Saturday, 21 January 2017

Women's March on London




To all the women around the world today who are marching, I stand with you. Though I can't be at the London march myself, I wanted to live stream all of the action and include all the details for anyone attending.

The march will begin at Grosvenor Square at 12 noon with a short series of speeches presented by actress Rebecca Hall. 

These are themed around the idea of creating a space to allow different voices to be heard, which is a core theme of the march. 

12.00 - Hear Our voice - The voices of the Millennial generation -often forgotten, now heard and arranged by Rebecca Lenkiewicz, British playwright 

12.05 - A voice of the past - Sekela Ngamilo, a young student reading an excerpt from the Freedom or Death speech from the suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst. 

12. 07 - A voice from Westminster Stella Creasy (Lab, Walthamstow) 

12.10 - A voice of activism Akeela Ahmed, Founder of She Speaks, We Hear (one of many organisations supporting the March). 

The march will begin at 12.30 and will finish at Trafalgar Square, where a rally, hosted by Sandi Toksvig and with speeches from celebrities and leaders of supporting organisations, will begin at 2pm. There will be an area for media on the North Terrace of Trafalgar Square, at the top of the steps in front of the National Gallery, looking down towards the stage. 

Trafalgar Square rally running order (subject to change) 

14:01 (Intro) - 14:02 Sandi Toksvig TV Presenter 
14:05 Camilla Kerslake + choir perform “We are Family” 
14:10 Natasha Walter Women 4 Refugee Women 
14:15 Tanya Moodie WEP 
14:20 Yvette Cooper Labour 
14:24 Sajeela Kershi Comedian 
14:29 Polly Neate Women's Aid 
14:32 Isabel Young 50.50 
14:35 Sara Pascoe Comedian 
14:40 Caroline Russell Green Party 
14:43 Diana Holland Unite the Union 
14:46 Lady Phyll Black Pride 
14:50 Kate Smurthwaite Comedian 
14:55 Sarah Olney Lib Dem, Richmond Park 
14:58 Kate Allen Amnesty International UK 
15:01 Clare Murphy British Pregnancy Advisory Service 
15:12 Sumayah Siddiqui /Dorothy Oger read I shall stand for Love 
15:14 A call to stand - Creative artists 
15:19 Liz + Eleanor 
15:26 Mass selfie in T Square Hello New York 
15.26 Choir 
15:30 Close 






Monday, 5 December 2016

Christmas in London


Last week I returned to one of my favourite cities on the planet for a day of Christmas shopping, fancy afternoon tea and the theatre with my favourite lady, my mum. 

With me living up in Newcastle, and her in Yorkshire, it's rare that we get 'mummy-daughter days' as often as we'd like, so when the opportunity does arise, we grasp it with both hands and plan something lovely! This time, we chose London. 

After a Costa gingerbread latte wake-up call at the station and a train journey filled with chats and Bucks Fizz, we were in the Big Smoke. First stop - shopping.


Following a wander down a surprisingly quiet Oxford Street (it was the day before Black Friday, mind) we headed to the shop of dreams: Sophia Webster on Mount Street. Filled with the designer's signature butterfly shoes, speech bubble bags and amazing pastel and flamingo decor, I was in my element. Now, I just need to start saving for my first pair...



A morning of shopping meant that we had both built up quite an appetite, so we headed to somewhere I have been wanting to go ever since seeing their pretty pink interior on Instagram: Sketch

Image by Sketch London

Upon entering the building through a tall black curtain just off Conduit Street, we walked through a snow covered fir tree walkway (which smells just like Christmas!) before being met by staff members donning giant Christmas headpieces, where we were directed to The Gallery, which has walls of artwork by one of my favourite British artists, David Shrigley. 



We had booked in for the Night Before Christmas Afternoon Tea and, honestly, it was bloody amazing. With everything from caviar and quail egg sandwiches and black truffle croque-monsieur (look at us being all fancy) to fresh warm scones served with fig and strawberry jams, we were left more than satisfied. And even better, you can order more of everything - so if you enjoyed some sandwiches more than others, you can get double or even triple helpings!

The extensive tea menu was unlimited and served in unique crockery, also designed by David Shrigley.


