29 March 2014. The first same-gender weddings in the UK. Attitude Magazine celebrate with a commemorative issue looking at all things nuptial. Was happy to be asked to contribute an article on celebrating LGBT Muslim (& non-Muslim) love, so here it is.

Congratulations to all the happy couples!

God bless.

Xxx

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27th July 2012.

7 years in the making.

The world watched as London got ready to perform during the Olympics & Paralympics. And perform it did.

I adore athletics. And the Olympics. Proud of being a Londoner born and bred. Having the Olympics in my hometown is a dream come true.

Everyone has their personal experiences of loving the Olympics, so I won’t share all of mine.

As 2012 draws to a close, here’s some of my highlights. 🙂

Me top left, blue jacket and glasses!

Me top left, blue jacket and glasses!

Olympic Opening Ceremony Volunteer Performer

It was a difficult few months trying to fit work in and to begin with my London Marathon, but from being cast this January, I was ecstatic at the chance to perform at London 2012’s opening ceremony. The days leading upto showtime were highly pressurised, trying to juggle my paid job with the ever-intense weight of opening the show and the rules and regulations we had to abide by…it was all I could do to not want to go in a cave until the 27th July. But, WOW, what an experience! Truly proud to have performed in ‘Thanks Tim’ in a tribute to Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the world-wide-web, dancing in London throughout the ages. This pic was minutes from bursting through trap door 10 below the middle of the stage, and reminds me of making friends with the other lovely volunteers who alos worked so hard, and how exciting it was to perform to billions…London, the hub of the world right then!

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Doreen Lawrence

Danny Boyle’s Olympic opening ceremony attempted to tell the story of Britain revealing a country forged in the actions of ordinary people. Carrying the Olympic Flag to it’s pole, the traditionally symbolic bearers included Muhammad Ali, Ban Ki-moon (the UN secretary general), Ethiopian athletics veteran Haile Gebrselassie, Shami Chakrabati (director of Liberty), Sally Becker (known as the Angel of Mostar), Marina Silva (who has fought against the destruction of the rainforest), Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee (who has worked to try and end Liberia’s civil war), and musician Daniel Barenboim. But the most emotional moment was seeing Doreen Lawrence. Her son Stephen was infamously murdered in 1994 by racists, the investigation of which was heavily flawed and full of difficulties, leading to the first time reports labelled much of the police as ‘institutionally racist’, setting about key changes in the way crime was reported and significant areas in the judiciary system. Doreen led much of this change, campaigning tirelessly so that her son’s death, something that could never be equalised, was not in vein and so that his memory lived on, in the Stephen Lawrence Foundation and beyond.

Doreen Lawrence - bottom  left.

Doreen Lawrence – bottom left.

Super Thursday Paralympics

It’s difficult to say my favourite part of the Games. The ticketing purchasing was genuinely designed to be fair and give priority to Londoners, but the overloaded servers turned it a nightmare. Having got nothing the first time round, Greco-Roman Wrestling & Beach Volleyball in the second chance window, I was delighted to get a the Gymnastics All-Around Men’s Final a few months before the Olympics. But my ‘holy grail’ was getting the Men’s 100m Final. I couldn’t rest until I did! And finally, and with days to go, albeit through an expensive hotel package deal with Thomas Cook (although 50% cheaper than a few days before!), I got 2 tickets. Seeing Usain Bolt, Christine Ohurogu, Robbie Grabarz and more were awe-inspiring, as were the other events and also the many free events like the Triathlon. But I wanted to share a Paralympics moment. I got tickets to the Opening Ceremony and an Excel Day pass for power-lifting, boccia and more, but delighted to get 3 different athletics events…and way before the bandwagon jumpers during the 2 weeks! Including on Super Thursday 6th September, ParalympicsGB won silver (*just* pipped to gold in the last minutes!) in the discus with Dan Greaves, and gold for sprinters Hannah Cockroft & Jonnie Peacock and long-distancer David Weir.

Closing Ceremony

From the epic, fantastical wonderland of Danny Boyle’s Great Britain, to the Olympic Closing Ceremony musical jamboree. Showcasing the best of British talent…One Direction, Jessie J, Kate Bush, David Bowie, George Michael, Tinie Tempah, Taio Cruz, Annie Lennox, Spice Girls, Pet Shop Boys, The Kinks, Emile Sande, Elbow, The Who and many more. Some thought it low-production value, but it was unashamed pop at it’s best, ‘A Symphony of British Music, the party to end all parties after the greatest Olympic show yet.

Spice Girls

Spice Girls – Hi, See, Ya!

Liu Xiang’s Tragedy

China’s premier track and field athlete won gold in Athens 2004 (China’s first ever athletics gold), but was cruelly denied a chance to defend his 110m title title on home ground in Beijing 2008 when he pulled out due to an achilles injury. London 2012 and the pressure was on. Weeks before, he had pulled out of the Diamond League London Grand Prix which was on his 29th birthday, due to muscle pain. During the London 2012 110m heats, he sadly crashed at the first hurdle due to the achilles injury. But rather than pull out, he was determined to finish the race. Hobbling along unhelped, he hopped all the way the final hurdle, kissed it, and then crossed the finishing line, being met by fellow athletes. Leaving the track in a wheelchair, Feng Shuyong, the head of China’s track team, was quoted by state media as saying, “What Liu Xiang did today reflected the true Olympics spirit…winning is not so important, participation is what matters.”

Saudi Arabia’s Sarah Attar makes history

Saudi Arabia’s Sarah Attar made history in the 800m heats by becoming the first woman from her country to compete in athletics at the Olympic Games. Though finishing last 43 seconds behind the heat winner Kenya’s Janeth Jepkosgei (although 1500m is Sarah’s forte), the 80,00 strong crowd cheered her finish. Attar, who holds Saudi Arabian and American dual nationality, told the BBC that she competed “to make a difference” and hopes “it sparks something amazing”.

Friendly Passengers & Selfless Volunteers

Forever seen as an unsocial passage through the rat-race, commuters and more revelled in the Olympic spirit, and one of the enduring memories of London 2012 were all and sundry socialising with those from all over the world about winning, losing, origins, opinions…and sharing in the human spirit. Even the train drivers were full of joy! And the games wouldn’t have been the same without all the friendly games makers, many of them volunteers, in their tell-tale uniform, helping make London 2012 the success it was.

The Armed Forces

Although G4 security staff did their bit as well as they could, the shortfall resulting in the unfulfilled promises by management meant there was a huge last-minute void. The armed forces kindly stepped in, and the gents and ladies proved how serviceable they were by being the perfect hosts to the world, making GB proud. Bravo them!

On Her Majesty’s Service. ;-D

Team Heathow

One of the many volunteering opportunities was to welcome the Olympians and their teams to London Heathrow, London 2012’s official airport. After a few training sessions including being informed on different terminal’s structures and being issued an airside security pass, shifts to welcome the arrivals ranged from 6 hours to 8 hours, starting from 4am up to midnight! It was great to meet the different athletes from different countries. I was proud to volunteer, in spite of trekking over 2 hours from one side of London to the west! All volunteers got this lovely official regulation IAAF momento baton from the government too.

P&G’s ‘Thank You Mum’ campaign
Olympics have to be corporate to be funded, unfortunately more than perhaps some people are comfortable with. But this is a necessity for the most part. One of enduring campaigns that struck a cord with many and for me was P&G’s tribute to Mums…most of the athlete’s would not be where they were today without the loving support of their Mum. A Facebook wall by P&G was set-up inviting everyone, not just athletes, to post why they loved their Mum’s so much. The TV campaign was very touching, and the moment sponsors P&G got Michael McKillop to be presented with Paralympics gold in T37 1500m by his mother on the podium – a first in the history of the Games – was beautiful. I thought of my Mum during being on stage on the Opening Ceremony, as I did and others too I’m sure during the P&G campaign and Michael’s presentation.
London 2012 Paralympic Games - Athletics Monday 3rd September

BOOM!

It came. You saw. We (mostly) conquered.

