Jasmine’s Juice – VOILA! – 10 things you need to know about Cannes.

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I needed a short trip away, with lots of hot sunshine, sea, sand, and fabulosity. Searching the usual travel sites like Expedia and lastmin.com I finally settled on Cannes. I’ve only ever frequently Cannes for MTV Movie work so usually fly in, hotel, shoot, party, no sleep, start all over again schedule for a few days, before returning to London like a flogged horse.

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This time I vowed to do it in style. I was taking my mum and so a self-catering apartment or ‘economical hotel’ a little out of the way wasn’t an option for her 80-year-old legs and temperament. I decided only the best was good enough for the woman who had given me birth. So I didn’t look at the price and booked the infamous Carlton slap bang in the middle of the most famous film festival strip in the world, on what turned out to be a pretty good deal all things considered. The Carlton is the Palace to the stars and is the star of all the hotel palaces on offer. Every film legend you can name has stayed there as well as Princess Diana, Grace Kelly, Sharon Stone, Puff Daddy, Ronaldo and more. If only those walls could talk!

The Croisette is the beachfront strip of 3km of curve of the Cannes bay, lined with palms, hotels, designer boutiques, ocean liners and yachts. Day and night it’s the spot to see and be seen. The Carlton breakfast terrace is the best terrace on the whole of the Riviera, to watch the ocean and passers by stroll along the infamous fashion catwalk, otherwise known as the Croisette.
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We only spent a week there but these were the ten things we were really struck by;

1. Age ain’t nothing but a number in Cannes, and very old ladies wear clothes that most British OAPs would deem inappropriate.
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The great thing is, that they looked great and were clearly as confident in their old age as in their youth – if not more. They were rocking wedge shoes, mini skirts, and strappy string vests. Je n’en crois pas mes yeux ! Initially it was a shock for my very British fashion-brainwashed brain to accept, but after a day or two I got it. You name the trend, these oldies were on it. Nothing was too much. Cannes old lady fashion is incredible. There are no ‘‘dressing for your age’’ rules out here. Wrinkles, veins and more are like life scars that no one bats an eyelid at. These oldies are strutting with sass and confidence.

2. Speaking of wedge shoes, this is THE footwear for all females strolling along around Cannes.
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Shoe shops regular and high-end sell a million different wedges. Never once did I spot a stiletto.
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These women have pretty feet that won’t be ruined by trying that very British awkward stagger in really vertiginous heels. French femmes are lean and strong, built like racehorses and I’m convinced it’s their wedge shoe walking diet.

3. Another reason they may be lean and skinny is that French ladies smoke. A lot. All the skinny model-looking chic’s that were wearing shorts, vests and attitude usually had a fag hanging off their lips 24-7. Even whilst riding their mopeds. Especially whilst riding their mopeds. I’d love to see the French medical stats of smoking related illnesses.

4. Speaking of health, the French love to tan. In fact, in the same way that the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain, the tan in Cannes looks incredible on man or woman.
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The sun is high in the sky and burning hot from 8am until well after 9pm, and on not one occasion did I spot anyone on their beaches using sun cream! This could be why most of the white folk I observed out there had tanned so dark they resembled someone wearing blackface. The irony of a country that is stereotyped as being racist but they’re craving to be dark.

5. Instead of spending my money flying to far off exotic destinations its much more economical to get a cheap flight to Cannes (Nice airport), and spend the rest of your money on a great hotel or activities.
Also, once you get to Cannes, there’s loads of free stuff to do. Day and night the Croisette is like a live, free fashion catwalk with lovers walkers, rollerbladers, scooter flippers, cyclists and more doing their thing.

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Also there is so much free art by the likes of Salvador Dali and Matisse just placed outside buildings for you to take in.
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All the tourist spots where the famous Cannes film festival takes place are access-all-areas so you too can pose on the same spot as your favourite film icon or place your hands in their handprint walk of fame!
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6. Unlike most popular cities there are no tour buses in Cannes. Instead they have a very cute, olde worlde ‘’Petit train’’ that will take you on tours through the old town and cinema locations for €10 an hour.
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The Cannes city street layout is like New York pretty easy to get to grips with. Its not a grid system as such but the roads are laid out in distinct shopping, eating and business districts so very easy to familiarize yourself with in a day.

7. Unlike all the tacky tourist beaches across the world where you’re hassled to buy pineapple or braid your hair, Cannes beaches are on a whole different level of opulence.
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Here a photographer accompanied by his assistant holding a giant beauty light and tripod will do a full on glamour shoot for you in the ocean. Awkwardly they’ll do it without asking your permission then try and sell you ‘’ze lovely picture’’ of you looking like a bright red beached whale. Non-merci ami.
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Also lithe, tanned young ladies carrying bags of sexy bikinis and lace beachwear will plop themselves down in front of you and change into every garment in their bags and parade up and down like a fashion show trying to tempt you into buying their wears. Of course I succumbed, but then wondered why the sexy black bikini I purchased didn’t make me look like the same sizzling siren I had brought it from.

8. The beaches are a point of contention but needn’t be. Basically on the main strip, each section of beach is owned by the hotel it sits opposite. You have to pay to sit on this beach EVEN if you are a paying hotel guest.
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The Carlton charges most for its pier, then its front row on the sand and also half days.
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Generally, each five star hotel, charges a selection of sliding scale rates for different spots. C’est naze!
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You can even buy a real bed on the beach to show how fabulous and wealthy you are and that you just throw yor money away!Laisse tomber…
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Its outrageous, but just a few meters down the Croisette are totally free public beaches, which are exactly the same but without the snobby folk, attitude and cost. And much better for people watching.

9. The 5 star hotels are expensive. But for the cash that you’re saving on flights its well worth it. From the beautiful rooms with small touches like beautifully made beds and top quality bedding, to great branded beauty products in the bathroom, a retractable, discreet washing line in the bathroom, a free daily newspaper and all your needs met. Their breakfast may be around £30 per person, per day, but it’s a kings feast buffet with full English breakfast, a pastry bar, antipasti bar, nespresso and champagne on tap.
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YOU CAN EVEN WATCH COUPLES TAKING MILLIONS OF PHOTOS FOR HOURS WHILST EATING BREKKY!.

We made sure to make the most of this and lined our stomachs well so that lunch wasn’t needed. I even spotted other guests sneaking fruit, pastries and more into their handbags. I felt a euphoric high on paying €10 for a pot of tea with silk tea bags and €20 for a sliced watermelon presented on a silver platter. I did snigger in disgust at myself as I stroked the silk tea bag that I steeped my daily pot of tea with.
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10. One of the best things about Cannes is wherever you are at any time of the day you can take a seat. There are seats in public everywhere.
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All along the Croisette are metal bright blue seats that can be moved into pairs or groups depending on the size of your group.
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You can place them facing the sea or inwards facing the twinkling palm trees on the road and watch the pink lit up street all night.

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How quaint! In the UK I guarantee these would be nicked and sold for scrap metal. ‎Even on the high street full of shops, there are seats everywhere attached to the bottom of lampposts. It’s these little touches that make life so much more sociable and easy on the Riviera. Ça vous dit?

Jasmine’s Juice – Can You Join The Sport of Polo?

So, we’re slap bang in the middle of music festival and summer sports season, and where you and your bank balance sit financially and on the class graph may dictate where you end up.
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ALL PHOTO’S TAKEN AT THE QUEEN’S CUP FINAL, COPYRIGHT – RICHARD PASCOE PHOTOGRAPHY @RichardPascoe).

On the one hand we have music festivals like Glastonbury and Wireless for the great unwashed. On the other we have House Festival and Hampton court style music festivals for the middle class, more grown up, hamper and picnic set, who don’t want to rub shoulders with or mingle with the bawdy working class.

Similarly with sports, it’s about the televised big dog events like Wimbledon and rugby, watched on telly for many of us. The horsey sports like racing, shooting and polo, are even more out of reach and always seem to be off limits for your average working class bod for obvious reasons. Horses are expensive to keep, own, ride or consider as part of your weekly hobby.

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Do you recall when the TOWIE set tried to overtake the scene around five years ago, and were subsequently ridiculed and made to feel unwelcome, by articles like this Can anyone stop polo being over-run by chavs? http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1202024/Can-stop-polo-run-chavs.html

Nowadays the general public aspires to attend things like Ascots Ladies Day with as much gusto as they do their local tanning salons , but in 2015, we still haven’t really been convinced about how accessible and inclusive the actual sport side of polo can be, to the masses.

I’ve visited the biggest polo club in Europe – Guards Polo Club – out past the west London city boarders, over the years, as both a one-off lunching guest or working on media stories and last weekend had a conversation with Diana Butler from GPC about just how inclusive the sport of polo can be for your average Brit. So pay attention.
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Diana should know what she’s talking about as she’s been working in the sport of polo for many years and this year marks the club’s 60th anniversary – Prince Philip founded the Club in 1955. They play more polo, at all levels, than any other club in the UK. In fact, the club wrote the polo pony welfare rules that are now recognised around the world and put pony welfare at the top of all that they do. Diana gave me her thoughts on all the misconceptions many of us have about the sport of polo. Isn’t it totally inaccessible to us minions? Don’t you need to be a billionaire to partake?

What kinds of backgrounds are the players usually in most instances from?

Players come from all types of backgrounds these days – it is no longer exclusively a game for the very rich or the military. The world’s top players are from South America, Argentina predominantly, and they are often the sons/grandsons of players who learnt the game on their family’s farms alongside the gauchos. With an increasing number of clubs in the UK, many people now take up the game with no background in the sport – you can even pay to play these days, without the need to own horses. Many of our patrons are successful businessmen who were introduced to the game by colleagues/friends and became hooked.

How much would it cost a player to learn and play regularly?

It depends on what level you play. To play the high-goal you need a substantial amount of money as you need the horsepower and employ the very best professional players you can afford. However, to play club matches and low-goal (up to 8-goal polo) you need a much lower budget. A rough guide is:
· Competitive low-goal £50,000 – playing several key tournaments in a season
· Competitive medium-goal £500,000 – playing several key tournaments in a season
· Competitive high-goal £1m – playing top two tournaments in a season

Gulp, that’s still pretty steep! Do all players own their own ponies? If not how do they play? It is a wealthy persons sport isn’t it? Can you play without owning horses/kit/livery etc?

At the high level, the team patrons own many of the horses, but the players also own their own horses. The higher handicapped players have their own strings. However at some clubs – such as Ascot Park – you can pay to play so you just turn up, jump in a horse and play a practice chukka or two without the expense of ponies, farriers, stabling, grooms etc.

‘‘Jump in a horse’’! Love it! Can ‘’regular folk’’ just turn up and watch matches? How much does it cost?