One of my favourite parts of Sketch however, bar the amazing food and service, had to be the toilets! If you're on Instagram, it's likely that you've probably seen the weird and wonderful 'dragon eggs'...



Like the rest of the internet, I had to get a picture of myself in there! And of course, as it's nearly Christmas, the bathroom also had a giant forest of snow covered fir trees right in the middle...

Fun fact: the toilet cleaners wear maid outfits and literally survey the toilets constantly so there's never any nasty surprises or a 'no toilet roll' situation.

After a lovely afternoon stuffing our faces, we headed for a long walk - food babies in tow - through Covent Garden, Carnaby Street and then down to the South Bank to see the Christmas markets before a night at the theatre, where we saw our all time favourite West End show - Wicked.


Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz is now in its tenth year in London (CONGRATULOTIONS!), which means there's an extra special 10th anniversary cast in place to celebrate.

Having seen the spellbinding show twice before as it toured the UK (read my first review here), I already knew I was in for a treat - but with an allstar cast including Rachel Tucker (as Elphaba), Suzie Mathers (as Glinda), Eastenders' Anita Dobson (as Madame Morrible) and Mark Curry (as the Wizard), we were truly blown away. 


We were incredibly lucky to be sat only six rows from the front (thank you, Wicked!), which meant we got to witness the beautifully designed costumes in detail, the absolute determination and passion in the face of each and every cast member, the colourful set design, the impeccable orchestra who never miss a beat and of course, the winged monkeys (which are even more terrifying close up!)


The musical's songs, which I can now recite from memory after listening to the CD on repeat, were executed perfectly by the entire cast but especially the show's leading ladies, Suzie Mathers and Rachel Tucker. 

Of course, I got goosebumps and cried at Defying Gravity (I do every time) but for the first time, I also found myself having a tear or three at the pair singing For Good. It was the best duet I've ever seen, both on stage and off, and the relationship and bond between the pair was clear to see. Just, beautiful.

My mum even had her nails done especially for the occasion. Image and nails by Tracy Charnley

After mopping up our tears and joining in the standing ovation, we headed for the train home after the most magical day in London. I think we may have found our new Christmas tradition...

If you fancy taking your mum, your nan, your friend or just treating yourself to an early Christmas present, Wicked have added some extra shows for the holiday season. Get tickets here.


Wicked has also been nominated for 'Best West End Show' at the 17th Annual What's On Stage Awards, so if you love Wicked as much as me and want to give them a 10th birthday present in the form of a vote, please head to WickedtheMusical.co.uk/Vote

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

24 hours in Amsterdam




"You're going to Amsterdam with your mum?" everyone said. "It's not really the type of place you take your mum, is it?"

Well, after a fun-filled 24 hours of canal cruises, pancakes, cocktails, tittering like children in the sex museum, rapidly trying to avoid eye contact with the working ladies of the Red Light District and then learning about the background of said ladies in the Red Light Secrets Museum of Prostitution - I can quite honestly say that going to Amsterdam with my mum was a bloody hoot!



After booking bargain flights on a whim less than a month before, we were eager to explore what 'the Dam' had to offer and we weren't left disappointed. With beautiful canals, streets and buildings spattered in glittering Christmas lights and an endless amount of shops such as tourist ones selling clog slippers, chip shops and not forgetting the legendary C&A - which mum was overjoyed to learn was still available in  the Netherlands - we tried to squeeze in as much as we could.


After completing our full day's Fitbit target walking from one end of Schipol airport to the other, we hopped on the *double-decker train towards Centraal Station, where we then had a short five minute walk to our hotel, Inntel Hotels Amsterdam Centre.
Neither of us have ever seen or been on a double-decker train before - we're easily pleased...


The hotel staff were lovely upon check-in and circled all the Amsterdam hot spots on a map before sending us up to our snazzy room, complete with a fancy blue door. Naturally, the room was spacious and clean but my favourite part had to be the toiletries - in which they provided the usuals including shampoo, shower gel and soap BUT also provided a sewing kit, bath crystals, a vanity kit and a shoe shining sponge - what more could you want?

There was also a fully stocked mini bar which you could purchase things from but the hotel's close proximity to Dam Square meant that you could stuff your face for a whole lot cheaper by buying locally. 


