Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Secret Santa Night!

So this weekend my group of friends hosted our annual Secret Santa night, which is one of the best nights of the year. We get together with lots of food, swap our gifts and generally get in the festive spirit just before Christmas! We also like a good games night so we usually have a bit of a quiz, splitting into teams and getting competitive, and play other fun games.

Even though we're all really close, sometimes it's difficult knowing what to get your Secret Santa - especially when you have to stick within a price limit. But this year I was really impressed with my gift - it shows my friends know me so well! I was handed a small envelope which was wrapped really pretty with twine and a candy cane. But I thought, what could possibly be in here - surely someone didn't buy me a gift voucher?

My Secret Santa really thought about the perfect present which was, of course, a ticket to a dance performance. And it's not just any old dance company - one of my favourites, NDT2. So now I have something to look forward to for 2016 (not that I didn't have enough, I'm only getting MARRIED). But I've got a theatre night in my diary for April and know it's going to be an incredible night. I'll of course be reviewing it right here.

You can catch NDT2 at The Lowry on 19th and 20th April. The dancers will also be touring in Woking, Bradford, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Nottingham and London.

Finally I'd just like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, and a happy, healthy 2016.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Gig Review: Mumford and Sons, Manchester Arena


I've barely seen the arena as lively as it was last night for the return of folk rockers Mumford and Sons. Frontman Marcus even said it was the best gig they've done in ages...(do they say that to all the crowds though?!)

The talented musicians had a treasure trove of instruments filling the stage, and Marcus himself switched between most of them while singing the band's back catalogue of hits. Their new music has taken a slower, electronic pace recently but Mumford and Sons made sure they still treated the crowd to their foot stomping roots - everyone was on their feet for Little Lion Man, The Cave and I Will Wait.

Marcus has so much energy on the stage - and off it. During one track he decides to get down on the floor, run down the side of the arena and then pushes himself through the crowd of revellers all the way back to the stage. For the encore though they slow it down, taking to a small stage at the back of the arena and performing a short acoustic set.

Mumford and Sons certainly put on a good show - is it possible not to clap your hands and stomp your feet to most of their tunes?! A dreary Sunday evening was transformed into a thrilling hoe down... Catch the band if you can on their world tour.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Washhouse: Manchester's Dirtiest Speakeasy

I've always wanted to go to a speakeasy bar - and since there was so much hype about The Washhouse when it opened earlier in the year, I was excited to check it out. I made a reservation for my birthday and (when we finally found it) had a brilliant night.

Once you actually find the building, step into the laundry and then you'll have to figure out how to be let into the hidden bar. But it's all part of the fun - even the website is disguised as a laundry too.

Yep, you have to delve past the dirty knickers...

Inside you're led to your table and I was really shocked at just how tiny the place is. There are only a few booths, and the intimacy really makes it feel exclusive. Of course, the most impressive thing about The Washhouse is the cocktails - the menu is wasted on you if you decide to go for a beer or spirit and mixer. We decided to be daring and choose some of the most innovative mixology wonders, including cocktails with cakes, popping candy and sugar puffs. As my other half is a cocktail bartender himself, he's hard to impress but couldn't fault the unique concoctions.

My favourite was the 50 Shades - trust me I'm no fan of the books but this little beauty is hard to resist. It even comes complete with a real rose - it's the little extra touches on each cocktail which really make the experience first class.

This is a dark drinking den you should definitely check out - just be sure to make a reservation first - and it books up fast. 

Whoops..looks like I broke the first rule! But I had to share it with you... Jx

Monday, 2 November 2015

Greater Manchester Comedy Fringe Festival - Opening Night Review

Cupid's Stunts and Plenty of Fish - Egriega Productions
01/11/15, Albert Square Chop House

I'm a big fan of fringe festivals and a big fan of comedy, so I knew the city's comedy festival was something I'd be interested in. With so many shows taking place on opening night, it was hard to decide which to go and see but I finally settled for Egriega's Cupid's Stunts and Plenty of Fish.

This comedic musical performance delved into the world of online dating, where of course there are plenty of opportunities for laughs. The piss taking is even more brilliant though, when the star of the one man show reveals he really does know what he's talking about - as he met his current partner on Plenty of Fish (and dated plenty more before that).

The stage was set with artwork titled 'Pussies I have known.'

It's fair to say that opening night (and the premiere) didn't go without a few technical glitches... it was a show where everything that could go wrong did go wrong, but it still felt so right. Pieter is an absolute natural when it comes to poking fun at mistakes, improvising and keeping the crowd laughing whatever happens. He's also a really talented musician and takes the audience on a musical journey which can only be described as a crazy collection of personal experiences - starting with the time he lost his virginity.

