Category Archives: General

World Yoga Fest, Buddhafield, Hridaya France, Santosa, Living Tantra 1 and Permaculture Design!

How has my summer progressed since my last update? Well, it’s been a busy one and quite honestly one of the most fulfilling of my life… here’s some details

World Yoga Festival

When I heard about the World Yoga Festival being in Reading I was a bit dubious. However, in its first year they had Mooji teaching so this seemed like a good sign. I had some friends who visited last year and said they had a really great time so it was on my list of places to volunteer this summer (partly because I assumed Mooji would be there again if I’m honest – he wasn’t).

Despite this they still had some amazing teachers including the oldest yoga teacher in the world Tao Porchon Lynch, who at 99 has some stories to tell. A member of the French Resistance during WW2 she then moved to Hollywood and taught stars such as Marilyn Monroe what she knew about Yoga. She visited India to learn with BKS Iyengar and at the age of 86 took up ballroom dancing and has won numerous competitions since then. She still cuts a glamorous figure around the field and tottered about everywhere on her high-heels. After 2 hip operations you would think she might cut back on some of the asana practice but it doesn’t stop her. “Anything is possible” is her mantra and it’s something you can really believe when you see her.

Other amazing teachers included:

Zubin Zarthoshtimanesh – an Iyengar teacher with great presence and humour who really opened me up to this style of yoga.

Sheila Whittaker – my gong teacher who led several relaxing gong baths in the main tent

Dr Madan Bali – another 90-something who shared a powerful teaching about breath and refining the subtle body

James Russell – a young teacher who shared some really energising kriyas

There were plenty of others as well who I have missed but I must also mention Ram and Sonali Banerjee who were organising the whole event. I loved Ram joining the stage after the evening music performance to tell us all to go to bed in time for yoga the next morning.

I had a great time with the other volunteers at this festival. We were a small team and easily recognisable by our bright orange t-shirts. The work was simple and although we did some long shifts they were kept interesting by the folks I got to know.

Buddhafield

My second time at this festival was a vastly different experience to my first. In 2013 I was splitting up with Sophie and almost the only person I knew there was her mate “Eligible Dave”. I enjoyed hanging out with him but it felt a little awkward and I wasn’t in a hugely outgoing mode to meet new folks so I ended up feeling quite lonely and isolated for stretches of the event.

This year though, after spending 4 years going to events on the “scene” in the UK it seemed I knew people everywhere I turned. Couple this with the Volunteer team who were also awesome and I spent most of the event hanging out with people. From volunteers at other festivals to tantra workshop people, yoga students and even folk I knew from India.

I did a couple of yoga classes, some dancing, a cuddle workshop and a sound journey which was cut short due to the reggae disco in the dance tent being too loud, and not a lot else over the whole week.

This was partly due to tiredness after some long shifts in the camper van field. I was parking up vans and trying to

make sure there was enough space for everyone while also keeping the fire lanes clear and attempting to accommodate people’s needs. It’s amazing how much space a camper and an awning and a bell tent and maybe my friend who is coming in half an hour and can we go on the end and sometimes you just have to say no. Running around this field was fun, if a little stressful at times so I was happy to just relax when I had free time.

Highlights included a ritual chanting around the Buddha statue that left me in a trance and watching the sunset in a cuddle puddle.

I was bemoaning the lack of Kirtan to a volunteer over dinner and discussing Sivani Mata who we both knew from London. Then I walked off for a chai and decided to take a look in a teepee. Who should be sitting there about to start Kirtan than Sivani herself. “Hello Ian” she welcomed me as I ducked my head under the awning.

 

Hridaya France

About an hour from Lyon Sahajananda and Hridaya have bought a Chateau which is currently being renovated and set to open next spring (2018) as a yoga centre and retreat space.

I was looking for somewhere to volunteer for a longer period this summer as an alternative to festival living and this popped up as the obvious and perfect option. I arrived the night before Sahaja left and was lucky enough to also be there when Swami from Agama paid a visit.

I was there when there were only 4 of us for the weekend and I’ve been back when there were over 30 people working away.

I spent the time there cleaning the newly bought professional kitchen gear, scraping walls of paper, cleaning hallways and toilets, cooking food, putting up wallpaper, helping with content for the new website and leading yoga and meditation sessions. (I’m sure there was more but I forget right now!)

Outside of work time we had fires and singing, dancing, trips to Lyon and the local lake and time to relax in the local nature (and hammock).

There is still plenty to do there (and hopefully the place will be a permaculture paradise in no time – see below) but the spirit is high and I appreciate the constant pointings to stay in truth even in amongst the hard work.

Santosa Yoga Camp

Ah Santosa. This tiny yoga camp is truly a wonderful world away from it all. It’s the only festival where I’ve been for a week without at some stage wishing for home comforts. It’s so relaxed and blissfully community focused. I was there as a karma yogi offering the joyful service of cleaning the compost toilets. After a couple of drop-outs I was actually left to this task almost to myself but it wasn’t half as icky or challenging as it sounds. In fact it added some additional structure to my day and added some purpose to the periods where not a lot was going on.