Anyone can come and watch polo as Windsor Great Park is a public park with free access for those on foot/bikes and they can watch the games from the north side – opposite side to the Royal Box. For regular days we charge £20 per car (regardless of occupants) and charge £40 on the day per car for the Cartier Queen’s Cup Final. However on finals day we also open our members’ side (same side as the royal box) to the public so they can buy hospitality, grandstand tickets and car passes.
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Well it’s obvious that your average A-Z list celebs and their teams, all want you be seen where the upper classes and Royalty are. How and who decides which guests join the Royal box?

The balcony is reserved for members of the Royal Family, the chairman of the Polo Club and the key representative of the sponsor of the day.

What makes clubs like yours the best place to enjoy polo in the UK?

The location, great fixtures and superb facilities. We host some of the leading polo tournaments in the world and each game, regardless of handicap, is managed by a professional and dedicated team which ensures that players and spectators experience polo at its very best.

I see that the social side of the polo scene is as buzzing if not more than the actual sports side what with regular dances and parties, you guys love a twenties themed party?

Social membership to Guards Polo Club costs just £375 per annum, plus a one-off joining fee of £300, which is no more expensive than a gym membership For that a social member receives one metal members badge, three guest badges and members car park pass. This gives access to more than 600 games in a season and major discounts for our two major ticketed events – the Cartier Queen’s Cup Final and the Royal Salute Coronation Cup. We also have an extensive collection of reciprocal clubs around the world, which offer access to our members at their members’ rates.

That’s exactly what I pay for my annual gym membership! So I could be hanging with the hoi polio instead of my treadmill at my local leisure centre.

What is your biggest challenge as a club? And as a sport?

To promote the sport rather than the celebrity activity in the media. The top teams and their ponies are athletes and train as hard as any leading sportsmen and women and the game should be recognised for its toughness, horsepower, skill and bravery.

ALL PHOTO’S TAKEN AT THE QUEEN’S CUP FINAL, COPYRIGHT – RICHARD PASCOE PHOTOGRAPHY @RichardPascoe).

Jasmine’s Juice , If you’re a very stylish girl, you’ll have Breakfast at Tiffany’s, courtesy of The Royal Albert Hall.

Whole industries and commercial ventures have been based on the 1961 romantic comedy Breakfast at Tiffany’s. From posters, to copycat film promos, to t shirt slogans and even a hit music record, (The lines of dialog “How do I look?” “Very good. I must say, I’m amazed” and “I am a very stylish girl” were sampled in the Dimitri From Paris song “Une Very Stylish Fille”).

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This past week London’s Royal Albert Hall brought a new angle to the iconic film, with a live screening accompanied by the Philharmonia Film Orchestra accompanied by the Philharmonia Chorus, conducted by Justin Freer.

Conductor Justin Freer, who was leading the Philharmonia Film Orchestra, has produced, curated and conducted film-and-live-score shows for movies including Gladiator and The Godfather, and will bring Alice in Wonderland and Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage to the Royal Albert Hall later this year. Performing Henry Mancini’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s score at the iconic London venue was the culmination of a lifelong dream for the conductor, whose musical education was supported by a Mancini Scholarship.

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The Royal Albert Hall has put on regular classic films with live orchestra’s performing the soundtrack to the film, and this was one of its greatest pairings, as Henry Mancini’s Academy Award-winning score lends itself to a big band, big experience, and big night.

This classic Blake Edwards film, based on Truman Capote’s bestselling book stars Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly, a deliciously eccentric New York City playgirl and socialite who catches the attention of her new neighbour, struggling writer Paul Varjak (George Peppard). Regularly cited as one of the greatest movies ever made, it’s also among the most stylish, with the sight of Holly – oversized cigarette holder in hand – one of the most clear-cut and distinct moments in cinema.

I’m always fascinated by the way Audrey Hepburn plays Holly Golightly, the craziest heroine who ever crept between the pages of a best-selling novel! That one-minute manic diva, the next the sweetest most vulnerable waif, makes me think she was certainly on some level bi-polar. Her salary for the film was $750,000, making her the highest paid actress per film at the time.

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Even though the World Premiere of Breakfast at Tiffany’s was at the famed Radio City Music Hall in New York City many decades ago, I know the vibe; atmosphere and experience of the grand Albert Hall brought the film to life and afforded the score much more extravagant justice.

Watching the film, simultaneously to seeing the orchestra pick up their instruments every few scenes, to interpret Mancini’s legendary score, is truly a once in a lifetime experience for a film and music aficionado.

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As if the whole experience wasn’t already special enough, as a special treat for the audience, Mancini’s daughter, double Grammy-nominated singer Monica Mancini, performed her father’s Oscar-winning song Moon River at the start of the performance with her mother (Mancini’s wife) Ginny watching sat just behind us!

The irony of this classic moment and song, is that the song “Moon River” was written especially for Audrey,and since she had no training as a singer the vocals were written to be sung in only one octave. Its said that when the film was first screened in Hollywood, at a post-production meeting that followed, a studio executive, in reference to “Moon River,” had said, “Well, I think the first thing we can do is get rid of that stupid song.” Apparently Audrey stood up at the table and said, “Over my dead body!” The song stayed. The rest as they say….

Back then Mancini had said, “It’s unique for a composer to really be inspired by a person, a face or a personality, but Audrey certainly inspires me. Normally, I have to see a completed film before I’ll compose the music, but with Tiffany I knew what to write for Audrey just by reading the script.”

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It’s incredible to think how many fashionistas have been influenced by the style of Holly Golightly, who wears the same dresses all the way through the movie, simply changing the accessories to give each outfit a different look. Her black shift dress features through the movie at least four times. Also, no huge ageism in the screen industry back then clearly, as Holly is supposed to be just nineteen years old. Audrey was in fact thirty-one years old when playing Holly!

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Interestingly, Audrey very nearly missed out on this ground breaking moment in her career though as originally author Truman Capote envisioned the Goddess Marilyn Monroe in the but Marilyn’s drama coach, Lee Strasberg, told her that playing a call-girl was not good for her image. The film went on to be a huge success, with Audrey receiving Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations for Best Actress. Bet Marilyn kicked herself and cussed Lee!

Although not visible on camera, hundreds of onlookers watched Audrey’s window-shopping scene at the start of the film. Legend has it that this made her nervous and she kept making mistakes and It wasn’t until a crew member nearly got electrocuted behind the camera that she pulled herself together and finished the scene.

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Additionally, animal film stars were already in vogue back then with around nine cats used throughout the film as the role of ‘Cat’. More post production trickery in the fact that Holly’s whistle when she hails a cab for Paul was actually dubbed in. Audrey attempted to learn how to whistle with two fingers, but could never produce the desired sound.

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After an interval during which I accidently learnt how well champagne and sweet popcorn compliment each others flavours, (and were my ‘edible Audrey moment of fabulosity”), we settled down to the second half of the classic movie, after which as an extra-special treat, we got an encore over a montage of film stills, behind-the-scene images and shots of the team, whilst Monica Mancini once again sang and her mother, who was acknowledged by the conductor, stood up to applaud the moment.

All in all, a truly fabulous occasion after which I really did feel like ‘a very stylish girl’.

Jasmine’s Juice – BASIC POLO 101 FROM GUARDS POLO, THE UK’S NO.1 POLO CLUB!

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(ALL PICTURES COPYRIGHT RICHARD PASCOE. @RICHARDPASCOE).

We Brits are a great contradiction. On the one hand we are infamous globally for our questionable behaviour on Marbella style vacations. On the other, the world believes there’s something so proper, classy and quaint about our heritage, history and all things adorned with the union jack.
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They say people in high places judge each other on the watches, cars and pens that they own. Well, add the activities they partake in to that list. Fabulous things rich folk like include horses, fine wine, sailing, private jets, black credit cards, pre-nup agreements, professional blow dry’s, butlers, white trousers on men, range rovers and the air of being a very classy girl.
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Stuff rich people love also includes sports that the rest of the world does not pay attention to, including aerobatics, shooting and polo. Most attractive to the wealthy in polo, is that the horse is central to the match and money can buy happiness and success.

To speak the language of polo you need to understand the basics. Each team on the field consists of 4 players and their horses. The object is to strike the ball through the posts at the opponent’s end line, the most goals wins. One match is typically 8 ‘’chukka’s’’ or periods, which last 7 minutes each. What truly distinguishes this as stuff that rich people love, is that polo players typically switch horses after each chukka – that’s 8 horses ponies per rider per game!
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I introduced myself to the sport this weekend with the first of the annual high-goal UK tournaments; The Cartier Queen’s Cup Final at Guards Polo Club, Windsor (Guards is the biggest polo club in Europe). They told me that the day’s team sheets read like a polo Who’s Who. Sunday was the date for the final of The Cartier Queen’s Cup – featuring Dubai v King Power Foxes.
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I was told that after the previous 22-goal matches that this was going to be an epic game featuring Facundo Pieres v Adolfo Cambiaso. So, the Messi and Ronaldo’s of polo. The final, with trophy’s presented by the Queen, took place straight afterwards on the field.
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THE QUEEN PRESENTED THE TROPHY TO THAILANDS WINNING TEAM, DUBAI WERE RUNNERS UP.

This is what I learned.

ITS NOT JUST A BRITISH THING.
Polo is now a big thing all across the world; in fact, the final winning team at Guards Polo Club this weekend were Thailand. It’s also big in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Morocco and the USA. In fact according to the Polo Times ‘’ Polo is played all over the planet and over 50 countries worldwide are involved in the game. The dominant nations are Argentina, the USA and Britain, each of which has a thriving polo scene and industry. Other polo hotspots include New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Dubai, China, Chile and Spain.’’
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QUEEN ELIZABETH ARRIVES, ALL SMILES AND IN THE PINK!

TEA AND CURRY ARENT THE ONLY THING BRITS PILFERED FROM INDIA.
The modern game of polo, though formalised and popularised by the British, is derived from India, where the game was known as ‘Pulu’. The name polo is said to have been derived from the Tibetanword “pulu”, meaning ball.The first polo club was established in Assam, India, in 1833. The reason the players wear white pants is as the Indian players needed something light to avoid heat-seeking mosquitos.

THE ROYAL FAMILY
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PHIL GAVE LIZ A RIDE TO THE POLO.

At Guards, The Royal box is a part of the polo grounds, slap bang in the centre of the field for the best views of the match.
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Convenient for Queen Lizzie as her abode is next door. Apparently she treats the grounds like her back garden, often to be seen driving her own (vey cheap regular) Land Rover across the grounds.in fact Prince Phillip drove her in on Sunday himself! Its not called the sport of Kings for nothing. But it is a sport of Kings that anyone can play…

THEY DO WELCOME EVERYONE TO JOIN IN
Yes, inclusivity is the way forwards. One of the aims of the clubs is to dispel the myths associated with polo and make the sport accessible to all. Sussex Polo Club, for example, was set up in 2002, with the slogan “more new blood, less blue blood”. Contrary to popular belief, most polo games are cheap to watch. Entry to some parks for their biggest day, the Gold Cup final, costs under £20 per person in advance. Many smaller clubs around the world don’t charge entry at all. In fact, many of the UKs clubs have more social members than playing members. Playing polo is not cheap. But contrary to popular belief, it is not exclusively the preserve of millionaires. Although running a high-goal polo team requires a well-padded bank balance, a growing number of enthusiasts are playing locally at weekends, hiring ponies or perhaps keeping just a horse or two to play.

