Bears on Stairs with World Vision UK

Back when I used to take part in running events, I would raise money for charities close to my heart, but since giving that up due to injury I haven’t really been active in that respect either. When you’ve got a mortgage to pay, charity ads on the tv asking for money and people with clipboards knocking on your door, it can be easy to brush aside the work they’re doing to help others, whilst we get on, blinkered, with our own lives.

But it’s not just money that charities work to gain (though of course that’s really *really* nice) – they work incredibly hard to be heard and to spread awareness of what’s going on – sometimes far away and sometimes close to home. And even if you can’t afford to donate money, it’s so easy to donate your time.

All this week, World Vision UK (the world’s largest international children’s charity) are actively raising awareness about the Bidi Bidi refugee settlement in Uganda, where over 700 children arrive each week after fleeing the long-standing civil war in South Sudan.

These children are leaving their homes, separated from their families, often sick or injured, the majority having seen their parents killed and not knowing where they are.

Tomorrow, the 27th July, 700 teddy bears, each one representing one of these children, will arrive at London’s St Paul’s Cathedral, and be placed on the steps to raise awareness of these children’s plight. The event is on for a few hours in the morning, so if you’re in the area please pop by and show your support!

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If you can’t make it, you can show your support in other ways! World Vision UK are asking for you to take a photo of your bear on the stairs using the hashtag #BearsOnStairs. By using your instagram or twitter platform and the hashtag, you’ll be spreading the world and showing your support to these children.

If you’d like, you can watch the event at St Paul’s on the 27th, by logging into Facebook and watching live on World Vision’s page.

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To find out more about how you can help South Sudan refugees, on World Vision UK’s crisis appeal page. Here you can educate yourself on what’s going on, and donate if you feel you want to.

I look forward to seeing your #BearsOnStairs – spread the word!

Playing Tourist with London Duck Tours

If you’re a regular reader of mine you’ll know I’m a big fan of London, and visit whenever I can – especially in Summer. So when I was asked whether I wanted to play tourist and go on a London Duck Tour, the answer was a resounding YES!

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I’d heard of Duck Tours before but wasn’t really sure what they were, having just seen the big yellow boat-like vehicles cruising through the streets of London. I was definitely intrigued. Me and hubby arrived at the Southbank on the day of our tour, and basked in the gorgeous sunshine until our transport arrived.

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The DUKW vehicles (affectionately referred to as Ducks and painted an appropriate yellow) are so-called thus: D = First year of production code “D” is for 1942, U = Body style “U” utility truck (amphibious), K = Front wheel drive, W = Two rear driving wheels (tandem axle). These vehicles were used to carry supplies and were most suited for this due to being able to go on both land and water. Fitted with a lovely roof, they are very accommodating on both grey and gloriously sunny days.

We hopped onto our Duck, Titania (all the Ducks are names after female characters from Shakespeare plays) and got comfy in our seats. Our tour guide Mark quickly gave us a brief of the journey ahead and then we were off!

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The tour started in Waterloo, then Westminster;

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Parliament Street, Whitehall, Downing Street, Trafalgar Square, Pall Mall, Piccadilly;

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Grosvenor Place and Buckingham Palace, MI5 and Lambeth Bridge before splashing down into the Thames next to MI6.

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We then travelled by water past the Tate Gallery, underneath Lambert Bridge and then turned around beside the Houses Of Parliament before heading back to dry land. Back on solid ground, we passed through the Vauxhall area and then back towards Waterloo.

Considering I’m a regular visitor to London, it was great learning so much about places I’ve seen many times, as well as noticing things I’ve never seen before and travelling through parts of the city I’ve never seen. I even learned that the Thames isn’t as dirty as I’d once thought, and its only the colour it is due to the constant churning of clay and soil on its bed. Who knew?! (Well, obviously Mark, our guide knew….)

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I loved the tour. Our guide was informative, funny and really knew his stuff. I honestly felt like I was on holiday, and the time we spent on the water was so relaxing!

