Birmingham Royal Ballet: Prince of the Pagodas

BRB show without an exquisite set is like a cupcake without frosting; its perfectly nice, but you’d feel like you had been robbed. As different as The Prince of The Pagodas may be to the traditional BRB we all know and love in many ways, the set is one very pretty exception. Rae Smith’s design brings this relatively unknown story into the magical realms of ballet royalty. There’s something intrinsically dreamlike about the way the set and costume enhance the dancers’ movement that ignites a childish glee that will leave you mesmerised.

Despite its somewhat tentative opening, once the ball gets rolling, BRB are on top form with their commanding characterisation and surprising plot twists. Act Two will have you both laughing and crying (at the sheer inimitable grace of the dancers) with choreography highlight by what can only be described as ballet’s answer to twerking (just look for the octopus).

If you think of BRB as a boring or traditional ballet company, think again, because Prince of the Pagodas reshapes their flawless technique and synchronisation (a true skill with such challenging accompaniment) into a deeply atmospheric piece of dance, more than worthy of the company’s prestige.

Prince of the Pagodas is at The Lowry until 2nd February, followed by a UK tour until 29th March 2014

The Lowry Dance Blog: Motionhouse

Motionhouse have struck a perfect balance in contemporary dance; an innovative line drawn between the abstract curiosity people have come to expect of contemporary and the narrative of a traditional ballet. Choreographer Kevin Finnan credits the theme to “the standing joke that when choreographers get older they do the rite of spring or the elements.” Evidently the elements appealed more. What came of that was actually a catch-your-breath, heart-in-mouth experience, transforming dance into a multi-dimensional piece of living art. This is the dance of the future, open to interpretation but laced with technical complexities. The pure animalistic energy of the dancers will have you gripping the edge of your seat, entranced by the display of raw physical strength and boundless energy. ‘Broken’ leaves you utterly consumed by its effortless fluidity, in awe of the dancers’ stealth and sat grinning like an absolute idiot. To use cliches would be to cheat this show of its integrity, but the next time Motionhouse perform in Manchester, I’ll be waiting in the front row.

My review is also available on the Lowry Youth Dance Ambassador blog:
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Prague: A new city for the new year…

I always find New Year is best spent at home and despite a serious bout of envy at a friend’s VIP Times Square experience, this year did not change that. However, I did break tradition slightly, with a somewhat impromptu trip to Prague, and was pleasantly surprised by the bohemian offering of beautiful buildings and winding rivers, as well as the somewhat kitsch, such as the John Lennon Pub (shown below).

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As tiresome as certain other tourists may be, I stand by the view that in a short break, a walking tour is the best route to making the most of your time and the Prague All Inclusive Tour fit the bill perfectly. The company offer small groups in a plethora of languages the opportunity to see 36 sights in just 6 hours. As crammed in as that may sound, it proved to be a fun and insightful day. Regardless of the questionable refreshments, a 40 minute boat trip was the cherry atop a wonderful tour.

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Full of nooks and crannies, the beauty of Prague – a surprisingly “European” city considering its Communist past – is in discovering the forgotten and overlooked squares and arcades; stumbling upon something even better than what you expected to find. It was in one such square that we found Cafē Pavlina, something of an artisan coffee shop, with a variety of hot drinks almost verging on the ridiculous.

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The Jewish Quarter is most certainly the place to be for anyone craving a high end experience of the Czech capital. In keeping with this, Italian restaurant Cantinetta Fiorentina proffers a warm and inviting atmosphere, offset by the authentic live music to which you can’t help but sway. You can normally judge the quality of a meal by the bread and this was no exception. The bread was warm and varied, the olive oil was rich and a shade of green so vivid my mouth was watering before I’d even tasted it. The only let-down was the price tag; you’ll struggle to find a main for less than £30 amongst the slightly limited menu. The lobster tagliatelle is strongly recommended, though.

For somewhere more humble, the New Town Brewery offers traditional Czech food at reasonable prices, all accompanied by their own brew, available in light or dark. Recommendations:

  • Mushroom soup in a bowl of bread
  • Beef goulash with traditional dumplings

Jo’s provides the perfect place to rest after meandering around the nearby shops; a welcome break from the shiny souvenir-filled streets of the Lesser Town. Where it lacks in size, it compensates in cocktails: happy hour is from 18:00-21:00. Coming out of Jo’s and turning right, you’ll find a neat selection of unique retailers, from a vintage shop to the cheap-as-chips Dárky Gifts, you’ll even find an Absintherie.