POLO IS NOT FOR THE FAINT HEARTED.
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The Prince of Wales found he had suffered more serious injuries from playing polo than Amir Khan has done from boxing. Polo is the game for true men of steel. The idea of actually straddling a horse and playing polo makes my blood rush. I could just about hit the ball in hockey at school and forget rounders- I hated it. This is multi-tasking on behemoth levels.

BLING BLING!
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Whether a rider on the ponies or a socialite on the polo scene, Polo is one of the most, if not THE most activity to partake in or attend. You will find many HNWI (high net worth individuals), are a part of this very exclusive scene. Amongst the sponsors at Guards Polo Club for example, are big brand names like Cartier, Audi, The Dorchester, Land Rover and more.
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THE WINNING BOTTY TABLE SET UP OUTSIDE THE ROYAL BOX.

Most sports teams win sponsors and cups. But at the polo the main sponsor Cartier also gift each player in each finals team, with a very big face blinging Cartier. Forget the cup, it’s all about the booty.
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COLONIAL OLD SKOOL HERITAGE AND MANNERS.
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Old school manners, pomp and livery are de rigour.
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From the elderly gent’s in their grey slacks, navy blazers and straw hats directing people, to the weathered faced outdoorsy horsey types, to the marching band and drummers, this is old school British heritage at its finest.
GESTAPO
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THIS DUDE POPPED HIS STICKS IN MY HAND AND ENCOURAGED ME TO BEAT HIS DRUM.

Whoever you are, wherever you’re from, regardless of how much money you have, their manners are friendly, welcoming, informative and formal. EVEN ALL THE OTHER PAPARAZZI ARE LOVELY AND HELPFUL TO EACH OTHER! (Totally unheard of).

GET THE VERNACULAR RIGHT.
Regulars at any event can tell if you’re a regular or newbie. This is more prevalent than ever at the polo. There are subtle yet not strict rules. For example one always refers to the horses as ‘’pony’s’’. The mounts used are called ‘polo ponies’, although the term ‘pony’ is purely traditional and the mount is actually a full-sized horse. The polo pony is selected carefully for quick bursts of speed, stamina, agility and manoeuvrability. Standing on the side of the pony lines watching the riders gallop up at high speed, screech to a stop and leap sideways to a fresh pony is breath-taking (and slightly terrifying!). Pony tails are either wrapped or braided to stop them becoming entangled with the sticks.

GET THE DRESSCODE RIGHT – YOU CANT STOMP DIVETS IN STILETTOS
The surface of a polo field requires careful and constant grounds maintenance to keep the surface in good playing condition. During half-time of a match, spectators are invited to go onto the field to participate in a polo tradition called “divot stamping”, which has developed to not only help replace the mounds of earth (divots) that are torn up by the horses’ hooves, but to afford spectators the opportunity to walk about and socialise. (It’s not clear who was the first enterprising club manager to realize he had an abundant and cheap grounds-keeping crew at his disposal, but old-timers will tell you the job used to be done by hired help).
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For this reason, dress code is a very intricate choice. Regulars like Princess Kate may well just rock a nautical t-shirt with jeans and ballet pumps but all other female regulars rock wedges. At a special polo day with final matches and public riffraff like me attending, they may make a bigger effort with smart trousers and a blouse or a floaty frock with blazer, but on NO ACCOUNT will a lady that’s classy and knows her polo etiquette, wear the Essex look of tight, bright mini-dress and vertiginous stilettos that sink into the grass. It’s awkward to watch a newbie polo attendee totter around looking uncomfortable all day. No one will point or snigger openly. But they saw you. And judged. Trust me. They think you’re vulgar.


KNOW YOUR POLO FABULOSITY SPOTS.

Guards at Ascot, Henley, Ascot, Hurlingham, and Cowdry are part of the polo location vocabulary in the same way that Aspen, Capri and St Barts are for vacations.

VIP TENTS VS. REAL RANGES AND POLO MEMBERS
On a very big public event like a polo final, the real horsey community don’t care about the superfluous dressed up VIP tents, catering for once a year visitors and their fancy 3 course lunches and champagne flutes. In fact what I noticed was that, they pull up in the car park alongside the playing field and open up the boot of their big, family range and out pops a fully set picnic with hampers. Many of them also bring pop up mini marquees, foldup chairs and tables. Don’t get it twisted though. They can afford the fancy experience and much more, but they choose to spend their cash wisely. (The polo merchandise shop on site sells a simple shirt for £120! – I wanted a navy one real bad and nearly bought it, but my photographer Richard gave me ‘’the reality talk’’ as I was fumbling for my credit card).

LIFESTYLES OF THE RICH AND FAMOUS
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Whilst most of us partake in some apple bobbing at the fair or wall climbing at the O2, at polo, the punters get to play with the sponsor’s wares. For example Land Rover owners not only get to relax in its exclusive hospitality area with a complimentary ciabatta and soft drink or afternoon tea, in addition spectators were able to experience how the latest Land Rover models handle the steep incline of the mighty Twin-Terrapod. Like Alton Towers where you drive your own ride!


FOOD CHOICES CAN BE LIMITED.

FOOD

Set up just offsite, next to the car park, are four stalls. A hog roast stall that does pulled pork rolls. A coffee and sandwich stall. A bar staff for drinks like the expected champagne and pimms set. And the best of all find for me? A mobile POPS wagon that sells ice pops/ ice-lollies. But not any ice lollypops. Oh no, these are made from champagne and Bellini ingredients! The champagne popsicle was divine! There are no chips, burgers or fried chicken options here. So if you’re not a sarnie girl or if you are Muslim, eat before you come! Also, bring real cash. It’s all in the middle of a field in the middle of nowhere. Wireless credit card transactions can be ropey.

THEY’RE USED TO THE QUEEN- AND POLITELY RESPECTFUL.
queen arriving
Can you imagine The Queen popping to Ealing Community Centre to hand out prizes without huge fanfare, security, hysteria and pomp? No, neither can I. what’s really impressive about the polo crowd is that they don’t scream or ask her for a selfie, but politely take photos from a distance.
queen walks
The Queen is clearly quite comfortable walking around freely and conversing in these well-behaved circles. Polo doesn’t discriminate between humans and animals. As well as the best player awards, even the pony’s get a look in with the best pony being crowned and being wrapped in a Cartier blanket.
pony winner
The pony was even walked up to the Queen who clearly knows and loves her horsey talk.
Q AWARDS

THERE ARE REAL VIPS AND THENTHERE ARE REGULAR CELEBS.
There’s nothing us media folk like more than to see the divide between real A Lister household names and then your average celeb that’s gotten famous in dubious ways. How they all sit above and below each other on the chart chain of celebdom is of great entertainment.
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DAME JOAN COLLINS LOOKING EVERY INCH THE GLAMOUROUS FILM STAR AT GAURDS POLO CLUB.

For example, bonafide classic legends like Dame Joan Collins, supermodel and Jaggers ex wifey Jerry Hall, actress Stephanie Powers and other various Lords and Ladies were guests in the Royal Box.
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JERRY HALL IN THE ROYAL BOX AT GAURDS POLO CLUB.

Whilst tennis ace Boris Becker, singer Ellie Goulding and others were merely VIP guests of Cartier, quite a safe distance away from the real old moneyed wealth.

THE POLO SOCIAL SCENE IS POPPING!
The polo set love to party with themed dances and a very full annual social calendar. Tickets for the Club’s amazing, 1950s-themed dinner dance on Saturday 27 June are like gold dust. Not surprising, with classic cocktails, sumptuous food and decadent theming, plus twilight polo and a bespoke cabaret. If that is not enough you can then dance into the night with a Big Band. Ticket info here; events@guardspoloclub.com ‘’Fifties fashion is encouraged’’.


P.S YOU CAN’T PLAY POLO IF YOU’RE A LEFTIE.

No not your political aspirations; Left-handed. Why are there no left-handed players? Lefties were officially banned from polo in the mid-1930s for safety reasons, but the restriction was relaxed after World War II when polo players of any persuasion were a scarce lot. Then clubs reinstated the lefty ban again in 1974 and it’s stuck: there are no more left-handed polo players. They can only play if they are willing to play right-handed . To understand why, consider this: you’re driving merrily down the road when all of a sudden, coming straight at you, is a crazed American driving on the right side of the road. The panic you’d feel in that situation is just what a right-handed polo player feels when he and a lefty approach the ball from opposite directions.

LAST BUT NOT LEAST;
If there’s only one thing you take away from this don’t forget, if you’re a lady attending polo, forget the stilettos. And whatever the weather sunglasses are quintessential!
WEDGES
(ALL PICTURES COPYRIGHT RICHARD PASCOE. @RICHARDPASCOE).

Jasmine’s Juice – Usher at LSO, Too Hood For TV!, BBC New Javone Prince Show, Terri Walker Entitled Showcase.

A hectic fortnight full of fabulosity!

Usher at intimate MasterCard Priceless gig held at LSO St Luke's London. Find out about forthcoming gigs at pricelesssurprises.co.uk
USHER MASTERCARD PRICELESS GIG AT LSO.
ALL USHER PICS COPYRIGHT PAUL HAMPARTSOUMIAN.

This weekend I had dinner with my girls at Jamie Oliver’s restaurant where we put the world to rights and shared our life growth so far over a bottle of red. Saturday at the Dotiwala crib saw a big group of us settle in to watch the whole of season 1 of 50 Cents TV series Power which had us all screaming at the telly whilst chowing down on sushi, curry, cheese boards and prosecco (its running out so we stashed a few bottles!).

Usher at intimate MasterCard Priceless gig held at LSO St Luke's London. Find out about forthcoming gigs at pricelesssurprises.co.uk

Sunday daytime was a trip to Chelsea’s Hurlingham Club to watch those dashing men play polo. They sweat and galloped, we supped bubbly and nibbled delicately on afternoon tea.

USHER.

The weekend was rounded off watching Usher at his private VIP invite only gig for MasterCard. The venue was LSO St Luke’s, a very interesting choice of location. Basically it’s a church. Yes Usher took us to church to sing and gyrate on a Sunday night LOL. It was truly a priceless moment as he ran through many of his hits like U got it bad, Burn, U remind me and more. At one point of the set he even took audience requests of his own hits and it was the best intimate jam session with him and his live ban, all washed down with-yep you guessed it, more wine and cocktails with mini fingerbowls of mac&cheese, curry and burgers.
Usher at intimate MasterCard Priceless gig held at LSO St Luke's London. Find out about forthcoming gigs at pricelesssurprises.co.uk
ACTRESS NAOMI HARRIS AT THE MASTERCARD USHER GIG.

