Festivals, Health & Well-being

The magic of Soul Circus

SOUL CIRCUS 6

If I thought Wilderness festival was love love love (which I certainly did), then I’ve found an event which raised that by a 1000.  An event that compelled me so much that when leaving, I bought myself a ticket for next year. I didn’t even really have to think about it- it HAD to be done.  Now that has to say a lot, right?

Based in the glorious setting of the Cotswolds, Gloucestershire, Soul Circus is a small festival carefully and lovingly made. I arrived on the coach and my heart did a little happy jig as I could see the bell tents and fairy lights and the roaming fields around it.  We pitched up in an area with ample green around us- no need to be squashed together like sardines.  I really liked the fact that it took me just over 5 minutes to walk from the tent to the main site, and that queuing for a shower took 5 minutes as opposed to 45. I loved the fact I got to see familiar faces and that mums and dads could let their children run and play and still easily be able to see them and keep an eye on them. Where doing a 360 meant you could pretty much see all the main tents and plan your day easily. This is the kind of event that proves bigger doesn’t have to mean better. Its population size of around 4,000 meant for a restful and reflective time for ME. In an event that focuses on health and well-being, that felt so important.

I didn’t however love forgetting to buy a higher seasoned sleeping bag and choosing to ignore the fact that the end of August in the UK countryside can be seriously cold! Lessons now learned 🙂

My highlights

There are so many styles of yoga classes by many experienced and big names that you’ll be spoiled for choice, and happily exhausted! I attended a few of these, and a lot of talks. I love listening to people, sitting there and scribbling their best bits of advice. Soul Circus had lots of choice in this regard from excellent speakers, and I wasn’t disappointed. Then there’s the food demos, gong baths, dance classes, wild running, aerial silk classes, classes for children, life drawing, boob printing, talks from nutritionists and more on offer!

I saw Jasmine Hemsley who gave a food demo, book signing for her recipe book East by West, and an informative and inspiring talk on Ayurveda. The discussion of Ayurveda resonated with me in a health respect and made a lot of practical sense and I immediately did the dosha assessment via her website (I’m mostly Pita it seems!). Jasmine was funny, lovely, well-informed and super interesting. She also runs her own sound bath experiences in London- I immediately whacked this on the “to-do” list! Find her and more details at: http://www.jasminehemsley.com/

Zofie Lloyd-Gucia, aka “The Happiness Coach” spoke to us about the significance of our beliefs. Believe you are something and you will prove it. My favourite take-away was when she told us “if you argue for your limitations you get to keep them”. Even if something is factually true, or has some fact to it, do the beliefs you are carrying actually serve you? Zofie shares her own personal challenges, but approaches life with joy and gratitude. Take a look at Zofie’s amazing work and website, offering 1:1 coaching, free weekly meditation sessions and more: http://www.relaxmehappy.co.uk/

Keeley Dann: professional dancer extraordinaire, and super relationship coach based in London. I attended her Beyoncé class which was broken down easily for those of us who are not natural dancers, with the emphasis on confidence and fun. In a separate workshop, Keeley spoke with us about self compassion, acceptance and appreciation, and is a charismatic, personable and knowledgeable speaker. Check her out for more events or contact her for 1: 1 sessions: http://www.keeleydann.com/ Absolute girl crushing on these gorgeous ladies, Keeley and Zofie, and took so much away from them.

Kundalini yoga class. Have you heard of it? The way I describe it is, remember when you were a child and you’d feel so angry about something you’d pummel your pillow to let that anger out? Kundalini yoga focuses more on the spiritual than the physical and encourages you to release toxic and negative emotions. I admit as a first timer, it felt a bit “out there” but I LOVED it!! Absolutely loved it and the after effect was immediate. It resonated so much that one of the first things I did was get back to London and check out local classes!

Radical Life Drawing by the Anti-Diet Riot Club. I loved the fact that the speakers at this event spoke positively about body image and not everyone being the size or the body that the media portrays. I felt it was a really good call to include this at a yoga event where perhaps a smaller body size felt the norm, to remind you that healthy encompasses all sizes. I love the message and manifesto this group radiates, not just about sizes but diversity in all its glory. You can find workshops and life drawing events in London, if they are not at a festival near you! http://antidietriotclub.co.uk/

What I recommend

Get yourself a ticket! Honestly: if self care and wellness is your jam, current ticket prices are an absolutely bargain at just £125 each! If you consider how much yoga classes alone cost, this is an absolute steal.