Weeks of charity-requests and months of training now over for everyone, after 2012’s Virgin London Marathon took over the streets yesterday on Sunday 22 April, and my first ever marathon. 🙂

Laying shattered on t’sofa on St. George’s Day (wanted to go out and celebrate this!…my leg’s had other ideas), here are ten thoughts summing up what I thought of the whole rollercoaster, surreal, life-encompassing experience!

WHISTLESTOP LONDON SIGHTSEEING…BY FOOT!

‘Twas a beautiful morning yesterday, and heading out to Greenwich Park, one of London’s best viewing-points, was a sight. Thousands of runners…and what a way to see London! From the park, to Woolwich, through Charlton, around The Cutty Sark ship back in Greenwich, onto my home in Bermondsey, Tower Bridge, Canary Wharf & Docklands, back to the Tower of London, then the City of London, past my old school, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Embankment, Waterloo Bridge, the London Eye, Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and The Mall.

Phew!

26.2 miles…! 42 kilometres! Until you do it, you can never appreciate the enormity of the distance covered as you take in some of the world’s most iconic structures. All while running! Nuts!

36,705 PEOPLE

This year was (I read but cannot find the source!) the THIRD biggest turnout for the London Marathon. 36,705 is nearly twice the capacity of the O2 Arena. Running with so many people, publicly pounding the London roads, like being on some mass exodus. It’s an army!

Copyright of EPA.

FANCY DRESS BRIGADE

Running a marathon’s tough. Running a marathon in a costume?! This year’s marathon didn’t fail to deliver on ‘wacky race’ attire. From banana-men, super-heroes, firemen (phwoar), rhinos and more, they were awesome. My favourite, Bagpuss!

Copyright of WEINN

CHARITIES

It seemed the vast majority of runners were running for a cause. When you zone out and forget what you’re doing running down the street, looking up and seeing heart charities, cancer charities, and other’s all being represented in earnest was impressive. My favourites were the kid’s charities and the hospices, especially those running in memory of loved ones.

The London Marathon holds the Guinness World Record as the single largest annual fund raising event in the world, with an estimated almost £50 MILLION being raised for the day. Since 1981, the 1st London Marathon, an estimated half a BILLION POUNDS has been raised for good causes.

INJURIES

From hamstring injuries, blisters, subungual haematomas to tarsal fractures…and that was one leg! I’ve never needed so much physio! And on race-day it was evident others had also suffered, with compression tights, taping and bandages in abundance. And still all soldiered on to the finish line!

HITTING THE WALL

4 hours, 9 minutes, 10 seconds. Finishing in 13,213 place out of 36,705 runners. The top 36%. But I didn’t reach my goal of a sub-4 hour marathon!

A good (slowest time) estimation in the runner’s world is that your marathon time can be gained from your half-marathon time doubled, then 20 mins added. I ran the Silverstone Half Marathon in 1 hour, 46 mins and 45 seconds, so by that equation I would finish in under 3 hours and 54 minutes at the latest.

Obviously not an exact science, but combined with finishing a 21.5 mile training run in a good time and not seeming to ‘hit the wall’ ever, it seemed definitely possible yesterday.

Plagued by injuries in training, I was well equipped with analgesia along the route and amongst all the many bits of advice read over the months, the most important is to NOT RUN TOO FAST to begin with, the most common cause of ‘hitting the wall’. It’s not the first 6 miles of a marathon that are important, it’s the last 6 miles!

What is this wall? Simply speaking, your body’s fuel is glycogen. Your muscles store glycogen but have a limited supply, and when this runs out (e.g. during running) your body is forced to convert fat stores to glucose instead, a much slower process…and resulting in suddenly not being able to move a muscle. There are other aspects too such as your CNS response, your psychological strength, etc.

You store glycogen after you eat complex-carbohydrates like potato, pasta, rice etc. So it’s important to saturate your body’s reserves prior to a marathon.

Starting out, I made sure I didn’t run too fast, kept hydrated but not too much, thought I consumed enough sports-drink throughout, and reached the half-way mark at a respectable time of 1 hour 54 mins and 13 seconds…enough to keep energy in the bank for the final 6 miles.

Mile by mile, keeping my pace constant. Getting knackered / bored (and desperate to see some supporters!) after mile 14, I kept going. Then mile 18, started feeling sick. ‘OK, you’re just tired, keep going’. Mile 19, still felt tired. Mile 20, legs starting to burn. Mile 22, the realisation I’m losing the sub-4 hour goal. Mile 23, foot fracture starting to hurt. ‘These analgesia tablets are taking ages to work!” Mile 24, just wanting to stop SO badly, legs desperate to plod. The finish line taking AGES to come! Every part of me struggling, until finally crossing the finish line.

‘What happened?’. My legs were in pain and I found it difficult to force myself to maintain the modest running pace I had begun at. I thought it was the pain of injury which I was expecting. But I hadn’t experienced this in training. By 1pm I felt boiling, found myself running with my eyes closed, grabbing at jelly-babies and Twix bars from the hands of spectators…not to mention hallucinating!

And then I saw my results on the official page:

My Virgin London Marathon 2012 Statistics

Constant pace until 35 km (21.7 miles). Then bang, dropped. I struggled to run faster than my new slower pace, although it remained constant till 40 km and then the finish.

I heard about serious runners and celebrities hitting the wall, and checking out their times they had the same pattern.

Maybe I hit the wall. Maybe training once or twice a week wasn’t enough? Maybe I didn’t hydrate enough through the race. I won’t rest until I break 4 hours, because I know I can…one day! But until then, for my first marathon I’m chuffed I didn’t stop for a pee break NOR stop running once, from the start till the finish line.

CELEBRITIES

James Cracknell, chef Michel Roux, newsreader Sophie Raworth, chef Gordon Ramsay, TOWIE / The Only Way Is Essex, Ed Balls just some of the celebrities out in force, also raising money for charities. Nell Mcandrew was the fastest celebrity this year with 2 hours 54 (WOW!). And a special mention to Fauja Singh (lives in my home town Redbridge!) for his last marathon, at a record-breaking 101 years old!

Will Young was behind me during the end as all I could hear was people screaming, ‘It’s Will Young!’ every minute. He’s a good guy, but perhaps having enough of hearing that propelled me to race ahead of him and beat him! Here’s his time:

WILL YOUNG London Marathon 2012 - 4:37:23

And I beat Iwan Thomas, former world-class GB athlete in 400m! 😀

IWAN THOMAS London Marathon 2012 - 4:13:18

DEATH

This isn’t a highlight. It’s awful. By now you’ve heard of Claire Squires, 30, who died just minutes from reaching the finishing-line. She was raising money for The Samaritans, possibly inspired by her brother who died from an overdose a few years ago. She had raised £500 until then. With the public hearing of her death this has rocketed, after donating just now I’ve seen it’s nearly at £200,000. Here’s her fund-raising page if you’d also like to: Claire Squires

SPECTATORS

The London Marathon would not be the same without the spectators. That’s half a million of you all out on the streets! When you’re ‘in the zone’ it doesn’t make a difference, but when you need that energy drink, jelly baby, or chocolate, boy does it help. And going through London the regional differences are fascinating, from the well-to-do Greenwich gang, the boisterous Bermondsey boys, the City slickers to the heaving throngs along the Embankment, it’s a lovely thing for people to do. Unfortunately I missed seeing my sister, Royston and Oyvind though, and they tried 3 times as I searched in vain! 😦 But I managed to see a few friendly faces which was a nice surprise. And while the crowd were, shall we say, shying away from pronouncing my name to begin, at the end while I was struggling, it was all I could hear for a couple of miles. So thank you!

MIND

I ran for Mind, a mental health charity. I’ve blogged about them before. They’re excellent. We probably all suffer from mental health issues at least once, but are ashamed to talk about it, unlike heart problems, cancer, diabetes, even HIV these days. Depression isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of being strong for too long. And thanks to ALL OF YOU, you’ve helped me raise nearly £3,500 for Mind! Smashing my target of £2000. And if that wasn’t enough, gorgeous Stephen Fry himself donated too! (I’m still gobsmacked about that!). Best of all, I’ve met some lovely people while training for the London Marathon, all with their own story to tell, all determined to raise money for a good cause. And it was so good to run with thousands of other people on the day, who all had their reasons for doing it too.

