I remember when I was younger, and I graduated from liking the music of Spice Girls (the first album I bought was theirs, on cassette – standard for any girl my age, I think!), Steps and S Club 7 to the more mature, “cooler” music – Blur, Pulp, that kind of thing. Except…I still kind of did like a lot of pop music – Britney Spears and Girls Aloud especially. But I’d never admit that to my friends, for fear of looking uncool. This went on for years and years. I’d listen to pop music shamefully, only in the privacy of my room or on my iPod, and I’d never openly admit liking it.
I can’t remember what changed, but one day, I just decided, “you know what? I like what I like and I don’t care if it’s cool or not.” My music taste is incredibly varied – indie, alternative…and yes, pop. I’ll sing it loud and proud: I like Britney and Taylor Swift, and I’m not ashamed. Bite me.
We all have different tastes. But to label a certain musician or type of music as “awful” is narrow-minded. That’s your opinion. You don’t like it, but many others do. We all like what we like, for different reasons. You may think some pop songs are meaningless, but maybe they mean something to someone, and maybe some just like a bit of mindless but catchy music occasionally? Why does it matter what others like, and why should anyone else judge them for it?
We all have guilty pleasures. It’s funny though, because there are a select few songs and artists that are seen there are “acceptable” and even “cool” guilty pleasures. Surely you like what you like, and everyone has their own guilty pleasures? I don’t even like the term to be honest – I don’t feel guilty about any of the music I like, no matter how embarrassing it might be to other people, because I don’t really care what others think. On the other side of things, don’t like music just because it’s supposedly “cool”. If you don’t get why Alt-J won the Mercury Prize, then that’s fine – you don’t have to just to be “down with the kids”.
This may seem like a trivial thing, but music is a big part of my life – and of many people’s lives, really. Music has shaped me; it’s helped me through difficult times, it reminds me of amazing times, and just generally is incredibly important to me. I take it (perhaps too) personally when someone slags off an artist I like, especially when they know full well I like them. And I really resent being made to feel like my taste in music is inferior to others. No – it’s different. I may not like the same music as you, but I’m sure as hell not going to shame you for the music you like, so extend the same courtesy to me, please.
Now, I know full well that yes, there are certain genres of music that are easier to ignore if you don’t like them than others. Death metal, jazz, drum and bass and kooky singer songwriters (a favourite of mine – sorry not sorry) are difficult to drown out, so I get you might not want to listen to them. But realise sometimes you do have to deal with others’ different tastes – and as long as it’s in moderation, you should sit and bear it. If you want to voice your opinion – your opinion being the operative words – on said music, do it tactfully, without insulting the person who enjoys it; you don’t know how much it means to them, and how upsetting you insulting it could be.
No-one’s music taste is superior to anyone else’s – it’s different. And I really cannot stand it when people look down on others for their taste in music. Stop taking yourself so bloody seriously, chill out and realise you don’t have to just like supposedly “cool” music – it’s okay to say you enjoy a bit of cheesy pop sometimes, too. The world’s not going to implode if you do, I promise. Plus, being a music snob is just really boring.
Despite only having begun blogging last month, I’ve decided to take a detour from my African travels to talk about a brand new theatre company I’ve co-set up in Oxford: The Saturday Matinee Company. I’m one quarter of SatMatCo, and along with director Katie Read, actors Gaye Poole and Steve Hay, we make up a (questionable) lovely, rounded whole! The four of us have worked together (in various different combinations) on a diverse range of local projects over the past 8 years or so; from the Woodstock Community Passion, to Hidden Spires at Arts at OFS, to medical roleplay, to Memory Exchange – a community theatre tour, to Short Stories Aloud, to radio comedy…
The Saturday Matinee Company – bite sized theatre for anyone, regular theatre goers to those who need persuading, the SatMatCo offer something different for Oxford’s Saturday shopper or visitor – one hour of your time to see a new play, performed by professional actors using basic set and props. Why? To realise/rediscover/rejoice in the power of theatre, the thrill of watching people tell a story before your very eyes. Ticket prices are kept low to ensure it is really theatre for everyone and anyone with relevant themes about issues of our time. With four productions a year, the audience are then asked to vote for the play that they would like to see performed with full production values. The aim is that the company will build a strong local following and that new playwrights from the professional theatre will use the company as a platform for new scripts.
