a july playlist

a weekend at centre parcs

The last time I visited Centre Parcs, I was ten years old with blonde hair and my most prized possession was my microscooter. As I'm sure you can imagine, a lot has changed since then. That's why when N first invited me for a weekend getaway there with her lovely family, I was initially a little skeptical. What would it be like going as a scooterless 24 year old? Still as freewheeling?

the big disco, leeds

This morning 'I Feel Love' by Donna Summer came on the radio, and I found myself smiling remembering back to the beginning of this month at The Big Disco.

It was Friday night and we arrived at Sheaf Cafeteria, the home of Duke Studios and a brunch hotspot I've been dying to try for a while, unsure of what to expect. Would there be flares? Would there be Saturday Night Fever moves and John Travolta style curtains? Would there be a dodgy school disco DJ talking in his finest radio voice, singing along to every track?

I noticed the grooving kids in yellow sunglasses shaking their outstretched hands first. Then the ladies wearing sparkly and reflective dresses looking insanely cool, sipping beer and eating aesthetically pleasing grub. And finally, I looked up. There behind all the smiling faces was THE BIGGEST DISCO BALL IN THE WORLD, shining brightly over the Leeds landscape like a diamond planet in our orbit for one night only.

The size of two and a half double decker buses, this piece of art was commissioned by Chic's Nile Rogers originally for his Bestival 2014 set, and exuded the same amount of character and charm as the Man, the Myth, himself. I couldn't keep my eyes off of it... Quite a feat considering everything else at the celebration: street dancers in light-up neon body suits, the colourful Carnival that later paraded through the eye-catching, delicious food stalls, and the DISCO.  The music was everything we'd hoped for. At 7pm Ms. Summer's classic blared from the speakers, at Sheaf Cafeteria and all across Yorkshire at mini-discos, soundtracking the dancing of a collective 25,000 people. 50,000 arms propelled in the air. Later, DJ Yoda and Greg Wilson continued the tunes and were AMAZING.

That night, I drank wonderful Berliner Pilsner beer (who had sponsored the event), moved my feet along with thousands of other glittered-up revellers, met some lovely lovely bloggers, and went to bed feeling a lot of love for this city I reside in. The Big Disco has been a true highlight of my summer.

let it be - leeds grand theatre

Let It Be / Mon 11 - Sat 16 July 2016 / Leeds Grand Theatre

In Britain, we LOVE The Beatles. We inextricably know The Beatles. Grown from the soil of our cheeky and chipped smiles, the four Liverpool lads are the amalgamation of our culture. Well, everything good about it. Full glossy fringes and perfect pop songs that will never fade. They're within us; we within them. How then, almost 40 years on, is it possible to bring something new to the legacy of the Fab Four?

I'm here at the Leeds Grand Theatre to see the opening night of the theatrical concert Let It Be, a show that's been seen by over 2 million people worldwide. I've been past this majestic building oh-so-many times in my life, but never inside. It's majestic, and wonderful. 

We take our seats, and everyone around me looks giddy. Happy. Wines in their hands, and smiles on their faces. The show begins, and immediately we hear the melodies that run through us like rivers of gold. From the get-go, we can't help but dance around.

There's Paul, with his trademark feet-together stance! There's John, with the spectacles. There's Ringo at the back, drumming away. And there's George, looking slightly like a sexy Anthony Kiedis, spectacular fringe blazing into the audience. The resemblance of the actors to the Beatles is uncanny, and that's the magic of it. Toto, we're not in Leeds any more! We're in Liverpool's the Cavern; we're in the audience of the Ed Sullivan show; we're on Abbey Road. We follow our four friends through the bright colours of Sergeant Pepper, the LSD haze of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Hair gets longer, music gets louder as the 1960s transcend into the 1970s and guitars go electric.

And the whole time, we're dancing and singing our hearts out and having a whale of a time!

We've all got our favourites haven't we? In Let It Be, they play the lot. My favourite (in case you were wondering) is the rendition of Here Comes the Sun, acoustic and raw. It brings a teeny-tiny tear to my eye.

At the end of the day, we don't need a two hour theatre show to educate us about The Beatles, delving into their psyches and histories. As previously stated, we know them already. What we want, and what we need (especially at the moment) is a night of FUN, soundtracked exquisitely by our prodigal sons. And for this, Let It Be is that sunshine we've been missing. 

5 U.K. festivals to go to

The Glastonbury blues may have well and truly set in, but fear not- there are still plenty of fun festivals to bring sunshine to our rainy weekends. Here's my little list of what's yet to come:

The North

1) Tramlines// 22-24 July

Tramlines began in Sheffield in 2009 as a free festival. Right now it's 42 quid for a full weekend ticket, but as the prices have risen so in quality have the line-ups. 2016 will bring to the Steel City the funkiness of George Clinton Parliament FunkadelicLittle Simz, Madrid honeys Hinds, hip-hop collective Jurassic 5 post-hiatus, Kelis, Dizzee Rascal and Catfish and the Bottlemen. Very nice and varied! The festival is spread over numerous venues in Sheffield, and seeks to add to the cultural capital of this Northern powerhouse following Sheff Doc/Fest. If that doesn't sway you, Norman Jay MBE will be heading up the after party on the Sunday night.

2) Deer Shed Festival // 22-24 July

Deer Shed is a family friendly music, arts and science festival just outside of Thirsk, North Yorkshire. This year's theme is At The Movies (apparently they go to town on these) and sees Richard Hawley headlining, alongside the likes of Beth Orton, C Duncan  and Anna Calvi. There'll be spoken word, workshops, cinema, and loads more.

