opportunity to learn and open my eyes to new types of music that would work. Electro swing anyone?

For this particular request I decided to create several mixes to fit the ambience and theme of the day, ranging from trip hop, to electronica, tech house and glitch house music. Check out one of those mixes below!

Overall I think the organiser, Nucleus Events did a fantastic job and it was amazing to see a local event that had more to it than just the usual run of the mill activity produced by the 'Peterborough Presents..' project.

What do you think? I'd love to hear your feedback!

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Cogs in a Machine

So it's been roughly 4 months since I wrote a blog post. My silence has been nagging me, bothering me, but I couldn't bring myself to log in and open this page. This in itself feels like a big step.

I suppose there are lots of reasons why I went off the radar. Those reasons that only matter probably to me as realistically, this blog is more like a log book for me, a marker in the sand. I create posts that I feel might be of use to someone somewhere, but I have no idea if they actually are.

I've noticed that as you get older, time seems to go a lot faster. It feels like yesterday that I started this blog and actually, it was nearly 2 years ago. I set this up after a big personal trauma in my life, and looking back, I'm not sure I portrayed the real 'me' in the beginning. I was in a shell, on full alert, protecting and defending myself, in fight or flight mode, from a monster that wasn't even there. This is probably the most vulnerable I've ever been, but my intention was never to not be honest. Your true self really is the best you have to offer the world, and it's OK to not be perfect.

Here is what I do know: I know that I am happiest when I am making and doing, and achieving. The problem is, that happiness can easily become surface happiness. Everything in my life started to feel like an ego feeding exercise, as opposed to a spiritual or fulfilling one. When you get caught up in the rat race, when every achievement starts to dull the senses, much like I imagine it might feel like to have a drug addiction and to be always chasing a new 'high', we sometimes forget where we are going. I suddenly found myself feeling really unhappy, after years of living that way. I wanted to figure out what I actually really wanted to do with my time, as opposed to what I thought I should be doing.

I am in my late 20's. I've realised that whilst I have been successful in lots of ways, that I'm not where I wanted to be. I know that's a complete cliche, and is probably the same for most people who are lucky enough to reach this point in their lives. I do all the things I told myself I wouldn't (as age is just a number after all). I compare myself to others. I've fallen victim to routine, doing the same things every weekend, stuck in a town I didn't want to still be living in at this point, struggling with my personal life (I was pretty sure that somehow I'd be a high flying career woman with two children and happily married by this point), but I am not. I'm still acting like a 21 year old in lots of ways. I'm not earning what I thought I'd be earning by now, I'm not doing what I hoped to be doing. At the same time, I never really set myself a clear plan, either. And that's OK. I just need to learn to not base my happiness solely on achievements or what others think of me, but to search for something deeper within myself. To be content with who I am and where I'm at, wherever that may be. That's not an easy lesson to learn, especially in this whirlwind society that we live in, and it requires more humility than I thought I even had.

Don't get me wrong, I think if you asked my family and friends, they'd probably tell you that I have been successful. It all depends how you define 'success' and what success really means to you. On paper, I have three degrees. More importantly, I work in a job that I actually love. Actually, I've been so lucky to this point to always somehow find jobs that I love. The project I manage, whilst not perfect (like it's creator) is something new and useful for the city that I live in, the city I thought I'd have given up on by now. I get to play music and get dance floors moving every weekend, granted, maybe I'm not playing on a boat somewhere in the Med, but we really can't have it all. I've been commissioned to create my own theatre work. But that again is me 'selling' myself to you, and I really shouldn't feel the need to do that. The point is that I have, like all of us, been graced with many talents that I just don't have the time to use properly yet, but that I can always look forward to exploring in the future. Most important of all; I have an amazing, and wonderful group of people around me that I am utterly blessed with.

I've essentially spent the last four months in a bit of a hole (probably longer if I'm honest actually), but I needed to be there to realise that I have allowed myself to be ruled far too much by my own ego. Nothing will ever, ever be enough for the ego. It doesn't matter how successful, affluent or well liked you are, there will always be someone better. It's OK to aspire to be better, it's OK to look up to other people, and if you're lucky enough to know people that inspire you, then you can be positive about that, set yourself a bar to work towards. But there are many traits and talents that you have, that others don't. We're all just cogs in a big and wonderful machine after all, designed to serve different functions.

