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- be prepared to do the things you ask others to do – as a woman, if you champion inclusivity of women, be prepared to also be one of those that does the talk
- Find your tribe
- Encourage, connect and support
- Women don’t always think of themselves as “speakers” – so ask them to think of themselves as one
- It’s about equality of opportunity – you can’t always get it right, not everyone you want is available, but you can try
- Mainly, play your part
- Think about three things you’re proud of – “F*ck you, you’re brilliant” – own what you’re proud of, be confident about it
- You don’t learn confidence in a two hour session, it takes time
- Confidence is try and knowing it won’t kill you
- Does Imposter Syndrome as we know it really exist? What if, instead, it is reacting to how people react to us – “I’m not Sh*t, you’re a D*ckhead”
- Trust your gut instinct
- “Peak-end rule” how people feel at the most intense point and the end, rather than the total sum or average
- No matter how hard something is, it’ll probably be alright
- (It’s also important to find space for introverted people)
- Do we dislike confident people? Not the arrogant people, but the people who are just vocal
- Don’t wait for people to notice how good you are
- Know your sh*t – don’t set yourself up to fail – is this the difference to Imposter Syndrome?
- What if silencing the nagging through in the back of your head wasn’t always good / bad – Some of it is good, and some of it is something which makes you jog on
- Are creative people more predisposed to distractions because they’re addicted to the endorphins that come with the end-goal?
- Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom – Dinosaurs, more dinosaurs, genetically-modified dinosaur, more genetically-modified dinosaurs! I don’t know if it was that I just really needed the loo towards the end of this film but if felt a bit stale. The big bad of the first Jurassic World was a genetically modified dinosaur; genetically modifying an already genetically modified dinosaur for the second film felt repetitive. And it felt like the producers knew this so they threw in the whole weaponisation element and preachy humanity-will-end-itself angle, which all felt a bit stale and 90s, and not in a good way.
- The First Purge – what I wanted the first of the Purge movies to be – horror with socio-political undertones. A bit disappointed in the first one, I’ve not bothered to watch the other Purge movies, but The First Purge lands a well-timed punch to the jaw at political decision-makers. I would’ve liked more of the political commentary, but placing the Purge as a tactic of the ruling right-wing political party New Founding Fathers attempts to ethnically and socially cleanse New York’s Staten Island is timely and makes it feel a bit different to a lot of the ultraviolence genre films of late. But still very much one for fans of the genre.
- The More You Ignore Me – Based on a Jo Brand novel, it is a story set in the 1980s of a teenage girl, her mentally ill month (played by Sheridan Smith) and a love of Morrissey. With Mark Addy playing the kind of character stoic and affable father-figure you expect of him, Sally Phillips as the local GP who has fallen for the father despite treating the mother, Jo Brand as a former psychiatric nurse now shopkeeper and Sheila Hancock as gran it’s a bit of a who’s who of British screen – even Darren from Hollyoaks makes a cameo as a doctor at the local psychiatric facility. It is a charming film with plenty of warmth, which deals with a subject matter with typical British humour.
- Hotel Artemis – a dystopian thriller, where criminals use a member’s-only hospital run by a nurse with a tragic past. On a riots night in LA, the hotel becomes full and a face from the nurse’s past appears.
- Blue Brothers – screened as part of a surprise 50th birthday party for a friend and The Birmingham Breakfast Club blogger, Simon.
- The Italian Job – finally got round to seeing this classic British film with a score by a live orchestra. Read more here.
- Pin Cushion – another British film, this one tells the story of an eccentric mother and daughter who move to a new town and never really fit in. It’s a tragic tale about the affects of bullying.
- Halima’s Path – a grieving mother who loses her son in the Bosnian war must track down her estranged niece.
- First Reformed – the pastor of a small church has a crisis of faith, and a chance meeting with a depressed environmental activist and his pregnant wife only confuse things.
- Skyscraper – The Rock plays a security consultant whose in charge of a tower which is taken over by terrorists. Think Die Hard with less grit, but all the stunts you’d expect.
