For listeners

As my Amazing Folk Roots show was due to be on Amazing Radio tonight, I thought I’d better write something to explain why it won’t be!

Yesterday my contract was terminated by The Amazing Media Group, so my show has been cancelled with immediate effect.

I have been told that there is no shame in redundancy, so I hope to find work in media again sometime soon. What is sad is that everything was so instant, so sudden, that I didn’t get to do a final show – my show for tonight has already been broadcast once, but they didn’t want to broadcast it again tonight. If there is no shame in redundancy, then why has work been so swift to erase me?

I am no longer Producer Frankie on Amazing Afternoons and Kyle will be carrying on solo, which will be fine (so afternoon listeners please don’t worry!) Amazing Radio is a fantastic idea. I’ve worked with hundreds of bands, lots of talented music writers and bloggers and met some fantastic people. The team I have worked with have been brilliant. They are young, fresh and talented – and held together by the equally brilliant Operations Manager Kevin, who truly is the heart of Amazing Towers.

However I feel now, I know that I should look back and be proud of my time with Amazing. I recorded my first show for the station when I was 20, making me the youngest presenter on national radio. I put together The Afternoon Show (as it was originally called) before I graduated from university, recruiting Kyle to present and developing features that came and went before settling on ideas that I was happy with, such as Matchmaker and the New Music Tour. The show itself was deemed strong enough to be live, but I became a victim of this success as I have constructed the show in such a way that it can survive without me, and I really hope it does. There were many things I did for the company and I’m not sure what will happen, but I hope it grows without more people needing to lose their jobs.

There have been many people who have helped and supported me in the past few years that I’ve not really stopped. Waking up this morning, therefore, was a very surreal feeling, and one I didn’t like very much!

Now I need something to do, and all ideas and offers are much appreciated!

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Made in Maidstone

My friend Brendan Kearney is currently having some of his amazing illustrations exhibited at County Hall in Maidstone.

He’s currently on the second year of the illustration course at Plymouth University and is quickly gaining a loyal following over on his (rather charming) blog.

When I visited Brendan recently he gave me a copy of this watercolour, which is now proudly displayed on my bedroom wall in Newcastle.

Print by Brendan Kearney

I actually still have a few doodles ‘from back in the day’ that Brendan gave me, so it’s quite nice to see him ‘go pro’, so to speak! I really want the illustration below too as I think it will look nice on the wall next to the work that Brendan has already gifted my way!

Watercolour by Brendan Kearney

I’ve not been able to ‘collect art’ before because I’ve not had much of a solid base and because I spent the last three years studying and moving around. I loved working in the Created in Birmingham shop last Summer so it would be brilliant to follow some of the artists we sold while I was there and hopefully collect some of their pieces too. I have to confess that I pine constantly for a lottery win and the flat I would buy soon after! (I’d either dedicate different rooms to different artists, or a set of artists such as the artists collectively known as ‘Girls Who Draw.’)

How cute!? (Again, by Brendan Kearney)

If you’d like to invest in Brendan and his artwork (remember, he’s still a student so you know, needs to pay for artwork and that), then you can catch his cat-focused work on sale at Maidstone’s County Hall until the 24th of March. You can also take a look at his Etsy shop. The artwork shown above is currently on display at the aforementioned exhibition and will be available through Brendan’s Etsy store once the exhibition is closed, although you can address questions and questions directly to Brendan himself by emailing brendankearney@live.co.uk.

Who are your favourite illustrators? Let me know!

Dressing up for Spring

Tomorrow the temperature is forecast for 14 degrees!

(Yeah all you Southerns who scoff about Northern weather! Suck it!!!)

Over the past few weeks I’ve been biding my time, getting ready to unleash my inner lady. I’m looking forward to being able to wear dresses in the day, not just in the evening when the public love to throw JD and cokes on me (like someone did when I was wearing the white dress pictured below).

White dress, £22.99 by Forever 21, Bambi necklace also Forever 21

I had to wear this dress with a modesty-sparing nude camisole underneath because the fabric is so unwearably sheer! To protect my lower half I donned tights and a tutu that I bought from the kids section of H&M a few years back. It makes the skirt look huge, but I quite like how that takes the outfit from overly demure into something curious for the evening.