I’m so pleased I got the opportunity to take this tour. I’ve seen that London Duck Tours also do themed tours including James Bond and D-Day. I might have to look those up! I visit London so frequently it’s so easy to forget about the landscape and history surrounding you in such a fast-paced environment. I LOVED playing tourist!

I was given the opportunity to take this tour for free by London Duck Tours, but at under £30 per adult ticket I’d say it’s worth every penny, for such a unique way to see and learn about London. You can find out more about their tours, and buy tickets and vouchers here, at their website London Duck Tours

Have you ever been on one of these tours, or even one of their themed tours? I’d love to know what you thought. Leave me a comment below, and tell me about it!

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I was given two tickets to the London Duck Tours for free, in return for my honest review of the experience. All views are my own and totally unbiased. If you like the look of the tours, go try one and see for yourself!

Glamour Beauty Festival, London

On the 11th March Sophie Kate and I headed to the Saatchi Gallery on London’s King’s Road for the Glamour Beauty Festival.

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Sophie won tickets on Pixi’s instagram competition and chose to take me along, so I was ecstatic. Not just to go to the event, but to finally get to meet Sophie!

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The weather was fantastic, and promised to be around 17c which made choosing an outfit a lot easier – no need for the bulky coat!

Our slot was in the morning so we arrived and got our wrist bands. The event covered three floors, with treatment stands in every room. In the first room was OGX and GHD. We grabbed some free samples of shampoo and watched people getting their hair braided and curled on both sides of the room.

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There were also a few good selfie opportunities!

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Across the hall was skincare, featuring fresh and Pixi. In here you could get a luxurious facial from any of the brands.

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Then to makeup, one floor up and as well as shopping for makeup you could have your makeup and eyebrows done professionally or get a manicure – all for free.

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The top floor was the theatre for talks and though we didn’t have time to attend one, we still wanted to pick up our goodie bags – worth a whopping £190!

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The event was great and there was a lot on offer, if you were prepared to line up for a while. I could imagine if you turned up hair undone and makeup free you could leave looking ready to attend London Fashion Week! Personally I’m not a fan of treatments, I like to do all those things myself, but you could really get bang for your ticket price if you spent the whole day there.

It was an awesome morning, and I’m really pleased I got to go! Thanks to Pixi Cosmetics for the tickets, and to Sophie for bringing me along! Same time next year?

 

Jurassic Park In Concert

A couple of weeks ago Gary and I went to The Royal Albert Hall to see Jurassic Park In Concert.

As huge fans of the film it was great to go to this venue and see John Williams’ score performed by a live orchestra.

We’d been to a few similar events previously (Back to the Future, Pixar, Brief Encounter) so knew what to expect, but I’d forgotten we’d got box tickets which was a nice surprise.

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At events like this it’s easy to forget the orchestra are playing alongside the film, and I really think that’s a compliment to the orchestra, since you totally forget that something unusual is happening and that the music is coming from people actually playing in front of you.

The music to Jurassic Park is so classic and impactful that it was really nice to sit and watch them play. Lovely to focus on parts of the music I like in particular and see the different sections making the sounds I’m so familiar with!

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I love seeing musical performances at RAH and always love having a good look at the discs on the ceiling, which I like to call smarties. They’re to aid the acoustics but I think they just look so pretty! I actually performed at the Royal Albert Hall in a choir singing Carmina Burana, as a child, so it has a special place in my heart!

It was a really lovely way to spend a Saturday afternoon, and I managed to get some wear out of my Jurassic Park t-shirt from Universal Studios 😀

Secret Cinema: Dirty Dancing

 

Way way back in July, I attended my second Secret Cinema event. This time was to see Dirty Dancing, and continuing my tradition, I vowed not to post a blog about it until Secret Cinema uploaded their video.

Finally, months later they’ve done it! So first of all if you want to watch their video of the event you can see it here:

And if you can watch that all the way to the end and not feel excited and uplifted then you’re dead inside.

The first Secret Cinema experience I’d had was seeing Back to The Future, and that was massively impressive. This was slightly less so, but still awesome.