One of Pieter's most significant life experiences which he talks about is his stroke, which changed his life a couple of years ago. Re-learning how to play his instruments has been a huge part of his rehabilitation and recovery but of course he still managed to make a few jokes about it - such as his internet dating profile turning into an advertisement for a full time carer. Suffering a stroke has of course had a huge effect on Pieter's life, and it could have been the end of his music and painting talents. However he fought back, and as a performer in his own right, I don't think this show needs to be defined by that event. It's unique and funny and deserves to stand alone, although Pieter is of course an inspiration to other stroke survivors.

Image credit - Nigel Maitland

Cupid's Stunts and Plenty of Fish plays again 8th November at Taurus Bar, and I recommend you go and see it if you like new music with a twist and want to be entertained on a Sunday night.

There's also lots more to see as part of Greater Manchester Fringe. There's 5 or 6 shows to choose from every single day in venues across Salford and Manchester city centre so take advantage of the cheap laughs. Link to programme and tickets below. J x


Friday, 16 October 2015

Autumn Essentials...

It's officially Autumn people! The leaves are turning red and falling from the trees, and even though the sun is still mostly shining there's a definite chill in the air. Which means one thing...updating your A/W wardrobe and beauty bag!!

Take a look at some of my autumn essentials:

The hat.

Hats are so on trend right now, pretty much any hat will do. I don't think it's quite cold enough to pull off a woolly hat though so I've gone for the sophisticated look in a rust colour. I'm not sure if this classes as a Fedora or not, I just call it my floppy hat. It was £20 from H&M and really takes an outfit to the next level in my opinion.

(Yes that is an amazing Slattery's chocolate cake!)

The skincare.

With the weather turning colder, it's more important than ever to look after your skin. The cold outside and the central heating inside can leave skin dull and devoid of moisture. I was lucky enough to be treated to an Elemis set for my birthday - it's expensive but highly recommended!

Pictured: Pro-radiance cream cleanser, pro-collagen marine cream and don't forget your hand cream too.

The boots.

Ankle boots are DEFINITELY an essential this season, and as I'm quite bored of black I decided to go for brown, which I think is the perfect autumnal colour. This lovely pair was a bargain from Dorothy Perkins and I think I'm going to have them on my feet 90% of the time until Christmas as they're a perfect fit with jeans, leggings and tights.

 The ripped jeans.

So everytime I need new jeans I head to Topshop, because they have the biggest variety in styles and sizes so I'm always spoilt for choice. I thought it's about time I bought some ripped jeans and I decided on my favourite fit, Joni. This is my 3rd pair, they look and feel so good!!

[Entire outfit from Topshop]

The smock dress.

While in Topshop I couldn't help picking up this little number. It's available in loads of colours and I just thought it's great for layering and would suit a lot of different casual occasions.

What have you invested in this season? Let me know! J x

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

A Greek Island Escape

I've just returned home from a really lovely, relaxing family holiday in Greece. Sometimes when I see the beauty of the Greek islands, I wonder why I'd ever want to travel further afield to more exotic places.

We visited the island of Kos, probably one of the most popular of the country's 277 inhabited islands. The reason why I love Greece is because it has a bit of everything: gorgeous beaches, vibrant hubs with restaurants and shops and plenty of history and architecture. In Kos you can actually visit the Tree of Hippocrates, where the Greek father of medicine used to teach his pupils. It's apparently stood there for over 2,000 years!

In Kos there's also an opportunity to go island hopping, as there are lots of other islands close by, dotted across the glittering Aegean Sea. We went out for a full day on a boat trip, where we got the chance to explore a small, traditional Greek community and swim in the crystal water. We even saw dolphins from the boat - I didn't even know there were dolphins in Europe?! 

You can also go on a day trip to Bodrum in Turkey, as it is only a short boat ride from Kos. We didn't get around to that as we were too busy trying (and failing) to tan our English skin....

Another highlight of the holiday was riding around on a tandem bike! We got to rent out this beauty for the entire day for just $5. Everything, including food and local drinks, was really reasonable but the bike hire was a real bargain. We were staying in Lambi and it's really bike friendly - they have cycle lanes down the main road and the beach road, straight into Kos town. 

It was so much fun, we got the technique down pretty quickly and I'm definitely looking into hiring a romantic tandem for the wedding!