Santosa is the kind of festival where you can easily do nothing all day but at the same time there is plenty to keep you interested. They offer Yoga Nidra five times a day for up to half an hour and in case you don’t know this involves lying down and being talked into a deep relaxation, something close to a trance state. It’s fair to say they have a relaxed crowd. Other than this all kinds of yoga are on offer as well as meditation, dance, an ecstatic cacao ceremony with special shamanic guests from Brazil, contact improvisation and a lot of Kirtan. Sivani was there again to lead an intense psychedelic session and the Babaji Temple Singers had the roof of the Hanuman temple tent nearly coming off as we danced the whole way through.

Add to this a sauna, outdoor showers overlooking Glastonbury Tor for one of the best views while bathing I can remember, communal coming together for meals (and free chai at the morning meeting) fires, fun and friends made this an absolute highlight for me.

NB the festival was so relaxed I completely forgot to take any photos…

Living Tantra 1

I’ve written a separate piece about Jan Day’s LT1 which should be appearing online soon but suffice to say it was a week of wonderful company, amazing food, challenging exercises and deep blissful states. From dynamic meditation to strong processing exercises I surprised myself with my willingness to go into the practices. The course was a week long but it felt like a month, in a good way. The intensity is full on and towards the end I didn’t feel like I was sleeping because my body was so buzzing with energy. It was a different feeling to an insomnia where thoughts are running through the head but a real physical experience of stuff moving. A powerful reminder of this path which inspired me even more.

Permaculture Design Course

While I was at Hridaya France the first time Christoff Schneider came to visit. He’s a Hridaya teacher but has been a “permie” for a lot longer, spreading the word about sustainability for around fifteen years. He gave an inspiring talk which encouraged me to sign up and learn more about these techniques for living a more ecological lifestyle.

I came straight from LT1 which meant I was in a strange space and the course was full of information and mental work which was a big shift. For the first few days I thought it was all too much and I was struggling with it but at some point I overcame these issues and became inspired again by the potential.

Longeval, the site of Hridaya France, is crying out to be converted to permaculture. There are 11 hectares of land and I designed an area where raised garden beds could be built to provide veggies for the visitors and staff. Using techniques that we learnt for passive irrigation and solar design to make best use of the environment we are given the design principles involve working with nature in a kind of dance.

As a way to judge if a design is able to be self-sufficient we have the five pillars of permaculture as taught by Christoff:

Water – where do we get the supply and how do we store it and use it

Energy – Where do we get our power – solar, wind, water etc

Food – Not just making sure we have enough harvest but also making sure the soil is kept in good shape by composting properly and closing the loop in this way (including compost toilets)

Shelter – Using the best materials for the location to provide comfort with the least amount of energy (eg in our northern European climate straw bale houses have great insulation and cheap!)

Knowledge – Learning which techniques work best in your particular climate zone and also spreading the knowledge and ideas

Using this as a guide and a whole host of techniques including zonal planning you can really begin to make changes and I feel inspired to find some land, build a straw bale house, grow veggies and really start living the Good Life. I just need to learn how to stop plants dying in my care and be more comfortable wielding a spade but I’m sure all this will come…

First of all though I’m leaving for India, a few months of yoga and exploration with hopefully some volunteering at organic farms thrown in for good measure to learn some of the practical skills I was talking about.

It’s going to be a ride, as ever…

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An Update and a new beginning…

This is a new start. I left my flat in the beautiful Kew Gardens, my job after a successful year and finished a relationship which was at times wonderful but often tumultuous and energetically very draining for me.

I decided I needed a change. Some time out. A reset and also the opportunity to give back and offer my service.

So what have I been up to? Well, following on from The Hridaya TTC  I stayed in Mexico for a few months. We had the intention of starting something in the village of Tepoztlan. Things didn’t work out there and I returned to London virtually penniless and looking for a way to become unstuck.

The Hridaya teacher training course was an intensive 3 months of meditation, yoga, theory and community. I wrote about it on their blog here.

Passion, Power and Love

This change has been brewing within me for some time. Some inspiration arose in the Passion, Power and Love workshop I did over new year with Jan Day. The next year holds adventure, learning, sharing and practice.

The above picture is the vision board that I created during the Passion, Power and Love workshop. I created it as the climax of 3 days of deep connecting, both with others and with myself.  There is a lot of gratitude for the learning and dancing on the edge that happened at that time. I returned to work in London with a great deal of positivity and aliveness, even in the depths of winter.

The vision board allows me to look forwards and see great potential. Some of the exercises we did helped me to view memories with a fresh outlook.

 

Gong!

Having been inspired by receiving gong baths at various festivals over the last few years I decided to take a workshop to learn how to play. It was organised by Ali and led by Sheila Whittaker. The two days of training with around 15 gongs in a small space and 16 students created such a powerful energy and vibration. I had been suffering from recurring headaches for several weeks before and I noticed over the weekend the intensity getting stronger. At the end of the weekend we participated in an all-night gong puja. We settled ourselves in for the night and took turns playing the gongs for half an hour each from 9pm through to 7am. By the end of this night my headache was completely gone and didn’t come back even after returning to the office.

Glastonbury Retreat

I was delighted to share the experience of running a yoga retreat at the lovely ShekinAshram in Glastonbury with Ben.  We had eight students who came for two classes of yoga a day. We also had Kirtan with the amazing Tim Chalice, fire puja by the ashram staff and walks to Glastonbury Tor and Chalice Well.