The 100 lucky few in the audience, had to be Mastercard customers and enter a random draw to win tickets. A few even got t meet, greet and take a photo with him!
usher ladies
JASMINE, ACTRESS MICHELLE GAYLE AND FRIENDS AT THE USHER MASTERCARD VIP SHOW AT LONDON’S LSO.

This gig was part of MasterCard’s Priceless Surprises campaign in which a number of iconic artists including Usher, Kaiser Chiefs, Paloma Faith and Mary J. Blige have already surprised their biggest fans and brought them closer to their music. Usher surprised his lifelong fan Claire Spence when he disguised himself as a street-performer on Venice Beach and unveiled himself with a personal performance to her in front of a crowd of onlookers.
Usher at intimate MasterCard Priceless gig held at LSO St Luke's London. Find out about forthcoming gigs at pricelesssurprises.co.uk
LABRINTH GOT RUSHED BY FANS AT THE USHER VIP PRICELESS GIG!.

Usher told us: “Performing tonight was a completely unique experience – from the intimate crowd and acoustic set, to the incredible venue. It was great to be able to perform a completely different type of concert for my British fans.”
My mate, the big dog, Shaun Springer, Head of Brand, Sponsorship and Music, MasterCard UK & Ireland said: “It was a truly one-off experience for fans to see Usher perform in such an intimate setting. His gig kicks off our intimate music programme which sees us connecting music fans to the artist they love.”
Also in the crowd were interior designer Kelly Hoppen, broadcaster Nihal and his wife, music producer and artist Labrinth, actress Naomi Harris and more of London’s influencers.

DEAL REAL LEGACY

I hosted a panel at the Deal Real Legacy pop up store just off Carnaby Street. It was a full house!
REAL TALK FINAL TV

DR3

The panel was titled TOO HOOD FOR TV? On the panel were movers and shakers from the TV and film industry like Paigey Cakey (Rapper/Actress), Arnold Oceng (Actor/Musician), Femi Oyeniran (Actor/Filmmaker), Aaron Fontaine (Actor), Victor Adebodun (Founder/CEO, Purple Geko Ltd & Director/Producer).

DR4

We all debated things like; Do black actors need to go to the US for success? If the writers’ rooms don’t reflect the experiences and backgrounds of the characters for whom they are writing, will we get good and honest portrayals? The media is a powerful tool for change. Are we currently fed up with the stories that are being told and the representation of marginalized communities on television? What role do TV commissioners play in what we see on TV? Do we need help to get us through the door to work in film or/and TV or can we do it ourselves? Do we need the TV networks to get our voices heard? I won’t lie.

It got heated. But a lot of myths were put to rest, debates were squashed and no doubt gave the audience and panellists much to think about moving forwards with great new knowledge and contacts.


THE JAVONE PRINCE SHOW

javone
I was lucky enough to be sent a preview-screening link for the new BBC Comedy brand THE JAVONE PRINCE SHOW. It’s been a long time since the BBC committed to a solo black comedy act, in fact was the last one Lenny Henry? Anyhoo, the show is starting on your screens soon. It’s a juxtaposition of live studio audience comedy sketches and band. Like the Lenny Henry show meets the Jonathon Ross show meets the real McCoy.

The sketches that are inclusive work better for me. One I like is a pair of characters that are gogglebox style trolls. I also like the sly inside jokes about TV people that try and understand shadism and race issues. There’s a special music star performing live and clearly a lot of money and resource has been thrown at this.

However, there are parts I’m not a fan of. Some sketches feel old and predictable when you expect edgy and genuinely funny from the urban scene that I know exists out there. I’ll watch your feedback with interest once it starts airing.

TERRI WALKER
TERRI W

As if all that wasn’t enough, the week also saw us trot down to the heart of Covent Garden, to the United Nude Flagship Store to watch an intimate music set performed by one of my favourite UK female vocalists- miss Terri Walker!

entitled
ALL TERRI WALKER PICS COURTESY WILL LAVIN.

Before Terri arrived, we were treated to sparkling Presecco, cocktails, cider, chocolates, food, and authentic entertainment. So we’re eating and drinking to our hearts content whilst surrounded by shoes. Like juxtaposing every fun girlytime activity into one mash-up night.
TERRI W PIC WILL LAVIN
TERRI WALKER SINGS SONGS FROM HER NEW ALBUM ‘ENTITLED’.

Many of Terri’s die-hard fans and supporters turned out to see her sing a few tracks from her latest album ENTITLED. Before she even hit the stage and welcomed her guests, the crowd were buzzing and the energy was positive. Terri’s arrival instantly charmed her audience with her usual giggly, infectious, charismatic presence. Also of course a voice that speak volumes!
t arms

Performing songs from her brand new 2015 album ‘Entitled’ – Bad, Boy, Already Told Ya, Feel It In The Water, it’s fair to say that Terri Walker the artist continues to grow and continues to make it happen no matter what the industry hurdles she’s had to overcome.

‘Entitled’ is a body of works that highlights her legacy as a songwriter and also the artist that vocalises the songs. Live, she’s never disappoints, she can’t disappoint. Her talent is immense and timeless and it certainly looks like she is in a good space. She will continue to remind us (UK), that she isn’t going anywhere and given any opportunity to demonstrate what she does extremely well……..we will support!
t singing
A salute to United Nude, King Bloom Cocktails, Alska Cider, Pop Chips and Divine Chocolate for hosting such a wonderful event.

Catch Terri live near you and London; get your tickets now for her headlining gig at Under The Bridge (Stamford Bridge) on September 6th.

Entitled Out Now http://geni.us/Entitled @TheRealMzWalker

British Actor Colin Salmon unveils a new community art installation created by his wife Fiona Hawthorne, (just around the corner from where the couple first met when he was a busker playing trumpet on the street in Ladbroke Grove!)


London’s inner city housing developments can be pretty grimy and unwelcoming, but here’s a new idea that could be picked up by locals to transform their areas.

This fortnight, Fiona Hawthorne, a Northern Irish artist who lives and works in London, has come together with residents and a housing association, to make the best of those grey, urban walls. Together they’ve been ramping up local creativity with her new community art installation, on the infamous Wornington Green Estate in Ladbroke Grove.

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ARTIST FIONA HAWTHORNE WITH THE NEW PROJECT RAMP.
Photo Courtesy – Wilde Fry and Catalyst Housing.

The unique and vibrant piece transforms what were grey walls, ramp and stairs into a celebration of the community and local history of North Kensington. The area has been given a mini-facelift, after its ramp leading into the estate, was turned into a local history art gallery of sorts.

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Photo Courtesy – Wilde Fry and Catalyst Housing.

This artwork has personal resonance for Fiona. Only a short walk from this instillation, Fiona set up her first home with her now husband Colin Salmon (best known for his work in various James Bond films as well as Arrow, 24 and Paul Abbott’s ‘No Offence”) with Kensington Housing Trust which is now part of Catalyst Housing.

The artwork has been created with funding from the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea Housing and Regeneration Fund along with support from Catalyst Gateway.
Following Fiona Hawthorne’s very successful “Aspects of Carnival” mural installation on Portobello Road, Catalyst Housing commissioned Fiona to take on this new project. Fiona spent months engaging with people from the local area to find out their stories and what inspires them. Fiona gathered information by attending workshops, talking to people through Facebook and a special session with children at the local school.

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Photo Courtesy – Wilde Fry and Catalyst Housing.

Fiona told our London360 camera crew ‘’ “It has been such a pleasure to meet local residents, to hear views on life now and stories of the past, and to mix photos old and new of an area I know and love. I wanted colour and texture to enhance life force, objects to help us consider the beauty of the rich tapestry that makes this community, and to spark a narrative. Children and their families have used this ramp for many years and I have made the art with children in mind – I wanted to create something that could help inspire stories, the imagination and possibilities. Art helps us look again at what we see every day, and I am very pleased to have had the chance to have so much fun adapting a landscape and sharing my work in a public space’’.

fifi
Photo Courtesy – London360.

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Photo Courtesy – Wilde Fry and Catalyst Housing.

Wornington Green is a key part of the eclectic community of North Kensington, contributing much to the unique heritage of London. The area is currently involved in an exciting regeneration programme and to celebrate this Catalyst decided to create a new commission and put art into a public space.

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Photo Courtesy – Wilde Fry and Catalyst Housing.

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Photo Courtesy – London360.

Sue Hannah, Area Manager at Catalyst Housing for Wornington Green added ‘’ the idea came about from a walk about with residents to look at environmental improvements on the estate, on Wornington Green Estate, and the ramp was identified as an area that needed a bit of a make-over and people wanted to do a community art project. What was great about it was that Fiona’s involved local people in the project, including lots of the residents living on the estate. It’s been absolutely fantastic, and people love it!. Our office is just up the road and every time we walk past it, people are looking at it and pointing at it. It’s become a real focal point for North Kensington, for Ladbroke Grove, and for Wornington Green too. Wornington Green is going through exciting changes and bringing more people to this area of the Royal Borough of Kensington Chelsea. Fiona has done a great job at capturing the history and community feel of North Kensington and I look forward to seeing the creativity it inspires in the local community.’

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FIONA’S HUSBAND COLIN SALMON JOINED US AT THE RAMPS LAUNCH.
Photo Courtesy – Wilde Fry and Catalyst Housing.

Fiona’s famous hubby Colin Salmon proudly explained ‘’ for me art is a perfect conduit for communication, therefore people can enjoy it and just look at the use of colour! Fiona has a skill, with a beautiful use of colour that lifts and galvanises me and the young children who are walking through at eye level, they’re in another world. This has been designed for the next generation to be lit up because we have to light up the next generation. Sometimes you can’t say it but you can draw it. If I was to leave you with a thought, it is the fact that it’s this. This is London. It’s the most incredible city in the world, the diversity, the tolerance, and the way in which we live in these small villages, and they are small villages and we have to celebrate them. We have to include each other and we have to look after our children, the art I hope just lifts it and makes it a bit more special because everybody deserve to live in something special’’

As a freelance illustrator Fiona serves a broad spectrum of both national and international clients. Known for her witty and delicate line-and-wash style, she’s often commissioned to draw live in situations that range from film shoots and jazz festivals to the Henley Regatta and the tearoom of Harrods. She’s even worked with President Obama!

Fiona told us how he became involved in ‘’Project Ramp’’. ‘’ This ramp was actually grey cement, and a bit of an eye-sore, I heard that there was a commission going, where the local residents who live in this estate, had actually said “we’d like some regeneration of the ramp, we’d like the ramp to be a celebration!” and they’d come up with the idea of an art commission. So, when I heard about it I had to get it! And luckily I got it!’’

