Star Q&A: Kim Wilde

Liz Nicholls

Kim Wilde chats to Liz Nicholls about performing at Heritage Live, alongside Boy George, Lulu, Gabrielle & more, including Ardingly on Saturday, 16th July and Englefield House on Saturday, 23rd July.

Q. Hello Kim – where are you chatting from right now? “From home. I’ve got a beautiful garden – it should be after the inordinate time I’ve spent on it! Everything that could be out is out looking amazing. Because of my experience and because of my love of flowers I’ve got lots more flowers to look forward to later in the summer. I don’t have a favourite flower but I have a real soft spot for roses – we called our daughter Rose.”

Q. We’re looking forward to seeing you at Heritage Live. How does it feel to be out on tour again? “Great! I think top of the list of things people really missed over the pandemic was live music; getting together with a crowd of like-minded souls and singing their heart out. Music has a great way of bringing people together in a beautiful way. It does a much better job than most other things in achieving that. I’ve already been doing quite a few gigs and the atmosphere has been noticeably ecstatic. Not just because they’re coming to see me – haha – but we’re all so excited to be back together. These are great days to be a live musician.”

Q. Your dad Marty is on tour right now – do you still enjoy going on stage with him? “Yes! I’ve been hitching a lift in the back of his car, jumping on stage for a few numbers, I just love it! I’ll continue to do that if I’m not working. It’s fantastic being on stage with my dad – his voice is still amazing and his ability to perform is astonishing for his years [83]. I think keeping going, doing what you love keeps you young. He’s no gym bunny, my dad, but he does a lot of golf, a lot of walking, always has done. He doesn’t smoke any more, and he drinks very moderately. I think it’s in the genes.”

Q. Yes – your whole family, including your children, all have musical genes? “It has definitely descended through the generations. Not just in my family but my brother’s family and sister’s family, so it seems to be in the blood.”

Q. Do you have a rider? “I do but I’m very easy to look after before a gig. I don’t really eat much – maybe a few sweeties but I don’t ask anyone to take out different colours for me and I don’t drink alcohol.”

Q. Is it nice to hang out with your old mate Boy George, who is also starring? “It’s great. We’ve done a lot of things together over the years – all kinds of TV and concerts and benefits – we have a real shared history. We recorded a song together which went on my greatest hits album called Shine On. So yeah I can’t wait to see him again. He’s a wonderful person to be around.”

Q. What is it about 1980s music that is so popular – even with younger people now? “It’s very eclectic, you know? Everything was in the 1980s – it wasn’t just sharp haircuts, shoulder pads and synthesisers – there was a lot of prog rock, rock soul, disco, R&B. All kinds of different grooves all happening in parallel. There was something for everybody and it all came under that beautiful umbrella that we call pop.”

Q. What new artists do you like? “I’m listening a lot to Lizzo, really enjoying what she does and how she’s doing it. Thomas Paul, too; I did a bit of work with him over lockdown on his first album Black Country Disco which is awesome! I went to his album launch for Life In Plastic the other night at the Vauxhall Tavern which was fantastic.”

Q. What’s your first memory of music? “I was born in 1960 and the first memories I can trace back are ’67 & ’68 when I was seven and eight. The Beatles – listening to Penny Lane in the back of the car, while my dad was driving us up to Liverpool to see my nan. I remember Cilla Black Anyone Who Had A Heart and Richard Harris MacArthur Park and Gene Pitney 24 Hours from Tulsa. All these beautiful epic songs.”

Q. Thanks Kim we can’t wait to see you. “Thank you! And may I just say that anyone who misses these shows can come to my Pop Won’t Stop Greatest Hits Tour in September when I’ll be up and down the country. There’s a lot of sadness and there are terrible things in the world right now, but there’s a lot of beauty too, so don’t think it’s wrong to focus on that.”

Visit heritagelive.net & kimwilde.com

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Star Q&A: Katherine Jenkins

Liz Nicholls

Liz Nicholls chats to mezzo soprano Katherine Jenkins OBE ahead of her performance at Henley Festival, 6th-10th July.