I'll go back to my normal posts after this, but I wanted to share this before I launched back into normality. Not to explain myself, as I don't feel I owe anybody an explanation. You should never apologise if you really feel like you have to be silent for a while. But as obvious as the above may already be to most people, it's been the most important life lesson of my 20's (so far), so I suppose I thought it was worth sharing.

To summarise the above if you are even still with me, everyone grows up with different experiences. It is alright to sometimes still feel like a teenager when you are in fact, definitely now a fully fledged grown up. My biggest challenge by far is to let go when things don't work, when I don't succeed, otherwise you will just grind to a halt. There is just no real way forward until you learn to really accept where you are in life, and how to be happy and grateful with what you've got. And though I could be better at showing it sometimes, I am so very very grateful.

Alice x

Monday, 4 May 2015

Kings Night Celebrations in Amsterdam!

Last weekend myself, Trig and a friend, Chris, decided on a whim to drive to Amsterdam to catch their Kings Day weekend celebrations.

Kings Day as the name suggests, celebrates the monarchy. Amsterdam celebrated King’s Day (Koningsdag) for the first time in 2014, after the inauguration of King Willem-Alexander on 30 April 2013 (what was then still Queen’s Day).

One of the best and most striking things about Kings Day is that everyone wears orange as a show of pride for the Royal family.  The streets are absolutely filled with the colour and everything and everywhere becomes a street party.

We arrived on the Saturday night at 1am, having underestimated driving time and completely overlooking the hour time change from London to the Netherlands. I'd booked us to stay in an airbnb at the last minute for around £40 each for two nights - outstanding value, since even shared dorm rooms were around £50 per person per night. We found a host called Paul,who owned a canal boat with a sailing boat next to it, that was to become our home for the next two days. I must admit, at first I worried that the three of us would not fit into it, especially since Trig is so tall. But it was loads bigger on the inside! 

The boat itself was warm, had facilities, a kettle, a little cabin double bed and a third bed. It was really comfortable, if a little amusing trying to climb on and off of. We used the main boat for showers etc and it really was no bother at all, we also made friends with his really funny boat cats. Paul was the coolest guy ever and stayed up with us till the early hours supplying us with beer! His friend Ezther was great fun, too. I retired at around 4am and the boys followed at 6, a little worse for wear the next morning.

Sunday was the actual Kings Night celebrations which meant everyone was in high spirits everywhere. I'd never been to Amsterdam before, so it was nice to explore the city in the day. 

We then randomly bumped into an old friend from Peterborough, Marco, who had moved to Amsterdam the year before. It really is a small world! Marco arranged to meet us that night and took us to some cool street parties and bars. We invited Paul and Ezther too, who joined us and celebrated with us.

Sadly we had to drive back on the Monday, which was the actual 'Kings Day' itself. Being in the festival mode I think we were all a bit sad about this, but commitments dictated otherwise. Next year we'll stay for the whole party!

Monday, 20 April 2015

My Little Dream Box April Review!

I've featured a few reviews of My Little Box before, simply because it's a subscription box that makes me happy. It arrived at my office this morning (I purposefully have it delivered there because I know it will cheer me up) and basically just completely brightened my day. MLB costs £12 a month with postage, and you get a great deal of value in the products that you receive for that money, all curated with so much love and imagination.

The first thing I received when I opened it was this rather cheery message to stick on my wall, and despite not actually really being a Disney fan (which is a bit like admitting that you do not like fluffy bunnies, I do know) I have put it up there for a bit of motivation. It has an invitation on the back to a website link, where you write your biggest dream. The idea is that one year from today, I will get an email reminding me of that dream. I need deadlines to work to, and I thought this was actually a lovely idea!

Now to the box itself!

1. Loved by Lou Lesage Lip Balm - I love this 'rouge in a balm!' It is a collaboration item between 'Loved by' and Lou Lesage, a french actress who I'd never heard of until now, but who's style is a bit of 'babydoll meets rockstar'. Apparently she described the one thing that was missing in her beauty bag, and the Loved By team rushed off and created this very item! Despite me initially getting the items mixed up whilst reading the cards and thinking item 2 below was the lip balm (big mistake, very drying) this little pot has since helped me to recover, and moisturised my lips back to a good state again. Oops!

2. Sabe Mason Copacabana Perfume Stick - This smells like I'm dancing on a beach and I love it for that reason, although it also makes me feel jealous of whoever is currently dancing on a beach all at the same time. I don't really know how best to describe it, but all I know is that it looks pretty funky in my handbag and smells spicy and sassy all at the same time. Plus it's full sized!