Ben and I also experimented with a sound journey. Leading with the gong and incorporating harmonium, drums, rain stick and various other bits of percussion that were lying about we had a strong hour and a half of relaxation. I was completely gonged out by the end. I don’t know about the students. It’s something I’d like to do more of so will do more gong training work in the next year.

 

The Globe & Sangha

In a brief moment in London some of my Hridaya Sangha were going to Shakespeare’s Globe on the Southbank. I’m so glad I went along to an exuberant performance of Twelfth Night complete with bearded, sparkly, giant drag queens, “We are Family” and a lot of laughs.

Yoga show

I went to the yoga show a couple of times… I found an unfinished post about it so let me take you back there…

“This weekend I visited an exhibition in the beautiful surrounds of Alexandra Palace, perched atop a hill to the north of London and with a stunning vista around the capital.

The Yoga Show is kind of a strange event. The consumerisation of such an ancient art is always going to be slightly jarring. For a practice that is supposed to bring you deep inside to a place of stillness and connection with the universe, being around thousands of people, all pushing their own take on wellbeing, can be overwhelming.

I thoroughly enjoyed it though, from wandering through the stands trying organic chocolate, tasting teas and natural supplements to taking in workshops and chatting with vendors about yoga accessories.

I went partly due to being a member of Yoga Alliance, an organisation that attempts to provide a level of confidence among yogis that the schools they are studying with and the teachers that are spreading the word are of a certain standard. They had a large stall at the yoga show and Emma was helping them out with it during the day.

I went to a couple of their sessions for teachers – Refining Adjusting Skills (Part Three) with Brian Cooper and Master Class: Relax with Tara Stiles. Their classes were away from the main body of the yoga show in a separate room making for a more relaxing environment.

I’m not one for celeb yoga teachers but I had somehow heard of Tara. I wasn’t sure about walking into the hall with the Chemical Brothers booming from the stereo and Tara posing for selfies with the early birds but I was willing to see where she wanted to take us.

The class was towards the end of the day but I must admit I came out feeling thoroughly blissed out. She has obviously worked hard at delivering a sequence that is aligned with the music. (getting more “spiritual” as the class progressed). It was somewhat challenging without being pure gymnastics and we did a nice bit of alternate nostril breathing at the end. I did find she kind of mumbled through the instructions a bit. I felt she was trying to squeeze in more words than is really necessary. This lead to a few occasions where I was taken out of the flow by wondering – what was that? If the effect is all important though I came out on a different level so I take my hat off to her.

Brian has just released a book focusing on the anatomical side of yoga and his approach to alignment clearly comes from a deep understanding of the body and a training in Thai yoga massage.

This class was in much more of a workshop style with Brian and an assistant showing us a posture and a way to adjust before we paired up and tried the same on each other. There were some great ideas in here and although some of the suggestions were perhaps better suited to a “partner” style of class, since I think it would be difficult to go around the whole class applying some of the techniques It was good to learn from someone who clearly has a lot of knowledge and a very precise and focused teaching style, although with a sense of humour.”

 

Resonance Academy

I’ve been inspired by Nassim Haramein and his teachings of sacred geometry for some time and have mentioned it before. I signed up for the Resonance Academy delegate programme and have been studying off and on for the last year or so. I don’t always follow the science.  Quantum physics equations might as well be in Martian to me I’m afraid but it’s been interesting. I’m hoping to get through to Module 4 soon where apparently the juicy stuff resides!

 

Colourfest, sacred sound and volunteering

Colourfest continues to be one of my favourite festivals. I went there last year with some friends which was hugely enjoyable despite some stresses beforehand. This year I volunteered as a steward – the first of several yoga festivals I will be helping at this summer. (The next ones are the World Yoga Festival and Buddhafield) Volunteering was a different way to experience things and very enjoyable to be part of the team. By having a limited amount of time to enjoy what was on offer I actually made more of an effort to do things. Hanging out on the main gate and welcoming people was fun. We were on this gate the first morning before the gates officially opened and some people were really difficult.

“Sorry, we’re not open for another half an hour so you’ll just have to wait here for a few minutes”
“Well, why are there loads of cars and tents already in the field then?”
“… I mean, do you think the festival just appears by magic or what?”

My other interesting shift was on the Saturday night on Gate B. This was the tradesman’s entrance and exit from the festival. I was here alone and other than one person setting up lighting I had to redirect everybody back to the main entrance. It was quite peaceful. Then it got dark and I was lit by just three candles in the forest. Thankfully I had the site security guard coming to see how I was every so often. Ben and Jonathan took pity and joined to keep me company for half an hour as well.

Highlights of the festival itself were yoga classes with Swami Asokananda, one of which I followed with a shamanic journey and then a gong bath for the ultimate in chill. Kirtan with Sivani Mata, Elahn and Radhe and plenty others were also great. There were dance collaborations and some tantra workshops although I pretty much stuck with the sacred sound.

Krishna Das

Speaking of sacred sound I saw the amazing Krishna Das at the Union Chapel and it was one of the most incredible heart opening Kirtans. It is always a joy to do this practice but somehow he led the huge audience into raptures; I was full of bliss.

Yogific

Colourfest wasn’t my first yoga volunteering event this year actually, I helped at a couple of events for Yogific including the Yoga and Vegan food festival in my old stomping ground of Kingston. It was held in the Guildhall which is a lovely setting and was a huge success. There were lessons to be learnt, though. So many people came we ended up with a queue out the door as venue security restricted capacity. It was great to do some yoga, try delicious vegan food and have interesting conversations with people. I’m hoping to help them out later this year in India.

