It's a Wonderful Life…

…isn't it…?

Interviewing Sarah Lillie July 5, 2012

A Musical Benefit in aid of Breast Cancer Care

Hi Sarah! I’m so excited to see you perform live at New to This Solar System tomorrow night; thanks so much for finding the time to answer my questions

Q. Tell me, how did you get started?

A. Guitarist Ben Hood and I met at Southampton University and have been performing together with drummer Rob Austen since we graduated last July. For the Sevenoaks Festival, Ben and I will be performing as a duo.

Q. So, what you do for your day job?

A.  I live in East London and work as a professional singer. Aside from Ben’s solo work, he also works as a professional songwriter, singer and teacher.

Q. And, how did you get into music?

A.My Dad, Grandparents and Mum were all music lovers, so my sisters and I played music and sang from an early age. Ben has been a songwriter for many years; since watching blues-guitar band Divided by Three with his Mum in concert.

Q. Aside from the love of music, do you have any other creative outlets?

A. We both love cooking, Ben makes incredible paella and I bake most days. I love my knitting, painting and writing too.

Q. Do you have any particular musical inspiration?

A. We’re both big fans of Elbow; their music, lyrics and production are all incredible. I listen to a lot of the female jazz singers including Ella Fitzgerald and Julie London and am greatly influenced by music and instruments from China, India and Africa.

Q.   So, what’s your mission for your music?

A. I’d love to travel with my music, and learn to play more instruments and techniques from different cultures.

Q. Is there anyone in particular that has inspired you or given you great advice to get where you wanted to be?

A. I met an incredible musician called Rob Greenfield at my secondary school who encouraged my singing and song-writing, he will always be a musical inspiration to me.

Q.   Tell me a bit about your history as an artist?

A. I’ve led several acts and bands since school. Then, at University I began performing with Ben, we’ve been gigging, writing and recording together since. We play with friend and drummer Rob Austen and have begun rehearsals with bass player James Williams. We’ll be performing with cellists, a keyboard player and percussionist for some of the upcoming Summer gigs.

Ben joined a band at University and, since graduating, began performing his own material with them. He’s now recording his debut solo album with the same group of musicians.

Q. Are there any especially memorable gigs you have played?

A.Selling out Ronnie Scott’s Bar and the Jazz Club Soho earlier this year with Ben and Rob are two incredible gigs we’ll never forget. One of my most memorable performances however, was a spontaneous, wine-fuelled jazz gig in the crammed cellar of a piano bar in the Latin Quarter of Paris. The owner of Aux Trois Mailletz  invited me to sing with the world-famous house band, it was brilliant.

Q. Do you have any future developments my readers might like to know about?

A.We’re performing at a new festival in Benenden on 10th August called Jack’s Festival, and again at Local and Live Music Festival at The Pantiles in Tunbridge Wells over the August Bank Holiday. We’re in the process of recording for release later this year. Ben’s also been recording his solo album ready for Autumn 2012.

Q.How did you end up involved in New to This Solar System and fundraising for Breast Cancer Care?

A.We met Steph when lead singer of The Find, Jay, invited us to perform for Breast Cancer Care earlier this year. It was a wonderful gig for a brilliant campaign.

This is the first time we’ve been involved in the Sevenoaks Festival so we’re really excited to be performing this year.

And I’m sure everyone is really looking forward to seeing, what is sure to be, a stellar performance tomorrow night at Sevenoaks School for the Breast Cancer Care Benefit Concert. It’s been lovely getting to know Sarah Lillie and I wish you all the best for tomorrow evening.

To all those that are thinking of attending, tickets are available on the door and you are guaranteed to have an amazing night of music whilst raising funds for a very worthwhile cause. I look forward to seeing some of you there!

 

Interviewing Amy Coulshaw July 3, 2012

As those of you who read my blog regularly will know, I have been interviewing the performers listed for the New to This Solar System concert at Sevenoaks School this Friday. Today, you can read my interview with Amy Coulshaw.

Hiya, Amy, thanks very much for giving up your time to answer my questions: I know you are extremely busy at the moment but it’s fantastic to have the opportunity to get to know you before the Breast Cancer Care Benefit concert.