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“Second star on the right and straight on till morning…”

‘Wendy & Peter Pan’ is on at the RSC in Stratford-Upon-Avon until 2 March 2014

A surprisingly comedic take on the classic children’s tale, Wendy & Peter Pan brought to life the joyous innocence of childhood and combined it seamlessly with adult humour, leaving audience members of all ages in fits of laughter. The sprinkle of fairy dust delivered the original opening to new levels, adding an extra layer that provided Wendy with a motive on her adventure to Neverland- an intriguing addition to the classic plot.

The only questionable casting was Captain Hook whose take on the role just didn’t fulfil the Hook of many an imagination; a slight glitch amongst an otherwise wonderful cast.
On a lighter note, there’s something intrinsically witty about a well-placed accent, as the array of cleverly constructed characters proved. A bustling Tinkerbell, larger than life, was just was just one of Ella Hickson’s masterfully woven adaptations and contrasted beautifully with an enviably flexible and terrifyingly sinister crocodile.

As ever, the RSC, not content with a stationary stage, featured many a moving part in their interpretation. Never ones to adopt a minimalist approach, they have a distinct ability to transform their space completely. This is the third play I’ve seen there (it’s become something of a Christmas tradition) and I’ve yet to leave without having been fully immersed in the intimate setting of each.

To write this off as merely a nice play to make you feel all warm and Christmassy inside would be impossible; what is, on the surface, a pleasant and humorous version of Barrie’s play, is in fact a poignant and thought-provoking tale of death, remembrance and love. If it’s a magical Christmas play or something more than a little bit different you’re after, head to Stratford and book a seat at the RSC before it sells out.

Russian Dolls: Moscow & St Petersburg

You’re about to get bombarded with whatever little tidbits I remember from our wonderful tour guides Lena and -oddly enough- Lena, because the last six days (3 in Moscow and 3 in St Petersburg) definitely deserve a post.

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For many who lived through Soviet Russia- be it the end or the very beginning- going inside the country’s borders may seem an impossible image to conjure. For anyone too young to have experienced that fear-tinged awe, it feels like going back in time. Moscow is built on the remains of Tsarist grandeur, now punctuated by large open spaces, an initial brash injection of commercialism and the garish architecture of the 1980s.

It’s difficult to describe Moscow, other than a rather brilliant contradiction. It’s history is so varied and each era – from the Tsars to Stalin- has left its mark. Perhaps the best example of this is Red Square, injected with a flavour of Russian history from every era. The large open space is surrounded on one side by GUM (a grand shopping mall previously frequented by Soviet and Tsarist leaders alike), Lenin’s mausoleum (a modern take on the Egyptian pyramid- fitting, considering the chemical mummification of the leader himself that lies inside) and potentially the most distinctive feature of all: St Basil’s Cathedral. Imagine the opulence of a traditional Russian ballet brought to life- it looks like a castle plucked from a fairy tale.

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Places worth visiting:

  • I’m not a particularly religious person and I’m slightly ashamed to say that being at a mixed religion school has made me something of a cynic, but there was an awe-inspiring quality to Christ the Saviour Cathedral. It’s humbling to see the intricate icons painted so lovingly; the devotion is clear in each brush stroke. And this is not a Cathedral that has had an easy ride, either. In 1996 it had to be rebuilt, an exact replica of the original costing 650 million Roubles- all of which was raised by the people of Moscow.
  • Moo Moo on Arbat Street provides a homely respite from shopping in the Russian cold as well as authentic cuisine- a great place to try Bhorsh!
  • The armoury holds Russia’s prize possessions; the treasures of its heritage- from Faberge eggs to thrones and carriages.

And then there was St Petersburg…

Intrinsically more modern than Moscow; when it was founded by Peter the Great, he used it when introducing his new reforms as an example to other cities across Russia. The difference is clear to see. St Petersburg comes across as surprisingly European- pastel washed palaces and rows upon rows of town houses, though like Moscow, most people live in apartments. All of this runs alongside the river and is accented by monuments at every corner; a not-so-subtle tribute to the city’s past. Often called the Venice of the north, St Petersburg is formed from 500 bridges across 42 Islands. In short, it’s very beautiful.