AOL and the Cote D’Azur

I went to a workshop called Awakening of Love which led to musings here… The next opportunity to do this workshop is in Devon from the 22nd to 24th Setember.

Some detail I cut out is here –

Simon Matthews is an unassuming group leader, he remains centred and is able to connect easily. His journey started in 2003 with the Hoffman Process but before this he was sceptical about any sort of therapeutic work. Taking part in the Path of Love in 2011 changed everything and within a year he had trained to lead sessions. His commitment and clear faith in the power of the work, as well as the assistants who hold space so beautifully, create a container that is safe and yet profoundly open.

Awakening of Love is a short introduction to the longer Path of Love workshop which has been running since 1995. Founders Rafia Morgan and Turiya Hanover came together to develop a system from their combined experiences in development and spiritual work.

These teachings stem from the work of controversial Indian sage Osho. He introduced a series of dynamic meditations and an open approach to working with sexual energy which is an influence on most modern teachings of “tantra”.

The workshop also connected me with someone who I went to visit in the South of France for a week. We had a lovely time cooking delicious healthy food from the local produce.  We hiked in the mountains surrounding the Cote D’Azur and swam in the sea.

Mooji

Mooji is still a strong influence, we went to see him in London last summer and I had a lovely hug afterwards. Oh, and we were offered his kettle – truly blessed!

 

Meadows in the Mountains

Meadows in the Mountains was pitched as a hippy adventure in the Bulgarian mountains with a Burning Man vibe. It lived up to that although I wasn’t expecting it to be full of kids from Hackney getting wasted to techno. It was still a lovely experience.

Amazing views, stunning sunrises, and beautiful people made it the most visually arresting festival I’ve ever been to.

I managed to do one class of yoga nidra. It was more like a yoga class with a long relaxation. This was a really nice way to dip into a different energy at the festival. I needed to catch up on sleep as well.

We also spent some time in the delightful tea shop which was run by “goldilocks” who worked tirelessly to keep the place spic and span. Our awesome neighbours in the campsite were tango teachers from Argentina. They always seemed to be in the midst of some family crisis but were such a bastion of calm in the madness.

 


I saw the sun rise over the mountain twice. On Sunday night the mist rolled in and created a fantasy scene of islands of trees in the valley.

We found a drum’n’bass dub party in the yoga tent which went off like a bomb.

We spent a lot of time people watching. In a perfect flow scenes would emerge before us. The pirate ship became our domain for a while, the uneven slopes making the zombie children stagger and the sneezing guy fall over.

We arrived at the right time for food, and this was no mean feat. The soul food curry stall took 3 hours to prep and would be gone in 20 minutes. To arrive at the right second took some synchronicity. Otherwise the festival was fuelled by cheese on toast and Prosecco. People swigged from the bottle in a search for psychedelics which seemed to consume the site. I can’t say we saw much live music but the afro-beat collective were pretty great.

Sofia

On our return to Sofia Sev’s family welcomed us as Herman insisted on taking us out for a beer. We were somewhat reluctant due to tiredness and nursing a 5 day accumulated hangover. Herman’s nighttime city tour turned out to be a highlight, though.

Unbeknownst to us the centre of Sofia has some real sites. The “5 wings and 7 dicks” monument looking like something from the nightmarish vision of a video game. The thousand year old churches. Roman ruins that you can wander amongst, with a can, even in the middle of the night. The Church where Sev’s grandmother got married, with it’s golden domes. The huge statue of a king with piercing golden eyes. We ended up in a bar down a pitch black alley, a knock to be let in and all the lighting by candlelight. The only downside – we forgot to take a camera!

Austin Kleon

I’ve been inspired by the books and newsletter of Austin Kleon who is a Texas-based artist with great ideas about sparking creativity and how art is created through careful appropriation of existing sources. His “Steal Like an Artist” takes the view that all art comes from a combination of influencers and by digging deep into your favourite work you can find the inspiration to make something new and interesting.

 

Politics

So while all this has been going on and my world is turning, the outside is equally messy. Brexit was a moment for me, in turmoil in relationship at the time, where it didn’t seem that the shifting sands of politics could really have an impact and then…

Unprecedented in its wake up call to the progressive left who have been somewhat sleeping over the last 20 years, myself included in that, I hope the upheaval we are seeing will lead to a shift in the way we see our society and how it is constructed.

I voted remain for inclusivity, and the desire to work together with people from all cultures, religions and backgrounds to improve the lot of all of humanity. The petty jingoism and casual racism that seem to have emerged since, and with the Trump effect adding to this normalisation, are not just unacceptable from a moral point of view but also take us backwards when we should be striving forward for evolution.

The recent election showed the number of young people waking up to the recognition that they can influence. The rise of Jeremy Corbyn I hope means that there is a new paradigm emerging in British politics. The Grenfell tower tragedy brings into sharp contrast the differences between the rich and the poor. It cannot be long before the masses realise the lies of the right wing press and stand up against this Tory government. It’s time for an end to an austerity agenda which only benefits those who are already comfortable.

I hope we can rise above self-interest, gain those Bodhisattva ideals (that I’m reading and writing about currently) and shake the magic money tree (which certainly exists if you are an investment banker) to provide for all those in our society.