Our first stop after checking in at the hotel was a canal cruise. For 9 euro each, we got an hour cruise on the canals, where our lovely Dutch driver drove into far too many bridges *accidentally* and we learnt some facts - some useless, some interesting - about Amsterdam. 

Fun fact: Amsterdam houses are so narrow that they have a hook at the top of each house to tow furniture to different floors through the windows.

If you don't want to look at a phallic bowl, please look away now...


After our eventful canal cruise, we couldn't resist going in to the Sex Museum after seeing its 4 euro price tag. I don't know what I was expecting when we entered but I was quite taken aback at how full-frontal it really was. After seeing more sex pictures than I care to count, posing with a giant penis and having a selfie with a pop-out prostitute mannequin, I can safely say we were like giggling children in our first sex ed talk. If nothing else, the Sex Museum was a hilarious visit and definitely worth going for its teeny price tag.


Exploring museums *ahem* is hefty work, so we were ready for a bite to eat and chose to go for pancakes, better known in Amsterdam as pannenkoeken. Being hungry, we stopped at the first pancake place we saw, which was conveniently called Pancakes! and can be seen in huge letters when you leave Centraal Station. One word - AMAZING.

After our quick snack stop we decided to do a little more exploring and just so happened to walk right into the Red Light District (really, it just springs up on you.) 


The Red Light District was an experience in itself - women of all ages, sizes and races stood in front of their window with nothing but lingerie on making 'come here' gestures, the dingy beds that lay behind them, the closed curtains of those 'at work' and the men leaving with hands in their pockets and heads down.

Fun fact: The windows with purple lights mean transgender

Having a strong interest in women's rights and human trafficking, I wanted to learn more about Amsterdam's working girls, so when we stumbled upon the Red Light Secrets Museum of Prostitution (also in the RLD), I had to go in.


Without giving too much away, the museum was based in what used to be a brothel, in which a prostitute was murdered by a client. Entry for the museum was around 8 euro and the audio tour, which was told by a prostitute who had worked in the Netherlands for around 15 years, could be bought for 1.50 euro.

The museum was incredibly insightful, giving facts and figures on prostitution and trafficking, interactive sections such as exploring what a brothel bedroom and 'play room' looks like, as well as what it's like to be stood in a RLD window as real passers by passed, documentary-style videos and not forgetting the memorial for those whose lives have been taken in the RLD.

If you get the chance to go, go!  




After a busy afternoon in night in the Dam, we headed back to the hotel for a cocktail before calling it a night. 

The next day, our final few hours before our lunch time flight home were spent exploring Amsterdam's shops - Coolcat, HEMA, de Bijenkorf and Drake's Boutique were firm favourites. 


Finally after a jam-packed 24 hours of food, fashion and phallus photos, we were ready for home but don't worry Amsterdam, we'll be back...


Thanks for reading!
What's your favourite thing to do in Amsterdam?


Sunday, 13 November 2016

AW16 EDIT.


HONEY I'M HOME!

After a year long hiatus from blogging, I'm back! So, to ease myself back into it (and get with the times) I'm going to kick things off with an autumn/winter wishlist. I BLOODY love doing wishlists - my job in PR means I regularly get to write fashion features for regional newspapers and magazines, so as you can imagine, it's pretty difficult writing product pieces without seeing things I want. Here's a few pieces I've been getting giddy about...


Bees really have been busy this season. From necklaces to bucket bags, the black and yellow insect has been creating quite the buzz in the fashion world.



Next definitely took a leaf out of Dolce & Gabbana's book with this dress. It's a melting pot of A/W trends too with its embroidered florals, sheer material and ruffle detailing. LOVE.


I've been on the hunt for a cosy coat that keeps me warm but also looks a little edgy - unfortunately, my padded sleeping bag style coat doesn't quite do the 'edgy' look any justice. However, this khaki number might just be the answer to my cool coat woes...





I'm a big fan of Zodiac signs and have always been very proud of my own - Leo. In fact, if I wasn't so indecisive about tattoo designs, I probably would've had a lion tattooed on me by now... Luckily, this rose gold necklace by popular mama Youtuber Anna Saccone is a cheaper and less-permanent alternative.



