The brand new single from Eclipse Stage School to benefit the Irish Cancer Society is here. Download now.
So the Eurovision Song Contest has finished for another year and we have seen some records being made and some records being made even longer in this past week of programming.
First off, after a 53 year participation without any luck Portugal walked away with a victory last night with over 700 points from the Jury and Audience votes. A song which just stood alone, had a great melody and a simple stage design overtook the crazy and elaborate stage shows from various countries to top both the Jury and Audience votes before they were combined to reveal Salvador the victor. Topping both the Jury and Audience votes has become hard in previous years but this song proves that it cut through language barriers, bloc voting scandals and proves that a great song CAN win the contest.
Looking at the entire show and of course the Semi Finals from during the week, the production value was definitely there for majority of the songs with countries trusting some of their biggest names with representing their countries and throwing every graphic, wedding dress and even a milk jug at their appearance in the contest. No stone is ever left unturned in the competition which sees 42 countries participate.
After viewing both Semi Finals and the 6 automatic qualifiers (Big Five plus the host country) I predicted a varied Top 7. As we sat to watch last nights event I promised I would not change my mind and I didn’t which led to my Top 7 being the TOP SEVEN! Yes, I am not bragging but I predicted Portugal would win, Bulgaria would be second and Moldova, Romania, Belgium, Italy and Sweden would round out the top spots on the night. Each song different but all great pop songs with great hooks and nice staging.
So now let’s move onto our own failures: IRELAND
Why have we done so bad in the past few years? For the last 4 years we have not qualified out of the Semi Final which now creates a brand new record for Ireland as the worst qualification record for the country ever. We have gone from the best to the worst country at the contest, but why?
Well, first off our national broadcaster RTE is trying too hard to predict what the audience wants. When they see a ballad win, they throw in a ‘dance anthem’ with drums and when an uptempo song wins, we throw in a ballad that would of suited the contest 20 years ago and we try to do it as cheaply as possible. For the last number of years, the same people have called the shots on the Eurovision selection for Ireland and now the time is right to change that and bring in fresh blood to end our embarrassing failure.
This years entry, Brendan Murray, was internally selected by Louis Walsh who RTE praise at every opportunity and ship himself and Linda Martin (Eurovision winner of the 90’s) into every show possible which leads me to believe they have some hold on the delegation here in Ireland. Ok, both LW and LM have precious history and success with the contest… but that was 25 years ago, it is not the same Contest nowadays.
Louis was tasked with finding the BEST song for Ireland and in a submission process of over 300 songs he chose this:
What’s wrong with this? Well let’s break it down into simple terms. The writers are previous Westlife hitmakers, so did Louis look very far or just accept his friends song. The song builds too far into the song, an audience wants to be brought in from the first verse, not at 2.30. The staging is cheap and tacky, once again RTE looking for staging that can fit into a suitcase to save on expenses but then sends their whole department including Louis Walsh on a holiday to Ukraine. And lastly, the song has no radio or commercial play relatability. My Grandmother loves the song but will she pick up the phone and vote or likewise does she listen to Spotify? No.
Our whole selection process is so backwards it’s funny. A little secret for you all: In 2016, I approached RTE and their Head Of Delegation with a very good proposal from myself and the writer of two very recent Eurovision smashes including a WINNING song in the past five years 😉 who was willing to work with Ireland to create a song and myself a creative stage show. This was rejected. And likewise in 2013, after our first bad result, myself and an American producer with hit singles on Billboard and Worldwide Singles Charts offered ourselves to come up with a Eurovision song for Ireland. This was rejected.
Why do they not want to listen? It’s plain and simple, friends are keeping friends in jobs but they will never succeed at this contest without finding commercial friendly songs, creating an attractive stage show and using our great qualities to our advantage and I am not talking about throwing more Irish dancers on stage!
I have said it time and time again, I would love the opportunity to be involved in the process and I know so many people that are of the same mind from proven songwriters and producers in both this years contest and previous to performers and creatives looking to bring some glory back to Ireland. Let’s call for RTE to open up the process for everyone to enter songs and stage shows, not just selecting a song and artist internally, that does not work. We have proved that now!