But the main reason we went on holiday was to celebrate my Mum and Dad's 30th wedding anniversary. They made it all the way to their Pearl, which is pretty incredible! To celebrate we drove up into the hills, to one of the island's best restaurants, to soak up the spectacular sunset view - I'll do a separate post about that!

Every Greek island is different and I'd like to explore them all! Next on my wishlist is Skiathos and Santorini... 
What's your favourite Greek island? Any recommendations? J x

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Interview with a Dancer: Aria Scere

Aria is a dancer and choreographer, currently working on a physical theatre piece fusing contemporary dance and spoken word. Stagnant Change explores the realms of black oppression and aims to make a positive change for future generations. Here is what she has to say about the devising process and her plans for the future of the piece.

What inspired you to create this performance piece?

I drew inspiration from history, learning of the Black Panther Movement in the USA and UK,  about lynchings and the civil rights movement. Also learning of the origins of black people and how we were not always enslaved. These accounts of black communities and oppression made a real impact on me as it felt personal, and I also did not understand how it was that we got to this point now in present day. Being a creative individual I felt the need to make this piece as a way of understanding myself, what is was like to be black in those times and to encourage people to stop this ignorant narrow mindedness that I feel today. I want to inspire people with this performance to make a positive change in their actions which in turn will grow to make change throughout the world. 

Why did you want to include spoken word?

There is something about hearing poetry that evokes feeling. I have always been keen to use spoken word and dance together and this piece was perfect for this as I believe the audience can really get involved in the movement of the words in relation to the dance. From an audience perspective, words are much easier to understand than dance, for this piece Stagnant Change I wanted to take the audience on a journey. Incorporating dance and spoken word in the same performance creates a vivid imagery that holds onto the audience's senses and will hopefully sit with them long after the performance is over. The poets I have are forever inspiring and surprising me, so the journey we have been on thus far is incredible, I am really excited for future opportunities with them and my dancers too.

Where do you see this project going - what are your future plans?

The piece itself is a work in progress, so future plans would be to get financial backing for it so I can develop it and push it further to become the performance I envision it to be - and have the impact I imagine it could have. I would like to tour this piece EVERYWHERE! In community centres, schools, theatres and even as a site specific - take the theatre to the audience. The true reason I created Stagnant Change was to make a positive difference, the only way I knew how - through a performance modality. I am a dancer so why not use my creativeness to evoke change and inspire young people.  I would like an educational outreach programme to stem from this to teach young people from all creeds about the REAL accounts of Black history; to learn about Ruth Ellis, W.E.B Du Bois, Althea Jones, Darcus Howe, Marcus Garvey and so on and so forth, so the same names are not always being circulated (Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks). 

Educating young people about this I believe will make a difference. It's as simple as showing in particular young black children that you are capable of creating something positive for yourself and society so we can begin to break down the racial stereotypes and statistics that give the impression that Black people are lesser than White or Asian counterparts. 

In the big picture of global racial equality, do you think Stagnant Change can really make a difference?

Yes. I have all the confidence in the world that this performance piece and the educational stem from this will inspire and help re-build communities to further make that difference. Stagnant Change is a start, a platform to build upon and I know elsewhere similar projects are taking place. The G.A.P (Getting Ahead Project) programme is already a summer school that teaches about black inventors, what good hair is and of Black histories and cultures globally with the use of art, dance, creative writing and music workshops. 

Stagnant Change going on a global scale I believe can re-define the current misrepresentations that are portrayed about black people - in particular in the media, we are only ever shown to be criminals, in gangs or with an exaggerated defiant attitude. It is my intention with Stagnant Change to evoke and change in the mindset of people, world wide, until something affects us directly we generally do not take action or notice such things which only further encourages the issue. Taking this performance into community centres and schools to deliver creative workshops we can start to ask why these racial stereotypes exist and how to stop them. Stagnant Change is not the sole solution but it is certainly a great place to start. 

Stagnant Change is being performed at the Zion Centre, Manchester on 8th September. Oh, and did I mention I am in it? :) Please come down and show your support for this passionate and inspiring performance.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Wild: Book Vs Film

[ "Wild2014Poster" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Wild2014Poster.jpg#/media/File:Wild2014Poster.jpg]

So I heard about this book before I went travelling, and thought it would be one of the best on-the-road stories to read. However, I never got around to reading it while on my journey, mainly because I couldn't afford to buy brand new books so I was left with the exchange shelf in hostels. I thought it sounded like a memoir that had a lot more substance than Eat, Pray, Love.