Q. So, I would love to hear a bit about your background and how you got into music?

A. I live in Kent after moving up from Devon three years ago following a mixed bag of destinations growing up: spending the majority of my childhood in Brunei. It was here that I first started training classically as a singer at the age of six.  Having spent several years working professionally as a performer and singing teacher I have since begun a career in childcare which I love but I still take any opportunity I can to help out at charity events with my music!! I have always had an incredible passion for music, especially singing and have done since I was a toddler. I could barely speak but always managed to sing nursery songs!  This passion is even stronger today and I spend a lot of my spare time playing the piano, singing and writing songs.

Q. Is there any one in particular that has inspired you to keep singing?

A. My family have been the inspiration behind my music as, if it wasn’t for their love and support and belief in me, then I wouldn’t have been given some of the amazing opportunities that I have been lucky enough to have.

Q. So, having spent most of your life as a songstress, are there any particular stand out events that you have been asked to perform at; or anyone you have worked with that has been memorable?

A. I have been lucky enough to perform at some incredible events; the most recent being a spring ball at the Honorary Artillery Company house in London in aid of Help for Heroes. In terms of working with someone; as a classical singer, a real highlight for me was when I was given the opportunity to have a master class with Benjamin Luxon and perform with him!

Q. How did you end up involved in New to This Solar System and fundraising for Breast Cancer Care?

A. After moving up from Devon, I initially got a job working in Fatface in Sevenoaks which is where I first met Steph [for those of you that haven’t yet read my previous posts, Steph is the organiser of the Breast Cancer Care event that Amy will be performing at this Friday]. Steph is an inspiration for all women who suffer with breast cancer and is the reason I support and care about such an important and incredible charity. Steph soon found out that I was a singer and straight away put her faith in me asking me to perform at the annual BCC event, even though she hadn’t heard me sing (I did point out that I might be awful but she still went ahead anyway even asking me to do it the following year!) It’s because of these events that Steph asked me to perform at New to this Solar System, which I am honoured to do.

Amy, it’s been a real pleasure getting to know you and I’m very much looking forward to seeing you in action this Friday. Thanks again for your time. I hope some of my readers will come along and lend their support to your cause.

 

Interviewing Dan Clews July 1, 2012

Once again, lovely readers, I have a fantastic blog guest for you! I interviewed Dan Clews to give you all an insight into the artist before he performs at the New to This Solar System event next Friday.  Dan is donating his time and his musical talent to help raise funds for Breast Cancer Care at the Sevenoaks Music Festival event. For anyone that wants to see Dan (or any of my other New to This Solar System guests) in action; I’ve been told there are still tickets available.

Dan tells me that his day job, fortunately, largely revolves around: playing music, teaching music and recording music. He also mentions that he sells the odd Christmas tree [I, for one, will be asking him more about this on the night]. Dan has always been surrounded by music as his father is also a musician and he tells me it was a natural progression for him to follow that path too. When I ask if he has any other creative outlets, Dan tells me that he has a huge interest in music videos.

Q. Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Dan! So, tell us, who are your musical inspirations?

A. Paul Simon, Lou Reed, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan did I mention Paul Simon?

Q. What is your mission as an artist?

A. To play music that makes people feel like they’re not alone.

Q. Have you had any set backs in getting where you wanted to be?

A. Always, it’s not for the faint hearted, but I love what I do.

Q. Is there anyone in particular that inspires you or gives you great advice to get where you want to be?

A. My wife and my son – always.

Q.  Are there any especially memorable gigs you have played?

A. I’ve done Local & Live in Tunbridge Wells and I also played on the Arctic Circle once.

Q. Have you played at any particularly outstanding venues?

A. Definitely: playing at the Hammersmith Apollo and the Shepherd’s Bush Empire were real highligh

ts for me.

Q. I’m sure my readers would love to know about someone amazing you have performed with?

A. I recently played a duet with Tim Minchin in front on 5,500 people! That was pretty amazing!

Q. Do you have any future developments my readers might like to know about?

A. Well, there’s the Secret Garden Party on the 21st of July, Local and Live 2012 on the 25th of August, Over The Moon Festival on the 16th of September. Plus, as of recently, people can also find me on iTunes!!