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Photo Courtesy – Wilde Fry and Catalyst Housing.

She continued ‘’Over a 3 month period, I drew, and I had an adventure going into inventive drawing, and taking photographs and collaging them in. But a key part of it was to work with the local residents. So I met residents, we held meetings, I told people about it, and with technology the way it is nowadays, people could bring me old photographs, or things, things they liked, things they had, like clippings, and I could just photograph them on the spot and then drop them in digitally to my art work. So that’s what it’s all about, a project to celebrate the area and its local residents!’’

If you’re in the west London area do take a walk to the ramp and explore its many images. We noticed a lot of diversity in the mural. There’s a girl wearing a hijab, a variety of races and ages. Fiona nods ‘’Yes! It was very important. There’s a place for everyone in this area and it always has been. Lots of different groups have come here, the diversity has stayed and it has created carnival, amongst other great things in this area. But I think my opportunity in the art was just to challenge some of the perceptions, and make sure everyone was represented’’.

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Photo Courtesy – Wilde Fry and Catalyst Housing.

She continues ‘’It’s really important to have art, everywhere, council estates, the streets, everywhere. it sparks ideas, it makes people think of other possibilities. And I don’t think you have to understand art necessarily, you know, with my art it’s just how it is… I just want people to feel, to respond to it. I didn’t want to do anything that would in some way alienate people, but equally very conceptual art is great to see it and find out what the backstory is. So, I’m all for art in public spaces, and I think we need more of it in London!’’.

lady
Photo Courtesy – Wilde Fry and Catalyst Housing.

One local middle aged female resident, who seemed to be at first numb with tears, and then jubilant with elation told us ‘’ Some of the pictures, I haven’t even seen, I was in tears when I got here and our photo’s are right in the front. It’s like, just goose bumps, goose bumps, hair standing up, I was bawling! I don’t know where my daughter got them from, but there are a lot of memories here. There is one photo of my sister, she lived here and passed away when she was 46, so when I first saw that I was emotional, then there’s another picture of me with my brother who is currently very sick. It’s a lovely memory, just amazing. My parents must be looking down really proud I think’’.

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Photo Courtesy – London360.

The last word went to a sprightly 10 year old young girl who was skipping around and lives locally who gushed ‘’ by seeing this wall I’ve learnt the different stages of this area and how it has changed over the years. I think for the younger kids like ourselves, we like to look back at our ancestors. It’s just a really nice thought to be able to look on there and say “oh, this is what they used to wear, and these are the things they got up to, and we do the same sort of thing in this day and age, its so cool!’’

Jasmine’s Juice – Tobago The Perfect Vacation Spot!

After this column, you’re going to hate me, more than you do already.

views from the top
TRANQUIL TOBAGO.

My work in the music and media industry often takes me to far-flung places and amongst those locations; the Caribbean has seen me visit many of its islands including Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, the BVI Islands and more.

Even though they are all clustered quite closely together, each Caribbean island really does have a very unique personality and presence of its own. Whilst Jamaica is Scary Spice; full on boisterous, intense and perfect if you want a high-energy break with high fashion and catwalk kids running around, Barbados is Posh Spice; laid back cosmopolitan and attracts the Simon Cowell’s and Michael winner’s of our world. Dominica is Baby Spice; very raw, rural and untouched.
Trinidad is Ginger Spice; buzzing and inclusive, especially around carnival time each February, when colour and music juxtapose into an explosive fireball. The BVI Islands are Sporty Spice; all water sports and Olympic water champs.

CASTARA BEACH
TOBAGO’S CASTARA BEACH.

All have their beaches, annual festivals and local cuisines that attract tourists searching for that picture book perfect white sands, palms trees and cocktails vacation. But it’s tranquil Tobago that is Beyonce; she’s got it all and has captured my heart more than the rest in recent years.

It’s a tiny island, just 24miles wide. Its very colourful, hilly landscape reminds me of an Italian island. Like Capri in the Caribbean! It is quiet, calm and quaint. The people are a mixture from all across the world, so whether black, white, brown or yellow, no-one bats an eyelid at tourists and it all feels very inclusive and unthreatening.

pigeon point PALM WALK
PIC- PIGEON POINT PALM WALK

With its white powder sand beaches, backed by almond trees and coconut palms, it boasts the world’s most photographed jetty; on the most picturesque postcard beach I’ve ever been to, called Pigeon Point. Strangely named, as it’s very un-pigeon-like, there are no pigeons, anywhere. It’s a strip of white beach; the entrance pathway welcomes you with a vertiginous palm-tree guard of honour. It should be called Sparrow Shore what with all the chirping birdsong.

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PIGEON POINT!

Tobago isn’t really for the vacationer who wants drunken discos, boisterous beer fuelled bingo or tumultuous theme parks with rides that turn you upside down and empty your pockets of change. You won’t find the status quo of tacky trinket markets, disorderly bars and restaurants and cafes that cater to a certain British demographic. Full English breakfast, drunk yobs and footie anyone? Not here.

While its twin island Trinidad twerks with parties all night, tiny Tobago chills out and ‘limes’ in a hammock with a coconut water and cocktail, watching its aqua blue waters twinkle in the sun. It’s the perfect location for me as I love sun, fun, nature, spicy good food and natures birdsong which is so loud and insistent that you rise and shine early as the cockerels start their singing and chatting at 6am!

pier at pp:waterfall
PIGEON POINT.

I arrived at ANR Robinson International Airport on a pleasant British Airways flight, (though they really need to update their planes and give their service staff image and style sessions), on a Monday afternoon and was picked up and taken straight to my first location for the trip; Bacolet Beach Club.

This is a small very chic boutique hotel with huge expansive rooms based on a cliffside overlooking the ocean. Its rooms are enormous, and prettily decorated in rich, jewel-colours and big modern fittings. Especially in its new wing, which overlooks a number of, tranquil pools, which in turn spill and cascade into the ocean.

bacolet pool poses
BACOLET BEACH CLUB – JUST ONE OF THEIR MANY POOLS.

Its all-glass, cube reception is always manned and welcoming. The hammock filled bars, hidden all the way down the cliffside onto the mini beach, make you jump for joy as you discover them. The food at its onsite restaurant is the only thing that lets it down. It’s acceptable but feels a little neglected in comparison to the high standards of the rest of the hotel and compared to the rest of the islands incredible food-fest offerings.

bacolet beach
BACOLET BEACH CLUB ROOMS.

A cliff walk spiralling down to the beach from your room reveals a small white-sand beach like the rest of Tobago’s shore. Most tourist developments are centred on the south-western side of Tobago, starting at Crown Point and running along a string of bays up to Arnos Vale. The lowlands that predominate in the southwest extend to Tobago’s only large town, Scarborough. The coast beyond is dotted with small fishing villages and the interior is ruggedly mountainous, with thick rainforest. Divers and snorkelers, and those seeking mellow days, visit the easternmost villages of Speyside and Charlotteville, while bird-watchers head for the Tobago Forest Reserve although I honestly was bombarded with all types of birds dancing and spinning loudly everywhere we went.

HANS
MY GROUP IN TOBAGO LOOKED AFTER BY ”HANS” (FAR LEFT)

We were lucky enough to have one of the best tour guides in the form of a jovial local chap called Hans (Hans tours), who was always larking around. As he drove us around the islands corkscrew vertiginous roads or walked us through cocoa plantations, he would always be on hand with a fascinating fact or 10 about Tobago. ‘‘In Tobago we are surrounded by two oceans, the Caribbean side is like a woman; calm and pretty, the Atlantic side is aggressive and rough like a man’’ lol. Or whist picking up what looked to us, like a red pepper, and asking ‘’what is this?’’ it turned out to be a single almond! (no wonder they’re so expensive!).

almond tree
INSIDE THIS PEPPER LOOKING POD IS A SINGLE ALMOND!

On the Tuesday morning we went to visit the Tobagonian version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. We were guided around the Cocoa Estate by a weathered, elderly woman named Kristina, who was friendly, knowledgeable and as strong as an ox. Her skin golden from years of working out in the sun, who suffered no fools or bad behaviour. She showed us numerous trees on the plantation. Name any fruit, veg, spice or nut, we were shown the plant and schooled on it. We learnt how the cocoa grows, is protected from wildlife and shaded from the sun, where it’s roasted dry and about its final voyage to France where it’s turned into fine chocolate.

cocoa plantation xtina
COCOA PLANTATION ESTATE GUIDED BY KRISTINA FINISHED WITH A CHOCOLATE AND RUM TASTNG!

At the end of the tour we were treated to a chocolate and rum tasting, which was divine!

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RUM AND CHOCOLATE TASTING.

(In fact, it was on this walk that a part of my psyche went into slow-mo as we wandered slowly into a wide grassy path of flowers, shrubs and foliage that was flanked by benches and surrounded by birdsong and crickets chirping in the sultry heat. This strip of the plantation is so breath-taking and paradise like, that I felt an otherworldly aura that returned to me after leaving. I realised I retrospect that this was henceforth going to be my future ”think of your happy, safe place’’. Heaven.

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CRAB AND DUMPLIN’

Next, we had Lunch at Blue Crab Restaurant where yet another high-spirited, frolicsome lady (Alison Sardhina) entertained us with stories about Olde worlde cooking methods and local customs. The crab and dumpling dish she and her husband cooked for us was out of this world!

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PADDLE BOARDING AT PIGEON POINT.THE LOCAL GOATS WATCHED US BEFORE THEY TOOK PART IN A GOAT RACE!

After lunch we went Stand-up Paddle Boarding at Pigeon Point beach.
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You have to pay a nominal amount to get access to Pigeon Point, its the fine dining of Tobago’s beaches, with landscaped grounds lined on either side by acres of huge soaring palm trees, boomboxing bbq accommodating beach bars, clean well maintained toilets and showers spread along an abundance of beachfront. The postcard-perfect, palm-fringed beach has powdery white sands and milky aqua water.

padd sea

An instructor spent 15 minutes talking us through the technique whilst on dry sand, and then hurried us onto the ocean to catch the sunset to try it out properly.
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Whilst the swimmers on the beach shouted encouragement ‘’go on stand up it’s easy!’’ I gritted my teeth determined not to swear back at them to ease off the pressure. I would try standing when I was good and ready lol.
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I started off terrified I’d fall in, but taking it slowly and surely ”look up and ahead, not down!’’, I managed a good hour stood up, whizzing along and when tired, drifting motionless alongside the Pigeon Point ocean side without falling in at all. Whoopee! An experience of a lifetime.

paddle 2

FOOD
HUGE PLATES FULL OF FOOD ARE THE NORM OUT HERE!