A couple of years later I finally got around to reading the book - and watching the movie - and I can confirm I was right. The real life story of Cheryl Strayed is powerful, fascinating and inspiring. How any woman can hike a thousand miles all alone in the vast wilderness of the Pacific Coast Trail is beyond me - it is such an impressive feat. But when you find out the reasons which pushed her to make the journey, and the psychological breakdown which followed, it becomes clear that this life defining trek is about so much more than the pain, the loneliness and the despair of the physical hike (although this is described so well in the book and portrayed so believably in the film that you really do feel those blisters).

The one thing that strikes me about the journey is that everyone Cheryl meets is so shocked and surprised that she's a young woman who has decided to set out on this journey alone. Hearing the same old "What's a young girl like you doing out here all alone?" gets a bit tiring, especially from stereotypically predatory male characters. However, you have to remember that Cheryl's trek took place 20 years ago in 1995, so it was more unusual to see lone female travellers at the time. People express concern but then like me, they are impressed and in awe of how Cheryl conquers the PCT.

So let's get down to comparing the book and the film. After reading the book, I couldn't figure out how they could make the film as exciting and moving. After all, for 90% of the story Cheryl is hiking, alone, in the deserts and mountains of the USA. That doesn't really make for great viewing. Obviously in her memoir Cheryl can describe the monotonous actions of the trek, her longing for real food and a shower and explain what was running through her mind at each stage. I knew for the film that would be hard to convey without corny voiceovers, but director Jean-Marc Vallee hit the nail on the head.

Far from boring, the film adaptation is fascinating and kept me engaged all the way through. The scenic shots were amazing too, which added beauty to Cheryl's descriptions of the ground she was covering. One of the reasons why it works so well is down to Reese Witherspoon, who not only starred as Cheryl - she bought the rights to the memoir before it was even published and produced the movie too.

[Image source: http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2014/07/10/wild_movie_trailer_reese_witherspoon_hikes_a_long_way_in_adaptation_of_cheryl.html]

Reese brings a sense of realness to the character, which is difficult with a story which is as far from being cinematic as possible. This may be down to the fact that the director banned her from wearing make-up and made sure the backpack she was carrying was just as heavy as it was for Cheryl when she was hiking. It's been called the performance of her career, and Witherspoon has said herself it was definitely her hardest role yet.

Whichever format you want to consume Wild, whether it's through Cheryl's words or Vallee's screenplay, you'll be with her each step of the way. You'll feel her anger at the world when she starts her epic journey, and believe her transformation as she takes her last steps over the Bridge of the Gods. But I think, for the first time ever, I might have to say the film takes the crown on this one. We'll put it down to the fact that it's an adventurous memoir, so the stunning visual shots really do add to the inspiring story of self-discovery.

Has anybody read the book and seen the film? What do you think about it? Let me know if you agree! J x

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

What to Wear to a Wedding

Wedding season is in full swing, and I have to admit I really do love it. I've always enjoyed weddings, and now that I'm planning my own I find them even more exciting, and take more notice of all the tiny little details and efforts that go into such a special event.

However being a wedding guest can take its toll on the old wardrobe and wallet...especially if you have quite a few weddings to go to in the same year. You can't exactly wear the same outfit twice! It's also a bit of a dilemma if you're only going to the wedding reception - do you still need to get as dressed up, or will everyone have changed into flat shoes by then?! Is wearing white still out of the question in the evening?

I recently went shopping for a new outfit for a wedding reception, even though I'd promised myself I couldn't buy anything new. There isn't much on the high street at all at the moment when it comes to occasionwear, as all the stores have summer sales on beachwear and are introducing the A/W lines. It was hard work, but Miss Selfridge came to the rescue, as it often does.

For the night...

I found this mint bodycon dress, which I thought was a lovely pastel colour for a summer wedding, and a bit of a steal at £28. 

For the day...

But while I was there I also tried on another outfit which was absolutely gorgeous. I decided it was more of a 'day wedding guest' ensemble, so decided to buy it for the next wedding I'm attending next March! No harm in being prepared ;) Plus it was in the sale, so how could I refuse?! I think the colour and fancy jacquard fabric scream wedding, and the two piece is a bit different from the standard dress most guests choose to wear.

What do you think about wedding fashion - have you found any bargains? Please share them! J x 

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Interview with a Dancer: Joseph Mannion

Joseph Mannion is an inspiration to the local dance community in Manchester and around the North West. Teaching his experimental fusion movement style across the region, he has his sights set on international ventures and starting his own dance academy. I found out how he manages such a busy schedule and still finds time to dream big...

As a dancer, teacher and choreographer, you have a lot going on! What is your most exciting project at the moment?