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Places worth visiting:

  • The Peter and Paul Fortress
  • Perhaps Russia’s most infamous- and slightly mythological- man, Grigory Rasputin has become eponymous with the scene of his murder, the Yusopov Palace; though the house is more than worthy of a visit in its own right. To be honest, any mansion that comes with it’s own theatre and concert hall (in which we had a private musical performance during our tour) is a must-visit and as Tsarist Russia’s second wealthiest family after the Royals, the Yusopovs’ former residence is a prime example of pre-revolution extravagance.
  • Despite it not being a regular feature on most St Petersburg bucket lists, be sure to catch a folklore show should you ever be in Russia. We saw one at the Nickolayevsky palace and it was the surprise highlight of our trip; the dancers were so energetic and their pride in their dancing/singing was so evident, you couldn’t help but smile and cheer along.
  • And if your tour is just a one-stop wonder, why not pay a visit to the Hermitage museum to see a collection of Russia’s finest all in one place? Probably best not to attempt seeing everything, though- viewing each item for at least 15 seconds would take a whole 7 years out of your life.
  • If, like me, your trip is split between these two cities, try taking the night train from Moscow to St Petersburg- definitely an experience if nothing else.
  • The Amber room in the Catherine palace has been honoured as the 8th wonder of the world and whilst plenty of photos may be available online, you really need to see it for yourself to truly appreciate it’s beauty.

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To eat:

  • Bhorsh soup
  • Pierogi
  • Stroganoff at the Stroganoff Palace (St Petersburg about £50 a pot)
  • Traditional Russian dumplings
  • Bellini pancakes with caviar

Tips:

  • Most public attractions and museums will not allow entry if you are carrying a backpack (however a bag held on any other body part is fine)
  • There are metal detectors everywhere- even bowling alleys insist on security. Don’t be put off by this though, most checks are not too rigorous.
  • Unless you’re native to Russia and are used to it, don’t drink the tap water- it comes with the risk of Giardia.
  • It’s advisable to always carry ID; a photocopy of your passport will do.
  • Whilst having a tour guide gives you the best of Russia in just a short period of time, it doesn’t offer the chance to truly immerse yourself in Russian culture. Perhaps my view is shaded slightly by the presence of Moscow Fashion Week during my stay- and my distinct lack of presence at the event.

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Anglesey: The best beaches and the top pub lunches

As a small island, Anglesey has the unique offering of short car journeys: you can reach most parts of it within half an hour. And with nothing further than a stone’s throw away, you have the ability to visit the many bays and villages it provides. Here are a few reccomendations:

  • The White Eagle Pub: pub grub with a gastro twist and a cute story to go with it! Timpsons’ owner, Mr Timpson (you never would’ve guessed that one) bought his local pub to save it and gave it a 21st century spin. From the lush lawn adored with deckchairs and space hoppers, to the fine food (I recommend the spicy lamb burger, but you really can’t leave without trying the chips), it’s definitely worth popping in for some lunch.
  • Trearddur Bay: my favourite bay on Anglesey and one I remember visiting when I was younger. You have to go round the bay to find the best beach, but once you get there, be sure to soak up some rays alongside the watersports fanatics that regularly flock there.
  • Newborough Warren Nature Reserve: it may not sound like the most fascinating beach of the bunch, but nestled between the red squirrel reserve and the forest fumbles lies a pretty lovely beach. And not to worry, whilst you wouldn’t be short of bushes, there are proper toilet facilities, making the Warren somewhere you could happily spend your days. Plus, you may even spot Kate and Wills taking Prince George for a seaside stroll.

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Life in plastic, not so fantastic…