3. My Little Beauty Hair Masque Reparateur - Another full sized wonder, my only downside to this is that all the instructions on the back are in french (but being a french company, I don't blame them.) My french is limited. But these kind of things all work the same, so we're probably okay. All the My Little Beauty products I've received so far have been great quality, so I'm looking forward to a hot shower later where I will put this to the test.

4. Dream Big Stamp Kit - This is actually the reason why I love 'My Little Box' so much, because I only give them £12 each month and each box feels like it's been put together really carefully and with so much care and attention. They always send a cute, useful 'novelty' item with each box. The other month I got a little pot full of scrolled up messages with inspiring notes on them, that I still reach for when I feel a bit down. This month they've sent a little stamp, with messages like 'made with love' and 'today I..' plus a few french phrases (you never know when you might need to stamp a thank you in french) and my personal favourite, what I can only assume is a quote from Queen, 'Don't Stop Me Now!'

I am going to stamp these all over my work notebooks like a 12 year old girl and I'm not going to even feel remotely ashamed about it.

5. A Little Surprise - As a lovely bonus, this month I also received a sewn up cloud, which I had to cut through into in order to get my surprise, a little golden pendant with the message 'Bonne Etoile' (Lucky Star) engraved on it. How sweet :)

As always, every month you also receive a little magazine with interviews with featured brands and celebrities, as well as beauty tips and tricks.

Thank you 'My Little Box' for brightening up my Monday morning once again! x

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Exploring Wales, Cardiff and the Valleys!

It is a little known secret that whilst I am a self proclaimed city girl through and through, I actually do love a good dose of the old country air from time to time. I also love the Welsh accent, though until now, I'd never been there. That's why when my good friend Andy said he was heading to Wales for a few days, I gratefully accepted the invitation to run around some castles, breathe in the valley air and check out the famous capital city and what it all had to offer.


Apparently, Cardiff was voted by Europeans last year as the best city to live in, and after spending just three days there, I can see why. Cardiff reminds me of a mixture of some of my favourite cities in the world. For me, a great capital city is not necessarily the biggest or most cosmopolitan, like London, Paris or New York. I'm comfortable being just a tourist in those places. I get the buzz out of being in a fast paced space and then at the end of it, retiring in a smaller pond, comfortable that I can walk outside and see people that I know. I'm happy in the medium of having the amenities of a city, yet still have that sense of familiarity and community.

That's the main reason I liked Cardiff. It's not often that you find a capital city where you can walk from one end to the other in a few hours, yet find so much going on in between. Exploring the city kind of made me feel like I was being hugged by an old friend. The beautiful architecture is reminiscent to me of Prague or Cambridge and it's archaic buildings, mixed up alongside new and innovative spaces. You get a balance of green spaces and nature, so you can run away to the hills, or be an urbanite in the centre, whatever takes your fancy. It's also really cheap living for a capital city. The shopping there seemed on a par to any other large cities, and the bars and restaurants were frequent and plentiful. Basically, Cardiff seems to have struck a perfect balance.

You can also tell a lot about a city by it's people. The friendly and warming nature of the people I met there reminded me quite a lot of the warm welcome I received in Dublin, where people will open their doors to you, buy you a drink, and take a real interest in who you are.

Despite my comparisons, Cardiff doesn't appear to be emulating anyone else's game, or following the lead of other places in order to generate a tourist trade. She seems confident in herself, with plenty of secrets and hidden spaces, and lots of imaginative and unique elements in the city design and the way she interacts with her people. By far my favourite space was Cardiff Bay, which transported me into a peaceful mood, where I could quite easily imagine myself sitting and contemplating life for hours.

View at night time of Cardiff Bay, the home of Dr Who 
We visited Andy's favourite bar there, Porters, twice in three days and I could sense why it felt like home to him. We saw a jazz band, I met some great new people, and explored the city centre in the rain. Not that the weather mattered, I was enamoured enough that I wouldn't have traded it for a day in the sun in a heartbeat.

We left on a big match day where everyone had come out to celebrate Wales vs Ireland in the Rugby. Everyone was in such high spirits!