Bag from Tynemouth market, tights by Topshop

I also love the detailing on the dress. Lace is still big for this season, with coloured lace being tipped for popularity, but I like more interesting and/or subtle alternatives such as the netting on this dress (and this ‘teacloth pattern’ shift dress I own from Topshop, who currently stock an amazing array of shift dresses).

The only issue I have now is finding a slip short enough to go under the dress! M&S slips I’ve tried thus far have been woefully long so I’m considering a trip to BHS sometime soon. When I wore the dress before (to a Little Comets and Vinyl Jacket gig), it was with the tutu underskirt, biker jacket and lashings of smokey eye makeup. Next time I want to take the look in an entirely opposite direction, with a fresh face and girly accessories. (Tips for slips much appreciated!)

Today I took my first ‘Spring look’ out on the street, hitting the BALTIC in Newcastle to check out the new exhibitions by George Shaw and Lindsay Seers. I thought I’d match the everlasting Summer staples – florals and nautical inspiration. I also thought I’d cling onto the Mad Men trend before the hysteria dies down.

Rose silk alice band by Stone Bridge, sailor cardigan £10 by Primark, Bag from Tynemouth market, Dress and shoes by Peacocks. Necklace handmade by me!

I’ve done ‘Mad Men’ with the demure nude kitten heels and vintage bag, nautical with the cardigan and necklace (which I made from an old keyring) and florals with the dress and the beautiful rose silk alice band that I was sent by the lovely Melissa and Claire from luxury hair accessories company Stone Bridge. I wouldn’t normally throw so many things together, but I haven’t yet found a jacket to go with the dress so I settled for the cardi and thought I’d try and – in the words of Project Runway’s Tim Gunn – “Make it work”.

I’ve decided to try and get other people to take outfit pics for me when possible so I can get some shots outside – and out of my room. The other day my manager Kevin said that my tripod shot photos from my room ‘made me look like a kidnap victim’. Volunteer photographers out there get in touch!

Oh, thought I’d post this picture because it made me giggle. The BALTIC shop has tons of amazing cards, including designs by cult T-shirt shop Lazy Oaf (and some similar independent designs that the latter also stocks online).

Card, £2.50 from the BALTIC shop

Heehee!

“And square one’s looming dangerously”

Today I received my copy of Frankie & the Heartstrings‘ debut album Hunger in the post.

The album, released by the indie label Wichita, cost a mere £4.99 (inc. postage) from HMV.com and seemed a worthy buy, particularly as the band managed to get into the Top 40 last weekend.

Apart from wanting a hard copy of Frankie & Co’s summery Pop tracks, I felt duty bound to buy the album as guitarist Mick Ross once made me a spectacular tofu curry. Plus, at less than a fiver the album is cheaper than a lot of gig tickets (but longer lasting, for the materialist out there.)

However, I have another reason to campaign for the band’s mainstream chart success. Back when I lived in Birmingham I became acquainted with a band with a fantastic guitar Pop band called Envy & Other Sins. After seeing them at a gig (one of the first after their T4 mobileAct Unsigned win) I became quite taken with their sound, which was a refreshing return to a form of more traditional, unpretentious Pop.

The band had won a £60,000 record contract with Simon Gavin at A&M Records, yet the expected promotional drive for the album, the brilliant We Leave At Dawn, never came. Although keeping venues busy on tour, the album lacked the support a competition like mobileAct Unsigned seemed to guarantee. Eventually the band split up (although singer Ali and drummer Jim are now musically reunited as the brilliant Malpas).

I still listen to We Leave At Dawn. For me the album is sheer pop brilliance, packed with catchy tunes and credible lyrics that never fail to raise a smile. It’s not all fun and lightness however – a deeper sense of shade is provided by tracks such as my personal highlight Don’t Start Fires.

The abundant joy of Frankie & the Heartstrings’ tunes remind me of the Envy & Other Sins sound. They’re different in the sound of their tunes, with the former being more fifties influenced and sparsely produced by Edwyn Collins, but they have both produced Pop independently before taking it to a national level. Frankie & the Heartstrings have worked incredibly hard, building a fanbase with stellar live performances and their own Pop Sex Ltd. imprint.