That evening we had dinner at a restaurant that surprised me. I ignorantly assumed the only great food I’d get out here would be Caribbean with a twist of Indian. However, I had the best Italian food outside of Italy that I’ve ever experienced, at La Tartaruga Restaurant. An Italian family that moved to Tobago a few years ago run it. With an impressive and enviable wine cellar, the bossman chef Gabriele De Gaetano explains each day’s speciality dish to diners and suggests the best wines to accompany the food offering tasters and advice. (When it comes to attire, Tobago is quite a casual affair but some restaurants prefer you to make an effort with trousers / jeans and sleeved shirts or polo t-shirts and no flip-flops at dinnertime). A truly incredible, culinary experience.

Luckily on Wednesday morning we were able to work off those carbs with a tour of the local rainforest. A long drive planted us at the top of a huge mountain range, lush green and moist. We were guided through the rainforest by Hans, who excitedly pointed out birds with regal names and exotic titles. Soaring majestic bamboo tribes and lofty ferns shielded the sun from us. As we walked in silence we heard trickling streams as well as gushing waterfalls. At random moments colourful birds would swoop and sing at us. At one point just as we were leaving a humming bird dropped straight in front of our faces and danced a hummingbird-ballet for us for a stunning 30 seconds as we froze in the delight of the moment! Forget goody-bags, the rainforest gives you an unforgettable experience to take home!

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TREKKING THROUGH A RAINFOREST, SWIMMING IN A WATERFALL AND EATING ROASTED BREADFRUIT- ALL IN A DAY’S WORK!

PS Insect repellent in the rainforest is a must. I slathered it on and wore khaki shirt and pants (a look I researched on Google ‘’what to wear in a rainforest?’’ and found numerous pictures of Prince William and Kate Middleton) if it’s a look that works for the royals, I can be down with it too!

After trekking the rainforest for a short while we walked to Castara Waterfall where our guides Hans and Kathryn picked a huge breadfruit from a tree.

waterfall

Whilst we stripped to our swimsuits and swam in the waterfall, they made an oven from rocks and wood, and roasted the breadfruit until the aroma permeated the forest, and was ready to be broken up and eaten to all our delight! Scrumptious!

WATER BREADFRUIT

Later that afternoon we had a homemade lunch at Castara Beach and then chilled out watching the sea and listening to the loud soca blasting from the nearby stage.

castira beach chopper
CASTARA BEACH LOUNGING, HELICOPTER RANDOMLY DROPPING OFF A MUSIC STAR.

Imagining we would just be chilling, nothing much doing, imagine our utter delight when all around us, locals jumped up and started tugging on what appeared to be a tug-of-war rope leading out to the sea? Not even considering why and how, we jumped up to join in tugging rhythmically alongside the soca track that sang ‘pull it, pull it…!’’.

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DRAGGING THE FISH IN BY ”PULLING SEINE”!

It wasn’t until well into breaking a sweat and making our hands raw from the rope pulling, did we realise there was another pulling line up parallel to us just yards down the beach, and between us both we were helping the local fishermen to pull in their humongous wide net and drag the flipping, frantic fish in! Apparently what we were doing is a local fishing tradition referred to as ‘’pulling seine’’ (look it up!).

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PULLING SEINE.

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PULLING SEINE AND CATCHING FISH!

On Thursday morning we ventured out for the Buccoo Reef & Nylon Pool Tour. The reef is teaming with multi-coloured fish and coral and you could snorkel here for hours, where even non-swimmers delight in the underwater world with a glass bottom boat ride. Buccoo is also one of the major reefs easily accessible to non-swimmers.

NY;ON POOL]
THE BOAT TOOK US TO BUCCOO REEF AND THE NYLON POOL.

All the known hard corals and most of the soft ones can be found around Tobago as well as hundreds of different reef fish including the giant manta rays. Turtle species such as the endangered leatherback, the green loggerhead and the hawksbill all nest on beaches along Tobago’s west coast. French naval explorer and conservationist, who studied the sea and all forms of life in water – Jacques Cousteau – rated Buccoo Reef as the number three spectacular sight to behold in the world, so what better reason to visit? We snorkelled for ages until we literally had to be forced back onto the boat for our next stop off.

Just minutes away lies the Nylon Pool – a mile square of shallow twinkling turquoise warm water (with water not exceeding 2.5 feet high), slap bang in the middle of the ocean. They say that when you swim in this natural wonder, you take 10 years off your age. As I’ve now visited this spot four times I’m hoping that I look like a foetus!

Lunch was down at Store Bay Beach where tourist style stalls sell trinkets, organic spa’s sell lush body creams, lotions and potions and a neat straight row of candy-coloured cabins called things like Miss Sylvia, Miss Jean’s, Esme’s, sell their home cooked real food like crab and dumplin’ or curry goat, macaroni pie and sea-moss punch. We opted for the legendary “Miss Trims” where the roti’s and curries were mouth watering and washed down with fresh juice or if you’re feeling brave, the liquorice tasting mauby. You’ll also find white sands and good year-round swimming at Store Bay.

The next morning (Friday), we left our hotel on one side of the island for another called Blue Waters Inn; which sits on pretty Batteaux Bay, just 1km from the main road. It’s a spectacular huge hotel right slap-bang on the ocean water so the sound of the waves here is constant.

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THE ROOMS AT BLUE WATERS INN – NOT BAD EH!

It’s one of the most upscale places to stay and geared to divers; the rooms all have patios and great views. Guests can also use tennis courts, beach chairs and kayaks.

BWI COAST
BLUE WATERS INN COASTLINE.

There’s also a very top-class, New York brassiere style restaurant, with incredibly high standard dishes, a bar, spa services and Blue Waters Dive’N, a full-service PADI dive centre!

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THE POOL AT BLUE WATERS INN.

My fave thing about it though, was a lone huge white bed moored just meters out in the ocean, which we swam to and bounced on occasionally. As you do. Pretty bloody impressive!

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SEE THAT BED BEHIND ME? JUST TO MY RIGHT….YEP- THATS THE SPOT!

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JEMMA’S TREEHOUSE KITCHEN RESTAURANT

Another great spot to have lunch is at Jemma’s Seaview Kitchen in Speyside- it’s a totally underrated foodie destination. Shark bake, crab and dumpling are to die for but I wasn’t so courageous as to try the ‘’soup’’ of pig’s tail and trotters.

The following day we departed for the airport scooping up basketfuls of the amazing body scrubs and lotions made from local ingredients. I love the chocolate, brown sugar and honey body scrub, although it’s taken all my willpower not to taste it.

Tobago fulfils all your holiday fantasies yet is so much more. Your toes kiss warm, white sand, hundreds of beautiful birds chirp sweet nothings in your ears all day and half the night long, your eyes squint from the sun’s reflection in the Caribbean Sea and lastly, your entire body adapts to a few new dance moves from the groove that’s always coming out of a Tobago home or business.

Though Tobago is proud of its rainforests, fantastic dive sites, stunning aquamarine bays and nature reserves, it’s also the best kept secret of all the islands and totally OK with not being mentioned in the latest rap or bashment song. Here you can choose between plush Oceanside hotels or tiny guesthouses in villages where you walk straight to the open-air bar with sandy bare feet, and laugh with the locals drinking rum.

We returned back to the UK with perfect vacation memories, like humming birds fluttering everywhere, sounds of 6am cockerels, healthy weathered ladies full of jokes, children jumping in and out of the ocean all day, paddle boarding on one of the worlds prettiest shores and exploring lush rainforests.

If you’re not sure what time of year to visit, check out the annual calendar and see what takes your fancy. http://www.tntisland.com/calendar.html

There’s something for everyone whether music, arts, culture, eco tours, history and more. From rum festivals, to motor rally’s, to jazz weeks, and Maypole festivals (yes, really), it’s pretty diverse. If you were to ask my advise, and you’re not, but if you were….having been four times now, I would recommend coinciding it with a quick trip to Trinidad carnival first in February – it’s the best carnival you will ever experience anywhere in the world, then after dancing your heart out you can take a quick flight to Tobago for a truly restful week in paradise.

end soca

NEED TO KNOW;

The heat in Tobago is always accompanied by a breeze, which lulls holidaymakers into a false sense of ‘’wont burn’’ security. You will. It’s most certainly all about the Sunscreen!! Factor 30 and above!

Trinidad & Tobago Tourismwww.gotrinidadandtobago.com
Facebook – www.facebook.com/islandsoftrinidadandtobago
Twitter – https://twitter.com/gotrinbago

Island of Tobago Website:
www.tobagostyle.travel & www.tobagostyle.travel/uk Facebook www.facebook.com/visittobago Twitter: https://twitter.com/visittobago

UK T&T Tourist Office Facebook:
www.facebook.com/adventuresofsteelypan Twitter: www.twitter.com/tnt_steelypan

Trinidad & Tobago Overview Brochure https://www.dropbox.com/s/bq4tzfgl7duroky/TT_Brochure.pdf?dl=0

British Airways into Tobago (twice a week) but the airline also flies into Trinidad’s Piarco Airport 6 days a week.

Bacolet Beach Club and Blue Waters Inn
Trinidad is Tobago’s larger sibling island. The flight between Trinidad and Tobago is only 20 mins long and cost £15 each way on Caribbean Airlines – Caribbean-airlines.com

Flight time London-Tobago via Antigua:
11hrs. Time difference: +4hrs.

£1 = 12.10 TT dollars.

Massive thanks and shout out to the local Division of Tourism and Transportation who couldn’t have been more helpful on each and everyone of my trips. Booking flights, helping with camera crew logistics, suggesting filming spots, hooking us up with local characters with great knowledge…the list goes on and on!

Tinie Tempah headlines MTV’s Staying Alive London Fundraising Gala ‘Found’ to raise money for fight against HIV!

Remember in the 80’s when aids and HIV campaigns were everywhere? When the overriding message for school kids, lusty teenagers and adults was wear a condom and safe sex. Well, guess what, its still a thing.

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TALIA STORM AND TINIE TEMPAH ON THE MTV ”FOUND” RED CARPET EVENT IN LONDON.

HIV is the world’s leading infectious killer and HIV/AIDS remains one of the world’s most significant public health challenges, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. 35 million people are living with HIV worldwide and an estimated 39 million people have died from AIDS-related causes so far, including 1.5 million in 2013, according to the World Health Organisation.

MTV

The key to preventing more deaths is education and getting into young minds early. Global youth brand MTV have been passionate about helping champion this crusade for years, both with programming and by events and fundraisers, and also consistently getting key influencers and celebrities on board to help spread the awareness.

TINIE
This past week, music act and man about town Tinie Tempah headlined MTV’s Staying Alive London Fundraising Gala ‘Found’ to raise money for fight against HIV.
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JASMINE WITH TINIE AND HIS MANAGER DUMI.