PLEASE sponsor me if you haven’t already done so! Link here: Fiez’s First Marathon

And lastly, I ran for my dear Mum who died a few years ago. Any pain I felt in the last few miles, I forced aside knowing how great and loving a mother she was to my sister and I, and how good a person she was to everyone. My hero.

So, same time again next year…? 😉

10 years is a long time.

Almost an eternity in pop music.

10 years ago exactly…Kylie was Number 1 in the singles AND album charts and taking over the world (with CGYOOMH & Fever)…Aaliyah was being mourned…Destiny’s Child were too Bootylicious…Steps were about to split-up…Westlife were showing no signs of following suit…and a certain Stefanie Germanotta and Robyn Fenty were 15 years and 13 years old respectively (Lady Gaga and Rihanna to you and me)…crumbs!

Smash Hits & SKY collection

On the way home last week I saw an advert for a brand new magazine called ‘We Love Pop’ on the back of a bus…I wondered if it was the first in the way of such a magazine since Smash Hits’ demise in 2006.

Starting in 1978, Smash Hits was a music magazine aimed for teens. But unlike any I can think of nowadays, it was lauded by kids and grown-ups alike. Like NME & Melody Maker aimed for adults, it was a powerhouse of great journalism and was seen as one of the ‘movers and shakers’ of the music industry. Alongside asking about ‘favourite colours’ or ‘best pizza topping’, it pulled no punches in getting down to the nitigriti, searching for the truth behind musical influences, personal experiences, in-band rifts, artist rivalries and much much more. Even surveying readers’ lifestyles including sex and alcohol.

In it’s heyday it sold millions, and along with the Top Of The Pops music show it was seen as vital in breaking new singers. Previous featured editors and journalists include Nick Logan, the Pet Shop Boys’ Neil Tennant, Mark Ellen, Alex Kadis, Sylvia Patterson, Miranda Sawyer, Mark Frith, Kate Thornton, Lisa Smosarski & the recently deceased Tom Hibbert to name quite a few. AND not forgetting the most appealing aspect besides the free stickers or gifts often attached…much sought after song lyrics!!! And all for 70p!!! (Yes, I know, £0.70!?!?)

Bugger...this'll take ages to clean up!

I started buying Smash Hits in 1993 when I fell in love with Take That and (especially!) Jason Orange…and then couldn’t be bothered to buy anymore at the ripe old age of 20. Every 2 weeks I’d eagerly buy the latest issue, soaking up the interviews, chart analysis, music reviews and the unique humour Smash Hits injected. I was hooked. Inbetween homework, coursework and the troubles of teen life it was a welcome lifeline to the music world in the days before the internet, reading all about my favourite popstars. Reading it, I could be a popstar!

So I simply had to dig out my old collection for a trip down memory lane!

->

7-20 JULY 1993 : TAKE THAT

I never liked boybands, but the only one I totally did was Take That. Perhaps puberty or just Jason Orange, all I remember is one day suddenly being obsessed…I had to know everything about them and my beloved! In this issue Alex Kadis joins them in an earlier promotional trip to try and crack the States and interviews them along the way. Not being famous over there they have a hectic workload, but being anonymous there’s time for plenty of tomfoolery. HIGHLIGHT: Reading about their chemistry and Gary being highly keen on how much all the big houses cost and on renovating, and practicing keyboard before bed…that’s Gary!

27 APR-10 MAY : KURT COBAIN R.I.P.

The world was in shock to hear of Nirvana’s lead singer’s death, with Smash Hits not shying away from reporting ‘he committed suicide by blowing his head off with a shotgun’. It published that he was ‘painfully shy and his inability to cope with fame led to problems with heroin and depression. But millions of fans ‘will remember him as a great singer, guitarist and songwriter.’ The suicide note left for his wife Courtney Love and their two-year old daughter Frances Bean ended ‘”I love you, I love you”‘.

31 AUG-13 SEPT : KYLIE’S POST-SAW COMEBACK

I’ve loved Kylie since Neighbours and before she became a legend. Her first release since leaving PWL records and the pop producers Stock, Aitken & Waterman was HUGELY anticipated. By that time she was well and truly a huge gay icon but I was clueless, but discovered this shortly after. Here she talks about her new music, about finally being seen as ‘cool’, movies and men…the interviewer notes something that is often famously said, Kylie is very guarded in revealing information. But also that she looks stunning and is a pop force to be reckoned with. HIGHLIGHT: Being bored stiff with Madonna comparisons, hanging out with Prince, and snogging Lemonheads hottie Evan Dando. Plus THAT eyebrow and her hearty ‘infectious guffaw’! P.S. The comeback, Confide In Me, is one of my favourite songs EVER.

24 MAY-6 JUNE 1995 : MICHAEL JACKSON’S POST-ABUSE CONTROVERSY COMEBACK

Friend and journalist Adrian Grant details the goings-on since Jan 1994, dealing with the sexual abuse allegations by Jordy Chandler, it’s impact, marrying Lisa Marie Presley and releasing new album HIStory. HIGHLIGHT: He talks of his hurt about the allegations, his love for his fans, new songs, and enquiring about blue hair extensions in London…!

21 JUNE-4 JULY 1995 : DEUCE

Favourite band during my GCSEs. Pure dance-pop with Kelly O’Keefe (now owns a restaurant in West Hampstead), Lisa Armstrong (now Mrs Ant McPartlin), Craig Young (varying success in the States) & Paul Holmes (did songwriting for a while). Kelly was hot. Lady Gaga-esque imagery. Yes I am cringing a little. Better than Steps though.


2-15 AUG 1995 : ROBBIE LEAVES / (WAS SACKED FROM) TAKE THAT

A pop milestone. Millions of fans in tears. Smash Hits – with a sombre cover – detailed all the information. Did he quit? Was he pushed? Celebrity reactions and remembering 15 golden Robbie moments. HIGHLIGHT: Emphasising that what is likely to be the truth is that Robbie told the boys he wanted to leave but would stay till the end of the tour, but then a few days later the rest of the band said it would be best if he left sooner. That and contacting the then prime minister John Major and The Queen’s spokespeople for comments…none given.

16-29 AUG / 30 AUG-12 SEPT 1995 : BLUR vs. OASIS

Britpop mania reached fever pitch when Blur’s Country House & Oasis’s Roll With It were both released on 14 August 1995. Both sold well over 200,000 copies in the first week. Blur won. But Oasis had longer success. Smash Hits decided to print both bands on their covers in consecutive issues, but Blur first, perhaps because Blur answered reader’s questions in their edition.

16-29 AUG 1995 : LOUISE LEAVES ETERNAL

The biggest UK girl group at the time. Hailing from south London, debut album Always and Forever sold over 4 million units worldwide (over 1.2 million – 4 x Platinum – in the UK alone). Then Louise left. The white one out of three blacks. Was it racial? No, Kelly Bryan and Louise Nurding were best friends. Louise enjoyed success as a solo artist for a while while Eternal carried on as a trio. Kelly left and then the two remaining sisters’ called it a day after the hits dried up.

9-22 OCT 1996 : THE SPICE GIRLS

Just when you thought pop music had died…BAM!!! The Spice Girls launched with a blaze of publicity but – mainly – top quality pop songs. They took over the world. They were huge. They’ve sold over 100 million albums and singles worldwide. HIGHLIGHT: Loving Louise’s breasts, gatecrashing Courtney Love’s hotel room, and being honest and warts and all. Victoria does a rare smile on the cover.

3 JUNE 1998 : 5IVE

Jason ‘J’ Brown. My last teenage crush. (What is it with Jasons and colours?). Phwoaar. That is all.