I feel a bit like preaching along the lines of ‘The People’s Supermarket’ right now (i.e irritating) but I do feel it’s a bit of a ‘use it or lose it’ situation. In other words, support your favourite bands, or mourn their loss a little earlier than expected. It kind of reminds me of the Envy & Other Sins lyrics from their debut single Highness – “Square one’s looming dangerously”

You have been warned. Got £4.99 to spare?

 

Frivolise me!

I began a game in the Amazing Radio office the other day called ‘Frivolise Me!’

This essentially involves deciding to embark on an activity and then making it decidedly more ‘frivolous’ – for example taking a taxi instead of a bus to town, or buying a fancier product than you usually would. It’s a rather materialistic, entirely unserious game, but one that’s worth a giggle. It was only when my colleague Stevie B replied to one of my tweets that I realised that I had been playing the game without realising!

I headed into Newcastle city centre after work fully intending to try and find this pair of ‘rusty’ paperbag waist shorts from Miss Selfridge ready for Spring, or at least a similar pair for a cheaper price. I decided to try Primark to see if they stocked such a style.

Bag from charity shop

It turns out that they didn’t… but they did have a pair of leather look shorts that I noticed on my way out of the store! Naturally I grabbed a pair in my size, rushed to the changing rooms and had a go with them! Probably not an item on many fashionable Spring ‘must-have’ lists, but an item I gladly bought in place of the ‘safer’ Miss Selfridge option.

Shorts £10 by Primark, pussybow blouse (vintage) from Oxfam, heels by H&M

I do already have some leather look brown shorts from Zara, and fake leather skinny trousers from Topshop, but I couldn’t resist adding these to my growing collection. There’s something I can’t resist about this fabric. It’s less obvious than denim – especially when worn during the day – and  can be dressed up as in the photo above or dressed down as in the photo below.

Headband by Topshop, tee £9.99 by Zara, bag £10 from Tyneside metro market

(As you can probably see for yourselves, I’m sticking my tummy out in this photo, delightful eh!?)

I blogged about this Zara tee in my last post. It’s oversized and rather short which means I’ll probably wear a vest top underneath it if I take this outfit further than my bedroom. The headband is a couple of years old. I got in from Topshop in a bid to disguise my unruly hair as a ‘deliberate statement’. It wasn’t deliberate in this photo either, but I have been experiencing a minor revolt from my barnet today! The bag was a wonderful vintage find from Tyneside’s Saturday metro market last Saturday. You can’t tell from this photo but it’s a gorgeous, inky hue with an almost marbled effect. I’m attempting to work more ‘ladylike’ pieces into my wardrobe, and have bought a couple of waist-focused black pieces in the past couple of weeks; a shift dress from Topshop’s sale and a black, elasticated waist dress from Zara that I’m planning to debut at a Little Comets gig this weekend.

So what have you ‘frivolised’ recently? And which do you prefer, denim or leather?

Tourism in Tynemouth

On Saturday I headed out to the North East coast to check out the lovely town of Tynemouth.

Without realising, I’d actually had some chips in the area before when visiting friends before making the move proper to Newcastle. However, I didn’t really get to explore the many kitsch giftshops or the Metro station market. My friend Matt was quite shocked at this, and defying the grey skies and miserable rain, gave me a guided tour that began with roasted med veg and goats cheese paninis at Hugo’s bar/restaurant.

I kind of forgot to be ‘touristy’ and make like Pete Hall (ie take the hallowed foodie picture) so you’ll have to make do with a sample of the leftovers!

It came with chips too!

After lunch we went to Gaf, which stocks one of my favourite t-shirt brands, Lazy Oaf, plus loads of other delights such as scented candles, solid perfumes and cards. I even tried on some glasses, but they certainly weren’t as pretty on me as their rosy tint suggested…

Gaf - marvellous and fabulous in equal measure

Rose-tinted Yoko glasses are not a good look on me!

After Gaf we headed over to Raspberry Bazaar, which reminded me of a shop called Salamander in Maidstone – all mirrored trinkets and wooden beads (with incense on the side). Aside from the hippy clothing department (featuring festival-staple label Rico) the whole shop is arranged not by item but by colour… it’s quite a dazzling effect as you walk around the store as if walking alongside a rainbow! I bought a new piggy bank to replace the one that smashed during my move to Newcastle from Birmingham last June.