Overall a sad year for Ireland in Eurovision, Brendan done a great job but he was flogging a dead horse. His voice with a great modern song like Belgium or Bulgaria would have given us a great chance. Let’s learn and create something special for 2018.
Today marks International Epilepsy Day around the world or ‘Purple Day’ as it is sometimes referred to as epilepsy charities and organisations around the globe ask you to wear something purple to show your support for the condition…… I for one, will NOT be wearing purple today (sorry)!
For me, as someone who lives with epilepsy the past 10 years now, it has been something that has created obstacles in my life but also drove me to work harder and overcome what people said I shouldn’t be doing. I have also seen many false claims and facts about the condition which I will come onto later in this blog post.
Firstly, a bit of a back story on my personal situation which is so minute compared to others I have heard in the past. Roll back to Christmas Day 2007 (I know, the best gift my parents ever got) and we wake up for Christmas presents like every other year but there was a slight difference, I didn’t feel the same as I did the day before. At 17, I had just finished working on some shows as a dancer and choreographer so I was naturally excited for some rest and chill out time over the holiday period, ending up in hospital before my Christmas dinner was not my idea of relaxation.
The morning begun with opening presents as normal, followed by a visit to my Nanny’s house where I was texting on my phone but had no clue who I was texting or why I was pressing buttons, opening the fridge door with no clue what I wanted to get and walking to the bin with nothing to put in it. Even though I was doing ‘stupid’ things, I didn’t once raise the alarm to my family that I felt strange, I’m not quite sure whether I thought I was OK or I didn’t want to alert anyone to the fact that I wasn’t the same as I was the day before.
Christmas dinner is arriving and as we sit at home to start, I begin to prod and poke the mash potatoes with no intention of eating them, I remember my Dad asking was I going to eat that and with a sudden wave of emotion I stormed out of the room to the next room and that is all I remember. What happened next was a full blown (tonic-clonic) seizure, my body went stiff, foaming from the mouth and eyes rolled back in my head but thankfully my brother and father had followed me to the next room realising that I wasn’t myself.
One in 26 people will suffer from some form of epilepsy in their lifetime and mine just happened to begin at 17 and it just so happened to ruin Christmas Day for everyone. I was taken to hospital were I took another seizure and was ‘out of it’ for a whole day, not remembering my name, where I was or who other people were. Once you take more than one seizure you have to be diagnosed with something and for me it was epilepsy. I underwent scans, brain tests and other exams, all of which showed normal but to be safe, I was told I had epilepsy and would begin daily taking of tablets to keep it in check.
My whole life was coming crashing down I believed as I was told I could not drive, needed to relax and take things easy…. I had just started my own business, started driving my own car and was having fun. The no alcohol policy didn’t matter to me as I wasn’t a big drinker anyway and to this day haven’t drank since.
After a few months of feeling down and depressed about how these two seizures could ruin the rest of my life, I worked through it and resumed life as it was. Ok I will admit, I wake every morning thinking ‘is today the day it happens again?’ and every night going to bed saying ‘please don’t let anything happen tomorrow‘ but this is my life now and will be for possibly the rest of my life. I have had one further seizure in 2009 and some days of absence were I can’t think straight or feel a bit mixed up but if I sleep for a day, it usually passes.
Now to a picture I saw posted by a good friend of mine a few days ago on Facebook which was a leaflet given out by teachers in a school to the students to raise awareness for today and how shocked I was at how negative an image it was putting into children’s minds of ‘if you get epilepsy, you’re doomed‘. See picture below:
Look how the side effects of epilepsy are described: no driving, less chance of your dream job and laughed at and bullied…. should children be given this impression of the condition? For me, I now drive like every other person, I have worked hard to achieve my dream job and I can certainly say I have never been laughed at or bullied for having a condition which can affect every single one of us at some stage of life, you are never too old for epilepsy, my Nanny was diagnosed with it the year before she died at the age of 90.
If I had of been given this leaflet in school, it would have terrified me of getting the condition or worse still, if I was a child who had epilepsy and was given this during my school time and read it to myself, I would feel less capable than everyone else who strives to have their dream job. And let’s not start with children being terrified of being bullied because of a condition they have, don’t students already have enough to worry about?