As above, don’t miss the talks- there are some amazing speakers and life coach professionals here and they each made such a positive difference to me and can to you too.

Check out the stalls- beautiful independent jewellery, art and clothing stalls. I bought some amazing crystals here for a fraction of what it would have cost in London! Varying in  prices but all super beautiful to look at.

Don’t fret about “not being into yoga”. I wasn’t! There are all capabilities and levels here.

Take tea bags and a flask! You might be charged a bit for hot water, but it’s still cheaper than buying tea or coffee anywhere all the time. We didn’t have serious rain, but it was cold on the Saturday, when I probably drank 10 cups of hot drinks!

Bring snacks! Soul Circus didn’t really appear to offer any of the usual errr rubbish I like to indulge in! Well it’s a health and well-being event!!

Get a group of you if you can! It would be a magic place to bring friends along to chill with!

https://www.soulcircus.yoga/

 

 

Festivals

Wilderness Festival- because here we all belong

So, it’s been a few days but I’m still on a high from what was such a special event. Wilderness is just pure love, and gin and tonic joy! Where you are in a community where you feel you all belong, where there is no outsider, there is no “better than” and there is no class divide. This was my first time and hopefully won’t be my last.

It was all rush rush rush leading up to getting on the coach and when I did, all my stresses (mainly at fighting my way through rush hour commuters which made me feel FML on several occasions!) literally seemed to melt away. Cornbury Park, the festivals location, is in a really beautiful location (I mean REALLY, so gorgeous) in a part of Oxford and the UK not really known to me. I now realise I need to fix that.  It’s about a 10 minute drive from the village of Woodstock and the Royal Blenheim Palace and the grounds of the festival are just dreamy and almost made for such an event. Who has a freshwater lake in the middle of a festival?!

I arrived at 12.30pm via National Express on the Thursday. I was grumbling a bit that it was a bit early, as it left London just after 10am and we were unable to access the festival until about 3.30pm that day. However, on the positive it was absolutely perfect in that the fields were empty of tents and I got to see them in their untouched glory, plus we had our pick of where to pitch up. The National Express is also such a convenient way to get there and took me just over 2 hours direct from Victoria. Totally recommend it- easy and environmentally friendly too. It was super chilled both ways, with everyone snoring on the way back!

Highlights

I have so many warm and wonderful highlights!

-The talks were exceptional. I’m excited to tell you about them, they were honestly so good.  I listened to Anna Hart in the “Book Tent” discussing ethical travel and her book “Departures” which is a book of Anna’s solo travel adventures. Anna was funny and interesting in discussing her work, and answered questions on how to get published and committing to your own style of writing.  She discussed ethical travel as to think about including getting the “holiday prep” such as nails and tanning done in the travel you are arriving in, to support the local people. To consider booking the local accommodation or bed and breakfast’s rather than chain hotels. To consider going further for longer periods of time or going away long haul less often. Small and totally achievable things. She made me think, she made me laugh, she has an impressive CV,  and was so down to earth and lovely. She ALSO gave a really exciting sounding travel trip (I scribbled it down!) called “Do the North” which are short kayaking experiences in Sweden where you totally switch off and get away from it all. Including links for Anna’s book and the “Do the North” experience here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Departures-Guide-Letting-Adventure-Time/dp/0751569569 and https://dothenorth.com/

Roy Gill was one of the speakers in the Forum tent, who gave us just a 15 minute but so captivating overview about his life history and how he came to be running in own business: The Dairy restaurant in Clapham, London. I really enjoyed his chat and clearly his huge work ethos. Roy told us he dropped out of university, persevered with an interest in cooking and is now running a hugely successful restaurant. He, like Anna, was totally down to earth and answered questions around audience members cooking queries (I loved at this point how another member chipped in on the best way to cook a chicken!), and sustainable and ethical working. I also thought it was compelling what Roy had to say on the vibe and ethos he wanted the Dairy to uphold. The fact that his staff may spend 60-80 hours a week at work, so careful considerations were made of the plan of the restaurant (open plan element connecting the kitchen and its staff to the restaurant staff and clients), the choice of music, and choosing to  “run it like a family” and how this informs for a positive and more upbeat environment. Roy has a farm in Croydon so he was explaining his meat is sourced directly from there, and his food waste goes into a recycle bin to return it directly to the farm soil. Sounds incredible. Here’s where you can check his restaurant out- it’s definitely on my list! http://the-dairy.co.uk/