Well I have a lot going on at the moment which is a great thing! Always best to be busy in what I do. The most exciting project I'm currently working on at the moment is I'm in talks with dancers in selected European countries on setting up international workshops. This involves me bringing them over to the UK to share their talent and visa versa, building more of a dance community around the world.

Your contemporary fusion style is very popular with students - when did you discover this individual style? 

I began experimenting with the style around 3 years ago, I was taking a lot of classes during my student training and never knew where I could fit in style wise. I use to think "Okay, this style is popular now, maybe I should dance like this or like that guy" but then I  took the decision to just go away and really do what felt right to me movement wise. After all, an original is always worth more than a copy! 3 years on, I'm mostly known for my Contemporary Fusion style within the community and people are starting to appreciate that individuality and my workshops are always well received which I'm very grateful for!

You're a current member of Allegiant Dance Theatre, a Manchester-based dance company. When can we see what you're working on?

I'm the newest member of the company and I've been working with the founding members in the studio to get a sense of each other's style. We're currently in the process of acquiring funding for the company which will allow us to work on creation and touring the UK and eventually Europe in 2016, so it's an exciting time to be apart of ADT!

You're in the process of starting up your very own dance academy in September. Tell us more!

At the moment, myself and my business partner are still drafting up ideas and looking at areas within Manchester that don't have a dance scene but have the potential. We're basing it around the idea of one full day of training which will consist of a versatility of Hip Hop, Contemporary, Jazz & House and bring in teachers to give students a variety of styles. Financially we've had to consider costs such as studio hire, tax and what students would be able to afford, comparing it with what we can offer, so a lot of ideas are floating around!

You're also looking for dancers to compete as a contemporary team in Paris next March. This is an amazing opportunity for upcoming dancers in the region - what are you looking for exactly?

That's correct! I'm currently looking for dancers who are interested in my style of contemporary, who are willing to work hard and bring their own sense of individuality to compete at a dance convention/competition in Disneyland Paris. I want to put together two teams, Under 14's & Over 14's, this will be an incredible opportunity to travel, gain performance experience and really just have fun doing what you enjoy. We'll be starting rehearsals for this in September so anyone who is interested should contact myself directly via my email. (josephmannion5392@hotmail.co.uk)

What else would you like to achieve in the future?

Oh there's so much, but in relation to career wise, I want to teach workshops around Europe and be touring with Allegiant Dance Theatre by next year. The combination of travelling, which is a love of mine, plus teaching whilst doing so, is a future that I want almost everyday. That's my own self fulfilment, but I also want to give back to my community because a lot of dance is focused within London, where the opportunities lie for many performers. I just know there is so much talent within the North that I'd like to set up my own project which will help develop young performers so they can pursue their dreams - without having to move to London.

Follow Joseph on social media:

Facebook: /Joseph.Mannion
Twitter: @JosephMannion_

Instagram: JosephMannion

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Steak: Simple but Sexy

So a couple of weeks ago, it was a Tuesday night and I fancied a steak. The other half had a night off work so I dragged him to Simple in the NQ, where I'd seen they do a pretty good offer.

On Tuesdays you can get two steaks and a bottle of wine for £20....heaven. For that price my expectations weren't too high, but I have to say it didn't disappoint at all.

Yep...from the picture you can see that we also treated ourselves to cocktails and beers too as it was also HAPPY HOUR.

I really can't say a bad word about the food, it was lovely. I even can't blame the man I spotted across the room who was digging into two steaks and a bottle of red alone. While the place itself is nothing fancy (the name gives it away) it was a nice enough bar for a good meal and a few midweek drinks. I also have to give a special mention to something unique on the menu which I absolutely loved:

So this is chicken skin popcorn. Crunchy, yummy chicken skin!! I've always loved it but you don't often find it on a menu. The Simple chefs have decided to mix this deep fried greatness with salted popcorn for the best bar snack of your life.

Have you found any too-good-to-be-true offers in Manchester? Let me know and I'll go try it out and give you my verdict. J x

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Summer Style: Fashion Post

So I don't do many style posts but as I have bought so many new clothes for holidays and the hot weather (whoops) I thought I might as well share!


Floral high waisted bikini, Miss Selfridge
Platform floral sandals, H&M

Boho cover up beach dress, New Look
Floral platform sandals, H&M

Boho trousers and white crop top, both New Look. (**The boho pants make your bum look really good.**)


Lace maxi dress, Fabric boutique, Monton.
Floral chunky wedges, Bank (many seasons ago!)

So this is just a snippet of my summer style... hope you're enjoying the scorching weather! J x