So without further ado, our pilot production:
Collider explores the personal lives of four characters present at the Hadron Collider: two scientists, a visiting evangelical American Pastor and his wife. SatMatCo is committed to making quality theatre accessible and affordable to the residents of Oxfordshire.
November 2009: the biggest scientific experiment in history, the Large Hadron Collider is about to be switched on. Scientists are confident it will prove that the universe began with a big bang; religious creationists fear it will create a black hole and destroy the world. Science and religion are about to collide.
Against this contemporary background of ‘big ideas’, COLLIDER explores the personal lives of four characters present at the Collider: two scientists, a visiting evangelical American church Pastor, and his wife.
Relationships collide; the Pastor is not who he appears to be, his wife is starting to drink heavily, the scientists are arguing about much more than physics, and the greatest and potentially most powerful machine in the world is beginning to dangerously malfunction.
COLLIDER invites us to think about ‘life, the universe and everything’, but entertains us too with a range of vaudeville interludes. Puppets dispute the origins of life and a female astrophysicist gets a lesson in burlesque striptease!
Shaun McCarthy, is a Bristol based playwright who teaches writing for performance at Oxford University. He was a 2014 Hawthornden Fellow, which got him locked up – in some luxury – in Hawthornden castle in Scotland for several weeks where he wrote a farce for stage: ‘Able Archer CPX’ a comedy about spies and spying. He is an Associate Fellow of the Royal Literary Fund. Current new writing projects are all delivered by Shaun’s own company ‘Hooligan Theatre Productions’. He has co-written a musical on the life and time of West Country music legend Adge Cutler that will have its first outing in March 2015. Collider was originally developed with the Ustinov Studio, Theatre Royal Bath.
Unfortunately SatMatCo’s Arts Council funding application was unsuccessful (this time round!). However, we have soldiered on like many artists in the same position, to continue with launching our company. We are sticking to our guns, believing it to be a good and innovative idea within the city of Oxford. Telling ourselves to fight the good fight and not to give up at the first hurdle. We are blessed and very grateful to have The Old Fire Station’s support for our pilot production, without which we’d have another hurdle to jump! The Crisis Cafe are doing a theatre lunch ticket, (bargain of £8), so you can pick up your feast before the play begins and munch as you watch.
Talking of which, personally SatMatCo is food for my soul… attempting to take some control over the ever disappointing acting and theatre industry. I feel strongly that the educational power of theatre in community engagement and the power of thought it can bring with it should be continued to be met head on, despite lack of funding.
If you like the sound of us, join us on our new journey! Please follow on Twitter and Facebook. Even better still, do something different, challenge yourself and come along to The Old Fire Station on a Saturday in January to have your mind and your tummy filled with tasty stuff! We want to share not show, that people who perhaps thought theatre wasn’t for them, could indeed discover their views are rocked.
N.B. Another hurdle was thrown our way a couple of weeks ago: the announcement that the Crisis Cafe is closed on 17th Jan. for refurbishment. So sorry, no lunch tickets on this Saturday I’m afraid. Did I mention this was a pilot?! But without lunch, tickets are only £3. A steal! Oh and a bit more PR: Not suitable for under-12s. The play – not the cafe lunch!
Look forward to seeing you there…
So I thought long and hard about my final Fe-line post for the year, and I thought about writing a story about the life changing year I’ve had having a baby and starting my new business, The Wandering Kitchen but as I thought about writing that post my nose crumpled up and I thought: ‘Yawn, your readers have heard all that before’. It has been a life changing year but now it just feels like Frankie and The Wandering Kitchen are life, which is a wonderful thing. It feels like the year of change is coming to a close and I am moving into a much more stable period of life and it is time to return to some normality around here.
So what is normality? Well it isn’t the last 12 months I can tell you that. I have thrown so much of myself in to becoming a mum and the business this year that I haven’t spent as much time on what was previously my normality; spending time with my friends, taking pictures of weird and wonderful things, traveling, eating out and fashion. So 2015 is all about reinstating these things in my life and I am starting with fashion.