-Swimming in a freshwater lake in +30’s temperatures were incredible. You can do it in your underwear if you forget your cossie: no-one cares here!

-It got me thinking more about the environment. The festival promotes green living and recycling highly, and all the plates/cutlery and cups advertised the green and recyclable message. Alice and I attended a talk on the huge amount of waste in the ocean and it got us talking about everything we use on a daily or weekly or monthly basis; cotton wool, sanitary pads, baby wipes, plastic bottles, feeling overwhelmed with the amount we maybe “should” be changing and instead opting to positively change 1-2 things in our lives going forward as small but achievable steps.

-There is a huge focus on health and wellness. Music is important, but it’s not the focus of the festival. Granted some of it maybe on the pricey side, but you can totally opt out of buying or purchasing things, as we did, and definitely not feel excluded. There was still free events that you could enjoy and partake in- not as much, but still available.

-Ok so I never went to this BUT The Togetherness tent sounded awesome- creative and alternative workshops on nipple decorating, “spooning”, “how to have better sex mindfully”. I just loved the options here! I don’t think you had to go with a partner necessarily either- some of these were talking only, no physical contact required 🙂

-Alternative festival options such as Hip Hop Karaoke, Gods Jukebox and the Alternative Miss Wilderness are Wilderness staples and I LOVED them! I cried at God’s Jukebox, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Members of the audience request songs to be played by the Wilderness Orchestra, with added dedications to loved ones. Tear jerking and humbling dedications that made you feel glad to be alive 🙂 Told you it was all about love this festival didn’t I?!?

My Recommendations

-Travel with National Express if you want a fuss free journey. Yes if coming from London you do get there quite early on the Thursday but that has its perks, and the grounds are so beautiful to relax and enjoy until things get going.

-Ask the staff on arrival where the little bridge is and head to that campsite to pitch up there! It’s a perfect spot as you are close enough to the lake and getting into the event, therefore not far to get back to the tent in the evening

-Take note of the fancy dress theme and dress up! Or not- you won’t look weird if you don’t. But this is the festival to let your hair down and NOT CARE!!!

-Forget glass and cans. You can take cans to your tent but they won’t let you take the cans into the main festival area. Therefore just make sure you have something to carry your drinks in!

-There are ATMs on site, but they WILL charge you £2.75. it’s a festival, to be expected, so take enough cash to last you!

-Consider as Alice and I did the deposit scheme to pay for the ticket entry, however just note this charges you a little bit more (£20, £30 more?) for this option.

Final thing to say, just have a brilliant and beautiful time!! I honestly loved it- it was the right size for me, I loved the talks, the alternative workshops (we are still a little sad we never got to make the Frieda Kahlo headdress due to the popularity of the workshops though!), the yummy vegan and veggie options (especially the chocolate avocado pot from Onist and the yumminess from The Good Egg) You. Will. Love. It!!!

Please let me know if you book in for next year as I will be so so jealous- lazy bird tickets (early bird sold out!) for the super keen came out TODAY!! https://www.wildernessfestival.com/

Festivals, London Living

Happy to be back at The Chap Festival 2018. Enjoying the day with London’s fashion finest!

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If there was one event I’d encourage you to attend in London, it would be the Chap Olympiad. It takes place every year in July, in the beautiful and elegant Bedford Square: which I am told is the only fully Georgian square in London. Whether you are a Londoner, or visiting the city, you will absolutely love this quiet masterpiece of an event.