Further Afield

3) Festival No. 6 // 1-4th September

This is a festival I've been wanting to go for ages. Set in the fantastical Welsh town of Portmeirion, it looks like a Wes Anderson inspired musical utopia. Playing this year are Noel GallagherHot Chip, Fatima YamahaShe and Him's M Ward, and my faaaaavourite folkly wonderland band This Is The Kit. Along with lyrics, there'll be poetry, comedy, and all things arts. On site, there's beautiful swimming pools, facilities for paddle boarding on the Estuary, and loads of other amazing opportunities. This is so much more than your average music festival.

4) Green Man // 18-21 Aug

Green Man is a medium-sized independent music and arts festival held in the green lushness of Brecon Beacons, Wales. Last year saw St Vincent and Super Furry Animals headlining. This year James Blake, Laura Marling and Belle and Sebastian will be filling the prime time slots. Other musical marauders featuring will be Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Kamasi Washington, and my ultimate crushes/ favourite people to follow on Twitter, Whitney the band. If you want a community fuelled festival, with a strong independent line-up, this could be the one for you.

5) End of the Road // 2-4 September

Another great independent festival is End of the Road, based in Larmer Tree Gardens, South Wiltshire which won the 'Best Small Festival' award in 2011. Here you'll find a strong infusion of folk and Americana. You'll also find the ethereal harpist princess Joanna Newsom, Animal Collective, and Devendra Banhart, along with the wacky Omar Souleyman and King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard. 

So that's my little list! Other festivals that look amazing are London's Lovebox and Sunfall, along with the Isle of Wight's Bestival, which is always a lot of fun.

Are you going to any festivals this summer?

sheff doc/fest 2016 - review

It's Friday night, and I'm in Sheffield for the opening of Sheff Doc/Fest. Upon arrival, all I can think of is water. The long water-lined wall that runs from the train station up towards the hub of the festival, the Showroom Cinema. The drops of rain that fall onto my camel-coloured coat, and onto the grey Sheffield streets. The water that could be used to douse the mystic fire that has caused the alarm to RAGE, and for the entirety of the City Hall to be evacuated.

Outside, a colourful ocean of umbrellas leads up to where Michael Moore will be debuting Where To Invade Next, his first documentary film since 2009's Sicko. It's an hour until we manage to make it into the majestic venue, but once we do, I'm overcome with awe by the ginormous screen at the front of the palatial hall in which I sit. In the queue, I've managed to make a friend. We discuss what we're excited to see, and swap suggestions. Despite the damp delay, everybody's in high spirits and soon we're flying high into the doc-scape. The film is thought-provoking and optimistic. The subsequent Q&A is both evocative and hilarious, with talk ranging from Moore's disbelief with his home nation at their repeated inclination to elect idiots, to him singing British football anthems to us, the elated crowd. 

This is why Doc/Fest is so special: the documentarians themselves. Over the course of the festival, almost every event is followed by an insightful, interesting talk. In the Crucible Theatre in particular, the greats of the format gather to ruminate on their craft. The future of documentaries, and of public television in general is discussed at great length. Will we see more of an integration with social media channels, as mentioned by one of the panel in the talk Professor Green: Documentaries and Me? Is the end of the BBC nigh? 

My other highlights include the lovely Reggie Yates chatting about his career, along with how he's inspired by Louis Theroux, and the inspiration himself's comical My Scientology Movie.
 Watching Louis as he holds a camera up to the face of a Scientologist armed with his own camera in a kind of equipment stand-off, with Louis asking "what're you making a documentary about?" is potentially one of the most hilarious things I've ever seen. The farcical nature of it is what makes it truly a joy to watch, reminiscent of Louis' earlier tongue-in-cheek filmography. India In A Day is a fascinating portrayal of a country changing at whiplash speed, a collage of citizens' own footage. Princess Shaw's impeccable vocals and her love of the phrase "Rock Sauce" livened up the showing of Presenting Princess Shaw on Saturday night. The anecdote in Maya Angelou and Still I Rise where activist and all round badass Angelou acts unknowingly as a mentor for Tupac Shakur made my heart melt. Visiting the Alternate Realities Arcade, placing on my head the technology, and finding myself in the Jungle in Calais was immensely sobering, disorientating, heart wrenching but incredible. It's hard to turn a blind eye to the cause when you can hear the sounds and see in 360 degree clarity the appalling conditions of the humans attempting to survive there, and the brutality of the police. In Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures, we see Robert's identity as inherently tied in with New York City, a mix of the aristocratic elite, and the Factory Starlets interlaced with the downtown gay sex clubs. We see his photographs, crisp with taboo. Artfully grotesque. Lustfully ornate.

Documentaries, of course, seek to document, and 2016's festival has been one that reflects the environment we find ourselves in. The referendum is a topic that finds its way into every conversation. The themes of migration, identity and home are central strands in so many of the films on the listing. The world is in flux, and so is what we want to view, and the way we watch. 

I'd never been to Sheff Doc/Fest before, but I would attend again in a heartbeat. I found myself constantly in complete awe at the amount of events, talks and films there were, as well as how incredibly friendly and inherently enthusiastic all of the delegates, volunteers, and cinema buffs  were. One of the best experiences I've ever had!

I'll be posting my reviews of some of the delicious docs over the next couple of weeks.