If you read my article in The Very Festive Fe-line Gift Guide, (pages 4-7), you will know that I recently had a consultation with stylist Katy Dyer, you will also know that she worked out that my style personality was partly dramatic (think Katy Perry). This dramatic side of my personality yearns for all things flamboyant, animal print, sparkle, sequins. I am not 100% dramatic and therefore this side of my personality often comes out in a wild accessory or shoe. I have been doing a lot of shoe gazing recently Fe-liners and these are the ones I would like to find under my Christmas tree this year.
- A little bit of leopard print from Boden. How cool are these? They would go with trousers and skirts and I would probably wear them every day. If animal print isn’t your thing, they also have them in glitter flavour!
- I can’t get away from the animal print, but if the boots above are a bit too much animal and heel, what about these beauties from Fat Face? Practical and stylish, what’s not to love?
- So I am going to break the bank a little bit with the next pair, but I couldn’t do a post about shoes without mentioning these Sophia Webster heels designed for J Crew. At £510 I will probably be getting myself two pairs.
- OK so maybe £510 is a little excessive and maybe I don’t have anywhere to wear the pair above, so here is how to do sparkle on budget and practically. Thank you New Look you never let us down in the shoe department.
Merry Christmas Fe-liners, may your festive footwear be fabulous,
Fe-liners, on the 29th of November 2014 I turned 28. I have never been one for birthdays but this year is so very different. This year I celebrated a year that changed my life and toasted all the wonderful things that are to come for my 28th year. For now though I am going to tell you about all of the wonderful things that happened in my 27th year.
I became a Fe-line Blogger
I’m sure that by this stage that you all know my fe-line story. However it is such a crucial part of my story it deserves a mention. When the lovely Jo advertised that she was looking for writers I was initially very excited and thought it would be a wonderful opportunity. However very quickly I left my negative thoughts take over, you know the ones. “Everyone else would be much better at that than I would be” “What would I even have to write about” “It’s a UK based blog, I wouldn’t be relevant” “I’m just not very good at writing really so just stop all of this silly talk”. Then I got some positive feedback from a friend on my writing from my old blog “Lashes, Lace and Ink” and I just decided to give it a go. So I wrote a begging letter to the lovely Jo detailing why I would like to be part of Fe-line and all of the things I would like to write about.
Thankfully Jo and her team decided to take a chance on me. It was quite a risk for them because I was still quite an inexperienced writer. I was so excited about my first post and I had fully intended that it would be a wonderfully positive uplifting piece. However it coincided with one of the most stressful times of my life. My yet to be diagnosed Anxiety was in full swing and I could barely function. When I was incapable of anything else I decided to get my sh*t together and start writing, and that is where my first post “I suffer with my mental health” came from. That post saved me that day, it dragged me out of my anxious cloud and made me realise that if I could write I could do anything. Even when I lost the motivation to continue my own blog I never gave up on Fe-line.
Since starting with Fe-line I have grown in confidence and capability as a writer, I have gained the support and encouragement of an inspiring group of women from across the globe and I feel as if I really am part of something bigger. For that I am eternally grateful to Jo, the fe-line team and all of you wonderful people who read what I write and give me the opportunity to pursue my creative bliss.
I fell in love with my body
I am the worlds worst for New Years Resolutions! I am a marketers dream, every January I would decide that I was going to lose heaps of weight, become ultra fit and that all of my body niggles would disappear. However this process was always fraught with self-loathing and negativity, therefore it never worked. I would always feel horrendously worse about myself come February. In cases by the end of January.
In 2014 I decided I was going to change all of that and that I would dedicate all that time and energy to loving my body. I mean really loving it, no more negative self talk, no more indulging in negative media, no more body snark. It took a while to get into it, I won’t lie. I’ll tell you what though, it has been one of the single greatest decisions I have ever made. Changing how I felt about my body impacted on so many areas of my life I couldn’t believe it. I was suddenly braver, I walked taller, what I wore was different and I took up space because I deserved to. No more shrinking into corners because I felt I had to. I became so body positive I stripped off for a nude photo shoot with Boudoir Girls. That was a step of epic proportions because prior to that I would barely stand in for family photographs.