;-D

18 NOV 1998 : STEPS

Love ’em or hate ’em, Claire, H, Faye, Lee & Lisa grew ever popular and sold loads of records, with a string of Top 10 hits. Bright, cheery pop music with dance ‘steps’, hence the name. They disbanded acrimoniously on Boxing Day 2001. HIGHLIGHT: Claire sometimes forgetting to bring the right underwear for performances, such as wearing a white outfit and having black knickers, but H never having that problem. H stands for hyperactive apparently…not for homosexual then.

From ‘The Telegraph’ newspaper

R.I.P Amy. It’s particularly sad when someone dies before their time. Especially when they had so much potential, and especially when life got too unbearable and loved ones couldn’t seem to help.

We were all anticipating the 3rd album. For that spark on stage again.

Clearing out my bug-ridden PC, I think that’s why I had recently forgot I was lucky to see Amy. A personal appearance at The Astoria on 14 Apr 2007, at G.A.Y. no less! The photos and videos I took reminded me that I hadn’t completely forgotten, but for many reasons for me that was practically another lifetime ago.

Amy Winehouse – Astoria – 14/APR/2007

I almost never went. Some friends were not available, others couldn’t be bothered! At the eleventh hour I thought, “Screw it, I’ll go on my todd”.

I’m so glad I did. I met a guy and a girl also going (not seen them since) and we had a blast on the balcony!

I have no detailed photos or sharp clips though. They are only about a minute each in length, only a taster. It was a far cry from my usual trigger-happy, ready-to-record collection of gigs now. Coupled with the fact that my battery had run out of juice.

So you may be disappointed if you expect even average quality.

Amy Winehouse – Astoria – 14/APR/2007

But the graininess instills a rawness to it that makes it seem more real. And that her voice and character still come through is a testament to her prowess. Her voice still so strong and so arresting.

Watching the clips last week felt very eery, I guess you’ll feel the same. The lady singing before us had sadly passed away suddenly at 27 (or unfortunately perhaps not so suddenly if you think about it). In a venue that is now no more after being demolished for the Crossrail project.

Knowing I was also 27 (meaning she was 23…!) while looking through my camera lens at her was alarming. But mostly, 2007 was the last year my Mum was alive; any event whether banal or stupendous in 2007 I can’t help hold as painfully sacred. Events like perhaps going home and telling my Mum about the concert, listening to her reaction, and then tucking our conversation away in some corner of my memory, maybe as nothing particularly special, completely ignorant that in months to come the change in my landscape would be nothing short of alien.

Amy Winehouse – Astoria – 14/APR/2007

I hadn’t seen these clips since 2007. But apart from feeling sad, there was a bittersweetness. And seeing Amy reminded me how much she entertained everyone that night. The room was filled with happiness at her kookiness and her power. She was such a laugh, joking with the crowd. And I hope you get that from watching them too, which is why I wanted to share these clips for anyone who loved her, as short as they are. Hopefully a warm fuzzy feeling of how great she was!

Amy Winehouse – Astoria – 14/APR/2007

I also wanted to promote MIND, the mental health charity. It’s an umbrella organisation to deal not only with addiction, but all mental health issues, depression, anxiety, minor to major, the lot. There shouldn’t be a stigma attached to it. Sometimes it goes unnoticed compared to other tangible physical diseases. But it’s devestating when someone feels isolated, having seen loved ones suffer and also been affected.

Sometimes all it takes is to share one’s worries with a loved one, to feel on top of the world again. But for many people, this simple act of opening up, which most people engage in, seems to not be an option. And that’s when small problems can spiral out of control, and often they need not. And it’s not just drug addiction, other reasons for feeling low, which is normal for all of us at some time or another and usually we pull through it, can be left unchecked until, in some cases, it’s too late.

Click here to be taken to the MIND Charity.

Right now, someone else who isn’t famous is going through this. Maybe your neighbour you pass by every day. Your work colleague. Family member. Trying to put a brave face on it. Maybe you?

Depression isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of being strong for too long.

So, whether you liked the clips or thought they were crap! ( :-/ ) …have a look at MIND and donate if you like. Or maybe someone needs your support. Or maybe you do, but are too scared to ask for help. We all need help sometimes.

London. 2011. The world’s most multicultural and cosmopolitan city.

Gay Pride – Saturday 2nd July.

Surely gays and lesbians don’t need to parade their existence down Oxford Street anymore…we’re sorted in this city, right? What is Gay Pride anyway?

Is Pride about going to the gym every day the week before and getting your haircut just right, or perhaps volunteering to help one of the many organisations that need help on the day and truly feeling part of a community?

Come Pride, will you be with those ‘shiny new people’ you now interact with on Facebook, or spending time with actual friends who have invested genuine energy into your friendship and given a crap about you?

I remember seeing the London Gay Pride marches on television news, growing up in school, itching to one day be able to go, as a proud adult fighting homophobia with other homofriendly adults. My first pride in the 90s didn’t disappoint! It was a sensory feast. A sea of movement, walking with purpose. Cheering, friendly people, hot guys and hot gals, music, everyone happy – it was most definitely a powerful, ‘we’re here, we’re queer and we (don’t!) drink beer’ moment. Feeling suppression being defeated. Feeling part of a community. And then the glorious Trafalgar Square rally. Beautiful!

Fast forward to 2011. Millions descending onto the streets of London, marching, whistling, partying. Dancing in Leicester and Soho Squares. Who but a boring party-pooper would not be excited by all the revelry?!

But, we can do this every weekend. What’s so special about one day?

The difference? The march. The first march for gay rights in the UK was in 1970, when 150 gay men protested through Highbury Fields in north London, The first official UK Gay Pride Rally was in 1972. Since then the march has grown in number and importance, originating from the 1969 Stonewall riots, through to Section 28, age of consent and equality for all.

Huge issues that had / have serious consequences on our well-being. The only reason we can still celebrate today is because of the march and the ongoing fight for gay rights.

London Gay Pride March - 1972

Which is why the march and rally are always important. Having fun with loved ones too. But inbetween all the ogling at half-naked torsos, perhaps drinking and drugs, and general carefree merriment, it’s important to remember why we can be free in the first place, and why other places unfortunately can’t.

Iran, Uganda, Malawi, Russia, Latvia, Serbia…just some of the countries where our LGBT community are struggling to have the same rights we take for granted, sometimes even just being alive. We must march for them.

But in London we still have battles. Homophobia still exists in sport. Hate is still being preached by bigots in the name or religion, be it a minority of youths flyering Tower Hamlets ‘supposedly’ they claim in the name of Allah, or Christian leaders who think Jesus would equate homosexuality with paedophilia. Or atheists who will never treat an LGBT person as an equal.

For some, the march may be redundant. ‘Who cares? I don’t need to fight for anything anymore’. For me? Marching as a British Muslim who is gay and out has impassioned me. Obviously some people may not be able to relate to that.

But there is a growing divide between gays whose families are secular and their perception of what’s left in the gay struggle, and those gays whose families are from minority groups, e.g. blacks, Muslims etc. The first time I saw a group of gay Muslims marching together was a lightning-bolt moment, my eyes nearly popped out, I felt fired up. Years later, I spoke on stage at the 2007 Pride Rally at Trafalgar Square, as a trustee on behalf of Imaan (LGBT Muslim support group). The square was as packed as ever, but it was the day after police arrested a few individuals outside Tiger Tiger club in Piccadilly for an alleged terrorist bomb plot. I expected animosity and jeering, but was overjoyed that the whole crowd rallied together, cheering with full gusto at fighting homophobia, Islamophobia, all prejudice, and celebrating our diverse community, both it’s similarities and differences.

London Gay Pride 2006 - Me and other LGBT Muslim supporters

Speaking personally, as a double minority it is much easier in the short-term to bury your head in the sand, to not confront the issue, and this is also true for secular gays and religious straights. Showing the world you’re gay and Muslim can be twice as hard than being a secular gay. And shunning people who associate with religion / gays is cowardice, whether you’re gay or straight. But for me the greater good, forcing Muslims to accept the existence of gays and forcing gays to accept the existence of other minorities, is vital to escape the ‘dark ages’. If I/we don’t do it, than who will? We can’t depend on others or the next generation to do the hard work for us, as much as it would be a much more peaceful life for us! A journey not without heartache, but hopefully one that avoids future heartache for many.