I don’t know whether it was because I had so much going on in my life, but I didn’t really involve myself in the prep for this event as much as I’d done previously. But I still rocked my costume:

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With all Secret Cinema events, phones and cameras are banned so I didn’t take photos but you can get the atmosphere from the video. Everyone was getting involved with dance classes, volley ball and the talent show. There were different booths and areas to go and visit and characters from the movie were walking around.

The movie was shown and despite the sound not being great everyone was really into it, clapping, whooping, dancing and singing.

It was a great night and I can’t wait to see what else Secret Cinema have planned!

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Electric Daisy Carnival UK, 2016

Not so many Saturdays ago, I did something very uncharacteristic for me, and went to a dance festival.

It’s not that I’m not a festival person – quite the contrary, in fact it was at a festival that G Man and I met many many years ago. However dance music has never been my thing, though over the last few years I’ve grown a large soft spot for drum and bass.

EDC (or Electric Daisy Carnival) is a large festival, originating from Las Vegas, and for some reason for the last 3 years they’ve decided that Milton Keynes is a good place to hold the UK version. Since Gary was out of town that weekend and two of my friends had already bought tickets it seemed rude not to tag along.

So first things first I bought my ticket. Next I had to work out what to wear. Well, since it’s all ravey and neon I cracked open my Urban Decay Electric Palette and went to town. With a little inspiration from Pinterest I came up with this:

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and for the nails, my speciality, unicorn nails!:

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Clothes were the obligatory denim shorts and a nice bright yellow vest. The day was so humid that nothing but loose clothing would do.

Once we’d arrived and our tickets had been checked, we had a mooch around to look at the various stages and tent. The main stage was amazing. The eyes in the owl which made up the centre of the stage were little screens so it looked like it was looking around – the stage even had a full blown waterfall on one side. Insane!

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We worked out who and when we wanted to see people in the line up and then had a look around the tents. We stayed for quite a bit of Goldie’s set in one of the tents and I had a good dance, and really enjoyed myself.

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We also saw Sigma’s DJ set quite early on and they were excellent too.

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On the main stage we saw a couple of DJs I hadn’t heard of but they played some stuff I recognised, so that was good. It was great seeing people on the fairground rides, whilst the music was being played, right in the middle of the crowds!

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I have to say I met some really nice people at this festival. Obviously some of these people were a little ‘out of it’ but I never at any point felt unsafe. Everyone’s very connected by the music and it felt like a little acid crazed family.

By the time the sun had gone down, it had gotten a little chilly, so we stayed put to watch Avicii who closed the show, and then there was a 5 minute ceremony to say goodnight complete with fireworks!

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All in all it was a great day, and I’d love to go again with G Man – I think he’d have a lot of fun! The only negative I’d say is that once it was over it wasn’t clear where the exits were and the only obvious exit was closed off and guarded by security so that the acts to leave that way in their vehicles.

I’d say to you have to go to EDC with an open mind. There will be drinking and drug taking and the portaloos aren’t fit for a queen, but then this is a festival. If you can get on with the music and are willing to get into the swing of things, it’s well worth the cost of the ticket.

Not That Kind of Girl

On Friday afternoon Jen and I left work early, headed for London and to the Royal Festival Hall. We’d managed to get tickets to Lena Dunham’s only UK book event, promoting her first book Not That Kind of Girl.

 

The evening began with an introduction from British author and columnist Caitlin Moran and then Lena came out and read a section from one of the chapters in her book. For those who have never taken an interest in Lena, first of all if you’re a woman – shame on you – she is a smart, eloquent, wonderfully open and the kind of unorthodox role model you’re looking for – trust me. She has the kind of voice you could listen to forever and everything she says is measured, deliberate and valid.

Her TV show Girls is about to start its 4th season. It follows a group of young women in New York and is to this generation of 20-30 somethings what Sex and the City was to the last generation. It’s brave, funny, sometimes shocking and so real. It depicts real women on the screen and talks about all the things the media says you’re not supposed to.

So Jen and I were eager to hear Lena speak since we both LOVE the show and have huge respect for her. Our ticket came with a signed copy of her book, which we both agreed we couldn’t wait to read so began to plan our busy schedules around when we could sneak in a quick chapter.