Tinie performed his new single ‘Not Letting Go’ for the first time on the night and the catchy summer time hook ( also sung by pop sensation Jess Glynne), had the crowds up on their feet dancing and singing with Tinie , all reciting the lyrics word for word.

tinie stage

Even when I was working at MTV for over a decade they were tirelessly fighting for air time and hitting up their bigwig A Lister’s to jump onboard their campaign, so it’s great to still see it go from strength to strength, under the leadership of the MTV Staying Alive executive director Georgia Arnold. Georgia opened the night with a touching speech, highlighting the important international work being done by the charity.

GEORGIA T
MTV EXEC DIRECTOR GEORGIA ARNOLD WITH TINIE TEMPAH.

Backstage beforehand Tinie told us “I can’t wait to perform, it’s an honour to be part of raising funds and awareness for such a worthy cause as the fight against HIV and AIDS and to be the face of the MTV Staying Alive Foundation”.
tinie stage 2

Of course Tinie (who was joined onstage by his long term DJ, DJ Charley), was impeccably dressed. A past Brit award winner and prominent figure in British fashion, Tinie was named Best Dressed Man in GQ’s Men of the Year Awards 2012 and in 2015 was selected as the ambassador for the London Menswear Collection so he is always at the top of the male grooming game. Tinie was support by the very talented singer/songwriter, Tallia Storm who sang her new single ‘Social Security’.

FOUND FUND RAISER.

At London’s Victoria House the event saw VIP’s and celebrities turn out for the exclusive, intimate fundraising gala. Attendees included MTV presenters Becca Dudley, Laura Whitmore, Dutch footballer Edgar Davids, ‘Victim’ Actress, Anna Nightingale, 
Publicist Jessica Huie MBE, singer/songwriter Sonna Rele tipped to be the next big thing from Universal Records. The evening saw a host of VIP’s in attendance including legendary Dutch footballer Edgar David’s (seen pictured with Tinie) although there was no sign of Chuka Umunna following rumours of a campaign song from old pal Tinie Tempah for his short lived Labour leadership race which he mysteriously withdraw from the following day.

tinie
TINIE WITH FOOTBALLER EDGAR DAVIDS.

On arrival we were greeted by an interactive Staying Alive space with information on the charities projects and young leaders as well as a chance to play the Big Reveal Game, which had some fantastic prizes including the top prize of an iPad Air 2. Dark mood lighting engulfed the venue as though we were on a mysterious adventure to unlock hidden secrets. The ornate Found logo – a large gold key – appeared on walls throughout, as if reminding us of the treasure to be unlocked.


The especially chosen 250 guests enjoyed a Champagne reception, unlimited drinks all evening and canapés with a twist followed by a delicious bowl food menu.

fabulettes

The unforgettable Supreme Fabulettes oversaw the auction-bidding proceedings, as they paraded throughout the crowds to entice prospect bidders to take part; their huge regalia dwarfed the guests who were spurred into action.

After the auction guests were ushered into a second room, there, to our delight was the FOUND funfair, a marketplace of retro games, candy stalls and prizes to be won.
talia new talent
SINGER / SONG WRITER SONNA RELE WITH TALIA STORM.

We found a third room and slipped into the hidden VIP lounge at the side of the stage to watch performances from headliner Tinie and support act Tallia whilst enjoying private Champagne bar service.

TALIA STAGE
TALIA STORM PERFORMS AT MTV’S FOUND FUNDRAISER.

Afterwards Tinie said: “There’s so much stigma about talking about sex. But the more you’re able to have these conversations with older people and get appropriate advice. “The most important thing is before you do it – wear a jimmy.” he added: “I know what it’s like in the heat of the moment, but stop and think. It only takes two seconds to say ‘have you got a condom? It’s your life that you’re playing with. Aids and HIV is the second biggest killer of young people in this generation. It’s affecting a lot of young Africans and I’m someone of Nigerian heritage so it’s an issue that’s quite close to me’’.

An estimated 3.2 million children are living with HIV. According to 2013 figures from the WHO, most of these children live in sub-Saharan Africa and were infected by their HIV-positive mothers during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding. Over 240 000 children [210 000–280 000] became newly infected with HIV in 2013.

MTV SHUGA.
shuga 1

MTV also keep on the ground momentum from events like this up with their on air programming. An MTV series titled SHUGA has been ground breaking in leading the way through its local storylines and pro-social narrative.

Set and filmed on location in Nairobi, the soap opera came about after UNICEF teamed up with MTV to create a health campaign to impact the lives of youths in Kenya, where an estimated 6.5 percent of its population lives with HIV.

huga 2

Shuga is an MTV television soap opera that was first aired in November 2009 on MTV Base as part of an initiative dubbed “MTV Staying Alive Ignite!” It later became a hit and was aired in 40 different African countries before it was aired internationally in over 70 television stations. It was thought to be a very controversial series by the senior generation of Kenyans because it contained some scenes that contained sexually explicit content. It bagged a Gold award in May 2010 at the World Media Festival in Hamburg, Germany in the Public Relations Health category for its vivid and uncompromising focus on love, emotions and sexual behavior amongst the Kenyan youth.

shuga 3

In 2013, production of the series was moved to Nigeria, where the third and subsequent seasons are set. Dubbed “Shuga Naija”, the new version is a multimedia campaign, which educates youths on HIV, safe sex and teen pregnancy. It also touches on maternal and child health, family planning, gender-based violence, and women empowerment. It was produced in partnership with Nigeria’s “National Agency for the Control of AIDS” (NACA). The season 3 of the series was broadcast via 88 television stations across the world, with estimated household viewers of over 550 million and MTV Shuga, has a combined reach of over 1 billion households.

The MTV Staying Alive Foundation.

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The MTV Staying Alive Foundation is an international content-producing and grant-giving organisation dedicated to stopping the spread of HIV among young people. The Foundation creates and distributes challenging and entertaining HIV-prevention content across MTV channels and with third-party broadcasters, while finding and funding young leaders who are tackling the HIV epidemic in their own communities. To date, MTV Staying Alive Foundation programming has reached 100% of the top 50 countries affected by HIV, and has awarded 500grants in 66 countries around the world, distributing over $5 million to grassroots HIV-prevention projects and directly benefitting 2.6 million young people.

Modern HIV testing is extremely accurate. A single screening test is correct more than 99% of the time. Staying Alive is not just a token CSR brand. So far it has helped change lives. Since 2005, Staying Alive have reached over 500 million young people, distributed over 7 million condoms, helped 200,000 get people tested and supported the growth of 538 projects worldwide.

(ALL PHOTOS COURTESY MTV Staying Alive Foundation).

Jasmine’s Juice – Beyond Bollywood, The Musical Comes To London!

This week saw the opening of the brand new west-end musical ‘Beyond Bollywood’ making its UK Premiere at the London Palladium, just seconds from Oxford Circus tube.

BB1
BEYOND BOLLYWOOD IS SHOWING NOW FOR 60 PERFORMANCES AT THE LONDON PALLADIUM.
All pics copyright Amit Ashar & Ibrahim Merchant.

The show premiered in Mumbai, India in the summer of 2014 and has garnered tremendous appreciation ever since. With a heaving red carpet of princess-like-ladies wrapped in jewel coloured saris, paparazzi, onlookers, camera crews and celebs like Wayne Sleep, the premier night in London was buzzing!

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The diverse audience were treated to an incredible show full of cheesy lines, blingtastic pomp and were transported right into the epicentre of a full on Bollywood film scene.

BB

However, be warned, you can’t attend a Bollywood spectacle without also transporting yourself into a fairy-tale state of mind. Cheesy lines (‘‘this theatre is my heart and dance is my heartbeat!’’ ‘’Follow your heart, where dreams turn into reality!’’ And ‘’there is nothing to fear when Balloo is here!) and ghostly apparitions that appear in a cloud of white dust, are all par for the course, and like a pantomime you have to get into the spirit of things to truly appreciate this genre.

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Set in Munich Germany and India, the story follows Shailey Shergill, whose mother owned a run down Indian theatre in Munich that her father is intent on selling. Her mothers dream is to turn it into a success with traditional Indian dance shows. Shailey travels to India and is taken on an adventure of Indian culture, festivals, rituals and dance that are breath taking!

Written, choreographed and directed by self-taught dancer Rajeev Goswami, with lyrics by Irfan Siddiqui and featuring an original, infectious score by Salim-Sulaiman, we were hit hard with a high-impact, full techni-colour, leaping, spinning and twirling dance opening, right from the start. A group of live musicians with their instruments set the scene for the story with their tabla’s, sitars, keyboards and vocals all conversing together onstage. 45 dancers, technicians and musicians from India make up the cast and its obvious with their style and technique that they’re the real deal.

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The dancing is mesmerizing with its very stylised Indian choreography, with staccato hand gestures and swirling, twirling spins that Margot Fonteyn would be impressed by. In fact, so much of the choreography mirrors a western ballet or musical in structure. Barefoot, grounded pirouettes like ballerinas, thudding foot taps like tap dancers, even a pas de deux routine with male and female solos that came together to form a perfect otherworldly union. The sounds of the rhythm of shaking ankle bells, juxtaposed against intricate body popping locking techniques had us all gripped.

With huge, full cast, ensemble song and dance numbers, to tracks like Jai Ho (the very catchy song composed by A. R. Rahman for the 2008 film, Slumdog Millionaire), and oodles of high intensity dynamic smiley dancers, this is Bollywood come to life in an eye popping, mindboggling way. Beyond Bollywood mixes Indian and western dancing and fuses them with a pizzazz and vigor in a way that I’ve not ever seen before (and as a former dance student, trust me, I’ve seen it all!).

BB4

The musical explores the friction between two choreographers who specialize in traditional folk dancing and Bollywood hip-hop routines. During a section, which showed a western music video style, sexy girls dance routine, the character onstage looked disgusted and unimpressed stating ‘’this is not choreography but pornography!’’. Hilariously, my mother turned to me with a nod and knowing look that said ‘’I told you so!’’

The high points of the show are a black and white gloved number titled ‘‘Sheila’’, which is arresting and hypnotic, as if you are sat in the center of an exotic Bob Fosse number, a beautiful contemporary dance section, a traditional Kathak routine, a lilting Garba dance from Gujarat, a high impact Bhangra dance originated in the Punjab, a dreamy gold and red shaolin monk style Chhau martial arts dance and a section where ‘its raining men’’.

BB5

As well as all the high impact energy, fantastical staging, flashing lights, haze smoke, loud noise, fiery dancing and drumming, there is also much visual spectacle with huge colourful Vegas showgirl and Indian regal costumes. In fact, the ‎incredible array of jewel-coloured costumes seem to change in mere seconds over and again, as do set designs and graphics honouring Indian deities, cultural traditions, festivals and landmarks.