My own body positivity has even encouraged other women to embrace their own beautiful bodies, regardless of their size and shape. That’s what it’s all about really, loving yourself and spreading that love around. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish when you have all of that time you used to spend picking yourself apart, to dedicate to other pursuits.
I embraced all of the F words
Fat, Fierce, and Feminist!! That is now how I describe myself. Why? Because that is what I am! Initially calling myself fat came as a big surprise to a lot of people. They were so used to the word fat being used in a negative context and they immediately rushed to assure me I was not all of the things usually associated with being fat. Of course I wasn’t ugly, smelly, stupid, sexually unattractive or desperate. My favourites had to be “Oh you’re not fat, you’re curvy” or “You’re not fat, you’re beautiful”. While we’re on it curvy is just a new term for sexually acceptable fat. You can have big hips, a big ass or big breasts and that is very attractive, because the fat is in the “right” places. However I have fat all over, they aren’t curves, they are rolls, they are mine and I love them more than I ever have. I am beautiful just as I am my size, shape and weight are relevant. I am fat and I am beautiful, the two are not mutually exclusive.
Feminist was another label people struggled with. They could not understand why I would want to label myself such a thing. Why would I openly declare that I hated men and that I wanted to forego being feminine? Feminist is another term laden with misconception about it’s meaning. Consequently this inspired another Fe-line article, full of the misconceptions of what it means to be a feminist. After going to see Caitlin Moran live and meeting the lady herself it absolutely cemented for me, the importance of openly identifying as a feminist. I now wear my feminist badge with pride, quite literally due to Ms. Moran’s wonderful merchandise.
As a direct result of embracing both of these F words, I have become fierce, a force to be reckoned with. Why? because it takes a whole lot of ovaries to stand up to people and challenge their misconceptions. As a rule people don’t like change or challenge. That said it’s tough to argue that a tiny, purple, haired, smiley, articulate woman is anything other than what she says she is. That, my friends is the type of confidence I have developed over the last year. Prior to that I would have hid in a corner unable to express myself without going red in the face and they could have labelled me whatever they liked and I would have agreed.
I got braver with my look
Prior to embracing my body and generally becoming more confident, my clothing choices were very safe and samey. My wardrobe consisted of many items in large sizes that would be baggy on me, so that nobody would see my body. There was an internal dialogue that if you couldn’t see the outline of my stomach, hips and thighs that they really weren’t as big as you think they might be. First off this is so very wrong because all over draping only made me look so much bigger. It also meant I had zero shape, I was lost in a sea of draped fabric, like an old piece of furniture hidden by many blankets so you couldn’t see what it was anymore.
On a shopping trip with my sister I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Forever 21 stocked plus sizes. Not only that but they fit me. So with the help of my beloved sister I invested in a wardrobe of fitted clothing in various colours and I have never been happier with my wardrobe. I’d be lying if I said I put on the fitted items at home and wore them without question. It did take some getting used to. Once I had convinced myself that I did look good, everything changed. I didn’t just wear my outfits, I rocked them. The power of positivity and confidence is a wonderful thing.
I embraced my mental health
This one can be a little bit of a sensitive issue for people. In Ireland the issue of mental health is not one easily discussed. There is an unspoken assumption that if you have an issue with your mental health you have to be minded. I don’t mean that in a positive way, people looking out for you, I mean that you are treated differently because there is an element of fear around it.
I consider myself to be a very capable, strong woman and the idea that people would see me as any less capable really bothered me. It’s why I refused to acknowledge that I wasn’t ok for so long. I let all of it build up inside me and took actions to make life as comfortable as possible for myself without challenging the situation. I would only go shopping at certain times to avoid crowds if there were crowds when I got there it impacted. I would become panicked and start to show physical signs of panic and stress. That’s what it came down to. I couldn’t cope physically or mentally with the stress anymore. So I got help. It wasn’t easy but I did it. Not only that but I started to talk more about what it was that was “wrong” with me. That way it becomes normal for me and for those I meet. Sure I have Anxiety but I have a quick wit, I have a creative streak, I’m a complete softie. None of these things defines me any more or less than the other.