Thankfully all the information sites, leaflets and organisations out there are not this blunt and frankly unprofessional on their approach to this condition, you can find great information and details about helping someone who is having a seizure and tips on first aid for people with epilepsy online.
If you feel like wearing purple today, go for it but that won’t raise the awareness needed among young people and old alike who need to be aware of the symptoms of seizures and epilepsy so why not read this article or share it with a friend so they get a more detailed insight into what it is really like. I will just point out lastly, my epilepsy is nothing compared to some people who live with over 50 seizures per day, they are the real stories you need to hear but this is my part for #InternationalEpilepsyDay .
Do your part today by sharing and talking about Epilepsy with your friends and family.
Written by @Kenneth_Giles
Last night saw the beginning of RTE’s newest attempt at producing a big budget international format following on from The Voice Of Ireland and our take on variety talent shows with The All Ireland Talent Show. As I tentively took the steps to enter the studio last night I did not know what to expect from a usually underwhelming set design of Irish TV shows but I was beyond surprised.
Dancing With The Stars Ireland has exceeding all my expections from the set to the presenting talent and even down to our celebrities. The set is above and beyond prior “big budget” shows from the national broadcaster and is actually very similar to other international versions of the hit show with the swooping staircases, LED screens and image projection floor….. it was a great start to the day!
As the audience took their seats and we were briefed on what we could and couldn’t do, it felt no different to when I witnessed other versions of the show including Strictly Come Dancing in the U.K. which we will obviously draw comparisons to as it is the one we all watch religiously. Our version, produced by Shinawil, has been eagerly awaited since it was announced to replace the frankly lacklustre attempt at The Voice which we witnessed at this time of the year for the past few years. This is a welcome change but everyone was saying “surely this won’t be good, it’s Irish”.
OK we haven’t got the big names that the US or U.K. versions can pull in so stop complaining about that because we are a small island, these celebrities are ours, take them to your heart and enjoy it for what it is. However, we do have one major star on the show and I couldn’t believe how professional she is but also so down to earth, presenter Amanda Byram. Why she hasn’t been presenting this show in other countries before I do not know, she held the whole show together beautifully accompanied by her co-host, Westlife’s Nicky Byrne who brought the real Dub feel to the show.
So, the stage was set, presenters, stage and cameras in place, now time for curtain up on the biggest show for the Irish viewing public in a long time and we were not to be disappointed.
The opening routine ‘Putting On The Ritz’, as a choreographer myself I can say was pulled off to perfection with a glittering, glamorous showstopper from both the celebrities and their pro dancers. Choreographed by Lilia Kopylova who featured on the UK version in its early days alongside her husband Darren Bennett who is the creative director on our version, we really do have the best team working on our format of the BBC hit.
Now before I mention the celebrity dancers, we need to acknowledge the pro dancers, a mix of Irish and international performers with far too many titles to count, they are an incredible bunch. I was a little skeptical of what our pro’s may be like, surely you can’t blame me? But wow, out of all the versions I have seen I don’t think we have seen a more well balanced and professional looking ensemble. All quite young, fit and in their prime dancing ability, it showed in their group dance that they could hold the floor and command your attention.
Also a nod to the costume department who pulled out all the stops to make every performer look ‘on point’ and as shiny and glittery as possible.
Now onto our celebrities! Last night we were treated to the 5 guys performances as well as a group dance from the ladies. Up first was comedian Des Bishop who gave it pure aggression and tackled the dance head on to pull off a great first dance. Next up was Big Brother star Hughie Maughan who performed to Years And Years track King and although he didn’t reach the top of the leader board last night, he certainly wins the title for the most enthusiastic and energetic performance of the night!
We were then treated to the surprise of the night in Kerry GAA player Aidan O’Mahony who I am tipping as the dark horse of the competition. He attacked the floor with a performance to ‘Fireball’ and had everyone in the audience cheering him on. Up next was Dad of the ballroom, sports broadcaster Des Cahill who was totally out of his comfort zone but unlike what we all thought he could actually move.