It’s not normal to get on with everyone and like everyone, it’s human nature for people to have things in common with some, and have not much in common with others. But there can be a danger of the gay scene becoming ‘ghettoised’. Unnecessary factions. For example, it would be bad if gay Muslims just stuck to each other and didn’t socialise with others. I am heavily against the new trend of some minority groups, such as some Muslims, being completely segregated. My grandparents came to London in the 1960s and wouldn’t have bothered coming if they did not happily integrate as proud British Muslims.

It works both ways. Everyone’s heard the paradigm of it being a ‘straight, white male world’, a comment on the least oppressed, people on top of the ‘dog eat dog’ world. Anyone who is ‘missing’ at least one of these characteristics will have experienced the pain of oppression, and would have fought to assert their rights, e.g. gay white males, straight white females, straight black males. Those who are oppressed usually become more accepting overall of other minorities, not just their own, as they understand the shared struggle for universal human rights. But worryingly, there seems to be a trend where those that were once oppressed have forgotten. My theory is that, just for example let’s say some gay whites, you get to the ‘top of the tree’, you’re in the big city smoke and finally feel accepted, and you can do what you want and no longer feel oppressed. And for some, that might mean that at best you’re not bothered about socialising with other minority groups and at worst you ‘ghettoise’ yourself from them, maybe because for some, finally being at the ‘top of the tree’ really is important (e.g. taken to extreme, the fact that some gay people join far-right political organisations). I will defend an atheist’s right to question my or anyone’s religion, but that’s a completely different thing from being anti-Muslim / anti-whatever religion / anti-minority, which is just as bad as being homophobic.

But like I said, it works both ways.

More than being LGBT which is one strand of our being, we are people; a false sense of elitism achieves nothing.

Pride is about having self-pride. Respect, love and honesty for yourself and others. Be with positive people. Help those in need. Maximise time with those who appreciate you and minimise time with those who don’t. Remembering your real friends and family.

AND…Pride also means not feeling you HAVE to go out on the day, fearing you’re missing out; it is OK not to go sometimes, have a quiet one in solitude or with loved ones.

As long as homophobia exists in this country or indeed any other, and as long as people aren’t inclusive of all gay people, religious to atheist, black to white, young to old, fat to skinny, as long as people aren’t accepting of the rainbow of diversity that the LGBT community is and instead want to create divisions in soulless cliques…

…then yes, parading is important to show we are united…and a damn site more fun and sexier than the haters too. 😉

So whether you’re parting hard and celebrating, or having a quiet reflective one, solo or with loved ones either here or in memory of those who’ve passed, Happy Pride.

Love Fiez X

Bit random to include Gaga and no this isn’t a plug for her, as much as she’s fabulous! But this advert came on while blogging and I like the happy sentiment.

CONGRATULATIONS to Prince William and Kate Middleton on their big day!

It’ll be information overload for a few weeks. But here are the facts you really want to know! (Perhaps. 😉 ).

Ahh. (Courtesy of Mario Testino).

* Although only 29 years of age, Kate will be the oldest bride to marry into the Royal Family. Princess Diana, was barely 20 years old when she married Prince Charles in 1981. Statistics show that marrying at this age means that Will and Kate are less likely to divorce.

* William and Kate are 12th cousins once removed according to The Daily Mail (!) (ancestor Sir Thomas Leighton) or 15th cousins (descended from Sir Thomas Fairfax) according to other sources – from the 16th century.

* David Cameron wants the nation to “get on and have fun and celebrate our country” this Friday, advising councils to allow the British public to throw street parties. Around 4000 applications for street-party licenses were received and an estimated 2 million people will be celebrating on the streets.

* Among the 1,900 guests include (make of this what you will!) Victoria and David Beckham, rugby coach Clive Woodward, comedian Rowan Atkinson, director Guy Ritchie, Kanye West, the landlord of Kate’s local pub, TV presenter Ben Fogle….as well as two of Kate’s exes and four of William’s (including Jessica Craig, Olivia Hunt, and Rupert Finch…heterosexual pairings btw! 😉 ).

* Around 40 foreign royals have been invited, including the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, the Sultan of Brunei, the Emperor of Japan, and kings of Malaysia, Tonga, and Thailand.

* President Obama has not been included due to the high costs of additional security, but will visit the UK in May for a royal dinner and ball to pay his respects to the newlyweds. Sarah Ferguson has also been snubbed, oh dear. :-/

* Senior Royals and dignitaries will be shuttled between Buckingham Palace and Westminister Abbey in minibuses…not Prince Charles though, he’ll be chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce style. (Get him! 😉 ).

* Male military guests will be required to wear their armed forces dress uniform, while women have been advised to wear elegant afternoon dresses with or without a smart coat or hat.

* Prince William’s Mum got married at St. Paul’s Cathedral in 1981. Like Princess Diana, Kate is following in her would-be mother-in-law’s footsteps by not promising ‘to obey’.

* The Wales-Middleton union will be the 15th royal wedding conducted during the 1,000-year history of the Collegiate Church of St Peter, Westminster, to give Westminster Abbey its formal name. Victoria’s granddaughter, Patricia of Connaught, chose to marry her naval aide-de-camp Alexander Ramsay in 1919. Only then did the trend for 20th-century royal weddings begin.

* Prince William and Kate Middleton are said to have chosen the abbey for its beauty, historic and recent personal royal connections and intimacy.

* In particular, Prince William’s mother Diana, Princess of Wales had her emotional funeral service here. 29th April 2011 will surely be an important day for him in many ways when he places a wedding ring next to his mother’s engagement ring on his bride’s finger.

* After the royal couple’s first press conference, Kate wants to be known as Princess Catherine. If she and William make it to the throne, Kate will be the sixth Queen Catherine of England. (Get her! 😉 ).

* William and Kate are allegedly going to be the first royal couple to enter into a pre-nuptial agreement.

* William and Kate’s wedding reception will have 600 chosen guests enjoying a lunchtime buffet – his parents celebrated with a 120-guest breakfast hosted by the Queen.

* Kate will spend her last night as a single woman at The Goring Hotel in Belgravia – the Queen Mother called it her favourite hotel and in 1952 most Royal guests for the Queen’s coronation stayed there.

* William will not wear a ring but Kate will wear a gold ring passed down to William from the Queen, traditionally sourced from the Clogau St David’s mine at Bontddu in North Wales.

* Lookalike agencies can be in huge demand. And having ‘Wills & Kate’ on the books could be the holy grail of all lookalikes. Easyjet recently ran a competition, the 2 winners of which winning free flights for a year (Wills & Kate on Easyjet?!) Out of 20 finalists, Simon Watkinson, 29, from London and Orsola Rossi, 29, from Milan have been crowned the most convincing Prince William & Kate Middleton lookalikes across the whole of Europe. Simon and another Kate lookalike – Jodie Bredo – feature in this T-Mobile Royal Wedding viral ad…love the song choice!

* It’s the Royal wedding of media firsts — first to be announced on Twitter, have a soundtrack released online within hours of the service and the first Royal wedding to have its own flood of smartphone apps. But no 3D… this time. All guests have been warned to switch off mobiles during the service and NOT to update Twitter. (Ha! Hopefully! We’ll see! 😉 )

* The royal couple have asked their guests donate to charity instead of buying gifts – one of 26 charities. Click HERE to see them!

* The Metropolitan Police have been carrying out extensive security checks around Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace. Police have been checking every possible threat from the inside of traffic lights to inside the street-gutters. The operation is costing an estimated £20 million.

* 80,000 commoners will flock to London to cheer on the happy couple, up to a billion are expected to tune in at home. It’ll be a media beast — 8,000 TV and radio journalists, CNN is drafting in an extra 50 US staffers to add to its London desk of 75, the BBC has stationed 850 staff and Sky and ITV have 460 between them.

* The Queen is said to have sent out ‘save-the-date’ invitations via fax machine. Cute!