- Incredibles 2 – everyone’s favourite superhero family are back, with Elastigirl the main focus. Fun, a little too long (aren’t most films these days) and enjoyable, but didn’t feel as strong as the first.
Rounding off a week off, I headed over to the University of Birmingham for a couple of sessions as part of their Book to the Future festival. The festival is an annual event with a range of workshops, panels, performances and author talks celebrating literary expressions.
The final session of the Friday night was a panel discussion around blogging, Instagram, social media and influencers. With a combined following of well over one million, the panel was made up of Alice Liveing, Hannah Witton and Emma Conway (aka Brummy Mummy Of 2), and hosted by Brum Blogger and influencer in her own right, Ting of The Ting Thing.
Unsurprisingly it was full booked and I managed to bag a space at the front, before heading out to meet up with some other bloggers. One of the things mentioned in the discussion was the importance of community, about fostering relationship with other bloggers and attending gatherings. It’s one of the things I like most about blogging in Birmingham, that people are so supportive of each other and as well as being there to hear from Alice, Emma and Hannah, a lot of us were also there to support Ting.
As Hannah Witton rightly pointed out, I was scribbling notes because I find I always listen better when I do and I wanted to share some of the insights for people who didn’t manage to bag a spot on the fully-booked talk. There were a few similar themes which cropped, the importance of authenticity, of community and being a woman online. Having been to many blogging talks before, it was refreshing to listen to what felt like more of a chat between four bloggers who had both similar and not so similar experiences. Alice, Emma, Hannah and Ting were sincere about their advice and experience, particularly that some of it is about putting in the hard work, but also not knocking being in the right place at the right time and not discounting the privilege and benefits that come from being conventionally attractive.
I particularly enjoyed the conversations around authenticity. It’s a conversation I hear a lot and it has started to lose a little of its meaning. But I liked that the panel talked about being yourself online, but not having to give away your whole self, whether that be things you just won’t talk about or reclaiming some of your time for other things – be it switching off at a certain time of an evening, or having things you do away from the online world.
I said I’ve been to a lot of blogging talks, and I have, but this was one of my favourites for the flow of the conversation between the panelists, Ting’s great questions and the topics covered, many of which I had wished bigger bloggers would mention. I wrote up my notes here, if anyone is interested in reading them – they’re just bulletpoints, but hopefully useful.
“All we need is music, sweet music, there’ll be music everywhere.” Written by Marvin Gaye, William “Mickey” Stevenson and Ivy Jo Hunter, Dancing in the Street is one of Motown’s signature songs, amongst the many well known classic released by the label and it was the song stuck in my head the entire journey home after the West End hit show, Motown the Musical.
Inspired by the autobiography of Motown founder Berry Gordy, Motown the Musical starts the story immediately before the 25th anniversary concert celebrating the birth of Motown. Gordy is reluctant to attend, feeling betrayed by the artists he feels he made stars, only for them to leave him when better offers were on the table. The audience is then transported back to see Gordy’s childhood, the impact of a conversation with his father, a few lost years before he ultimately manages to get enough money together to start his record label – and the birth of Motown.
Whilst the musical might be loosely based on Gordy’s autobiography, it is clearly his personal interpretation of the past and doesn’t always give away a lot about the man himself. His relationship with Diana Ross and subsequent break up is referenced, as is his feelings towards the artists he felt abandoned him. But if you’re hoping for a theatrical biopic of his life, you’ll be disappointed. But then again, that’s clearly not the point of the play – the audience is here for the songs.
Motown the Musical is all about the music – as it should be. There is simplistic, almost scant plot, which is not a criticism as it allows for a plethora of hit songs to be included without feeling forced. There can be a tendency amongst similar plays to shoehorn in the songs to the narrative, which often feels clunky, but Motown resists doing this and the few songs that are used to drive the story forward feel fitting. Instead, most of the songs are performed more naturally by the artists embodying the characters they play either as auditions or concerts, which allows the audience to really enjoy them.