My problem, I have discovered, is that I’m fickle. I am forever tipping the balance between a care-free “eat when you’re hungry until you’re full” attitude and a desire (starved of sense) to be thought of as the thinnest in the group. I get tempted time again by the chocolate gorged dessert and whilst I relish it in the moment, the guilt eventually catches up. But if I don’t order dessert…well, I feel even worse for having succumbed to the calorie-conscious monster inside of me and I pine for the oozing chocolate I missed out on. However the recent rise of the “Barbie waist” has made me realise once and for all that a hand span waist disproportionate to the rest of the body is about as attractive as the prospect of wearing a double corset for three months in order to achieve it. I’m not saying there’s something wrong with trying to lose weight to gain confidence, I’m merely stating that a life spent calculating calories and favouring a lifetime of slim hips over a delicious moment on the lips is a life misspent.
As for Barbie, she’s hardly a role model for the perfect figure; she’s made of plastic and honestly, her life isn’t so fantastic. If Barbie were a real person, she wouldn’t actually be able to stand up: her ankles are too thin, her chest is so big it would topple her over and her waist is the size of an average 12 year old.
It’s only natural that people would strive for self improvement, but it seems that today’s society has established an ultimatum for the women it swallows whole – there is no healthy middle ground, merely a constant stream of criticism and emphasis on the super-fat vs super-skinny: a choice between only starvation or greed. And the extremities become more severe each day. Obesity has doubled in the last twenty five years alone in the UK and teenage eating disorders are growing alarmingly inevitable. The pressure to encapsulate society’s vision of perfection has proved too much for several of my friends, who have at a young age, already experienced the turmoil of anorexia. Having witnessed that, I can safely say I would not wish it upon my worst enemy. It’s a cliche yes, but I’ve found that you are at you’re healthiest and happiest when you eat what you want and follow the rules that have almost become cliches to my generation: eat your five a day, exercise, maintain a balanced diet and don’t starve yourself of the nutrients you need to grow.
I know it’s easier said than done. Of course it is. But with the measures modern women will go to becoming more extreme -and potentially harmful- with each passing day, it is vital that charities such as BEAT have the support they need in their fight against eating disorders and the role the media play in society’s perception of the perfect body.
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UPDATE: I was shocked to see these mannequins in Topshop the week after I posted this. The message this sends is hardly a positive or healthy one.

When in Crete: Sun, sea and lots of food!

So, I’m back from my holiday. To be honest, I can’t tell you whether that is a good thing or not. Whilst I appreciate that holidays can’t last forever, I really wish that wasn’t true. Time has a funny way of passing during a holiday. The days go by slowly and I always find myself being lulled into a deceptive state of relaxation in which I am oblivious to time itself; the only structure coming from the big old light in the sky. And yet, I woke up on my penultimate day and came to the unexpected realisation that the serenity had an expiration date.

I always find it difficult to summarise a holiday: when asked “how was it?” my response can never seem to do the experience justice. So, instead of hopelessly trying to form a better answer, I’ve put together a mini bucket list of things to do in Crete- a sort of review, if you like, of all the things I did and the places I saw that stuck in my mind. I have to warn you, it’s not a quick read…

  • Kanali restaurant: There really could be no better way to kickstart this list, because nothing else quite manages to capture Crete so neatly in it’s essence. Little more than a small shack perched on the edge of a rather isolated bay off the coast of Elounda, Kanali incorporates good food (fish is their speciality), beautiful views (nowhere else that I’ve visited have I seen such a clear, almost glass-like sea) and the classic Greek hospitality.
  • Taverna Giorgos-Giovanni: Situated in the small village of Plaka, this Taverna has been visited by the likes of Lady Gaga and Rio Ferdinand and lives up to it’s local reputation for a great atmosphere and even greater food. Beware though, it’s always rammed full of people, so book ahead. The owner’s brother also has a restaurant in Elounda (Megaro) , which is equally as delicious and not as busy.
  • Spinalonga: From a distance, this small island may go unnoticed, but the story behind it’s relevance to Crete is hard to ignore. Once Greece’s main leper colony, the Venetian fortress is now visited by boatloads of tourists everyday. If you’re planning a visit, give ‘The Island’ by Victoria Hislop a whirl first; the book tells the story of the island in a heart-warming way and is based on the true tales of those who lived there.
  • The Green Shop: Just one of many unique shops in Plaka, every item is green, blue of turquoise (or one of the multiple shades in between). They sell beautiful pottery (handmade in Crete) nestled between scarves and jewellery.
  • Jeep Safari Crete: Providing inside knowledge on the Cretan landscape during a tour which led us from tree-climbing goats (yes, really) to and eco-village selling Pythagoras cups (it took me a while to figure them out), the drivers are good-humoured and insightful, which made for a great day out. There were plenty of stops for freshly squeezed orange juice along the way, even one at the birthplace of Zeus. A fun fact from our driver, Andreas: the best honey is made with thyme.
  • Porto Elounda Golf Resort: There are plenty of hotels to choose from on Crete, but this is the one we chose. The rooms were spacious, the staff were friendly and the beach was but a buggy ride away. For me, what set it apart was the multitude of restaurants, from the sea-surrounded Koh to Odysseus tavern, all serving wonderful food. Not only that, but the resort is home to the Six Senses Spa, voted one of the best in the world. As I’m sure is true of most beaches on Crete, the sand was soft and white, the sea warm and clear and there wasn’t a pebble in sight.