Q. Hello Katherine! You’ve performed for popes, presidents and princes as well as that wonderful Jubilee performance for The Queen. Which of these, if any, has made you the most nervous? “I was nervous the very first time I performed for The Queen, at the Festival of Remembrance in Albert Hall, especially because you have the afternoon performance then The Queen comes for the evening performance which made me more and more more nervous! And as I’ve become more of a fan over the years I’ve actually become more nervous. You never get blasé about singing for her. Anyone backstage at these events who says ‘oh I’m not that bothered’ I just don’t believe them! The Queen always makes me want to do my best. Because of the admiration I have for her I think that it makes me want to pull out my best performance because that’s what she deserves.”

Q. You’ve met The Queen several times – how have you found her? “I’ve just always found her to be really warm and really good at knowing what to ask you, very interested in what you’re up to. When you see her at formal events but she’s quite witty and funny. I’m a real fan. I’ve grown up in a household who are real fans of hers. And I think as I get older the more I meet her the more I’m impressed by her and admire her – I think she’s an amazing woman. With the celebration at Windsor the whole audience were so thrilled to see her and be in her presence. It was incredibly emotional in terms of seeing that love for her. I remember once being at Buckingham Palace for an event to help musicians at Christmas, being in a line-up next to Brian May and she said oh yes you’re the one who keeps making all that noise on my roof! She’s very quick – she’s made some very funny comments over the years.”

Q. Are you looking forward to Henley Festival and are there any other acts you want to catch? “I listen to all kinds of music. I very much like Craig David [who stars on 7th July], I think Tom Jones is on on the Friday [8th July]. He’s a friend of mine. The thig is about Henley is I’ve been there as a performer and I’ve been there as an audience member. And it’s so much fun as an event that I don’t think I can allow myself to go prior to me performing, if I want to sing well on the Sunday. I want to be in good voice. I do go every year but this is my third time performing. I went last year for Sophie Ellis Bextor. I’ve seen Tom Odell. Whether you’re in the audience, or a performer, there just isn’t an event like it. It’s such a cool occasion, including the fact that the audience are better dressed than you are – it’s a very quintessential British event and I’m excited. I have friends who live in the area, I love the beautiful countryside around there.”

Q. You are an inspirational charity patron & ambassador – is helping others something that was instilled in you by your parents? “Definitely. One of my early memories at primary school was my mum fundraising for a minibus. She never sat still, whether it was for the school or church, there was always some kind of fundraising. I think when you see that at a young age you do inherit that. I’m so grateful that she did give us that sense of responsibility. If you have any kind of success in any field you should pay the good stuff forward. There’s a lot of different charities that are near to my heart but I try to choose ones I can make a difference in.”

Q. What’s your first memory of music? “My mum teaching me I’m a Little Teapot and standing there singing that for anyone who came into our house, putting on a show. When I think of my childhood, I feel like there’s a soundtrack, a lot of church music, male voice choirs, all those opportunities that come with growing up in south Wales. I look back and wonder: would I be in this position today if I hadn’t had that around me?”

Q. Are there any up-and-coming music stars you love? “I work with quite a lot of singers that are coming out of the Royal Academy of Music. Quite a lot of young singers have reached out to me for advice, about the business, how to get a job, and I’m so happy to help out. It’s a very small industry and. Mum and I didn’t believe it was going to happen for me because we didn’t know anyone in this industry, the entertainment sphere at all. So if I can help with connections and advice than I’m so happy to do that. But I can’t choose one to sing the praises of because that would be too hard!”

Q. What’s your favourite book? All the books I’m reading at the moment are parenting books. I have a daughter who’s nearly seven and I’m constantly reading to get ahead of the next stage.”

Q. If you could make one wish for the world what would it be? “Kindness – that’s the root of everything. That we can be kind to each other, to the planet – remember that we’re custodians of it, pass it on. Let’s be kind to ourselves and each other.”

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Wine & dine at The Alice

Liz Nicholls

It’s bottoms-up time down the rabbit hole! To celebrate English Wine Week (18th – 26th June) and to champion English producers, The Alice – Oxford’s all-day dining restaurant and bar set within The Randolph Hotel by Graduate Hotels® – is hosting a series of intimate Wine and Dine events and a special Wine Flight tasting menu in collaboration with Balfour Winery and Coates & Seely.