Q. How did you end up involved in New to This Solar System and fundraising for Breast Cancer Care?

A. I believe Cancer is personal to everyone: I don’t know any adult that’s not been affected by it in some way. I met Steph at one of my gigs and we got chatting about her events. I’ve lived in Sevenoaks most of my life

Thanks, again, Dan for taking the time to answer my questions: I’m sure my readers are now all looking forward to seeing you in action at New to This Solar System on the 6thJuly – and so am I!

 

Interviewing Jay from The Find June 27, 2012

A Musical Benefit in aid of Breast Cancer Care

I really do get the best interviews: it’s true. Today’s was conducted in a lovely quaint village pub beer garden in glorious sunshine! Now, I wasn’t really there for the atmosphere: I was there to meet a very interesting person – only one of the members of the band that opened on the day His Royalness – PRINCE performed at the Hop Farm Festival last summer! So, how did it come to be that I was sat in a pub beer garden chatting to Jay about where his band had been and where it was going? Well, following my interview with Steph [see previous post: What on Earth IS New to This Solar System?] we thought it would be a grand idea to give you all the opportunity to get to know the acts that will kindly be donating their time and talent to the event in aid of Breast Cancer Care.

It turns out that Jay actually works full time for his own Digital Recruitment agency, whilst also writing music for the band (and supporting many a charity with their appearances) PLUS having a little blonde cherub in tow (who merrily rides round and round on her scooter while we chat) AND being 12 weeks away from being a second time Dad (something he is clearly very proud about) so he’s a busy chap indeed. Jay tells me how he and his partner decided to move away from the hustle and bustle of London life to raise their family and despite having lived in the area for just four years every single person that passes by the pub garden says hello to jay . He explains this by saying “music really reaches out to people”.

Q. So, whats’s the story behind The Find? How did you come up with the name? How did you meet? What has been the mission driving the band forward?

A. Well, we got together about two years ago and had spent about a year trying to come up with a name that really fit with the band’s image. A friend of mine happened to comment that we were “such a good find – you should easily be able to come up with a name” and it was pretty much settled then that we were The Find. We believe a band’s name is so important as it’s how people follow what you do: I mean, Elbow is a pretty obscure name for a band – but they are also one of my favourite bands.

How did we meet? Well, a good friend of mine (whose uncle happened to be in the Hollies) invited us down to the studio for a session: the person we had lined up as our drummer fell through but, as it turned out, that was our gain as it just so happened that the sound technician was a drummer himself *enter Adam* and Chris we advertised for in the Lonely Hearts column [chuckles here], okay I’m kidding, but we did advertise for him. Alex is a very good, old friend and happens to be a bit of a legend! Its great working with people that really challenge you: the guys are always pushing me to sing in a key I wouldn’t have gone for but they can just get such confidence out of me. I’m always pretty nervous when it comes to entering the studio: especially when I’ve just written something new but they support me straight away. They genuinely are such great musicians and friends to work with.

We totally believe that music brings people together so we’ve performed a lot of gigs in aid of charitable causes including: Shooting Stars, Childline, and Breast Cancer Care [the band spent last weekend performing at a festival in aid of stopping violence]. There is always such a great energy at a charity gig. [As we’re chatting about this, the Landlord of the pub comes over and asks Jay what he thinks of his new pub furniture and to ask him if he would perform at the pub sometime soon. Jay immediately suggests that they arrange something that will also raise funds to support a local charity.]

Q. So, any highlights of the band’s performances so far? Most outstanding gigs played?

A.  Outside of The Find’s achievements I have to say that it was a massive opportunity for me to play at the O2 with my previous band. Plus I’ve also toured with TAKE. THAT. Amazingly, last year, The Hop Farm Festival organisers actually asked us to perform. It then turned out that they wanted us to open on the day that Prince performed! We’re playing at this year’s Cornbury Festival too!

Q. Does the band have any future developments such as gigs, new music releases or press features they would like readers to know about?