The Valleys & Caerphilly 

We explored a few different areas in the valleys, which I found fascinating. Each one was a different size, and had a different personality. The view was also breath taking. I loved the thatched roof pubs with roaring fireplaces, the small village shops with quirky names (we found one called 'the nicest shop in the world' - i'm not making that up). We also witnessed a Welsh pub brawl between a landlady and her cook!

Lots of the villages have an interesting historic background, if you dig deep enough. Llangynwyd is known for the legend of Anne Maddocks, a young maid who fell in love with a man called Will Hopkin, but was forced to marry someone else. Her true love was sent away, and she died pining for him. Legend has it she requested to see him on her death bed, and when he arrived she died promptly in his arms. She was buried here, so we went on an adventure looking for her.

Caerphilly was probably one of my favourite highlights. It's stunningly beautiful and the town itself is wrapped around it's historic castle, which sits proudly as a centrepiece. I'm quite outdoorsy at heart, I used to love climbing on rocks and running around outside as a little girl, so exploring the castle was great fun. We learnt a bit about the history - of which spans hundreds of years, and many occupants. I found a spot overlooking the lake and just breathed in the valley air. It was one of those moments where everything just felt serene and beautiful, and nothing else really mattered too much. Taking the time to stop sometimes is really the best thing you can do.

Overall, Wales completely won my heart!

Alice x

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Highlights from Cambridge Style Week 2015!

I was really pleased to be invited back again this year to DJ for Cambridge Style Week!

CSW really celebrates the quirkiness of Cambridge, and all its shapes and styles. They have been gradually perfecting the formula of mixing up catwalks from bigger brands in the city, alongside carefully chosen talented emerging designers. This has really enabled CSW to carve out a strong identity, which sets it apart from other fashion events in its own right. This year we were treated to even more acts and performers in between collections, that fit alongside the themes of each show. This really helped to round each event off perfectly for me.

The location this year was at the Quy Mill Hotel, which is situated just outside of Cambridge city centre. First impressions certainly make a difference, and the Quy Mill Hotel really rose to this challenge. Visitors were greeted with fire lanterns lighting up the red carpet, as well as a champagne reception whilst they browsed pieces from local designers before and after each show.

Obviously being in the DJ booth, I had a fantastic view of the catwalk, though for this post I've used photos from the paparazzi present (credited of course) who were situated in the perfect position at the front of the catwalk to capture all the action.

I DJed for two out of the four shows this year. Here were my own personal highlights!

Opening Show:

Jose Hendo: Fresh off the catwalk at LFW, Jose Hendo was certainly the perfect choice for the opening of the first show this year. Jose Hendo's motto is 'reduce, reuse, recycle' which she certainly does in imaginative ways. As a big fan of sustainable fashion,  I absolutely loved the way that Jose Hendo took to the stage and talked us through the background and context to her work, explaining her innovative use of bark cloth in her collection. Jose uses off cuts in new and exciting ways, and works with unusual materials to play with texture and pattern. I particularly loved the dress below, the arms of which opened out in a crotcheted, billowing fashion. Jose Hendo's work is clearly inspired by the wider world, and her experiences come across in a very distinct way.

Charles Davis Photography

The catwalk also featured collections from Dogfish and Cloudberry shoes, Boudoir Femme (a firm favourite local boutique which dazzles the catwalk year after year)  John Lewis, Cambridge Market Traders, Kairee, and Triumph, a lingerie brand which certainly got everyones attention to say the least!

Triumph Lingerie UK

The show was also supported by singer Kez Miles, who warmed the crowd up beautifully.

I chose a few songs that I thought would compliment the designs, including some house hits like Mat Joe, Betoko, Oliver Heldens and Natema to ensure a strong beat on the catwalk.

For the more vintage inspired brands, like Boudoir Femme, I opted for artists such as Tube and Berger and the Gotan Project which had a slower, sexy beat.

CSW Catwalk Show, with the Ottoman Empire

The second show was unlike any other I'd ever been to before, with special guests including the Turkish Royal Family themselves! 

For the first half of the show, I chose upbeat house and dance songs like Max Manie, Imany and a Philip George remix of 'Dancin'  to match the individual colourful, bright designs.

I-Unique: I loved the range of jackets on display from I-Unique, each one tailored differently to suit different sizes, all of which absolutely oozed individual style, through the use of various textures and patterns.