So last up for the lads was friend of mine and early favourite, Hometown boy band member Dayl Cronin. Without doubt the best performance of the night with his fusion of Charleston and Commercial style performance set to a Calvin Harris track, where else would you find that on Sunday night TV?. Scoring the highest points of the night, Dayl I’m sure will be there for the 12 week duration.
Ou pro dancers then took to the floor in their spectacular group dance which blew everyone away as it was one of the best pro group dances I have seen on any of these kinds of shows. Modern, stylish, blends of styles and hot, what more could we have asked for?
Finally, we couldn’t have seen the lads without the ladies getting a shot but this week they got off lightly and could perform as a group. We saw a comedienne, a weather girl, two soap stars, a model and a doctor take to the floor in a full on girly routine which was full of fun and joy and the odd nervous face but it was the first night so it’s all good.
All in all, Dancing With The Stars Ireland has started off to a great start and looks to be a ratings hit for RTE. Finally we have a production to be proud of and one that I personally would love to get involved with at some stage down the line. Give me the call!
And keeep Dancing! (We need our own tagline….. maybe We Done It!)
Review by @Kenneth_Giles
So as 2016 draws to a close tomorrow it has been possibly the most eventful year in my life from battles with health to losing precious people in my life and from new people to new career developments, this is my little review of my highs, lows and what I hope for in 2017.
1. This Blog – It would be a little strange if I didn’t put this as one of the big highlights of my year. May 2016 saw the birth of Pop On Down and my adventure into blogging. The blog which focused mainly on music until recently has featured some amazing new artists, soundtracks and playlists to get you through each month. The most talked about music blogpost has been the ‘High Strung Soundtrack‘ which racked up over 1,000 unique views in one week! Pop On Down now features lifestyle, fashion and entertainment stories and I have been lucky enough to collaborate with Adidas, Sony Music and Channel 4 in my first 6 months blogging so I would rate this as a personal high!
2. My Business – Another year down for my first business (Eclipse Stage School) and its hard to believe it’s around 9 years already. Each year the students surprise me and I even surprise myself a little with how much we can pack into one year. From rehearsals to stage, we produced a summer showcase to a sold out theatre, various events, radio and TV appearances and had a fun time while doing it all.
3. New People – Its hard to find good friends and people who you can love and trust at the same time, especially in this business, you often ask yourself ‘are they interested in me or in what I can give them?’. Luckily this year has brought me some decent, genuine and caring people who I will keep close for a long time. As they say, every cloud has a silver lining and every time my year became a little shitty, that silver lining showed! Good people are hard to find, so when you find one, hold onto them tight and don’t let go. (#InspirationalQuote)
4. My Other Dabbles – People who know me know that I venture into different projects all the time and this year was no different. Some projects are still quite secretive and will become a little clearer in 2017 but the ones I did complete this year worked out well, thank god! From presenting and producing the 4th annual ShowChoir Ireland Final to being involved with various events and new clients throughout the year, the future is looking exciting.
1. Skin Cancer – If you read my blog regularly, you will have read a few weeks ago about my skin cancer battle which pretty much took over my life for 6 months this year and still to an extent is. One of the scariest experiences I’ve ever gone through and something that I am praying is finished, it will always be an ongoing concern for me now but luckily I had family, friends, students and close people to help me through it and make me smile when I wanted to jump under a duvet and cry. It was definitely a low for me but it could have been a lot worse.
2. Final Farewells – One of the closest people to me in my entire life passed in August this year which hit the whole family like a tonne of bricks. My Nanny Annie (aged 91) was the strongest woman around, one of the most hard working and caring people to ever grace this earth but sadly her time was up. She will never be forgotten by any of her family and friends as she was a real matriarch in everything she done from looking after her family to her work. A fighter til the end and a pretty alright singer as well! RIP Nanny Annie. We saw over 100 celebrity deaths this year but no star shines brighter than our Annie.
3. Life Lows – I could yabber on about how life was cruel to me this year but look, we all have bad days and good days. We all have events that happen throughout the year, people we lose contact with, situations we would rather avoid but they are what makes life, LIFE! Yes, I have had a fair few life lows this year but no more than anyone else.
With 2017 just a day away it’s time to look at what is ahead of me and leave the past exactly there.