A. Well, the band’s goal has always been to get one of our own songs into the soundtrack of a film. And we’ve just gone and achieved that goal! Our song L.A. will be featuring on the soundtrack of a film called Welcome to the Punch, produced by Ridley Scott and written and directed by my good friend Eran Creevy. The film is being released later this year: so watch this space! This summer we will be launching our EP, independently of a record label. We’ll be going on a mini tour to reach a wider audience and will be looking for great support slots: this EP is a massive achievement for the band. We’ll be visiting festivals and handing out our badges and our cards: we’ve been really lucky with the amount of support we have received so far. Our next step is to shoot a music video. We do have such a great local network though that we’re keen to launch everything from here.

Q. So, how did The Find end up involved in New to This Solar System and fundraising for Breast Cancer Care?

A. We did an event at The Stag Theatre in Sevenoaks where we met Steph who we I got chatting with. We later did an event at St Cleres Estate that raised £3,500 and so now we’re performing at the New to This Solar System event. My dear friend Anne has suffered with Breast Cancer so raising awareness for Breast Cancer Care is very important to the band.

Thank you so much, Jay, for taking the time out of your hectic schedule to answer some of my questions and I really look forward to seeing The Find in action on the 6th July at Sevenoaks School!

If you would like to witness The Find in action you can get your ticket for just £10!

The Find features:

Jay Scott – Vocals, Guitar,

Chris Lukins –  Keys, Guitar, backing Vocals

Adam Smyth – Drums, Backing Vocals

Alex Kennard – Guitars

 

What on Earth IS New To This Solar System? June 17, 2012

A Musical Benefit in aid of Breast Cancer Care

As many of you will recall I covered an event in aid of Breast Cancer Care a short while ago: kicking off my coverage by interviewing the amazing lady organising it all. I have been asked again to cover Steph’s fundraising activities and am kicking off again with an interview with the lady herself.

Hello again Steph, thanks so much for finding the time to share with my readers again what you have been up to, we had a great response last time.

Q. What have you been up to since we last met about your In Conversation With.. . event?

A. Quite a lot actually. We did the Pink Ribbon walk at Blenheim Place which raised around £1500. This was a fantastic event: I even got to meet Denise Lewis and have my picture taken with her! The event was so well organised! I attended the Canadian High Commission a couple of weeks ago as a guest at the Breast Cancer Care meeting of the ladies Dragon Boat racers. I’ve been working with an American lady over here in her fundraising events and it’s proven pretty insightful for us both as our fundraising and charity systems are quite different. I’ve been doing a lot of work with the Breast Cancer Care headquarters. I recently helped open a new Cancer Research shop in Sevenoaks. I’ve actually written a piece for the volunteer section on the Breast Cancer Care site – I’d never blogged before so that was a whole new experience for me! Otherwise, it’s been a whole lot of organising, coming up with new ideas and lots of meetings. Oh and lots of canvassing for this event over the weekends. It’s like a full time job, but I love it and the potential for all the good we can do!

You certainly have been incredibly busy! I think we’re all keen to find out what New to This Solar System is all about so I guess we had better not keep the readers waiting.

Q. So what IS New to This Solar System about?

A. This event is a benefit concert to raise money and awareness for Breast Cancer Care. This event also presents the opportunity to introduce four local, unsigned [as yet] acts to the people of Sevenoaks. All of these acts have very kindly agreed to donate their time and their talent to this wonderful cause.

Q. So how did you go about getting all of these acts on board?

A. Well, I had seen The Find in concert as we held a small event a while ago where Jay invited Sarah Lillie as a guest. It was so good we knew we could do something more with it. I am frequently being asked at events if I could get Amy Coulshaw to do a set so this was the perfect opportunity. Electric isn’t feasible at this venue so, bearing in mind the need for a really great acoustic sound, we stumbled across Dan Clews who fits this perfectly. Everywhere I go, I find myself talking about these guys.

Q. So, what marvellous venue have you managed to secure this time and what are the details of this event?

A. Well, Sevenoaks School have actually been kind enough to allow us use of their facilities for this event: this place is absolutely beautiful [she says this knowing how much I fidgeted in my attire at the Tonbridge School because it was so grand] and it holds 420 people. New to This Solar System is actually a part of the Sevenoaks Festival.  The concert is being held on the 6th July in the Pamoja Hall, The Space at Sevenoaks School. The doors will open for guests at 18.45 and the concert will begin at 19.30. With ticket sales and drinks purchases on the night we are hoping to raise around even more for Breast Cancer Care this time around.