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After Lena had read her excerpt she was interviewed by Caitlin and they discussed everything from parts of the book, to sharing her body on screen, being a woman in the media and her show, Girls.

The question and answer section towards the end of evening was cut short as they had run over time but a great selection of questions were asked, including those about race, some of Lena’s previous work and one woman who thanked Lena for her strong writing which had helped her to get out of an unhappy marriage. It got a bit emotional.

It was wonderful to be in a room with such a bunch of strong women (and a few celebs including Richard E Grant, Sarah Millican and the lead cast of Call The Midwife, a show Lena had been very vocal about loving). I’ve often thought of the term Feminist as boot clad, short haired bra burners and wondered what it really meant to be one. I don’t know if I am one, but if it means being in the company of these ladies it’s definitley not a bad place to be.

Going Back In Time Pt.1

This post contains no event spoilers, other than one majorly publicised photo of the site before it was complete.

It all began with a simple tweet. A Back to The Future related indication from movie event creators Secret Cinema. We’d been following them on twitter and via email for a few years after hearing that there was a company who would transport you into a movie – and most of the time you wouldn’t know what the movie was until the event began.

Future Cinema, set up in 2005 and launched at Glastonbury’s cinema tent, began to show short and full length movies to cinema fans with actors and scene sets surrounding them to create a more immersive experience. Their first Secret Cinema show, 2007, took place in a series of tunnels underneath London Bridge bringing to life Gus Van Sant’s Paranoid Park, a film about an accidental murder committed by a skateboarder. Since then they’ve shown a host of movies including Ghostbusters, Alien, Bladerunner and The Shawshank Redemption (which was notoriously hardcore as all guests were ordered to strip to their long johns and put on inmate clothing whilst being shouted at and ordered around an old school made into a prison by guards).

Once signed up to the mailing list Secret Cinema will send you a cryptic email in advance of ticket sales. They’ll be written in the style of the movie and contain hints – but you never really know what the film will be. You don’t even know when you buy the tickets AND you don’t know the location. Once you’ve bought your tickets, you’ll be sent further emails with tasks, assignments, costume requirements and eventually a meeting place – which isn’t necessarily where you’ll be watching the movie (in the case of Shawshank, guests were split into lines of gender and piled onto State Penitentiary buses) For Lawrence of Arabia (2010) I remember following the unveiling on Twitter along with the guests – they had to follow clues through London markets, picking up parts of their costumes on the way to their meeting place.

I’m all for the heightened movie going experience but have a certain level of anxiety attributed to the unknown, so I didn’t really want to commit to a fully secret Secret Cinema. But when the Back to the Future hints started appearing, and since it’s Gary’s all time favourite film, I knew it was a no brainer.

So on the day of ticket sales Gary and I sat with anticipation at our work computers ready to grab two tickets. But two hours, and a lot of frustration later, no one had tickets. Secret Cinema had vastly underestimated the demand for their three weeks of shows and the provider’s servers had buckled. They closed the ticket sales and announced a resale the next day. And thankfully we got tickets. Secret Cinema quickly announced they’d double the shows and extended until August 31st (there’s still tickets available if you want to go!)

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And so began the emails with cryptic instructions, messages from the Mayor, new identities were handed out (I’m Linda Berrier, hi!), groups joined. We were asked to buy coloured sunglasses, prepare photographs, print out business cards and IDs and given costume advice. They set up a diner and costume shop in Shoreditch to visit ahead of the shows and printed newspapers.

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People, who didn’t really understand what Secret Cinema was all about began to moan about the extent of preparation they would need to go to, that they didn’t know where they’d be going so couldn’t book hotels (even though the clues were all there) and that they couldn’t take their phones into the show. But I was all up for it. I found my outfit and couldn’t wait to share a sneaky peak to the world:

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But then on press preview day, one day before the start of their run, something went wrong and the show was cancelled. And then it was cancelled for the first proper date too….. the deluge of anger and complaints was HUGE. It even made the news that evening. Some kind of council dispute had halted preparations and the site wasn’t finished.