Speaking openly about my mental health has lead many people I know discussing their own issues too. People I would never have suspected had any issue of any description. That’s one of the problems I guess, we just don’t talk about it so we can’t recognise it, we don’t know how to react to it, we don’t know how to treat the person with it. It’s all really new and the only times we do hear about it is when the very worst happens, someone has a breakdown or they commit suicide. To the best of my knowledge nobody has said anything negative to me about my “coming out” nobody has treated me any differently and if anything I am more capable now than I was because I am more aware of my issue and triggers.
I invested in myself
Another first for me in my year of positivity was investing in myself. Self belief is all well and food but I decided it was high time to put my money where my mouth is, quite literally. I decided to invest in my own talent, skill and ability and start my very own website. Since starting Rebelle-ution I have had a world of people contacting me for business opportunities and to share their stories of positivity and how the site has helped them. As a result of all this wonderfulness I have gained a bravery and confidence in my writing that I might not have otherwise. All in all it was worth every penny!
I guess the title may seem a bit far fetched given the stories and encounters I’ve just told you about. I honestly do believe it saved my life, not that I was in danger of losing my life, instead I have made a decision to actively participate and engage in my own life rather than passively existing. I’ve completely turned my life around, improved my mental health and opportunities by simply making choices. Was it easy, absolutely not, was it worth it, hell yeah it was. In case you were wondering I fully intend on making my 28th year my best yet, just watch this space.
I was recently watching Drifters, a Channel 4 show about a trio of twenty-something girls, when one of the characters said, “women are having their moment”. As much as I disagree with this statement, in that women shouldn’t have a “moment” but instead have just as much credibility on (and off) screen as men at all times not just for “moments”, the statement did get me thinking about a few of the great female fronted comedy shows around at the moment.
Being a BBC 3 comedy series about the trials and tribulations of teenage girls in London, I question whether I am the target market for Some Girls, but enjoy it nonetheless. Although, like in a lot of comedy, the characters have slightly formulaic personality types – the clever one (Saz), the hard one (Holly), the ditsy one (Amber) and then there’s the glue of the group (Viva). What makes the series so watchable is not so much the ridiculous situations the girls get into, but the way their characters are quite well fleshed out so you can feel sympathy for them and also even dislike them. Saz is really quite hard on her friends, Viva is really quite frustratingly constantly in denial: they don’t just feel like comical characters there for amusement, but real girls becoming women who aren’t always charming or beautiful but can also be angry or strong-minded.
Bunny, Laura and Meg are three unemployable lasses in Leeds, trying to make the most of their twenties and consistently getting caught up in embarrassing situations. This is comedy that makes you cringe and laugh at the totally awkward and excruciating moments regularly experienced by the trio. The characters are all pretty shallow, their lives and relationships slightly devoid of meaning or significance, but it is pretty entertaining. The main character in the show is played by Jessica Knappett who writes the series and has co-written with two of the writers of The Inbetweeners, so that gives you the gist of the style of humour. Think female Inbetweeners in a quarter-life crisis.
Over on the other side of the Atlantic, a few American series are doing similar things. Two Broke Girls, slightly similar to Drifters, tells the story of a high-society woman who loses her money and for no clear reason a street-wise waitress in Brooklyn gives her refuge, from there friendship and a cupcake business blossoms. I would also really recommend GIRLS, more of a drama than a comedy series, is all about being a twenty-something millennial lady. Strangely enough for a popular TV series, the characters are more often annoying and horrible than they are sympathetic and you end up laughing at them more than with them. Lena Dunham must be playing with our masochistic tendencies.
Despite what Bunny says in Drifters, female-fronted British comedy isn’t exactly new – the crazy sketch series Smack the Pony, comedy duo French and Saunders and Absolutely Fabulous were all rip-roaringly successful in the 90s, but it feels more like the next generation of female comedy legends are being noticed – and I look forward to their legacy.