Q. What’s prompted you to organise this event?

A. Well, we know how much people are struggling with the economy being as it is and we also know that charity fundraising is also really struggling because of it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter whether the economy is bad: Breast Cancer doesn’t go away just because we can’t afford it! Breast Cancer Care doesn’t stop working just because people are hard up and it’s really important to me that they continue getting the funding they need for their outstanding work.

Q. I know from your previous events that organising a concert is a fairly new thing for you. Have you had many difficulties?

A. Well, we’re finding that a lot of people aren’t really sure what the event is about and that people aren’t buying their tickets straight away which inevitably causes us a bit of worry that we won’t actually be able to deliver for Breast Cancer Care on this event. The difference with this kind of event is that usually I make all the decisions on what’s happening, when whereas this time I’m working with groups of people who all have different agendas and workloads. We’ve still got a lot to do but, well, it’ll be alright on the night! We just really want people to come along and have a drink and enjoy the music: it’s all about having a really great night whilst raising money for a worthy cause.

Q. So, how can people find out more about the event or get themselves a ticket to this great occasion?

A. We’re doing a poster drop over the Kent area, we’re advertising the event on the Breast Cancer Care online site, we’re listed in the Sevenoaks Festival line up, we’ll be out in Sevenoaks telling people about the event and we have a Facebook page [http://www.facebook.com/pages/New-to-this-Solar-System/125336894270462]. For tickets you can also call: 01732 450175.

Well I, for one, can’t wait for this event because I’ve looked up all the acts and they are genuinely amazing. I’ve got my ticket, have you?

 

Discovering the author: Susan Lewis April 29, 2012

Filed under: Writing — leatierney @ 9:01 am
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Q. So, how did you get started in writing?

A. My Dad was passionate about both reading and writing. My Dad was writing and trying to get published while I was growing up. I was working at Thames Television on The Bill as a production assistant. I went and enquired as to what I would need to do to be able to become a producer and the answer I received was “you need to write”. It wasn’t instant success as my first book was never published. I wrote a children’s book that went horribly wrong when it came to being published but was a fantastic learning experience: it was all part of the process of becoming a writer. Sometimes I feel that my best writing almost happens in spite of me rather than because of me. Eventually an agent asked if I would like to meet: so I went and bought myself a hat. I met the agent and then – I took my hat off – and started to write. I usually start with an idea of what the story is going to be and see where it takes me: I like the characters to tell me where they would like to go. I realise I speak about them as if they have their own life which comes across a bit odd.

Q. So what does Susan Lewis like to read?

A. Jodi Picoult, Susan Harwich. I’ll happily purchase a book by what I’ve read in the blurb. My thoughts about the kindle is that you don’t get that same experience: you can’t see a cover or who the author is so I have been known to read something and not know who it is I’ve been reading!  I’ve taken inspiration from the Poisonwood Bible and Sweet Francais. The latter was actually the inspiration for my novel The French Affair.

Q. So how did your family react to your memoirs?

A.  Well, the two main characters – my Mum and Dad- had already passed by then but my brother has chosen not read it at all. I think he would really feel the loss at the end of Just One More Day.

Q. In the second of your memoirs you have written from the male perspective – how hard was this for you?

A. I was fortunate that I got to know my Dad for a lot longer. As Dad wrote so much, an awful lot of what is in the book he really wrote himself: I just adapted it to fit into my writing. Dad did his best to keep us all together at a time when men would have fielded children out to aunts and grandparents. Writing from his perspective made me relive everything that I had put my dad through after Mum died: He really didn’t know what to do with such a hellish teenage girl. In fact, when I asked Steph to read it I actually said “I hope you still like me after reading it”. I am now a supporter of Winston’s Wish as they help support in times of child bereavement: who knows how things would have turned out if they had been around when I lost Mum.


When a member of the audience introduces themselves as a member of Sevenoaks writing group Susan very affably offers to “come along to your writers group sometime, for a chat, if you would like?” She then goes on to display how down to earth she is by saying that as she had gotten older she doesn’t hold ideas and details in her head like she used to. She tells us how she ran a competition on Face book for the winner to get their name used as a character’s name in one of her texts. Susan tells us how she had completely forgotten about this until the winner contacted her: there had been a vital component of the novel missing until this woman got in touch and then her character led the novel along. Susan explains how writing, for her, is much like being a sort of medium as she is taken over by the characters. When Susan wrote in her mother’s “voice” she felt as though her mother had taken hold of her fingers and had written those parts herself.