* Kate might get called a tart – it’s a tradition for Royal brides to get a pudding named after them, in 1947 there was the Bombe Glace Princess Elizabeth and in 1923 the Fraises Duchesse Elizabeth.

* William has invited several individuals recently saved from homelessness by his late mother’s charity, Centrepoint. He apparently wanted to include those who have touched his life in some way.

* According to it’s statistics, the alumni of St Andrew’s University, where the pair met, have a 10% chance of marrying a fellow alumnus.

* Kate has shunned riding to the Abbey in the glass carriage used by Princess Diana on her wedding in favour of taking a car — either a 1950s classic used by the Queen or the Phantom IV used by Charles and Camilla during the infamous incident at the student fees protests last year. But the newlyweds will take Charles and Di’s carriage on the ride to Buckingham Palace.

* The Royal Wedding route will include The Mall, Horse Guards Parade, Whitehall and Parliament Square.

Likely Royal Wedding Procession (courtesy of Google and http://www.direct.gov.uk).

* Burglary is expected to rise significantly on Friday due to the mass public partaking in street parties while forgetting domestic security. Thieves are likely to use the occasion as a prime opportunity to target people’s houses. Be careful people!

* If William had wanted to marry before his 25th birthday he would have required the consent of his grandmother The Queen!

* Gamblers can take a punt on all things Royal wedding — topping the polls at the moment are bets on whether Harry will lose the rings (38/1) or end up drunk (33/1), and what colour of hat will be worn by Her Majesty.

* The organizers of the Rugby World Cup have invited the couple to spend their honeymoon at the tournament in New Zealand.

* When (assuming so!) he becomes King, William, at 6ft 3ins, will be the tallest monarch ever.

* The economy is set to experience a hefty boom due to amount of consumers spending on celebration products such as: bunting, decorations, alcohol and party equipment. This is estimated to generate an extra £480million to retailers across the UK…!!!

* Memorabilia Meltdown!!! Fridges embossed with a giant photo of the Royal couple, a Kate and Wills meat pie and a limited edition Princess Catherine engagement doll, who has her own Facebook page and sold at Hamleys toy store, are just some of the options. Japanese toy line Sylvanian Families has designed rabbit replicas of the royal couple, to go on sale in the UK around the time of the wedding.

* The see-through Charlotte Todd dress that Kate wore in a charity fashion show at St. Andrews University back in 2002 was recently auctioned off for £78,000. It is supposed that this modelling moment for Kate was how she first caught the attention of the young Prince.

* The Royal couple have opted for wedding music that includes Westminster Abbey Choir, Chapel Royal Choir and the London Chamber Orchestra over celebrity performers.

Courtesy of Mario Testino

* The wedding flowers will be white gardenias, lily of the valley, delphinium and roses — all grown in Britain — and will stay in Westminster in the week after the service to be seen by the public. Kate’s bouquet will include a sprig of myrtle, known as ‘the herb of love’, in keeping with a tradition started by Queen Victoria in 1840. The wedding bouquet will go on the tomb of the unknown soldier, a tradition started in 1923 by the Queen Mother on her wedding day.

* Michelle Mone from Ultimo wanted to design the wedding day lingerie and even sent designs to Kate, but the regal bride is more likely to be supported in undergarments by Rigby and Peller, the Queen’s corsetières.

Kylie - i-D 1991 - wearing a corset designed by the royally approved Rigby and Peller.

* Some pop stars will feature on the DVD of the Royal Wedding. Spandau Ballet’s Tony Hadley has recorded a duet of ‘True’ with Irish pop princess Carol Anthony.

* William’s no-bake chocolate crunch cake, a childhood favourite, will contain 1,700 McVitie’s biscuits and more than 18kg of dark chocolate.

* Two of the horses taking part in the ceremony are named after Prince William and Catherine Middleton. The horses are part of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment.

* The couple WILL re-enact a kissing photo-op on Buckingham Palace balcony.

* Despite not making it on to the guest list, rapper Snoop Dogg (left, below the Beckhams), sent William a wedding gift, a song called Wet, which he composed for the stag do.

* Four stylists — James Pryce, Richard Ward and their two assistants — have been drafted in to monitor Kate’s hair throughout the day.

* Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who will marry the couple, is hard of hearing in one ear, unable to drive and at school had a note permanently excusing him from PE.

* The bride has commissioned four pairs of shoes for the day with varying heel sizes but will walk down the aisle in a pair of silk slipper flats.

* Cake-maker Fiona Cairns, behind the multi-tiered wedding cake iced in 16 different blooms, first met Prince Charles 10 years ago at a Fortnum & Masons event in London when his opening chit-chat was “Do you do wedding cakes?”

* A recession-conscious Queen has opted for ‘two bite’ buffet canapes for her 600 guests at the Palace rather than a sitdown meal. The lucky 300 guests invited to Prince Charles’ do later in the day will be treated to an organic three-course meal served up by award-winning Swiss chef Anton Mosimann.

* Sarah Burton, creative director of Alexander McQueen, is the name emerging from royal quarters as the designer of Kate’s dress.

Happy Royal Wedding Day everyone! XXX I wonder if they’ll be dancing to this?…

SOURCES: http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk , http://www.foyles.co.uk , http://www.guardian.co.uk

Who doesn’t love their Mum’s food?! I’m no exception.

My Mum loved to cook. She sadly never met a lot of my nearest and dearest (passing away recently), whom we’d both always wanted her to meet. She would have totally loved to cook for all of us.

So, I thought it would be good to share some of my (the few that I know! 😦 ) Mum’s recipes with everyone, so others can enjoy her food and know of her.

First up…prawn curry!

I love Indian sub-continent food…that’s home food for me! Such dishes often need many hours of preparation with ingredients and cooking methods many people may not be used to. But the beauty of this dish is that it’s really rather simple. From students to connoisseurs…all can enjoy!

Feeds 4 hungry people.

Prawn Curry

INGREDIENTS

* 1 large chopped onion.
* 3 chopped green chillies (or less if you’re sensitive!)
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1 teaspoon pepper
* 1 heaped teaspoon turmeric powder
* 1 heaped teaspoon red chilli powder
* 4 cloves of crushed garlic
* 4 teaspoons chopped ginger
* 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
* 5 tablespoons of sunflower oil
* Fresh coriander
* 2 cinnamon sticks
* 300g basmati rice
* 600g to 650g peeled prawns

Salad

* 1 red onion
* 1 cucumber
* 1 chopped tomato
* 1 fresh lemon
* Coriander
* Large live yoghurt tub
* Cumin seeds

Chopping Board

RECIPE

Heat the oil on high in saucepan.

Add onion to oil and brown.

Add the green chillies, salt, pepper, turmeric powder, red chilli powder, garlic and ginger, keep heat on high for a few minutes while stirring.

Add the tin of tomatoes and cinnamon sticks and stir for a few minutes.

Turn the heat to a simmer, add the prawns and cover. Cook for 45 minutes or until sauce is fairly thick, stirring and tasting periodically.

During this time, rinse the rice well and allow to soak for 15 minutes, before adding to boiling water in another saucepan with a pinch of salt. Allow to simmer, stirring periodoically, for 30 minutes or until rice is tender. Drain in a sieve before serving.

For the salad, chop the tomatoes, cucumber and red onion and a sprig of coriander, and toss well with a dash of lemon juice. Mix 2 teaspoons of cumin seeds with the yoghurt.

A few minutes before the prawns are ready, chop a twist of the coriander (about 2 tablespoons), add to the curry and stir.

Serve the prawns with the rice and salad, and garnish with some coriander. Yoghurt is traditionally served with Indian food to aid digestion, so make sure you add a few table spoons on the side!

Nom nom!

I look forward to tasting your efforts!

Enjoy!

Love Fiez (and Fiez’s Mum) X X

I think a life without art would be a life less lived. Music’s my passion, but I would love to be able to paint a masterpiece.

I’m lucky enough to know a few friends who, when putting brush to canvas, or even pencil to paper, create beauty. I’m totally in awe of them!

I’m not a painting aficionado, but I think I can appreciate talent. And I reckon anyone who sees Lorna Wadsworth’s pieces would no doubt say the same.