With over 50 songs credited in the musical, it would be impossible to include full length versions of all of them, but there is certainly something to suit everyone who is a fan of the record label. One of the biggest cheers of the evening goes to the cover of the Jackson 5’s ABC, likely due to the admirable performance by the young actor playing Michael Jackson. Although it is perhaps the songs sung by Diana Ross and the Supremes which are consistently some of the best of the evening, thanks to a consistently strong performance by Karis Anderson. Edward Baruwa as Berry Gordy does a lot with the character, drawing out more emotional depth that the story gives him and is responsible for a number of of the big numbers.
For a musical which stays away from the more complex parts of the history of Motown it is not afraid to mention the issue of racism at the time. It would be easy for the musical to gloss over the racial elements and discrimination faced by the artists but thankfully it doesn’t and references are made to the artists being defined by the colour of their skin, the problems with getting black artists on the radio and the segregation of audiences at the time. It is not a major part of the storyline, but an important point to the narrative of many of the figures during the time.
Motown the Musical does exactly what it says; it provides hours of high energy Motown music, much to the delight of the audience. It is a lot of fun and thoroughly enjoyable to spend a few hours immersed in the sounds of the era.
Motown the Musical is at the newly refurbished Alexandra Theatre from 11 October to 3 November, and tickets can be purchased here.
This was a press event. Photos and their copyright belong to Tristram Kenton.
I can’t say I knew much about Three Winters before I showed up to the theatre, jogging up the road thanks to Birmingham’s Saturday early-evening traffic. I try not to read much about a performance, be it theatre or film, before I go because I like to make my own mind up, and then read the reviews after.
Three Winters, it turns out, is a play which takes place during three different winters; just after the Second Word War in 1945, during the Balkans war in the 1990s, and finally in contemporary Croatia in 2011. Written by Croatian playwright Tena Štivičić, premiering in London in 2014, the play takes place in a house in Zagreb, where Štivičić grew up and follows generations of the Kos family.
Whilst the story is about the Kos family throughout the three time periods, it’s very much the women that are the central characters. We first meet Rose King, who secures a home for her, her husband and their daughter Maša, in part of the house during the Communist era of the country. In the 90s Maša has grown up and married to history-teacher husband Vlado, but still living in the house with their two young daughters. With the 2011 scenes take place on the eve of Maša and Vlado’s youngest daughter Lucija’s wedding.
Of the play itself, the narrative is slow to start as it introduces the elements of the story the play will weave together. Growing up, the Balkans war was often something on the news but something my knowledge of is hazy. So whilst the story works with little understanding of the time period, as a family drama through several generations, I do wonder if more historical context might add more richness to the audience’s understanding of the play.
Produced and performed by the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire (final year students from what was formerly known as Birmingham School of Acting), there is little to show that this was not an entirely professional production of graduate actors. The acting was strong and compelling and the use of projected images and music during the transitions added another layer of history to the stories of the family members. For a play where two thirds of the eras take place just before or after war, it is a surprisingly funny play which elicits genuine and knowing laughter from the audience, often as a result of family dynamics, and delivered perfectly.
I wasn’t overly sold on the dance performance piece at the beginning of the play, which may well be part of the original, although with the more celebratory dance at the end, it did add a sense of bookending the play.
I can’t remember what made me book a ticket to see Three Winters at the Old Rep Theatre, but having enjoyed the production I will be checking out other shows by the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.
I’d signed up to two well before heading off on holiday and if I’m honest I signed up to them because they sounded like two that weren’t going to fly over my head as a non-designer, and were of topics that I kinda liked the sound of.
As someone with a predisposition to saying yes to as much as possible and then finding myself sleeping away a Sunday, I thought the Say Yes talk was going to be dangerous. As it turns out it was more about Fee Sheal challenging herself to put herself on stage, something she hasn’t done much of, despite convincing other female designers to share the stage as part of the Edinburgh chapter of Ladies Wine Designs that she organises.
I know a lot about Imposter Syndrome as it often comes up in several spheres of my life, and it’s something that I’ve been actively challenging myself about; when I feel like an imposter, I ask myself “if not me, then who” and if I can’t name someone I would ask instead, I do it – fear be damned. Gemma’s talk took a much more confident approach, but she started with getting the audience to name three things they’re proud of, and it was incredibly powerful. She also talked about that moment in your life when you’re at your worst, and harnessing that to realise in future situations, anything that could go wrong probably won’t be as bad as that.