What Next?

So next I’m volunteering at the World Yoga Festival in Reading and Buddhafield. After these two I’ll be flying down to Lyon to help the renovation efforts at the new Hridaya France centre – Ramana Village

I have been published in a few other places since I last wrote here…

http://www.yogiapproved.com/?s=Ian+Marshall

http://www.hridaya-yoga.com/ready-for-a-meditation-retreat/

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2016/07/how-i-used-my-spiritual-practice-to-break-unhealthy-relationship-patterns/

https://goodmenproject.com/sex-relationships/men-in-tantra-what-they-are-missing-out-on-grmx/

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Connecting to the Heart

“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”
― Kahlil Gibran

I’m in a period of transition and uncertainty at the moment. All the major areas of my life are in flux and changing. My living situation is unclear, my job is only short-term and chaotic and my girlfriend is all the way over in Mexico (although not for long!)
It would be very easy not to feel grounded and to get overwhelmed by all the change and lack of a clear way forward but I naturally like to flow, (my triple water star chart reflects what I have already recognised in myself) and when I allow this all is good.

Legs and heart

Legs and heart – Hermione Armitage

Things were getting a bit much last week though and while I was discussing all of this with Felicity she suggested I pull an Osho Zen Tarot card. I got “Traveling” which you can read here.
To summarise it reminded me of the Lao Tzu quote

“A good traveller has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving”

because it was all about enjoying the journey as a reminder that the important thing is to stay with the present. Your future is not created by endless planning and worrying but is instead manifested as a direct result of what you do right now. We plant seeds and as long as we are aligned and allowing, the right things will emerge for us.

The universe will unfold as it should…

So, how do we know we are aligned, and by that I mean in touch with what is really true for us, what we are passionate about, what makes us feel connected, at peace and happy?

The heart is a wonderful gateway. You can feel all of those things in your heart, you can’t figure it out in the mind because it will always be a reflection. The connection in the heart is always in the present and is where we feel this deep motivation.

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I was at the “Be Love” 11 hour Bhakti Immersion, an event all about the practice of devotion and singing which brings you straight into the heart. It was an amazing reset for me, an opportunity to ground in something far more powerful than the “material” security can offer.

I can have a big house, job and so on but if I’m feeling adrift from this centre then I don’t have peace. All the material stuff is impermanent and when you have this anchor in the deeper space of the heart it seems less important. If you can be happy in any situation then this is surely real freedom.

What is Sufism?
To feel joy in the heart when sorrow appears.

I should mention the fantastic work the Sivani Mata does in arranging these events which bring a large community together in such a beautiful space. We first met while travelling to the fantastic Colourfest, separated in the back of a car by bags stacked so high we couldn’t see each other!

I started teaching yoga on Wednesday at the Jamyang Buddhist centre, taking over from the lovely Naz who is taking the opportunity to head back to Mexico. I’ll be there every week with the class starting at 7.30. I’m charging £10 with the option to pay for a pass at a reduced rate – contact me for details!

I’ll also be running a meditation day with my yoga sister Emma in Bedford on the 8th November, it would be great if you can join with us in diving deep into this heart space and feeling our deep connection.

Feet and Heart - Hermione Armitage

Feet and Heart – Hermione Armitage

Photos courtesy of Hermione Armitage

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11 top Instagram Food Photography Tips

I was sent the following 11 top Instagram Food Photography Tips which I could probably use from the folks at Bookatable.

Tips for snapping food on Instagram
Read the full article – “Tips for snapping food on Instagram”
is a graphic produced by Bookatable.

My photography skills leave something to be desired so the potential improvement offered here is fabulous.

I know a couple of food stylists though and some of the things mentioned here are definitely reminiscent of the work that they undergo to ensure the best representation of the cooking or products they are trying to display.

Instagram seems to be all the rage but these tips are just as helpful for food bloggers or other budding photographers.

Bookatable are offering reviews and offers on all sorts of restaurants around the UK and parts of Europe. If they keep offering useful content like this then I’m sure it will help them gain readers compared to other competing sites.

I’d be interested to know your tips on Instagram food photography or indeed food photography in general.

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DJ Hype – an interview

I was asked to interview DJ Hype for a bio a while back – here’s what I learnt about the Drum ‘n’ Bass legend:

DJ Hype enters the Great Eastern Bear gallery and almost immediately, Bully, his good-looking Staffie cross, relieves himself all over a box. Hype is embarrassed and admonishes the animal with a push and a shout while we reassure him that it’s fine and this former brothel has probably seen worse. “It is a problem though because if this was someone’s house I don’t want him pissing on the shag pile, you know what I mean?”

The down to earth nature of Kevin Ford is testament to his approach. One of the pioneers of drum and bass, he has no interest in the celebrity circuit nor to become some sort of pop star but he remains one of the most well-respected and busiest DJs in the business.
“I class myself as not one of the inventors but one of the pioneers”

He started with Shut Up and Dance at the age of 13, mixing up Hip Hop and reggae in the early ’80s on a sound system he built himself.
Becoming a master at cutting and scratching, he was on MTV in 1989 representing Britain in the European Mix championships and competing in the DMC.