Throughout school and university, she has honed her unique skills in capturing the human form in charcoal or oil paint. She has a natural eye for capturing detail to photographic-like quality. And her technical skills match her artistic flair, by employing a vast array of painstaking methods to create work taking hold of your senses.

Most of her recent work is big and covered in gold leaf, and therefore expensive. To make her Art available to anyone who might want to start a collection she had the idea of launching a ‘Diffusion Line’, almost like D&G to Dolce and Gabbana, as a way of making art affordable to all.

100 PICTURES, 100 POUNDS!

Called ‘100 Pictures, 100 Pounds!’ the idea is as simple and brilliant as it sounds. You can have a look at her pop up website http://www.100pictures100pounds.com, although I’m not sure how longer the project will be live, so get clicking fast!

100 Pictures, 100 Pounds!

While most world-renowned artists are all highly talented, it seems luck seems to play a big part. ‘Hyping-up’ of artists, creating a ‘buzz’ around a particular exhibition, and a few well-placed media stories can create a seemingly exponential projection of the chosen few into the media stratosphere. But becoming the word on everyone’s lips doesn’t seem all that fair when such methods serve to not only grossly inflate art prices, but also deny many artists at least as talented the chance to succeed. Often all it takes is circumstance, a lucky shot.

Lorna’s experiences as an artist have led her to some exhilarating and unique encounters, from capturing scenes in the urban jungle, painting random men who take her fancy, being commissioned to recreate The Last Supper for a church, to portraits of well-known figures, with Margaret Thatcher, Derek Jacobi and Rolf Harris to name a few.

But the art world can be difficult to crack. Studio prices are high, and spaces for exhibitions are also expensive and oversubscribed, and can take hours of multi-tasking to put together.

Lorna’s well due her big break, so I wanted to help by doing a little blog!

BEAUTIFUL BOYS

Beautiful Boys, 11th to 23rd Oct '07 - Empire Gallery, 30 Vyner Street, London E2 9DQ E2

I first met Lorna when I went to her exhibition called Beautiful Boys in October 2007. She wanted to get a strong female’s perspective on the male form, challenging and matching the centuries-old notion of male painter’s gaze and female muse. The boys featured were either people she knew or random passers-by in the street, whom she ran upto and told them of her project! As well as paintings on display there were charcoal sketches, some of which she did live before our eyes. It was amazing to see how quickly yet accurately she could take the likeness of someone and transfer it to paper, and after (much too kindly!) sketching me it was eery to see ‘me’ in her drawing.

A LAST SUPPER

After irregular contact our paths crossed again a year or so later. Having contacted me to ask for my help in a portrait, I hadn’t heard back after replying, until a few months later in early 2009 when I tried again. Apparently she never received a reply, and was nearly finished, but desperately needed my help still! So we arranged a time when we were both free, and I was to meet her over the course of a few weekends in a studio in Hackney. I was very intrigued to say the least!

We met, and making our way to a dilapidated building, she introduced me to her makeshift studio; paints, fabrics and clutter all around, but it was a space she was able to paint with. It might be taken for granted, but I realised how hard it was for artists to have somewhere to store and create and not be charged extortionately for it, especially in London. And then she told me about the project.

A LAST SUPPER, 4th March to 4th April 2010 - St. Martin in the Fields, Trafalgar Square

‘A Last Supper’ – a modern interpretation of The Last Supper – was to be painted as an altarpiece for St. George’s Church, Nailsworth, Gloucester. A late parishoner, Alan Denman, who left a sum of money as a bequest, had a vision of this story to be on show at his church. Following her Beautiful Boys exhibition, Lorna thought it would be a great progression to get some of the guys from this together for it, on the condition that the commission was expenses only but she had complete artistic control. So she set about creating her masterpiece, with Jesus as a striking black figure, and the various disciples surrounding him all with their unique features. There was one left to paint, and I was humbled to help…particularly as embarrassingly all the other guys were models and I was anything but in comparison! I was to be St. Peter! And a gay Muslim at that! (OK, neither point actually matters, but I couldn’t help smile 😉 ).

Ta-daa! ;-D

So over 3 weekends, I helped her. Amazingly, she painted the piece completely from life; all the people who contributed she painted in person over the course of a few months. And all thirteen people could not come together simultaneously. So she set about painting each figure, one by one, adding slowly to her masterpiece. Remembering the positions of the ones before, along with the shadows cast, the looks exchanged, all at a particular time of day so the sunlight could be recreated.

I had never before bore witness to an artist in the throws of their creation; it was fascinating to see what goes into it all. Following a mainly academic route myself career-wise, I really respected her dedication to her work. Hearing about her previous works, it was evident she is not only talented but also highly-skilled with a variety of technical know-how. And this piece was a complete labour of love. From getting up early, to painting long hours, trying different styles, to revisiting different parts of the growing masterpiece. So holding statuesque still, half-robed, gesturing and maintaining a particular facial expression all at the same time was the least I could do to help her create St. Peter as painlessly as possible, even though it was agony at times!

It was great bonding experience too. We shared a lot. She told me about what she’s been upto, heartache, successes, ups and downs. She was going through a particularly difficult time when we met and I could see how such emotions can be reflected in or even influenced by painting. Although Lorna tells me she doesn’t strive to recreate what the camera sees, which flattens colours and simplifies form, and has only one focal point. She paints from life as she believes painting can capture what photos can’t, and her Last Supper pulstates with life and energy as though the figures were all about to start moving and turning towards you. And I think the end result was positive and cathartic for her.

Me by Lorna! (Better than the real thing I think!).

And the experience became important for me to. It was the first time we had seen each other since we first met that October 2007 – and that day was forever etched in my mind, because I was on the way home to see my Mum and family. And that was the first time I saw just how ill my Mum had become. Mentally, she had been under too much pressure, and I saw the beginnings of her unravelling before us. It was heart-wrenching. Nothing could prepare us for her untimely death a couple of months later. But I remember on that day, I told her about where I had been…that this random lady had done a life-like drawing of me! Like all Mums, she was thrilled and was looking forward to seeing a copy that Lorna said she would give, but of course, she sadly passed-away.

So it was quite an experience to meet Lorna again, having not seen her since my Mum was alive, and sharing stories about my family, about changes in relationships that I had, and career since then too. On the last day, after I had helped all I could and Lorna had pretty much wrapped up that aspect of the painting, I was surprised to see she had brought me something. And it was the original charcoal sketch when we met that day, plus different sized copies. I’m no oil-painting I know! But for an artist to give her original work was really nice. And it was because it signified an important association with my Mum on that day that she gave it. It’s quite a bittersweet possession for me, and I thought it was really sweet of her.

SACRED OR PROFANE

SACRED OR PROFANE, 4th March to 4th April 2010 - St. Martin in the Fields, Trafalgar Square

At Trafalgar Square, Lorna also had another exhibition. ‘Sacred or Profane’ is a modern interpretation of Zurburan’s shadowy robed monks, recast as the modern-day ‘hoody’, including St. Francis of Assisi’s infamous kneeling image. From her website: ‘Reinterpreting great themes of art of the past for the post religious modern world, Wadsworth’s paintings address the aching spirituality still endemic to the modern world’.

Lorna’s currently been working on a whole new collection of paintings, and is trying to get an exhibition sorted, and as usual is still working hard, especially when getting an exhibition together can be such an ordeal.

100 Pictures, 100 Pounds!

So make sure you check out her works of art on sale in the link above and at the top. And if you like them, make sure you grab them, they’re going fast!

And after that, check out her website below. Lorna May Wadsworth – a great talent!

Lorna May Wadsworth

ALL PAINTING IMAGES COPYRIGHT OF LORNA MAY WADSWORTH.

Who can cast their mind back 10 years?!

January 2001 – Wikipedia went live…Apple introduced iTunes…George Walker Bush marginally defeated Al Gore to become the 43rd President of the U.S.A….Channel 4 launches E4…Rui Da Silva featuring Cassandra were Number 1 with “Touch Me”…and I came out to my sister.