I tend to be a fan of bullet points when writing notes, so for future prosperity, here are the notes I made during the two talks…
Say ‘yes’ deal with everything else later – Fee Sheal
What’s the Opposite of Imposter Syndrome – Gemma Germains
I’m guessing given how successful it was, there may well be another Birmingham Design Festival next year. And if so, it’s probably worth keeping an eye on https://birminghamdesignfestival.org.uk/
I’m writing this well in retrospect of July, which now feels like an age ago, but looking back on my diary it was another busy month. It started with a visit to the wonderful and inspirational Impact Hub for the revived Brum Zine Festival, which I’ve written all about here. I returned back there a few weeks later for another great event with the authors of Slay In Your Lane.
I also made it to the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery to see Dippy the Dinosaur, who was on a national tour from the National History Museum, the Real Bodies exhibition at the NEC from China, and a trip to the Charlecote Manor with my mum.
Thinking back it has been a rather cultural month.
What I’ve been watching…
An interesting month cinema-wise: some a couple of classic films, some wonderful British films and some big blockbusters too…
What I’ve been reading…
I started one book, Dear Martin by Nic Stone, but temporarily put it down to read How Do You Like Me Now? by Holly Bourne. It’s the stroy of Tori Bailey, bestselling author of keep-it-real snarky self help manual might be flying off the shelves but her real life isn’t quite as perfect as it would seem.
I really enjoy Holly’s books, which are typically more Young Adult, but this first one for ‘grown ups’ which is more aimed at the twenty/thirty somethings and entirely relatable. Lazy reviewers might see the front cover and label it chick-lit, but there are some darker undertones, highlighting similar issues to some of Holly’s books aimed at younger women. I really enjoyed it as a read, a good reminder not to measure your life against other people’s, especially not their highlight reel against your real life. I hope Holly write some more books in this area.
Cynics would tell you that Madagascar the Musical is just an attempt to jump on board the success of another screen-to-stage animal adaptation. But here’s the thing: the much loved film translates well to stage and Madagascar the Musical is actually a lot of fun.
In preparation, I watched the 2005 Dreamworks movie the night before, and Madagascar the Musical is faithful to the script, sanding off some of the edges to make a relatively short but lively theatrical show. If you don’t know the story, it’s a pretty simple one; Marty the zebra is fed up of life in a New York zoo and escapes to find some space, but before he can get very far, his friends Alex the lion, Melman the giraffe and Gloria the hippo come to bring him back to the zoo. Sadly for them this doesn’t go to plan, and rather than be returned to the zoo they’re released back into the wild – or at least would be if their ship wasn’t hijacked by penguins and they end up in Madagascar. Life in the wild isn’t quite what these four pampered animal imagine, and they’re keen to get back to their old life, particularly before a starving Alex eats one of them.
With producers Selladoor Family condensing down the story, the theatrical version feels like much more of a foursome than the film. I don’t have a TV so I don’t really know how much of a draw, 2016 X Factor winner Matt Terry in the role of Alex the lion is, but it’s a solid performance which actually seems to tone down some of the melodramatic moments of the character’s counterpart, and actually allows for a stronger quartet of main characters than the film. Marty the zebra played by Antoine Murray-Straughan has a good chemistry with Matt Terry’s Alex and his energy is impressive, particularly in that padded costume. Actor and puppeteer Jamie Lee-Morgan plays the role of hypochondriac Melman the giraffe, which is skilfully done as he blends in the lankiest of the characters within the quartet. Timmika Ramsay has the strongest voice of the evening, and her performance of Gloria the hippo brings a sassy female touch to the four main characters.