He was the biggest DJ on London’s most popular pirate station Fantasy Radio from 1989 to its end in 1990 while at the same time he was working as a producer with Kickin’ records where The Exorcist (his collaboration with The Scientist) reached No 1 on the MRIB Chart. “I remember hearing it on Kiss, Steve Jackson counting down, I wasn’t expecting much and then they called it out, I was quite shocked”

Despite the success with this and other tracks such as The Bee, Hype didn’t get as much credit as he felt he deserved and took the opportunity to join Suburban Base with Mark Ryder when it came up before working with Danny Donnelly on some of his biggest tracks like Shot in the Dark.

Hype won a series of awards in the mid nineties, notably in at the UK Hardcore awards where in 1994 he won Best Male DJ and in 1995 Best Radio DJ. He started at Kiss in 1994 and has been on there ever since, 18 years making him the longest running D&B radio DJ.

He signed for BMG/RCA in 1995 but didn’t want to go down the route the label was pushing him in.
“They were always asking “Where’s your live act?” but I was resisting all the things they were offering me saying “I want to keep it real, I don’t want a poster campaign, I DJ every week – that’s my live show”.

“I like being known for what I do but not for who I am. I hate the celebrity side of it. I don’t think it’s as bad these days for dance artists, but that’s if you want it and you court it.”

He tours almost constantly all over the world playing at some of the massive US festivals that Pasquale Rotella at Insomniac sets up as well as more intimate club sets.

“I enjoy the club thing, going around and spreading what I do. I’m out there every week of the year pretty much.”

“Nowadays I’m more of a self-proclaimed ambassador, I fly out and try and give them what I think is proper drum and bass, not a commercial angle to it. You know, a melting pot of it all. I’m pigeon holed in different ways but how I see myself I play true drum & bass.”

Last Christmas marked the 150th event of The Playaz at Fabric which started in 1999, making it the longest running monthly D&B night.

Of late, Hype has focused on his artists at Playaz, moving away from the production side.

“I don’t feel there is any producer that just goes on relentlessly. I got to the point where I couldn’t keep going. I had my son and a grandfather who was quite ill and I couldn’t spend the time in the studio. I do need to get back into the studio for my own career but I’m good at A & R’ing other peoples music.”

Hazard was his first signing about 10 years ago and anyone that he has collaborated with has usually done well, meaning he now has a roster of several with two or three new artists due to sign soon.
He has been working as an executive producer A&Ring, helping them to develop in their underground music, not stopping them making commercial tracks but tending to go the opposite way.

“The label is a full time job, being a DJ is a full time job and my son is a full time job. When I’m busy I complain, when I have a break then I’m like, I don’t know what to do with myself.”

He won the UMA Award Best Drum & Bass DJ in 2006
“They didn’t tell me about it – oh someone collected it for you, it took about 8 months of nagging before they had it ready for me.”

His D&B Arena mix CD in 2007 was their best selling for 4 years and he was given their Lifetime achievement award.

“At the Radio 1Xtra Xtra Bass Awards 2007 I won #1 D&B DJ. They phoned me up, ‘just letting you know you’re up for the award are you coming?’ I was like there is no way a Kiss DJ is going to win is there? Andy C was going down and he asked me to go. It was me, him and Friction and I was like, it’s going to be one of you two regardless. He said come and I was shocked, at the bar, completely drunk and I heard my name. I went up and was like thanks, catch me on Kiss and they were horrified – what do you want me to say! big up Kiss!”

Hype also did well at the National Drum and Bass Awards last year (2012), the label came second in best club night, he came second in best radio show and the label third in its category. He’s also been in the top 3 for best DJ in previous years.

“I keep telling people, I’m not old school, I’m old.”

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Craft Beer Rising 2014

Craft Beer Rising last year debuted at the Old Truman Brewery with Norman Jay on DJ duties and the cream of Britain’s breweries, both tiny and colossal, setting up shop to showcase their most interesting offerings.

Craft Beer Rising

Craft Beer Rising

From the big boys like Adnams hiding behind a “craft beer” range to real independent spirits like King Beer and Ilkley there was definitely a broad range on display. The Craft Beer Rising format means they were all able to set their own stalls and promote as they saw fit which allows for the personalities to really shine through.

Craft Beer Rising

Craft Beer Rising

2 Themes we noticed at Craft Beer Rising were:

  • Black IPA – Almost everyone seemed to have one
  • “Craft Beer” as opposed to “Real Ale” – The Americanisation seems a popular terminology designed to bring in the ladies 😉

There was also an immense focus on Hops – we had so many conversations about “powerful” combinations and the skill of introducing them at the right time in the process. Firebrand Brewing from Cornwall took this one step further by displaying their ever-so-homemade “Randaliser”. This is a device which adds an extra hoppiness without the bitterness at the point of delivery by filtering through and topping up your pint from the tap. It added a clean and refreshing extra taste although seemed more of a gimmick for the show than something they were seriously planning to roll out.

Craft Beer Rising

Firebrand Brewing Co’s Randalizer

Bear Hug
These guys were offering the Hibernation IPA a chilled wheat beer/ Pale Ale for charity. They have bought 1 million sqft of rainforest and give 5 for every beer bought – you can find out more at – mygreensquares.com/promotions/bearhugcbr. The beer itself was a fresh and interesting combination of styles. I’m not normally a fan of Wheat beers but this one had something a bit different about it.