After Raspberry Bazaar we headed over to the Green Ginger Shopping Arcade which is actually a converted church filled with shops (including a hair salon and a cafe).

Matt modelling one of Raspberry Bazaar's hippy cardigans

Out by the arcade ‘conveniences’ I found a detailed history of the church including a wonderful description of the remaining congregation before the church was converted.

"a congregation composed largely of elderly ladies"

I bought some of my favourite incense from one of the shops and marvelled at a specialist cake decorating shop too. There was a few antique shops as well, selling furniture and smaller items of jewellery.

I think my favourite bit of my camera-touting trip was when we headed over to the market held in Tynemouth Metro Station. The market, which held stalls on both sides of the platform, featured both food and less ‘vital’ bits and pieces, from second hand paper books to vinyls and vintage furs. I snapped up a bow broach for a pound and a small structured handbag with gold detailing and a gorgeous inky blue hue (I’ll feature it on this blog soon).

Tynemouth Metro Station

Some of the lush vegetation on display!

I have no idea what this strange elf is in the above photo but thought it looked curious!

I enjoyed the juxtaposition of football memorabilia with literature on gangs and hooliganism!

Also, there were loads of 'Good luck from...' vintage postcards featuring cats and touristy photos? I have no idea why (answers on a postcard please!?!)

We bought some olives to satisfy my cravings for all things Mediterranean and Matt got some Kate Bush and Joe Jackson to listen to in vinyl format. All in all a rather satisfying trip, culminating in a bubble gum blowing display…

Hubba bubba...

(Please note that the scraping back of hair was just to stop gum getting caught, rather than a permanent ‘look’!)

Where should I go next in the North East?

Jazzy Lemon saves the day!

I’d meant to take a picture of my outfit for The Prison Library single launch at the Cluny 2 last night but headed out the door without thinking.

I don’t take a picture of every outfit I’ve worn, but I wanted a picture because it featured a few items I picked up from the Metro Centre on Wednesday. (I’m also having a wardrobe clear out and am in the midst of deciding what looks good and what would be best placed else where!)

Luckily Newcastle’s staple music photographer Jazzy Lemon was out in force and happened to take a few snaps of me at the gig (which you can see below). You can check out the full album (amongst literally hundreds of thousands of rock and roll moments) here. There’s plenty of great shots of all the acts; this Sunday’s Amazing Folk Roots Show guest The Lake Poets, Let’s Buy Happiness in disc jockey action at the decks, soulful Indie four-piece Grandfather Birds and headliners The Prison Library, who managed to put fears about the departure of brilliant Frankie & the Heartstrings guitarist Mick Ross totally at bay.

Blazer £29.99 by H&M, cropped t-shirt £9.99 by Zara, skirt £11 by Primark, headband by Stone Bridge

I saw this t-shirt on Zara’s website and experienced one of those “HAVE TO HAVE THIS” moments where I wanted to leave my desk and flee to this shop for immediate purchase. I didn’t notice I’d picked up a larger size until I got home but I think it will still work tucked into skirts or with faux leather skinnies. The blazer is one of the comfiest I own and was a complete impulse buy when a band practice was cancelled last-minute.

Shoes by Office, socks by Primark

I decided to brighten up the muted colours, ‘chic-up the geek’ and raise myself off the floor by a good five inches with my Office platform heels. I got these in 2008 when I was paid for my performance in Days of Hope by Howard Goodall at Birmingham’s MAC theatre. Although most of the money went on student rent and a new electric piano, I just couldn’t resist these. They made me at least as tall as most of the audience which meant that I could comfortably see the bands for once!

Satchel by New Look (all photos by Jazzy Lemon)

I’m starting to get rather impatient for Spring to arrive now. I’m resisting hiding in big coats and layering cardigans and my unlined parka in an attempt to be ready lest we be treated to a sunburst or two. Tomorrow I’m heading off to Tynemouth (a bit of the coast to any Southerners reading this) so I’m hoping to find a treat or two. I’ve never been before, but I’m gagging for some good ole seaside chips!