20 years old, at uni, balancing study with trying to have a fun social life. But nursing a broken heart.

Well…kind of. I had met someone in a Soho coffee-shop after a night out. There was an instant attraction; like most chance encounters, it was exciting, spontaneous, and intense. We met again, and had a magical night of wining (him), dining (me!), dancing and more. Leaving my flat late at night, I wondered when I would see him again. He wanted to go for a day-trip but didn’t want me to call. He rang several times to try and speak, leaving voice-messages as I was busy…but didn’t want me to ring back. And then on a Friday, I got a text saying he was sorry but did not want to meet me again and wanted no contact. He had a boyfriend and this had happened before. He wanted to call the shots but didn’t want to get hurt by not being able to be with me as and when he wanted.

I was stunned. And felt crushed. For months I was depressed; I remember it as being one of my darkest times.

“But why?” I asked myself. OK, I had heartache before…but I’d only met this guy twice! “Am I that pathetic?” Why did I care so much about this time compared to the others? My brain was saying one thing, but for some reason it was poles apart from my heart’s voice.

I was desperate to talk to people, and found myself confiding in many whom I would normally not confide half as much.

But still I needed help. And that was when I found myself yearning for family.

I had come-out to my parents at primary school but after it wasn’t taken seriously, I had decided to keep schtum to my immediate family until I was financially independent, had my own roof over my head and had more stability. It was agony…but I had to do this after I qualified from uni.

So with this in mind, there was some serious chewing of cud. I had no plans to come-out while at uni. And no plans to come out to one family member a long while before any others. But realising I needed to speak…there was only one person I could think of. My sister.

Taken by Mum – 1980

I had always kept a lot of stuff private from my family and sister when it came to personal life…but more so than most normally do, mainly because I was gay and didn’t want to attract any suspicion until I was ready to come-out.

But feeling at dire-straits, I had no choice. Speaking to her on the phone, I mentioned how it was important to share things…I knew she immediately thought I sounded odd in saying that. Still confused as to why I was so affected by someone I had met so little, I had decided to myself to tell her on the coming Saturday…20th Jan.

So there we were, in the living room, just finishing breakfast, Mum pottering in the kitchen, Dad somewhere out or busy. The usual Saturday morning telly. CD:UK was on ITV…I loved watching music television and performances, but that day it was going straight through me. “How was I going to say this?”, I thought. So…general chat it was, my sister saying what song she liked or didn’t like, me vaguely joining in, then turning to what she’d been upto recently, hoping she’d ask me too.

And then…onto what I mentioned on the phone. I could tell she was trying not to squirm and yet engage at the same time. “Ignore it!” I thought, and carried on. So…was I just going to come out with it? Of course not. So I continued by saying I had been really sad and didn’t know what to do about something that happened recently…I got really close to this guy…we had a great time…but now he said he doesn’t want to have anything to do with me…he said he likes me and has got a boyfriend…and I feel really bad.

Inbetween this she interjected with “OK” and “I see”, and nearing the end while I wasn’t stating it, it would have been obvious that there was a strong link with this guy. So she gave her support and said “Don’t worry”. I said “I just feel bad for him, like I’ve done something wrong”. “You haven’t”, she said. “I know. But I miss him”.

After some silence, she asked more about my feelings for him, and I was honest. Until the last thing I was asked was, “Do you see your future with a man or a woman?” With a man”, I replied.

She cried. I came-out to my sister, but she was the one crying, lol! I had been prepared for the worst for years, so we consoled each other and she apologised for crying, and I said she didn’t have to apologise. She said it explained some things, that she had wondered for a while. She didn’t want me to think she was upset at me, but just hearing it out loud was a shock.

The rest of the day was a bit of a haze. There was a family dinner that night for my approaching birthday, and the meal at the restaurant was great, was fun, but it seemed a little surreal. I couldn’t believe I had said it but was glad I had. And so night drew to a close, we all went to our homes, and my family retired for the night and we all went to bed.

Next morning I woke up. For a few seconds nothing, then I remembered. “Gosh”, I thought. I really did it. What would the future bring? I checked my mobile. And saw I had a text. It was from my sister. She sent it the night before while we were in our beds. I still have that text now. It read “Don’t worry about me brudda I’ll be fine, just look after yourself and take each day as it comes. See you in the morning. Night night, X”.

For the first time, I cried. Out of nowhere, it just hit me. Her text really brought it home, and I felt she had listened.

A few months before, Farrah on a night out and me studying at uni…hence her looking hot and me not!

So…what about this guy? Well, I did a lot of soul-searching over the weeks. And I realised exactly why I felt so lost. It actually wasn’t really about him – I had questioned myself already as to why I was so affected by someone I had met only twice. But the last time we met, I was a little blown away. I met his friends, we talked about university, background, he was 36 and I was 20, holidays, sharing anecdotes, then just us two onto a posh restaurant, then more chat, to a bar, then mine…it was a very intense evening and I had a taste of a world I was able to now have. Be free and open as a gay man with a potential partner, or even just with friends but have a social life that was fun and honest and fulfilling. Having lived a life in secret, it was that night that blew me away. So when he said he didn’t want to see me anymore, I landed back to Earth with a bump right on my heart. It wasn’t so much him, but more the reminder of my double-life I had been living for so long, which at that point had been going in completely different directions. It felt like the life I had a right to was suddenly being taken away from me, and there I was, back at university, back to rewardless hard graft, back to my horrid, torn, secret existence, back to lying to my family where I was tired of this facade. So I had a meltdown. I was sick of it, and found myself telling friends, even acquaintances. But I had to tell family. Tell someone. Tell my sister.

I told my friends that I came-out to my sister. It was a big deal for us, and they were all excited. My friends would joke, ‘Oh she must be a fag-hag!”. It couldn’t have been further from the truth! A combination of things including the friends she had at the time, her goals in life and her own views on a ‘gay’ in our family meant that while she wanted to support me, she found it difficult. She had been to gay clubs a handful of times, found it fun and novel…but that was someone else’s life. Of course, I was expecting it to take a long time for her to get used to it, I didn’t after all take just a few months and think, “Hey, I’m gay, it’s all cool!”. And of course my sister had serious cultural and religious misgivings, and yet was a modern girl. But after all, this was me and it was the start of telling my family, ‘Love me as me, as I love you as you”.

She spent time with her friends and talked about gay issues. Then would go to gay bars with her friends, sometimes with me, and had fun. Waiting from the sidelines, I was looking forward for her to meet my friends. Seeing her getting comfortable, I was really happy for her progress, and with our lives we started to share. I did wish there was a lot more of this sharing. Being gay; it was the life her brother had but had never shared, part of my identity, and I expected, and I wanted – most of the time at least – to share my sister’s new experiences, to be the one to introduce her to ‘my world’ as it were, after so long. She preferred to explore the gay scene with her own friends separately. And it’s important to have separate experiences and not do things together always. But for the longest time she’d feel reluctant if I encouraged her to explore the scene, then tell me about being out all night at a gay venue! But hopefully there’ll still be time for sharing.

10 years on she’s a fully-certified fag-hag. 😉 Ha! Clubbing every week…wish I could rather than study! But seriously, looking back, it was an important milestone. Melanie Phillips recently wrote on how kids were essentially being brainwashed into being gay. What she refuses to understand, is that if schools and families continue to ignore the fact that gay and lesbian kids exist and do not choose to be that way, instead of talking about it as natural and something that has and will always exist, then the millions of queer kids’ suffering will never cease. No more years of having to hide who you are, living as a ghost with your family, never knowing what your full potential in life is, growing-up with a daily, never-relenting fear of being disowned. I wonder if she and journalists like her will be doing anything worthwhile for LGBT History Month this February.

After telling my sister, the days of questioning about girlfriends or having to tell half-truths about my socialising were no more. And it was the first time there were no major secrets from me to someone in my family. Now our Mum’s died, it’s more important than ever to keep it together.

Thanks for listening to me that day 10 years ago Farrah. 🙂 Gotta teach you some dance moves now! 😉

Brighton Pride 2008