Can we just take a moment to appreciate how autumnal this jumper is? The dusky pink shade combined with the khaki and mustard gives me life. I'd wear this with a pink coat, black skinnies and some rose gold metallic boots. 



Every year I go on the hunt for the perfect pair of knee high boots and every year, I end up with a pair of ankle boots. Why? Because knee high boots either have a chunky cleated heel, an ankle-breaking stiletto or a flat and flimsy sole. But this year, I came across these babies and hot damn, they might just be the ideal boots for me. 


Plisse trousers are an absolute dream. They have the comfort of pyjamas but they just look so bloody chic. I already have a black pair but this aubergine pair is ideal for the autumn/winter months. For the day I'd pop on a band tee and my vans and on a night I'd add a crop top and some sparkly heels, cause y'know, it's Christmas party season!



Miu Miu are single handedly to blame for me wanting these. I've never really been a fan of ballet flats, I had a nude pair back when Amy Winehouse did but never really found them very supportive on my soles. However, I'm willing to risk it for these catwalk-inspired flats...


Thanks for reading!
What autumn/winter items have taken your fancy this season?


Sunday, 25 October 2015

Working towards inner peace

Before and during photo

Today marked two months to the day since the photo on the left hand side was taken. The photo was taken exactly two days before I did the best thing I could have done for me - joined Slimming World. The photo on the right hand side was taken today, almost two months on and one and a half stone lighter with a happier (better dressed) Shan staring back at the camera.

The decision to join Slimming World came just after my 21st birthday when I received the photos back from my party and ended up in tears scrolling through them. I had gained quite a bit of weight since graduating from university, primarily working at a desk and having a love affair with Pizza Hut but this was the pivotal moment - me crying on a sofa at a picture of me surrounded by my nearest and dearest, feeling ashamed about how I looked rather than how happy I was that night. This was my turning point.

Now this isn't the part where I say that I clicked my fingers and decided to embrace my body and be confident like so many of the girls I follow (and admire!) online are. This is the part where I tell you that for three weeks following my tearful turning point I thought about my relationship with my body and how I had never really been happy in it, not once. I thought about the inner discontent that had consumed me for so long and had finally led me to feel embarrassed about myself on one of the best nights of my life, my 21st birthday. The same inner discontent that had told me I was the odd one out among my beautiful university classmates on our group graduation photo. And the same inner discontent that had told me that I would never be good enough.

I've discussed body image on my blog before and I am a huge advocate for body confidence and self-love and follow an incredible amount of beautiful inspirational women of all different shapes, sizes, race and religion across the internet but there comes a time when a girl's gotta practice what she preaches, right? I'm a person that can find beauty in everything and everyone but won't give myself the time of day when it comes to self-appreciation.

In fact, after writing this post back in April after being called a "f*cking fat c*nt" by a kind gentleman in the street, I received a lot of grateful feedback from wonderful ladies saying that it had empowered or struck a chord with them and that made me feel great. I was especially proud (and still am) of myself on that day for sticking up for myself and truly believing in me, because truthfully? I do.

But how long did it last? Not very long at all. The following day I returned to my daily routine of mirror self-loathing and discontent and I'd be lying if I said I no longer did that routine. But I don't want to be the old lady who's only regret was not embracing life because she was too worried about her body. I don't want to feel uncomfortable in a sleeveless dress or tell myself I'm not good enough anymore. I want to be content being me and Slimming World has given me that opportunity.

So right now, I'm working towards my own inner peace and for me, that's feeling better on the outside to fix what's been going on on the inside for far too long.

TO BE CONTINUED...

Monday, 12 October 2015

I wanted and still want to be a writer...



Dreams are wonderful things aren't they? You get this idea in your head and think about it day in, day out until the idea of taking your last breath without having achieved said dream is almost unbearable. 

For many, dreams often come and go. You can dream of winning the lottery, marrying Prince Harry or being bezzies with Beyoncé but we have to let ourselves down gently and sometimes accept that some dreams aren't going to happen. (If you are bezzies with Queen B or have succeeded in any of the above, I salute you.)