For me, I’m hitting the ground running with three shows already in production for the new year including the biggest event of my career as my business celebrates 10 years since it first opened its doors and that calls for a fitting tribute look back at the best bits from the last decade with over 80 students taking to the stage in November.
My second business, ShowChoir Ireland celebrates 5 years on the exact same weekend next year so thats another big celebration there and I have also lined up a pretty cool gig for early in the new year so I’m excited about my business ventures.
I’m also pretty happy with the company I will be spending time with in 2017. My family, friends and special ones will all be living it all with me and on this crazy adventure we call life. I’m hoping to travel some more and create memories with the ones I love and cherish most.
So my resolution is just that, spend time with the special ones in my life, do things that make me happy and work hard to achieve what I want. As easy as 1,2,3….. I hope!
2016 may not have been the perfect year for me but 2017 is looking pretty good right now. Happy New Year everyone and thank you for being a part of my life and Pop On Down this year.
So just to start on a clarification note, this is not a sympathy post nor is it an advice guide for anyone, it is simply my experience over the past few months and how something small became something quite frightening in my life when I was least expecting it.
If you follow my Instagram or Facebook you will have seen random hospital pictures, posts and even bursting stitches warnings over the past while so this may make it all a little bit clearer as to what it was all about!
Lets roll back to a general visit to my family doctor in January this year (2016) for something totally unrelated to the little skin tag under my eye that the doctor noticed and asked about. For me, it was a small pimple I had for the past year or so that had grown on top of the skin just under my eye which looked like every other skin tag or pimple I had seen previously on myself or friends, it was nothing to worry about, or so I thought.
The doctor said I should get it removed so an appointment was scheduled to have it done under local anaesthetic. The letter came almost immediately for the small procedure and it was for 3 months later in April 2016. Everyone has small lumps and bumps on their body that they could get rid of so this was just one of them.
April arrived and I attend the hospital to have the small skin imperfection removed from under my eye. It was scrapped off the face meaning it wasn’t cut, just skimmed off the top to make the skin flat again. In and out in just 2 hours with a numb face, I headed home to bed, not that I got much sleep after having part of my face hacked away at but I got up and went to work teaching kids to dance that evening so I wasn’t that bad! The surgeon said the piece removed would be sent to the lab and results should be back in 6 weeks, it is all procedure and most likely it would be a hair follicle or some blocked pores in the skin.
8 weeks (yes, not the original 6, but 8) had passed and in that time the small scab which formed over where the pimple once was had come off and unfortunately the skin had begun to form again in the exact same place but this time there were two smaller bubbles of skin either side of were the original one was. Back for the results to the hospital in July 2016 and a Senior Consultant entered the room to have a look at the healing process and instantly said that it may need to be done again. She then went on to open my notes and histology report on the removed skin to which she said “we cannot be sure what it exactly was, we think it is 90 per cent a hair follicle but there is always a possibility it is something else”. Not a mention of the C word so I was happy that it was just one of them things that hadn’t worked out and needed to be done again. She said that they needed to cut this time to take away the skin as maybe some of the cells had been left underneath when they scrapped it last time. So now I had to wait once again for another appointment for my second surgery on the same skin tag.
I awaited another letter in the post which scheduled my next surgery for 16th September 2016, the day everything changes in my mind. I am brought into the surgery room and told to hop onto the operating table. As I sit there, the head surgeon walks in and says “so, they are undecided whether this is a hair follicle or skin cancer“, my heart drops, mouth opens and mind races as I say “what?, I was never told this“. She looked nervous and extremely embarrassed by blurting out something that was never discussed with me but assured me that the lab will have more to go on after this removal and get a definitive answer. I lay down and was so on edge, not able to think of anything other than, I have been living with this on my face for the past however many months, been back to hospitals for check-ups and only being told this when I am about to be cut into. Great!
The deep incision to remove the bump was done and 12 stitches put along the crease in my eye to hold the skin together as it healed and again I was told that results would be back in a few weeks. While I waited for results the next few days would be hell with the stitches seeping blood almost constantly and one morning the bottom few burst completely leaving me in a bed of my own blood which was not pretty or sore at all…. yeah right!