Thanks again to Jazzy Lemon for letting me use her photos!

Must-hear viewing

“Must-hear you say? But these are videos I see below…”

Yes that is indeed correct, but they’re music videos so I hope you watch them to hear them… if that makes sense? Basically they’re videos that if you haven’t seen, you should, and if you have I heartily salute you with my well-bitten fingernails.

Firstly I present to you the wonderful Leeds-based solo artist James Owen Fender. I truly love this artist: Awesome voice, sensational tunes. Also check out his video for former single The Cloud.

Next, here’s lovely songwriter Martin Longstaff, performing live for Amazing Radio as The Lake Poets. This was recorded exclusively for the station at Newcastle’s Blank Studios. I wrote an article recently predicting big things for The Lake Poets in 2011, and Martin will be a guest on my Amazing Folk Roots Show this Sunday from 7pm.

Now I’ve been meaning to post this next video for far too long. It’s Newcastle four piece Grandfather Birds recording in The Amazing Sessions for Amazing Radio. This video was created by the lovely Paul Alton, who often attends local gigs armed with a video camera. (The song’s pretty sensational too).

I wasn’t too big a fan of previous effort Ungrateful, but I have a huge soft spot for this number, Hunger, by Wichita label act Frankie & the Heartstrings. It’s a fantastic video starring Robert Popper of BBC comedy Look Around You and features a particularly fine performance from keyboardist/guitarist/all-round-legend Mick Ross.

Finally I’m not sure if this is an official video. but we’re loving Kyla La Grange at Amazing Towers right now. Her voice might be too sugary for some, but this song, Walk Through Walls, is epic.

So what do you think? Any new acts I should check out?

Amazing Movie Making

I’ve been attempting to create some video content for Amazing Radio‘s You Tube channel recently.

We’ve recently become You Tube partners which I’m really excited about (my old channel isn’t, but it was always an aim). I announced upon my arrival at Amazing Towers in June that You Tube partnership was always a plan and in the end they approached us, which was nice!

Now we just need to start getting content, and finding an audience for it! I’ve started by making a simply Q & A video with Kyle Wilkinson, who I produce every week day on The Afternoon Show.

We might do more videos like this so if you have any questions for me (as the presenter of Amazing Folk Roots), for Kyle or for any of our presenters then feel free to ask away!

The Velvet Choir

Next Friday (10th December) I’m playing a festive gig with The Union Choir at Newcastle’s Cluny.

It’s for NARC magazine‘s annual ‘Stars in their Eyes Xmas Party‘ event where a selection of North East acts perform three cover versions of songs by a band of their choice.

Anticipation for the event is high, with acoustic folkers Rainfalldown performing (sadly June Carter-less) as Johnny Cash (and band), post punk revivalists Cult Image as The Ramones, Holy Mammoth as Blink 182 and us, The Union Choir, as The Velvet Underground and Nico. Amazing Radio‘s Tom Cotton will also be DJ-ing… as himself.

Velvet dress by George @ Asda, £14

[Post bath I decided not to leave the house hence the absence of makeup/decent hair. I did try to make myself ‘decent’ by removing the red eye in this photo, but it’s left me looking even odder!]

With every gig comes the occasionally frantic question of what to wear. I’ve decided to take our incarnation as The Velvet Underground (and yes, technically I’m ‘Nico’) quite literally by wearing this velvet number by George @ Asda. I found it online and headed into the Heaton Asda Living store on a whim after snow rendered me unable to travel to Birmingham. I’d decided to get some bubble bath and have a sulky soak as i’d taken the day off work for my journey to the midlands, but then this dress was too tempting to resist trying… It was reduced from £24 to £14 and is a beautiful shape, texture and colour. It’s not too risque lengthwise (but has a slit at the front so could be if I’m not careful!) You can find it online here.

I haven’t accessorised fully in the photo but I’m wearing pearly mary jane style shoes (with a ribbon tie) and a charm bracelet pendant necklace that my dad got me as a graduation present. I’m also wearing a fake pearl headband by Accessorize but I think I’ll ‘toughen things up’ with my leather jacket, smokey eyes and loose hair for the gig itself.

Hope you can make it down!