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Experience & Qualifications

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I am a freelance fashion journalist, currently working as online editor and writer at 1 Granary. Recent bylines include TANK, i-D, Perfect Number and AnOther Magazine. My focus is on sustainability, but I write on all aspects of style and culture, using fashion as a lens through which to view broader social and political issues.

Beyond journalism, I have also worked as a creative director and copy writer. This winter, Swiss underwear brand, SLOGGI, will release my debut digital campaign, Comfort Uncensored, created in collaboration with filmmaker Roni Ahn.

In December 2019, I will be graduating from Central Saint Martins with an MA in Fashion Journalism. During the course, I completed a market report on the integration of feminist activism in mainstream women’s magazines, and was commissioned to create a Sustainable Fashion Communication Manifesto for future students. In April 2019, I won the Marc Worth Award for Fashion Journalism.

In June 2018, I graduated from University College London (2015 – 2018) with a BA in History (2:1)Modules included: 

  • Independent dissertation: Beyond the ‘gay plague’ myth: applying the theory of intersectionality to the AIDS crisis (75 marks)
  • Gender in Modern British History, 1850-1939
  • Queer Histories
  • London in the Twentieth Century: Imperial to Global City
  • Race & Resistance in Black Atlantic Thought

2 A*’s and 1 A at A-Level including full marks in Graphic Communication
10.5 GCSEs at A* including Further Maths and German

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Previous positions

Features Editor at Roundtable Journal (2017 – 2019), having started as an intern in January 2017 and having completed three months as Junior Editor:

  • Liaising with brands, creatives and PR agencies to organise photoshoots, also working as a stylist and helping with creative direction. 
  • Writing and editing copy, interviewing musicians and artists, contributing to creative decisions and designing promotional material (including GIFs)
  • Advertised four new roles within the magazine, fielding applications and interviewing candidates

Contributing writer and featured blogger (Chips’n’Gravy) for Northern Soul (2014 – 2019):

  • Highlights include interviewing the ex-chief executive and artistic director of Manchester International Festival, Alex Poots
  • Retweeted by TimeOut London

September – October 2018: Editorial internship at TANK magazine. As well as administration tasks, I proof-read copy and transcribed interviews for the print publication. I also produced original written content for TANK Live, links to which can be found here. The role also involved assisting the Social Media Manager with content creation, scheduling and copy-writing for Instagram and Twitter, covering both TANK and Because Magazine.

June – October 2018: Research Assistant for the campaigning journalist Alex Holder’s debut book. This role included sourcing and conducting original interviews with a diverse range of subjects about their relationships to money, as well as transcribing and editing these interviews.

President of UCL’s arts and culture magazine, SAVAGE Journal (2017/8). Formerly Treasurer & Events Manager (2016/7) and Food Editor (2015/6):

  • Organising events, including two gigs (at The Old Blue Last and The Lock Tavern) and two Showcase events (at Waterstones Tottenham Court Road), featuring live music, spoken word, art and film. Arranged and mediated interviews with Caroline Issa, Advaya Initiative 
  • Writing and editing articles, producing promotional material, financial planning and management
  • Liaising with writers, contributors, sponsors and UCL Union. Leading a committee of 20 people and a membership of over 100
  • Pioneered initiatives to make the society more diverse and accessible through events, themed content weeks and a platform called Our Voices, where students can  anonymously report cases of prejudice and discrimination at the university

Freelance writing for Banshee Publications, The University of Manchester, Didsbury Community Index and Steranko clothing boutique

November 2016: News-writing work experience at Kensington, Chelsea & Westminster Today

August – September 2015: Four weeks work experience in the marketing department at Brookfield Rose, dealing with 12 brand simultaneously, writing blogs, analysing customer MI and planning all social media output for three brands across multiple channels

September 2014: Won a competition to be the official youth reviewer of HOME Manchester’s inaugural production

Summer 2013: Completed a week of work experience at both The Martin Harris Centre and West’s Design Consultants. Also attended a week-long journalism course at the University of Salford, Media City

2011 – 2015: Acted as a Lowry Dance Ambassador from the scheme’s inception, blogging for The Lowry, interviewing prominent dance companies and promoting dance in the North West