I had to return to have the stitches taken out the following week when the nurse said they would put more in instead as it hadn’t healed enough. The nurse then said “one of the team want to see you“, I thought the results would be weeks away but maybe not. The doctor arrived and opened my chart to say “we are 90 per cent certain that this is skin cancer“, there is that 90 per cent again, can no one give a definite answer?.
The conversation between myself and this nice doctor went along the following….. Doctor: do you get sun burn often? Me: No, the odd time on holiday but not all the time. Doctor: when did you last get sun burn? Me: April 2015 when I was in New York (it wasn’t even warm and never imagined I would get sunburnt that day but I did end up with a really red face).
The conversation went on about health and ended with him explaining the situation to me that this type of lesion is usually only seen in people aged 40-50 years of age so at 26 he was worried how young I was getting it, this explains the question about how often I get sunburnt. He then looked at the scar and said they would be sending the sample back to the lab for a third time to try and get a definitive answer on whether it is skin cancer but remember, they are 90 per cent sure! He also checked the rest of my body for similar skin tags or imperfections and said a full check would be required on the next check-up.
I remember walking out of the hospital and being collected by my Dad who felt the force of my attitude as I was not in the humour for any chit-chat or I told you to put sun cream on lectures, I just wanted to get home and process this information. I sobbed like a baby for a few hours, my parents and family worried about the outcome but I had to think positive, maybe that 10 per cent will be on my side.
I returned for my last check up (to date) in November 2016 and the head surgeon and consultant had a note on my file that he wanted to see me personally. When a Junior Doctor says this to you, what else are you supposed to think other than…. “oh crap!”
He enters the room and explains that yes, it is skin cancer and they removed it but they can never be sure they got it all so on going check-ups and possible removal of skin samples will be required for at least 2 years. He also says that because of where the incision was done, they could not go as deep as they would have liked, if it was on your arm or back for example they would take a huge chunk to be on the safe side but not near your eye due to the thin skin and amount of nerve endings around the senses.
So, yes my brush with skin cancer has been eventful to say the least and I am praying that it is gone and will not return. I have been left with a nice scar under the eye which is not the most flattering feature to have but I’ve got to get on with it.
I never would have thought that a small pimple-like tag could be so dangerous and the most worrying part, that the cancer was usually only seen in older people, have I aged 20 years or just unlucky? The one thing I will be doing now is keeping a check on any skin tags, moles, skin changes or freckles which may change colour.
On doctors advice they said skin cancer cannot be detected without removal and testing so places who offer skin-mapping or cancer testing without the removal of a piece of skin cannot tell you the accurate truth, although it’s debatable whether the lab in the hospital can either but after three rounds of testing I got the answer I didn’t want but it was definite.
If I could offer one piece of advice after this crazy experience, although I am in no position to do so as I didn’t listen to advice myself about wearing sun screen and protecting yourself, even after my own Grandad went through something similar and friends of the family have gone through other cancer battles, I would encourage everyone to check yourself, whether you think it is nothing or not, a quick check up to your doctor is the only way to go, if they feel it needs removing they are the ones to tell you, not yourself, I have learnt that the hard way.
My eye is now healed and although it hurt like hell at the time, it has settled down, just a bit itchy now and again. Lesson learned and fingers crossed that bridge has well and truly been crossed and never to be revisited!
Written by @Kenneth_Giles
So every year I try to hold back from listening to Christmas music until Christmas officially starts and for me that’s….. December 1st!
Ok, so I can’t hide from it totally as they are overplayed from the middle of October in most shopping centres and high streets around the world but now I can put the MTV Christmas channel on, Christmas 24 movies and put up the tree with just 3 weeks to go.
So what are the best Christmas songs? Everyone will go to the obvious Merry Christmas Everyone, I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday and even the now rejigged 3 times, Do They Know Its Christmas?, but for me it’s the lesser known ones that excite me.
Here are my top 5 Christmas crackers (go on play them all now!)