I believe this year was the 13th year of the festival, organised by Gustav Temple who is the founder of the Chap magazine, which details itself as ” a journal for the modern gentleman” http://thechap.co.uk/2018/07/05/fashion-at-the-chap-olympiad/ The magazines, also were sold on the day, come out quarterly and offer simply beautiful fashion articles and advice for the distinguished modern gent. I certainly recommend taking a look. Subscriptions would be a novel and special gift for a friend, partner or father who has an interest in finer male fashion and dandy wear. People who attend the Chap event range from general vintage and period enthusiasts, to those who wear such garments on a regular and even daily basis, and some of them look as though they’ve been styled directly from the magazine itself.

Bedford Square itself is a small and charming area, and absolutely perfect for an event of this kind. In the heat, the green is shaded by several leafy trees of which bunting adorns. Period music is played from speakers around the green, and the format changes slightly every year, but this year a jazz band played later on in the day and regaled us all in the sunshine.

\The day itself is split into several fantastically silly games (eg, “Not playing tennis”) and attempts at breaking world records (eg,”how many people can smoke from a pipe in 1 minute”) and as well as being a celebration of such beautiful fashion, it’s also a sheer celebration of English eccentricity. A compere introduces and leads the day, and rounds the partaking ladies and gents up. There is normally a central stage and this year was the first year without it, but I’m not sure this changed the overall feeling of the festival too dramatically. Changes are as good as a rest they say!

Certainly many of the attendees like to take part in the fun of these Olympiad games. But the absolute essence of the day is the sipping of Pimms and G&T’s and just people watching; marvelling at some of the absolute glorious individuals who come in what is mostly early 20th century regalia. Arrive early and you can grab yourself a table for yourself and friends, or bring a picnic blanket, spread out on the grass and just take in the visual feast surrounding you. It really is just lovely.

This year I went alone, and took part in “working” behind the scenes on a stall selling the Chap merchandise. Beautiful pocket square, cravats, magazine subscriptions, lapels and cufflinks. I had always meant to return to the event since first attending in 2014 but July has been quite busy the last few years and returning had become more and more difficult. This time, the idea of working was also a perfect way to return! I don’t mind attending events alone, but this is certainly one you’d get more out of by attending with special friends.

I got chatting to many wonderful attendees who had come over from the US, Canada and the continent and specifically timed their visits to attend this event. All spoke of being starved of events like this at home, and really appreciating the vintage scene in London and the Chap event itself. Some of the gentlemen who attended the stall tipped their hats when saying hello to me which was just lovely! I was even lucky enough to be treated to a few G&T’s on the stall (and ended up a little squiffy!) It just made me feel so wonderfully happy to be in London and enjoy the special events we have here. My team of fellow stewards were lovely chaps and ladies. And the Chap founder and organiser of this event Gustav Temple is the epitome of being a true gent and made the event very special.

The Chap takes place around the 14th July every year- do not forget it! Tickets were £25 this year and well worth the price. If you are looking for a special occasion for yourself and a loved one, or perhaps with a larger group of friends, mark this one in the diary; and make sure you give yourself enough time to find an outfit!

Super thanks to Gustav, Hayley, Marcus, Paul, Jimmy Keck (visiting from Providence Rhode Island, US!) and all the others who made the day so wonderful.

 

 

 

 

Festivals

How to get free entry to top UK music festivals

Volunteering is one of those means. There’s a “catch” for sure, in that you might have to get up earlier than you’d ideally like, or possibly be up later than planned. Your timetable might clash with a favourite musician (but hopefully you can always swap that shift), but ultimately, with key festivals these days costing nearing £200 for the ticket alone, volunteering your time can save you serious money, as well as actually be a fun way to gain entry to festivals. Also, when thinking about a festival such as Glastonbury, where getting actually into the event could be slim pickings for securing a ticket, volunteering gives you the assuredness of knowing you’re in.

I love music, and I used to frequently attend music events, particularly as a student. As well as general gigs, and one day festivals held in London, I’ve been to the Isle of Wight Festival, Glastonbury 3 times, Leeds festival, Camp Bestival, End of the Road, and Benicassim in Spain. I have Wilderness festival lined up this August and am pretty excited about that! I was a student for pretty much all of these former events, and the kind of money required for each 3-4 day event can be serious business, as you probably know. Travel, camping expenses if required, food/drink and spending money are enough on their own and if you fancy the idea of off setting some of this cost, well, read on!