There’s also much slapstick humour too with quirky, contradictory characters. My mum was high as a kite afterwards telling me ‘’it reminded me of my motherland that I left behind when I came to the UK in the sixties. It reminded me of our big family gatherings, colourful festivities and the sheer beauty and exuberance of my homeland. I feel very proud!’’

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It’s clear that the very best of Bollywood’s creative talent have brought this spectacular event to life but they’re in London for 60 performances only. The last big Indian west end extravaganza was way back in 2002 when Andrew Lloyd Webber brought Bombay Dreams to London’s west end. Now he’s done it again with Beyond Bollywood.

The colour, energy and sheer exuberance of Beyond Bollywood is a great experience for audiences from all backgrounds and takes you on a truly authentic cultural tour of India capturing the fire, heat and wonder of the country. Rajeev Goswami has accomplished his mission to bring an authentic representation of India to the west, beyond the glitz and sheen and cultural clichés synonymous with Bollywood. Beyond Bollywood is not just a musical; it’s a theatrical experience never seen before outside a Bollywood movie.

Many snooty brands that gave this show negative reviews just didnt get the tongue-in-cheek vibe of the genre. It’s not Shakespeare-it’s kitsch!
3.5 / 5 STARS FROM ME!

Visit http://beyondbollywoodmusical.com/ for more details on the show.

Namibian Annual Music Awards 2015 – Namibian Music Stars Riding The Charts And Flying High!

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JASMINE PRESENTING THE BEST ALBUM AWARD AT THE NAMIBIAN MUSIC AWARDS 2015.

Joan Collins was in New York this week being honoured by private members club, The Friars Club. As she made her toast she stated ‘’there is this old saying that goes around in Hollywood ‘’at 20 a woman is like America – fresh, new and ready to be discovered. After 40, a woman’s like Asia – she’s mysterious, exotic and inscrutable. After 50 a woman is like Australia – not easy to get to but when you get there she is warm and welcoming. After 60 a woman is like Africa. Everyone knows where it is but no-one wants to go there!’’

This shows us how out of touch with the modern world both Joan Collins and Hollywood are if they’re still thinking like this. Africa is the continent that most of my media savvy peers and business minds have been clamouring to visit this past few years. With the world finally waking up to the fact that it’s not just about sickness and poverty, Africa has been quietly killing the fashion, media and business worlds. You only need look at who is buying up most of London’s expensive property (Nigerians) and the fact that the world’s richest black woman is not now Oprah, but Nigerian oil tycoon Folorunsho Alakija with an estimated fortune of $7.3 billion. Africa isn’t just safaris and exotica though. It has culture, history and a landscape that is unrivalled.

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AIR NAMIBIA FLEW US FROM LONDON, VIA FRANKFURT TO NAMIBIA IN THEIR LUXURIOUS CABINS WITH INCREDIBLY HOSPITABLE CREW.

Just this past weekend I was in Namibia for the 5th Annual Namibian Music Awards which took place again in the seaside town of Swakopmund, at the Swakopmund Sports Indoor Centre. The Town of Swakopmund was once again, the proud ‘Official Host’ of the Namibian Annual Music Awards 2015. (NAMA). Flight operators don’t make it easy though; with us having to take three flights to get there from London, but luckily Air Namibia have a first class service that is above and beyond comfortable! Also, once you’re there its more than worth it with first class hotels (my faves are The Swakapmund Hotel and Entertainment centre and Hotel Eberwein), restaurants (my favourite is the Jetty which is akin to a New York brassiere right on the ocean on stilts), and incredible fresh food options.

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FOOD ALL ACROSS SWAKOPMUND IS DIVERSE AND DELICIOUS- MY FAVE- THE JETTY RESTAURANT RIGHT ON THE SEA ON STILTS!

I was lucky enough to be working there as an international judge for the music awards and also presenting the Best Album award on the night. We spent 30 hours flying there, a day and a half working, with a day off afterwards and 30 hours flying back via air Namibia, so I was up in the air more than I was actually in the country!

As ever, the sheer world-class standard of both the show and performers blew me away. With a huge stage, striking set, incredible graphics and lighting as well as huge screens and camera cranes, this was one expensive, well-organized event, and one that surpassed expectations. I’ve been to many award shows around Africa and I have never seen one being delivered like this years’ NAMA’s.

As is the norm across the African continent, the awards ceremony was split over two nights, with the Industry Awards taking place on Friday to award the smaller categories, and the main event on Saturday night awarded artists in the higher-profile, more popular categories. Both nights of the ‘blue carpet’ event were televised live on Namibian TV on main broadcast sponsor NBC who had a buzzing red carpet crew, which streamed online throughout. Many people watched the awards via live stream with over 17,000 viewers with 62% in Namibia, Rest of Africa 18%, Europe, America and Asia 20%. Their tech, handled by the MTC brand, was more on point than most London awards I’ve attended with ‘’NAMA free wi-fi’’ running strong across the venue for social media engagement and of course a lot of banter and trolling of performers and winners.

The show hosts were local stars Gazza and Lady May, who was driven into the arena in a uber flash Bentley for the opening performance alongside Keko (from Uganda). Later one of the rock performers The Namibian Cowboy rode onstage on a Harley motorbike, and the best female winner Oteya started her performance spinning down on a high wire from the vertiginous ceiling. One winning act was even accompanied onstage by a tribe of authentic Herero tribes people dancing and hollering.

Show host / artist Gazza won numerous awards! The award for male artist of the year as well as Best Collaboration and Radio Song of the Year for ‘Shuna’ featuring DJ Bucks and Uhuru from South Africa, as well as Best Musical Event of the Year for his Ondjila album launch were all his for the taking.

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WINNERS AT THIS YEARS NAMA MUSIC AWARDS 2015.
(CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT; BEST HIPHOP – KK02, BEST R&B – LIL D, BEST MALE – GAZZA, BEST FEMALE – OTEYA)
ALL SHOW PERFORMANCE PHOTOS COPYRIGHT – NAMA.

This year’s show also included live performances by StarDust, Nianell, Riana Nel, Bullet Ya Kaoko, Tswazis and Female Donkey. My favourites were Female Donkey, Tswazis and Nianell.The vivacious Tswazis, kept us all bouncing in our chairs and on our feet with their dynamic choreography, straight after they won the album of the year category, which I presented to them.

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PERFORMERS AT THE NAMA2015 SHOW.
(CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT; FEMALE DONKEY, SEAN NAUDE (THE NAMIBIAN COWBOY), LIZE EHLERS, ELIZE)
ALL SHOW PERFORMANCE PHOTOS COPYRIGHT – NAMA.

NAMA Executive Chairman, Tim Ekandjo told me ‘‘the performances were on point, entertainment value was high, the stage was bigger and better and the production of the show was accurate. That is exactly what makes a great show. After having delivered a sterling NAMAs 2014, we knew that we needed to maintain the standard or improve it and we decided to improve it against all odds to be the best amongst the best in Africa and the world, and we have achieved that with flying colours. We would therefore like to confidently declare the 2015 NAMAs as a resounding success!’’

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NIANELL PERFORMING AT NAMA2015.
ALL SHOW PERFORMANCE PHOTOS COPYRIGHT – NAMA.

Hundreds of music lovers both local and regional flew in for the NAMAs. It was also attended by Ministers and political leaders who spoke about how proud they were that Namibian music was starting to get a wider regional recognition around the continent.

Now habitual stage invader Kanye has a lot to answer for. Nowadays acts globally are all trying to pull a rebellious moment onstage. Namibian artist LeShawn bounded onstage near the end of the ceremony to cuss the media and the public for not paying attention to his music, and industry efforts. The audience didn’t bat an eyelid and all continued with no drama lol.

The same morning as the show there was also a conference on ‘How To Succeed in the pan-African music industry’ seminar hosted by the NAMA Academy where a panel of international judges including myself, talked about our opinions on the songs and videos and took questions from the gathered audience. Artists turned up in huge numbers and engaged with us for over an hour. In fact one of this years nominees was spotted and earmarked for international collaborations, posed for Pan African breakthrough with extended support from Pan African and international media partners, showing that NAMA is an unrivaled primary platform to showcase and celebrate the best of Namibian music to audiences not just across Namibia, but also across Namibia’s borders to audiences across the rest of Africa and the world – opportunities that have never been possible for Namibian artists historically.

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THE BEST SKYDIVE LOCATION EVER- OVER THE NAMIB DESERT!

The next day I was determined to make the most of my day off so spent the morning skydiving, the afternoon on a sea safari and the evening quad biking through the Namib Desert.

sea safari
THE SEA SAFARI- DOLPHIN CRUISE SAW US FROLICK WITH SEAL, PELICANS, FLAMINGOS AND WHALES!.

An incredible country with very welcoming people and an abundance to do, from visiting local villages and tribes, fishing, safari, quad biking and sand boarding in the desert, dolphin cruises where you can view thousands of friendly seals, pelicans, dolphin and flamingos or just marvel at the unusual birds and plants that populate the region. Palm-lined streets, immaculate old buildings and well-kept gardens give Swakop (as the locals call it) a unique atmosphere, and make it a pleasant oasis in which to spend a few days.

Swakopmund is Namibia’s largest coastal town and is a huge draw for merrymakers and vacationers from all over the globe. This seaside resort showcases its German origins in its European-style colonial architecture, creating a breath-taking juxtaposition against the landscape of the Namib Desert.

African music is booming, and so is its web presence. Ever-expanding numbers of websites, blogs, e-tailers, Tumblrs and online magazines dedicated to African-influenced sounds represent a genre of music that is as fast evolving as the social and online media that shows it love. A new generation of African and diaspora music stars like P Squared, Ice Prince and D ‘Banj have gained attention in recent years, and African hits are a perennial trend on international radio and chart playlists too. Don’t sleep on the amount of talent this great continent is developing and selling globally.

This years Namibian Annual Music Awards juxtaposed with this absolutely unique location, made it a musical adventure with action both in the air and on the ocean. Salute Namibia!

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QUAD BIKING ACROSS THE NAMIBIAN DESERT IS A ONCE IN A LIFETIME EXPERIENCE!-IT’S WHERE THEY SHOOT STAR WARS AND MAD MAX!

List of ‪#‎NAMAs2015‬ winners Saturday night:

Best Male Artist: Gazza
Best Female Artist: Oteya
Album of the Year: Tswazis
Radio Song of the Year: Gazza
Song of the Year: Paradox
Best Newcomer: Kalux
Most Popular Artist: Paradox
Best Music Video: Black Vulcanite
Best Duo/Group: StarDust
Best Collaboration: Gazza
Best House: StarDust
Best Afro Pop (inclusive of Township Disco): Oteya
Best R&B: Lil D
Best Rap/Hip-Hop: KK
Best Kwaito: Exit
Best Traditional: Donsy and Daisy
Best Soukous/Kwasa: Blossom
Best Damara Punch: Dixon
Best Oviritje: Bullet ya Kaoko

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