1. Kelly Clarkson – Underneath The Tree
2. Michael Buble – Baby Please Come Home
3. COMEDY CLASSIC – Geraldine AKA Peter Kay – Once Upon A Christmas Song
4. GUILTY PLEASURE – Justin Bieber – Mistletoe
5. THE REAL No.1 – Mariah Carey – All I Want For Christmas Is You
And finally if your looking for a good Christmas playlist to put on in the car and sing away too, then check out the Glee Christmas Album from a few years ago….. its cheesy as hell but festive!
Keep it here on PopOnDown for the latest Christmas fashion trends, music news and entertainment coming soon!
Feature by @Kenneth_Giles
Today I will review the brand new soundtrack from a feature film starring Shirley Henderson and Letitia Wright called ‘Urban Hymn’.
The album plays host to a diverse range of artists such as The Clash, Darrell Banks, TZY, Tinchy Stryder and the films very own Urban Hymn Choir featuring solos from actress Letitia Wright. The politically charged compilation which arrived on 28 October 2016 carries a determined strength to make a change in the world.
Letitia Wright, Guyana born and selected as one of BAFTAS Breakthrough Brits 2015, not only puts on an impressive performance acting, but steals the show with her heartfelt voice. Previously known for her roles in Channel 4’s Top Boy and Cucumber, the ‘Urban Hymn’ soundtrack plays home to Wright’s vocal debut as she joins the choir singing modern-classic such as UB40’s Don’t Break My Heart.
‘Urban Hymn’, directed by Michael Caton-Jones, is a profound coming of age drama, about a young offender, Jamie, played by Letitia Wright, whose life is tainted by unfortunate events following on from her mother’s death at an early age. The film is set amongst the terrifying 2011 British summer riots in which many young adults had a part in. Shirley Henderson plays the role of Kate, an inspiring care worker who gently convinces Jamie to use her voice to overcome the hardships, thus joining the Urban Hymn Choir.
One of the key tracks sung by Letitia Wright & The Urban Choir is a cover of Standing In The Right Place previously by a anthemic, melody-driven UK rock band called Belarus who feature throughout the soundtrack. The director of ‘Urban Hymn’, Michael Caton-Jones, was said to fall in love with lead singer’s, Lee Alder, powerful, searing vocals that were able to elevate music to emotive places and made it the perfect fit for his upcoming film.
The soundtrack features I Keep Faith by Billy Bragg that highlights “you need a bit of courage to go against the grain”. Musician Billy Bragg plays an eminent role in the film playing himself and using his real-life initiative, the Jail Guitar Doors within the story to try to stimulate creativity and give the youth a way of escaping their negative energy when incarcerated. Bragg provides guitars to prisons and teaches music lessons within jails to help with the inmate’s rehabilitation.
In between the belting tracks from the choir, we are also treated to a really cool and funk driven track (which gives a feel of Bruno Mars) from Jamie Joseph with his song ‘Faithful’. The soundtrack brings together rock, pop, hip hop, choral and old school into one playlist which makes it a perfect movie soundtrack.
If you are looking for a playlist with an equal mix of heart wrenching and heart thumping tracks, then look no further than the Urban Hymn soundtrack which is out now on Sony Music.
Although I have not yet seen the film, I am super excited to see it after hearing the quality of music and anthems used throughout. Get out and see it and buy the soundtrack, you will not be disappointed!
So I am very particular about my hair, as you will know if you know me or have checked my Instagram before with endless amounts of haircut pictures and styles, so I was a little apprehensive stepping into a new barbershop this week for a new cut and style.
Men’s Hair Co. based in Dun Laoghaire and now with a new shop in Bray is an on-trend salon experience for men with professional stylists and masters in their craft. Creative Director, Jason Brophy opened the first Men’s Hair Co. just 2 years ago and it has gone from strength to strength building a loyal client base and I can see exactly why.
From the modern and stylish look of the shop front to the interior, the minute you step inside you are welcomed by a warm and friendly team of people.
Before I tell you about the experience of the cut, let’s just take a moment to discuss the interior. A very cool and sleek design incorporating wooden finishes with retro objects and lighting, it sets the mood for a great experience. The styling area’s simplistic with amazing lighting design to show off the full extent of the styling really opens up the shop and gives a great inclusive feel to the client. I may just add here that you need to make sure to book in advance, I have never passed this shop without it being packed with men and children alike getting the latest cuts and trends.