And the penguins! They were my favourite characters from the film, and they’re just as entertaining in the musical, often the source of humour and plot development – be it throwing things off course or inspiring the break out at the beginning of the story. The penguins are puppets controlled beautifully by actors Shane McDaid, Laura Johnson, Jessica Niles, Victoria Boden and Matthew Pennington who each manage to give their penguin their own personality from behind the puppet. Whilst it might not have the grandeur of other animal-based productions, the casting is solid and seem to work well together.
The first act of Madagascar the Musical paces along nicely, but at times in the story feels a little rushed, particularly in the second half, where the Alex’s hunger and ejection from the tribe isn’t given much chance to affect the audience. But the chances of anyone in the audience not being familiar with the source material is slim and so the emotional resonance isn’t much of a requirement for a production that celebrates its whimsy. This is further enforced during Alex’s hunger, where he begins to hallucinate steaks and an eccentric song feels oddly consistent. Whilst Madagascar the movie might be aimed at children, the musical is careful not to ignore its adult audiences by feeding in some of the more mature jokes.
And what of the infamous I Like to Move It song, which is performed in all films? Thankfully this is one of the scenes which makes it into Madagascar the Musical and it is by far the stand out song of the night. The hilarious King Julien, played by Jo Parsons, performs the now-infamous 90s song and it feels like being in one of the strangest raves ever. It is sublimely silly and wonderful and captivating – exactly what I was hoping for. And the second performance of it as an encore it even more well received.
Madagascar the Musical is a fast paced, high energy musical which combines the best of the film with a freshness on stage which is infectious. The story is a little thin on the ground, but that didn’t stop the film becoming a huge franchise and it’s a story which translates well from screen to stage. There’s plenty of good giggles and a lot of fun to be had at Madagascar the Musical.
Move it move, down to see Madagascar the Musical at the New Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham from Tuesday 31 July – Saturday 4 August. Tickets can be purchased here.
This was a press event.
I find the human body endlessly fascinating. I grew up with a nurse mother, a chronically ill father, sneaking away to read my cousin’s copies of How My Body Works books and grossing out my little sister with my mum’s books on foot fungus.
Unlike my mum, my interest in the human body never went beyond an AS level and a stint working in hospital communications, but the human body continues to awe me. A few years ago, thanks to a very morbid map of London, I discovered The Hunterian Museum, hidden in the Royal College of Surgeons building. The museum holds around 3500 anatomical specimens, including preserved tumours, skeletons affected by syphilis, the full skeleton of ‘the Irish giant’ Charles Byrne and a number of animal skeletons. It’s closed for a few years to undergo a major refurbishment, but in the mean time, Real Bodies The Exhibition has landed in Birmingham.
Over 200 anatomical specimens make up Real Bodies The Exhibition, and the displays are separated out into several galleries with topics like breathe, move, rhythm, think and love. The bodies on display are real adult bodies, preserved using Polymer Preservation, which uses liquid silicone rubber and the process can take up to a year, but it allows for the bodies on display to be presented in dynamic poses to show how extraordinary the human body is.
According to the FAQs, the specimens are all unclaimed bodies (meaning no next of kin have come forward to claim them) that have been donated by relevant authorities to medical universities in China, donated legally and provided to the exhibition by Dalian Hoffen Bio-Technique Co Ltd. Some of the specimens are specific parts of the body, including lungs, hearts, veins and reproductive organs, whereas others are full specimens.
So whilst the exhibition doesn’t sensationalise, if you’re squeamish, this probably isn’t for you (although you’ve probably given up reading by now if you are). Another gentle warning is presented toward the end of the exhibition in the Life gallery, which shows different foetus at different developmental stages. Visitors which may find this gallery distressing are able to miss it out, if they should so wish.
As part of Real Bodies The Exhibition, visitors attending on Thursday 2nd August 2018 are invited to attend, free of charge, one of four one-hour classes looking at a perspective on human anatomy, including Yoga in the Repair Gallery, Real-life anatomy art class, Philosophy of the ‘Self Being’ and “Why donate your body to science?”
To book tickets, visit www.theticketfactory.com/realbodiessessions or for tickets to Real Bodies The Exhibition, which is at the nec until Sunday 19th August, visit http://www.thenec.co.uk/whats-on/real-bodies/