My volunteering experiences

1)I attended Glastonbury on a voluntary basis in 2014 as a recycling crew member for the charity Kiota (https://www.kiota.org/). I think the option was to select a set shift pattern you felt worked best for you, and I chose the earlies. I think we started at 6am and worked until midday.  That meant you had the best part of the day free, when everything was starting to come alive.  The voluntary teams at Glasto have a cornered off staff campsite, which means you are guaranteed some peace and quiet away from the very noisy throngs! There is also access to incredible free food- in 2014 we were fed the most amazing hot vegetarian meals, and we had access to clean and hot showers. It rained and it was muddy, in typical Glasto fashion, and I realised that such huge music festivals are probably not for me BUT the entire organisation of the volunteering team I was with was amazing. We worked hard and had fun, and we knew that our litter picking was not only helping the environment but raising money for such a worthwhile charity. I saw Suzanne Vega and Beth Orton, just 2-3 rows in front of them, stood alone in what I think was the acoustic tent. As well as seeing Dolly Parton, they were especially special.  How to volunteer for Glastonbury 2019? Well I recommend Kiota for starters. Check them out here: https://www.facebook.com/kiotarecyclingcrewglastonbury/

2)End of the Road festival, based in the very beautiful Larmer Tree Gardens in Dorset, was recommended to me as a quiet, alternative festival. Quiet and alternative sold it to me, as I say above, with the realisation that Glasto was just a bit too much (that might be funny coming from someone who lives in London I appreciate!) Although I have to say, when signing up, I was a little unsure of it being the wisest of ideas as I literally knew only 2-3 names on the headliners list! I put myself forward as a steward for this event last year in 2017, and therefore knew to expect I’d obviously be talking to members of the public and directing people. I love talking to people, so that was fine! My photos below (top 3 being Glasto and bottom 5 being End of the Road) show sunshine and bare legs. Actually most of the time it was epically freezing and the worse weather I have ever experienced at a festival! We were perpetually chilled to the bone and came home sick! (That is for a separate blog on remember to be prepared for the British weather and what to take with you to festivals!!) As a staff member, again, we had a cornered off camping area and access to snack food such as bread rolls and soup, packets of cereal and milk, biscuits, crisps and sweets.  Access to hot water and a microwave was available- also really handy if you were bringing porridge pots or pot noodles. The staff quarters to sit and eat was small and there often was not enough space- still, we welcomed it though, when we were hungry and cold!

What we did: on one day we had to steward a gaming area to ensure members of the public didn’t walk over a rounder game. On another day we had to man a small stage to ensure health and safety was maintained. On the first day we stood at one of the main gates and answered questions and handed out recycling bags to people arriving. We did one early, one late and one day shift and I remember they were super flexible about swaps, as long as they were told and also were happy to receive an email from you in advance saying “I really want to see x, please don’t schedule me to be working then!” It wasn’t taxing work, sometimes it was a little bit difficult when it was raining and freezing though- apparently it is normally just gorgeous weather there, so we just had a little bad luck in that respect!

My best gig from the event? Father John Misty! Seeing him on the main stage with the moon lighting up behind him was beautiful.  If you like the sound of the lower key alternative events, check out Wicked Events as they were a super company to be organised by for this event and I see they actually work with a lot of smaller festivals that might take your fancy: http://www.wickedevents.co.uk/

Overall summary: neither event was a lot of work and both of these experiences, even in spite of the weather, were great. I met some awesome people, saw bands I did know and many I didn’t and worked with really professional teams who co-ordinate a lot of people to make the events even more special for everyone attending.

My top tips: 

-The companies will probably be looking for stewards/recycling teams months before the actual event starts, so get in early!

-Be prepared to pay a deposit upfront which is made to ensure you complete your shifts

-You are getting a great deal, so be grateful for that and be happy! Otherwise the companies you are working with may not want to work with you again, in case you want to return to them!!

-Join the facebook pages for the teams you are working with!! There you will find lots of insider tips and information from people who have worked those festivals before.

-Find out what facilities for cooking/heating up food/access to hot water/free food the festival you are connecting to offers for staff. Can save you serious £££!

I’d love to know any festivals you have worked with, any charity or organisations you would particular recommend! Feel free to comment below.