So onto the moment I love but also dread, trying to get my vision of what I want across to someone who has never met me before. Thankfully, Jason knew exactly what I was talking about and the style I usually go for. A style that can adapt to both formal events as well as straight out of bed to a studio or class, as well as a style that is easily manageable and to suit me.
After discussing the cut and styling of the new do, Jason got to work and I have to say, he did not leave any detail out, taking his time to ensure it was right at every step of the way and that I was happy as he was going. He even went as far as blow drying it into shape and then having to wet it again to cut more, that is professionalism at its finest that you don’t see in many male salons nowadays.
About 30 minutes later and the result was well worth it, a great cut, nice style and excellent service from the reception to the wash and from the other stylists to the time I left the shop, as well as accommodating someone taking pictures while they were trying to work.
I cannot recommend this team enough and as a barbershop and grooming salon for men, the best I have visited. If you want to be made at ease whether you want a new style or just tidying up your current one, this is the team that will talk you through it and make sure you leave satisfied.
On a side note, they also have their own product range and the strong hold wax used in my hair for styling is brilliant. As my hair is so straight it can be hard to get height and texture but this does the job with added hold and volume. Make sure to get some when you drop in.
The final outcome, a great cut that I am extremely happy with. Cheers Jason and team.
Check out Men’s Hair Co. On Instagram, Facebook and www.menshairco.ie
Review by @Kenneth_Giles
Last night I had the pleasure of being invited to Ireland’s number one Halloween attraction – Farmaphobia!
Based in Causey Farm, Co.Meath it is the spookiest as well as most fun experience I have attended in a while. If you ever wanted to be part of your own horror movie, get yourself down to it before it closes on November 1st.
So you ask, what exactly is it? Constructed on a traditional Irish farm, the farm house, buildings and fields are transformed into different terrifying experiences. If you don’t like to hear people screaming from the minute you arrive to the minute you get back to your car, then you best stay at home.
First up for us was the ‘Field Of Screams’, a giant crop field (think of the movie ‘Signs’ and you won’t be too far off) filled with zombie actors, chainsaws and scary dwellings including an underground tunnel which you must pass through to make it out. From being chased by an undertaker to a scary doll, make sure to wear comfortable shoes because you need to run for your life and there is a lot of mud so don’t fall! ( and before you ask, no I didn’t)
Next we were onto the ‘Scarecus’, an indoor maze of mirrors, terrifying clowns and trickery. I walked into more walls in this place than anywhere else, you want out of there but finding your way can be tricky. Remember the creepy clowns around schools reported on the news in the past few weeks? Well you will meet them all in the one place here.
The ‘Vamporium’ was a nice break from the madness but still equally as scary. At each turn you encounter someone new including a dead woman on the stairs, people popping out of walls and scary rooms you want out of before you even step in.
‘Dead and Breakfast’ brings you on a tour around a very luxurious bed and breakfast set in the heart of the beautiful picturesque….. Nope, it was just as disgusting as the rest of it. A haunted house full of mad staff, people chained to beds and the odd rat running around your feet (don’t worry they are not real, or are they?). Step into the kitchen, laundry, bedrooms and hallway of a freaky house with slides, tunnels and ballooning walls, you must fight to get out alive! (OK, a bit over dramatic but it is heart pounding stuff, especially when you have someone pushing you to always go first 😉 )
Our final experience on the spooky tour was the ‘Mutation Morgue’ were you are put on a bed and pushed into a wall exactly like the real thing, only to be greeted on the other side by a terrifying fright. Make sure to actually get up off the bed and start moving through the morgue, you are not there for a sleep. Blood, guts and butchers are all present in this scare room with another maze of doors, walls and more trapping you in rooms with people you would rather never see again.
When you are done with the 5 scary attractions you can chill out at the bonfire, grab some food and take some awesome pictures with the brilliant Halloween structures and decorations throughout the farm. A well thought out event and one I definitely recommend to everyone this Halloween.
Tickets are still available for this weekend at www.Farmaphobia.ie
Review by @Kenneth_Giles