London Velvet

With a corporate-looking frontage, Ice sculpture cooling device and boasting a cross between Stout and Cider, London Velvet didn’t fill me with excitement. It was surprisingly decent actually, although without the marketing clout I’m not sure how likely it would be to take off. The idea is it’s a bit more classy than half-Guinness-half-Strongbow and a lighter alternative to a hoppy Craft Beer.

Rev & Makers Thornbridge
Reverend and the Makers were DJing at some point over the weekend at Craft Beer Rising, but they had also teamed up with the Thornbridge brewery to create a Summer ale. We were dubious how much involvement there had been but were assured that Ed Cosens from the band is actually an extremely keen amateur brewer and had created his own batch which had then been tweaked and recreated on a bigger scale. It was a very decent ale and we were pleasantly surprised.

Islay
A poor placement of stall saw the Islay brewery tucked at the far end of the hall, sheltered from their neighbours and without even a booth opposite. I suppose they felt at home. We engaged with the chap working there but he seemed a little mournful, his colleagues had buggered off to visit the Tower of London leaving him even more isolated.
We asked what it was about Islay that made their beers unique. Was it aged in Whisky barrels? Did it have tinges of Scottish Heather? Was there a particular style favoured by the islanders? It turned out that no, they didn’t, the beer wasn’t really brewed for tourists or for export, it was for the locals who didn’t want to drink whisky all the time. We tried the pretty standard craft beer on offer disappointed that none of the potential USPs had been grasped.

I’d taken a tour of the Meantime Brewery in Greenwich for a friend’s Stag do and it was unlike any brewery tour I’ve done before. This guy – with the cap and his back to us is Big Al and he is a gregarious drunk who made the whole affair incredibly entertaining. He was wandering around the Craft Beer Rising festival filming for something or other – I’d love to find out what!

Craft Beer Rising

Big Al

Truman’s reopened as a brewery in 2013 – although not at this site, and they were present to promote some fine ales. The thing I noticed, however was that the man from Sharp’s the previous year who had indoctrinated us into Quadrupel was here representing a different brand!

Craft Beer Rising

Truman’s

Perhaps the highlight for me was the enthusiasm and clout of King Beer. We were accosted on entry by a representative offering us a free CD (which contained a rather special mix of tunes curated to accompany their brews)

We got chatting to the head brewer who insisted that we try a selection of their offerings – and they have quite a range. He used to work for Truman’s and apparently could have gone back there but preferred to start his own operation.

Craft Beer Rising

King Beer

We then chatted to his assistant, who I will admit I first thought was a junior but after a couple of minutes of conversation it became clear he was a prodigy with a real knowledge of the chemical make up of beer and the brewing process.

Craft Beer Rising

King Beer

I hope Craft Beer Rising continues to flourish because it really encourages brewers to have a bit of character and allows them to show off their individuality in a way that other beer festivals do not.

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Greek Moussaka Eggplant

Travel with your taste buds with this Greek treat

Thinking of hosting a themed dinner and bingo party at home? Allow your guests to travel using their palate. Let them taste the wonders of Greece via the classic national dish: Greek Moussaka Eggplant. While the food takes about 2 hours to prepare and cook, you and your friends can enjoy some time to socialise.

Moussaka is regarded as one of the most popular Greek foods, thanks to the famous Greek chef Nicholas Tselementes. The casserole is not traditionally from Greece as some scholars maintain that moussaka was introduced by the Arabs when they brought the eggplant to Greece. Moussakka is an urban cuisine that, like Greece, is able to respond to new ingredients, religious, and traditional influences.

The rich influence of Greece to the modern world cannot be undermined. The Greek influence can be seen from events as big as the Olympics to as little as everyday things as the alphabet. Greek mythology is one of the biggest influences of Greece to the modern world. Even in the world of video games, countless Greek mythological references are prevalent among games such as God of War, titles are loosely based on the wonderful world of Greek Mythology. Meanwhile, Castle Jackpot creator IGT also tapped the creative muses of the Greek mythology by making Cupid & Psyche, a slot game that features the enduring love story that goes against all odds.

Here is a delicious recipe from About.com contributor, Lynn Livanos Athan:

Greek Moussaka Eggplant

Greek Moussaka Eggplant

Greek Moussaka Eggplant

Ingredients:

3 eggplants
1 lb potatoes
1 ½ lbs ground beef
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 large onions, diced
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
½ cup red wine
¼ tsp allspice, ground
1 tsp cinnamon, ground
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup tomato puree
1 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
8 egg whites, lightly beaten (please reserve yolks for Bechamel sauce)
2 cups plain bread crumbs
1 cup Parmesan cheese

For the Bechamel sauce:

1 cup flour
1 cup salted butter
4 cups milk, warmed
8 egg yolks, lightly beaten
Pinch of ground nutmeg

Method

  • Prepare the vegetables. Make sure that you peel the eggplants while leaving a 1-inch peel around the eggplant. Cut the eggplant into ½-inch slices. Set them aside in a colander and salt them liberally. Peel and boil the potatoes until they’re cooked enough. The potatoes should not be too soft. Drain them and slice them in ¼-inch slices. Set them aside.

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare two baking sheets with aluminum foil and grease it. Add a splash of water as you beat your egg. Dry the eggplant with paper towels before dipping it into the beaten egg. Dredge them in the bread crumbs. Make sure you coat both sides. Bake them at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, turning them once during cooking. Lower the temperature to 350 degrees when eggplant is cooked. Set them aside.