One dream I've had ever since being a little girl in my first "literacy" class at primary school was to write. I was always awful at Maths and Science but sit me in front of a book and give me a pen and I could write for days. It didn't matter what I was writing, whether it was a letter to primary school pen pals, a story about witches or a horribly cringe-worthy diary entry about the day's playground drama - I just wanted to write.


With a love of writing came a love of reading. Famous childhood authors such as J.K. Rowling and Jacqueline Wilson influenced the way I thought about writing as a child (and adult too,) namely Jacqueline Wilson's book Lola Rose. This children's novel was different to the others. It covered themes of domestic violence, child abuse and cancer and despite its whimsical teenage theme, it was all very real. And this realness was and still is something I've always wanted to do with my writing, but have never felt I've achieved.

The love for writing followed me through my teenage years with English remaining my favourite subject, in my college years I won a Haiku competition (no biggie) and finally completed a degree in Journalism at the Sunderland University.



Doing my final project magazine for university was a time where I really felt free to write whatever I wanted to, which lead me to do interviews with amazing inspirational women, talk about body image, discuss feminism, cultural appropriation, women’s rights around the world and more.

Since graduating and starting full time employment, I haven’t written about what interests me in a while. Despite working in social media and PR and writing daily, I have lost the “write for self” attitude I had come to love in the final months of university.



Cue Workwear Express, a company who contacted me a few weeks ago and asked the oh-so important question I had not asked myself in a while: “What was your childhood dream?”

And I knew the reply straight away, because that dream had never left me, not once. I wanted to be a writer. I wanted and still want to write about the things I love, the things I believe in and things that can inspire others to act on their own dreams or help others achieve theirs. Gender equality, acceptance of self and raising awareness of human rights issues around the world are just a few things I want to help achieve through writing.


To give me the kick up the arse I needed to write, Workwear Express sent the loveliest personalised package of goodies including a desk Hetty the Hoover, a travel mug with plenty of tea, three teeny-weeny notebooks and a hoody with my #WEChildhoodDream on it.

The package has well and truly given me the push I needed to set the wheels in motion for my writing (plus the hoody with the constant reminder helps.) So if you’re interested in any of the aforementioned topics, keep an eye out for a very different blog that I’ll be launching very soon.

*The writer care package was sent to me by Workwear Express for their #WEChildhoodDream campaign but all thoughts and dreams are my own.

“Be courageous and try to write in a way that scares you a little.” 
– Holley Gerth

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Interview: Franki Le-Voguer, writer and director of The Plumbing


“...but through all the fanny farts, struggling with buttons and cleaning up, sex should be about passion, desire and an 
uncontrollable, mutual expression of emotion.”

Meet Franki Le-Voguer, a 20-year-old Drama student at Liverpool Hope University. This year, Franki directed her first ever play, The Plumbing. We had a chat about all things sex, characters and just why The Plumbing has been described as “the voice of a generation.” 


So, what is The Plumbing about?
It’s about the lack of sex education in schools. I know that I for one never got enough education on relationships, consent or dealing with the emotional complications of sex. What a lot of people get taught is what I call The Plumbing, where they’ll say “this is a womb” - NOT EVEN A VAGINA! A WOMB! - “this is a penis and this is how to put a condom on.” From this, I knew that I wanted to write my first play about exactly how the sex education system affects our generation’s perception of sex. 


What did you aim to achieve with the play?
I hated how I started to see a pattern in my own sexual experiences and I’m not ashamed to admit: most teenagers get their sex ed from porn, which creates this twisted perception of what sex should be like. Sex shouldn’t be about porn star moans, shaved vaginas or coming on someone’s face. It’s messy, for one, but through all the fanny farts, struggling with buttons and cleaning up, sex should be about passion, desire and an uncontrollable, mutual expression of emotion.

“Would people still want threesomes if they hadn’t seen them in porn? Would girls still wear suspenders and make-up to have sex in if it wasn’t expected on TV and film? I couldn’t answer these, but I aimed to explore them through The Plumbing.”

Another issue I wanted to tackle was sexuality. Growing up with LGBT influences, I felt it was unfair that people felt forced to “pick a side” when exploring their own sexuality. This message ended up rolling in with the play’s themes about sex and how it shouldn’t matter what people have in their pants, as long as it’s safe, consensual and you’re passionate about the person. Whilst being mindful of how your actions may affect others, you should feel free to have sex with whoever you want.