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Photos of a bare site started popping up and concern fell upon all those with tickets. People had travelled from all over the world only to turn up, many without their phones since they weren’t allowed and so unable to see the cancellation notifications, and were devastated (but offered refunds or reschedules). The anger carried on until a press release announced that the whole first weekend would be cancelled until the issues had been resolved – it was a double-edged sword since this meant those booked for those dates could be sure they weren’t going so wouldn’t make unneccessary trips, but also meant so many people were disappointed. The announcement stated that the first show would be the following Thursday with a press preview on the Wednesday.

Thankfully this all went ahead and the weather was beautiful for it. From that point trolls and moaners were told to move on and get over it by those who had decided to reschedule. We just wanted to enjoy it!

The weather forecast looked fantastic all week, except for the day we were going (of course) but thankfully this changed and rain was only predicted for the morning. Gary and I headed off to London on Saturday morning and checked into our hotel in Canary Wharf. After a quick Wasabi lunch we went back to the hotel and started to get ready for the show. Excitement was at an all time high and as soon as my costume was on I just wanted to get there – IDs, photographs, sunglasses and blanket in hand, all that was left was to go back in time……..

Since Secret Cinema’s policy is Tell No One, the second part of this event recap will be posted once all the dates of the show have been completed, so as not to spoil it for anyone who is going. Stay tuned!

Keep On Rockin’ in the Free World

So yesterday, Gary and I made our way to London’s Hyde Park for the Hard Rock Calling festival. A festival run by, the ‘ambassadors of rock’,  Hard Rock Cafe. I’ve been to two other events at Hyde Park, (REM and Red Hot Chili Peppers), but not a festival, so I was intrigued.

The park was split up with different stages, but most impressive was a large tent which was actually a Hard Rock Cafe restaraunt, complete with memoribilia on the walls, and a merchandise tent next door.

The whole week the weather had been changing from hot to rain to hot and rain, to storms, to fog – we didn’t know what to expect. But it was really rather warm and just a little cloudy.

We had a walk to have a look round. There was a big pyramid tend with a star on the top and loads of people standing underneath it. We walked in and there was a mist of fine water droplets showering down. An instant walk through cooler. Amazing! What we needed too!

We sat for a while in front of the main stage watching Seasick Steve and decided to have something to eat. I LOVE festival food, but it was a bit manky this time 😦 Ah well. I popped to go to the porter loos (surprisingly clean) and when I came out Gary told me about the lightning he’d seen. And lo and behold a huge rain cloud had appeared and was heading towards us. Time for rain wear – so we bought some ponchos and prepared for the impending down pour. And it happened as we were make our way to the front of the crowd to see Fleet Foxes. I love thunder storms and wasn’t disappointed! People were soaked but I was dry under my bright orange rain poncho!

The Fleet Foxes were amazing. They re create their sound live, perfectly. Their harmonies and the tightness of the band was brilliant and created a perfect ambiance as the rain stopped and the sun began to shine again.

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Then we waited for the headliner, Neil Young. Gary’s a huge fan and has educated me in the ways of Mr Young for years now, so I was quite looking forward to seeing him perform. I’d watched him on Glastonbury the night before and wasn’t really sure if I’d enjoy the long guitar solos, but I did! I even danced through most of Down by The River which is about 15 minutes long 🙂 He got the crowd singing and swaying throughout. When he played Rockin’ in the Free World the crowd went manic!

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His encore for the whole of his world tour has been A Day in The Life by The Beatles. Just before he began to play, he walked off stage and gave someone a hug. Gary looked at me and shouted ‘that was Paul McCartney’ – his Super Beatle Sense was tingling. And sure enough, when he got to Paul’s part in the song, paul sauntered on and sung with him. Gary and I went ape! One of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. See it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVYqgmgSR0w

So it was an amazing day, with a super amazing end. I love seeing music live and outside (as you will have seen from my other blogs) but this was up there with the best. Bring on next year’s festival season 🙂