Steph then gave Susan a much earned break by announcing the start of the raffle and auction. There were some truly outstanding prizes on offer including a Jimmy Choo handbag donated by the author herself, a Chamilia bracelet with a B.C.C charm, a basket of goodies from Maisy K, A photo shoot with Catherine Hill Photography, a set of GHD straighteners and a voucher for a cut and blow dry with Matthew Cross, a one hour full body massage in the comfort of the winner’s own home, a mini car donated by Mini, a Pink Pandora Bracelet and an Amber Necklace. Overall this event raised approximately £3000 for Breast Cancer Care: a hugely successful event – congratulations to all involved!

Susan’s 28th novel No Child of Mine will be released on July 5th.

 

In Conversation with Susan Lewis in aid of Breast Cancer Care April 27, 2012

Apologies for the delayed post loyal readers, I know I promised I would post my coverage of this event on Sunday but I was whisked away for a lovely short break (more on this later).

On Friday 20th April I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the above mentioned event. As many of you know, my sense of direction leaves somewhat to be desired so I was not relishing trying to find the venue hosting this event. Luckily for me, one of the contributors to the fundraising raffle was kind enough to suggest we car share and go along together: unluckily for her the beautiful arrangement she had prepared for the auction [see here for examples of her work: [http://www.vintagefloraldesign.co.uk ] did not survive the emergency braking she had to do when a kamikaze cat leapt in front of her car up the narrow country lane which I live. The cat survived though so – technically – she’s a hero; well done Gwenda at the Vintage Floral Design Company.

Entering the car park of Tonbridge School several minutes later than planned we were both rather in awe of the grandeur of the venue: Tonbridge School is distinctly unlike any school I’ve ever been to – excellent choice of venue Steph and congratulations to you for being able to secure it for your event. Following the sign posts (a school with sign posts in the grounds?!) we found the E.M Forster theatre and the huge crowd that had gathered to learn a little bit more about the author Susan Lewis and to help raise funds for Breast Cancer Care. Trays and trays of canapés and gorgeous pink ribbon cupcakes were laid out for guests to enjoy; along with glasses of champagne. Waiting in the reception I had a good look round at all the other guests; male, female, young and old were all gathered and then I spotted the author herself. I was immediately struck by how glamorous Susan looked and how down to earth her demeanour was.

Guests were all then guided to the auditorium for the evening’s presentation, question and answer session; and the much anticipated raffle and auction.  The evening kicked off with a brief overview of the need for charities such as Breast Cancer Care. The aim of this organisation is to get the best possible support and information for anyone affected by cancer. It was also strongly emphasised that this charity is not just for women: two out of every twenty people diagnosed with Breast Cancer are, in fact, men.  An acknowledgement of thanks was given to:

Tonbridge School for kindly hosting the event

http://www.tonbridge-school.co.uk/hire/

Random House publishers:

www.randomhouse.com/

PR Louise Page for introducing Steph and Susan to one another and for always being a support to Steph in planning such events:

lcampbell@randomhouse.co.uk

Amanda Watters at the Goody Bag Company for providing the goody bags for guests:

http://www.goodybag.org.uk/

Choccywoccydooadah for providing a masterpiece of a cake for auction:

www.choccywoccydoodah.com/

Catherine Glazebrook for being a photographer with a smile and for auctioning her services:

http://www.catherinehillphotography.co.uk/

Louise Hudson for providing the cupcakes – even though she was called by accident

The Pink Power Ladies for being a team and for being true friends at the same time

Lynn, Lisa and Chloe at Breast Cancer Care for not being driven absolutely mad by constant calls about event planning.

The evening progressed smoothly into the “In Conversation with” and to help you all get to know the author a bit better I have tried to transcribe as much of the Q&A as possible for you: as this is fairly lengthy it will be included in a second post. It’s great to get to know the author behind the books and a really enjoyable evening was had by all.