When did you begin to write the play?
I wrote one scene between Vera and Will two years ago, which was on my laptop forever. Then last term one of my course mates, Jonny, wrote a fantastic musical last term called "Happily Ever After?" and it really inspired me to get on with this dream I'd pushed aside for years. I finally thought, you know what, I can do this. I then wrote it over the course of two coffee-fuelled all-nighters!

  


Was this your first time directing?
Yes, it was completely terrifying! I’ve done a course with 20 Stories High on directing and, of course, been directed as an actor myself, but I honestly just kind of threw things at the wall and hoped they’d stick! It was a struggle, but my cast were fabulous and came to every rehearsal full of ideas and enthusiasm. I must continue to thank Matthew Plummer, who came in late in the process and really helped me out with the directing. I'd love to direct another play now that I've learnt so much from him. 


What was the response like before/after the play?
It was the response before the play that drove me to complete it. I held a read-through of the first draft, and everybody loved it. After the play, I was overwhelmed! The response was phenomenal. It had the exact reaction I was hoping for. People of all ages and genders (including my mum!) commented on how relatable the play was and it sparked debate on all the topics I wanted to highlight. 

The most amazing thing was the play being called ‘the voice of a generation’ on Twitter by Perform L8. I think that The Plumbing raised a lot of issues that many people my age never really got the chance to talk about. There were definitely a few light bulbs going off in the audiences both nights, like “Oh, fuck, of course!”


Why is it so important that we talk about sex?
Because we’re taught not to! I was lucky enough to grow up with friends who were open about sex, relationships and dealing with each other’s emotions. But I also encountered people who didn’t have that and had some absolute horror stories. (Even I had terrible experiences that I look back on now and cringe.) 

I think relationship and consent education are both so vital too. In the play, Vera says no to sex multiple times until giving in and saying “alright.” It’s an experience that unfortunately, many of us have gone through, and it’s not right. ‘No’ should mean no the first time.

Vera very much liked the partner in question, but she wasn’t ready for, or educated on, the decision she was pressured to make, and that’s the real issue I wanted to highlight with this play.


Who’s your favourite female character in it?
Definitely Vera! I’m biased though. She started off as a vehicle for my own voice, but after the first scene was written she became entirely her own character and I actually ended up disagreeing with her quite a lot! Incidentally, that's where the character of Jodie came from. In scene 2, Vera challenges Jodie as to why she likes being tied up by her boyfriend, as in her eyes it's a patriarchal practice about dominance and loss of power, but Jodie retaliates by saying how she does it because they trust and love each other, and it's something they both enjoy. I think that's important to remember, too. 


Do you think 14-year-old Franki would’ve benefited from seeing The Plumbing?
Absolutely! The whole concept was about writing something I wish I’d seen when I was a teenager. I will whole-heartedly disagree with anyone who says we shouldn't get more sex and relationship education in schools. I would ask anyone with that opinion to see The Plumbing, and get them to look me in the eye and tell me that they hadn't wished they'd seen it when they were younger.
 

Will you be taking the play any further?
I really hope so. My dream would be to see it tour schools and universities so that its message reaches out to the people who need it. My hope is that this play is recognised as a whole heap of questions that need to be discussed, not shoved away in a box somewhere. I wanted people to see the play and think 'Fuck, that's what I was missing,' and that's exactly what happened.


Are you writing any more plays? If so, what?
I am! I’ve written an extract for a play called Bye, about the pressures put on people who identify as bisexual. I'm also really excited to start writing a piece that's currently called Woman in Tracksuit, inspired by a talk I went to by the founder of Vagenda Magazine. It's about a woman who is in perfectly happy relationship, but consistently follows ridiculous sex tips from Cosmo in the hopes of 'pleasing her man.' 

"I've discovered that I love writing comedy around serious issues, I love the idea of people laughing at something then going home and thinking 'hang on, that's actually a pretty good point.' I think that style comes from my personal character: if you can't cry about it, you might as well laugh."


THANK YOU TO FRANKI FOR BEING SUCH A RAW, VULGAR (HA!) AND HONEST INTERVIEWEE! <3