James Bay at The Roundhouse

It’s been a while since I’ve managed to write you all a music review. I guess over festival season nobody really tours; AW14 however is going off when it comes to live music at Maxwell Towers. It’s only the September and I’m already on my fifth gig of the season! (Spring, Summer, Autumn, Gigs, Winter right?)

On Monday I was lucky enough to be offered tickets to see Jessie J live at the Roundhouse with the iTunes Festival thanks to the brilliant people at GET IN at The Roundhouse – a fantastic free service that offers really cheap gig tickets, artist support and much more for 16-25s.

Jessie J isn’t my usual cup of tea, but I must admit she was pretty incredible. She’s not however who I’m here to ramble on about – the artist in question is James Bay.

If you’re into ‘new music’ this lovely chap will likely have been on your radar for some time. Firstly, he has supported artists such as Tom Odell, Kodaline even The Rolling Stones at their 2013 Hyde Park shows. BBC Introducing have been supporting him in a  big way over the last 12 months and to top it all of he’s also part of the Burberry Acoustic family. All that for someone you might never have heard of!

James is unquestionably a truly talented singer-song writer, but what was most incredible about his performance on Monday night was his ability to engage with an audience who weren’t really fit for purpose. The gaggle of teenage boys and girls in crop tops and flower crowns weren’t really who I see as his natural audience, yet his performance had such gravitas and total awesome control, the crowd were gripped. His new single ‘Let it go’ was as spine tingling-ly brilliant as I’d hoped, and ‘When we were on fire’ (a favourite of mine) was an absolute hit with the crowd.

Exquisite tone combined with a raw, gravelly expression, James held everybody captivated from start to finish. Make sure you have a listen after reading this and, if you like what you hear he’s touring the UK at the end of November so make so you go show your support for such a marvellous artist.

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Black Pudding

I'm from a small town in the North, it's not an unusual place really; we have a lovely butcher, lots of family run shops and tearooms and then there’s one of it’s most famous annual events, the World Black Pudding Throwing Championship… I kid you not.

From being young I remember going down to the main street (I shan’t call it a high street!) and watching people lob black puddings at Yorkshire puddings stacked onto a 20ft-raised plinth. The aim is to knock as many off the platform as possible. Each year the 'golden grid' of Yorkshire puddings is transported to Ramsbottom on a steam-hauled train, and then laid down to the accompaniment of Scottish bagpipes. As a kid we would watch all the ‘professional’ until someone was crowned a winner and then watch our neighbours and other locals have a go.

If I remember rightly, the event has its roots in the historic rivalry of the Houses of York and Lancaster in the 15th century - The War of the Roses; it was said that the adversaries had food fights when ammunition ran out. I did some more research, and it turns out the first recorded result at the competition was in 1839 but the event became a 'world championship' in 1984 – pretty good going for a weird tradition in a northern steam engine town!

It was only when I left the confines of the North West I began to realise this wasn’t something normal, but hey ho, who wants normal!! Trying to describe the event to people unaccustomed, not only other northerners but also people from ‘the south’, was hard work without looking a bit mad.

Here it is though, for all of you guys! I’m sure you wouldn’t believe me if I said hundreds of people actually attend, hundreds! If you ever find yourself free on a quiet Sunday in September make sure you look it up next year. Entry is only £3.

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How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43)

It all started when I chopped my hair off. This strange air of acceptance about who I am. I won’t lie, I’ve always been alarmingly self aware, which I don’t think is a bad thing, but like everybody else there have always been those moments of wavering and self-doubt.

There has been rather a lot in the blogosphere of late about body image, which is a terrific thing – WishWishWish, Katya Itsines and Fat Girl PhD are just a few you should read. Quite honestly, I can’t imagine anything worse than being sixteen in 2014 – tumblr, airbrushing, models as the ‘norm’. Makes me feel kind of queasy! All girls and boys struggle sometimes, but I think we all need to stop and think ‘Hey! I’m healthy, I’m functioning, thank you body for being so bloody great’.

We’ve all been there, stood in front of the mirror in your underwear (self critique just wouldn’t be the same fully clothed right?), finding minute details about yourself to loathe. But recently, it’s all started slipping away for me. Maybe it’s my age, maybe it’s the fact I grew up in a household where body image was quite frankly not a big deal or maybe, it’s because I’ve decided to give self-hate the finger.

Now, what has brought all this around you ask? Well, last Sunday I ran a 10km assault course – The Wolf Run if you want a look at their website (make sure to turn your sound off, the music is terrifying). To some this may seen like an impossible task, others a casual morning’s exercise. For me it was hard, really hard! Given that 12 months ago I couldn’t run for 5 minutes and over recent months I’ve been plagued with injury, even on the day I doubted myself. Visions of being carried the last few kilometres having fallen down a ditch I couldn’t climb out of plagued my mind. Don’t get me wrong, I was prepared; I train hard in multiple disciplines and eat well (mostly!), but that niggling self-doubt always gets the better of you… But I did it; I ran, climbed, swum, waded though waist deep mud and I finished, with an old pal by my side. At the end all I could think was ‘I’m fit, I’m strong, I’m invincible’… I could do nothing but sing my bodies praises.

And that’s where it ends, the hate and the sadness, I just don’t have time for it anymore. Sure your body might not look like you desire, but what is it you want? Skinnier legs? Longer arms? A more beautiful spleen? One person’s dislike is likely the dream look of another. The more you think about it the sillier it all gets (spleen example included)! So I want you all to make sure you compliment yourself every day, ten times a day if you need. Affirmation leads to substantiation – the more you tell yourself something is true, the more likely you’ll believe it one day!

Overall I guess this post was a little pep talk to myself as much as you guys, we all need it sometimes. It’s nothing any of you haven’t read before I’m sure, but that feeling that we’re all in it together helps! Now, I want you to go and stand in front of the mirror in your undies, then give yourself a big wink and two thumbs up from me, because no doubt you deserve it!

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September 2014: Love Want Need