  • In a large pan, cook the ground beef until brown. Add the onion, garlic, and cook for about a minute. Pour wine to pan and allow it to simmer and reduce before adding cinnamon, parsley, allspice, tomato paste, sugar, and tomato puree. Simmer for 15 minutes, so excess liquid can be removed. Season with salt and pepper.

  • Prepare the Bechamel sauce. Over low heat, melt the butter. Add flour while whisking continuously to create a smooth paste. Cook for a minute, do not allow the flour to turn brown. Add the warmed milk while whisking. Simmer over low heat for a minute, then remove from heat. Stir in beaten yolks and nutmeg. Bring back to heat and stir until sauce is thick.

  • Assemble the moussaka. Lightly grease a baking pan, sprinkle bread crumbs on the bottom of the pan, then add a layer of potatoes. Top with layer of eggplant. Add meat sauce and Parmesan cheese. Top it with another layer of eggplant slices before sprinkling again with the cheese. Pour in the Bechamel sauce covering the sides of the pan. Bake for 45 minutes over 350 degrees. Cool before serving.

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Immersive theatre: The Day Shall Declare It & The Drowned Man

Immersive theatre. It’s quite the thing.

I wrote a preview for Le Cool about this Wilderness production based on some Tennessee Williams short stories and then I wrote a review after going to see it for Weekend Notes. It’s extended the run now until 7th Feb so you still have time to go and see it.

the_day_shall_le_cool

It isn’t on the same scale as something like one of the Punchdrunk performances where you can go and get thoroughly lost in proceedings but it does get you up close and personal with the actors and is beautifully produced.

So what is Immersive theatre? Also called “promenade” or interactive theatre, imagine you are in amongst the action, with no delineation between set, actors, and audience, except, in Punchdrunk’s case that the audience wear white masks.

I also went to The Drowned Man, Punchdrunk’s new immersive theatre production in “Temple Studios” just next to Paddington Station.

This was on a different level altogether with a large cast spanning two storylines and a multitude of possibilities available to the explorer. It does feel like you are exploring rather than watching in an extremely detailed set which you can poke around to your heart’s content.

I felt after three hours in there that I’d only scratched the surface of the story being told and, while it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, it didn’t seem as focused as Faust, the first production of theirs that I enjoyed immensely. It’s a sexy, rollicking ride though which will leave you wanting more, I think I could go back two or three more times to fully grasp what was going on.

One of the issues with the scale of the production – with up to 600 audience members, is that following one of the main characters becomes a case of getting bundled into a large crowd of white mask wearing voyeurs. I saw some interesting side-scenes by wandering off by myself or chasing minor characters but this tended to confuse or create a more fractured storyline.

For example, the Asian girl who was always running scared but who didn’t seem to fit in either of the main story lines. I was nosing around the office of a motel when she burst in with another audience member screaming about barricading the door but just when I thought I was going to get some insight she bundled me out telling me it wasn’t safe to be in there. I was trying to position myself for a one-on-one scene with one of the performers but, alas, it never quite happened!

Immersive theatre certainly makes for an unusual and exciting night out. although don’t necessarily expect a straightforward story line or plot to follow!

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Brand X in Le Cool London

Brand X is a counter-culture classic film from 1970 and is showing in the Subway gallery at Edgware Road exclusively for the next two Fridays.

Taking on the culture of TV in a style that was a precursor in some ways to Saturday Night Live, this undermines the government of the day in a series of skits.

It’s creator Wynn Chamberlain was heavily involved with Andy Warhol’s factory and this project was a big success before Nixon’s powers that be allegedly clamped down on it.

I covered Brand X for Le Cool here:

Brand X in Le Cool London

Brand X in Le Cool London

It looks  pretty great! Here are a couple of other promo shots from the Brand X film:

brand_x_still_abby_hoffmann_in_the_money_program_2

Still from Brand X – Abby Hoffman in the Money Program – Chamberlain Family collection

brand_x_still_taylor_and_sally_press_conference_2

Still from Brand X – Taylor Mead and Sally Kirkland in the Presidents Press Conference – Chamberlain Family collection

BrandX_Sally_Kirkland_Taylor_Mead_Old_Plantation

 

Brand X – Sally Kirkland and Taylor Mead in Down on the Old Plantation – by Jean Franco Mantegna and courtesy of the New  York Public Library

BrandX_Ultra_Violet_Tomorrows_Stars_Today_2

Brand X – Ultra Violet in Tomorrows Stars Today – by Jean Franco Mantegna and courtesy of the New  York Public Library
 

 If you get yourself on their RSVP list then you can see the screening for free and listen to an introductory talk at the same time. On top of that they will be giving away free popcorn and you can bring your own booze. Sounds like a good way to start off a Friday night!

 

 

 

 

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Occupy Walking Tour in Le Cool London

So I started writing for Le Cool again and this event looks like a fun and interesting way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

The guys from Occupy have organised a walking tour around the City of London to tell the history of money and finance.

In the wake of the banking crisis and the protests over the last few years there is a lot to talk about and these guys have an entertaining way of explaining some tricky concepts.

 

Occupy walking tour in Le cool London

Occupy walking tour in Le cool London

http://london.lecool.com/event/occupy-city-of-london-walking-tour/

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