Image taken from CSW 

Leigh Rawlins: I loved seeing Leigh's work on the catwalk, not least of all because I realised I'd met her four years before, when I organised a fashion show at The Junction in Cambridge, and we featured her work as an Anglia Ruskin fashion student! She was always one to push the boundaries then, and it seems her designs are even more bold and interesting than ever before.

Image taken from CSW Twitter
Image taken from CSW Blog

There was also fab jewellery on the catwalk in the form of KFD Jewellery.

The second half of the show was absolutely fascinating to watch. It featured the Fashion School of Turkey which had some absolutely incredible, intricate designs, which really emanated the exotic vibrancy of Turkey and it's colourful and artistic culture. The show opened with a Turkish dancer, who whirled and glided around the stage to Mercan Dede, so much so that I couldn't take my eyes off him. I nearly missed my cue! It was also
 accompanied with entertainment from various classical musicians.

We chose Turkish music to accompany the second part of the show with a slower beat, matching the solemnity of the designs whilst still being powered by a powerful drum, resonating and highlighting the bold patterns.

Patrick Anderson

Images taken from CSW website
By far my favourite catwalk of the evening was Yasemin Biricik, who as well as stunning the crowd with her highly intricate pieces, ended the show with a head turning wedding gown, accompanied with models holding candles. You could just hear everyones breath being taken away as the show culminated in its final carousel walk.

In terms of the catwalks themselves, the models were just on point this year. The backstage manager, Kim Able, and the rest of her team did a fantastic job of making things appear seamless (despite how crazy things must have been!)

I had a great time this year and can't wait for CSW 2016. The Director, Nicky Shepard, is absolutely clearly so passionate about what she does, and this comes across in all the hard work and attention to detail that goes into every show. In fact, it's not often you come across such a dedicated team of people in general, and CSW just delivers on this every single year. If you didn't go this year, put it in your diaries for next March! You honestly won't regret it.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

5 things I'm loving this St Patricks Day

Certain things strike me as amusing about living in England. We don't really celebrate St George's day, the patron saint of this Country, but when St Patricks day rolls round, we're all up in O'Neills in our silly hats which you can only earn the right to wear by drinking far too many pints of guinness. I'm half Irish though, so if you catch me in the pub later, I claim genuine patriotism.

My celtic roots are probably responsible for my being a redhead. Green is probably by far my favourite colour to wear as a result of this (especially since I'm pale as a ghost, so dark colours wash me out). In the spirit of this, I've compiled a few of my favourite Irish inspired items, some that I own, some I want to own. Mostly the latter. So haul up a chair and bring your Magners over with you! Here's 5 things I'm digging this week in the spirit of good old St Pat...

1. Symbol of Lucky in Love Bracelet, Pandora, £45.00

I used to love my charm bracelet, and collecting charms. This cute little bracelet from Pandora comes with a selection of hearts in a lucky clover shape. You can buy a number of other little charms on the website.

2. Lucille Lindy Bop 1950's Vintage Inspired Dress £34.99

This 50's style dress is basically too adorable. I usually like my green dresses, and I'm really liking the retro at the moment. I've been eying up a few bits over at Lindybop for a while.

3. ASOS Circle Skirt in Red Print - £11.00 (favourite thrifty buy!)

Is tartan traditionally an Irish or purely Scottish tradition? No one can seem to agree. Who cares, this skirt is pretty cool.

4. Anything from Carousel, in Dublin, but particularly this Floral Shift Dress - 79 euros / £56

I went to Dublin for my birthday two years ago, and stumbled across this little shop, and fell in love. Lots of their pieces are great, and I found what is still my favourite green dress in there (though the cat decided to jump up in the wardrobe and rip it to shreds, but that's a different story. It's still hanging there out of love). If you can't afford to fly to Dublin right now, luckily they have an online shop here, too.

5. Cast a spell on me 18k Hawthorn Necklace in Gold - 139 euros

Chupi is an Irish jewellery designer who is inspired by nature through her creations. This 18k gold hawthorn leaf necklace is cast from a real leaf stolen from a Hawthorn tree - legend says you must never cut or harm a hawthorn tree as they are fairy trees, so hopefully she's not in too much trouble! The website says that 'Chupi borrowed a single leaf from a beautiful old tree overlooking the Royal Canal in Dublin, which is cast in substantial solid sterling silver and plated in a thick layer of 18k gold, creating an eternal piece of glittering beauty'. It is hallmarked in Dublin's beautiful castle.

I would love to read your thoughts on these! 

Have a merry St Patricks Day! x