Taking place on Tuesday 21st June at 7pm, The Alice will be collaborating with Coates & Seely, a quintessential English Sparkling Winery to co-host a fun, blind tasting of French vs English Sparkling Wines. Hosted in The Alice’s beautiful private dining room, each wine will be paired with a curated four-course dinner by executive chef Chris Emery, including canapés to start.

Tristram Coates from Coates & Seely (representing England) and Gemma from Palmer & Co (representing France), will guide guests through the four-course dinner as they blind taste a range of sparkling wines. There will also be plenty of time to learn more about English Wines as they share stories and history of Sparkling Winemaking, before the sparkling wines are revealed at the end of the meal for the moment of truth.

Guests will be treated to a selection of seasonal canapés, followed by four-courses including tempting dishes of Roast Quail with melted onions & morels and a Strawberry, Champagne Syllabub & Verbena Tart.

For more information and to book, please visit the link here. Tickets are £95pp. A vegetarian menu is also available.

Wine & Dine Series at The Alice: Best of Balfour Wine Pairing Dinner

Taking place on Thursday 23rd June at 7pm, The Alice will be collaborating with award-winning Balfour Winery to host an exclusive Wine & Dine four-course dinner curated by Executive Chef Chris Emery, showcasing the best of seasonal British produce and English wine.

Hosted in The Alice’s whimsical private dining room, Janina Doyle, Brand Ambassador of Balfour Winery, will guide guests through the menu as they enjoy each course paired with a sparkling, white or red wine. There will also be plenty of time to learn more about English Wines as she shares the story of the wine harvest and history of Balfour Wine.

Guests will be welcomed with a selection of canapés, followed by a special four-course menu, each course paired with a Balfour wine. Guests can expect dishes including Sole Agnolotti, Sorrel Butter Sauce & Exmoor Caviar paired with Springfield Chardonnay 2018 and Romney Marsh Lamb, Melted Onions, Girolles & Peas paired with Luke’s Pinot Noir 2020.

For more information, including detail on the celebrated Balfour Winery and to book, please visit the link here. Tickets are priced at £75pp. A vegetarian menu is also available.

Introducing The Alice’s Wine Flight Trio

To celebrate English Wine Week, The Alice is also showcasing a limited selection of English wines from Balfour Winery, set on the beautiful Hush Heath Estate. Surrounded by ancient woodlands and wildflower meadows, Balfour was one of the first to be awarded the WineGB Sustainability Certification.

Available throughout the month of June in the main restaurant, guests who dine at The Alice will be able to enjoy an exclusive wine flight trio from Balfour Winery, priced at £12, including Balfour Skye’s Chardonnay, Nannette’s Rose and Luke’s Pinot Noir.

For more information and to book, please visit The Alice’s website here.

Nocturne Live at Blenheim Palace

Liz Nicholls

Blenheim beauty is the backdrop for Nocturne Live stars. Singer/songwriter Mick Hucknall chats about being back on the road performing as Simply Red get set to star at Nocturne Live at Blenheim Palace on 15th June

“What I’m most looking forward to about going back on tour is the audience because I think all of us have been through so much,” says Mick. “Some of us have lost family and friends, which is clearly a very emotional thing, and I just want to be a reassuring figure to the audience that we’re here, you know, entertaining them with the music they clearly love because they’re at the shows.

“The other part of it is that there’s great camaraderie between the band and I’ve missed them and very much look forward to being on a stage. And I know that we’re all gonna be really proud and thrilled to be performing to the audience.”

Q. Is there anything you don’t like about being on tour? “Well, you know, maybe three years ago I would have said yes, but I’m now saying there’s nothing, because I’m actually quite thankful to just even be on tour.”

Q. Without being able to perform over lockdowns, what has helped you cope? “Well, during the pandemic I’ve been lucky enough to have a family and we’ve been in it together, and we’ve had to deal with it like every other family has. I feel particularly for those people that don’t have a family, who have been on their own throughout this time. And again, that’s one of the beautiful things about being on the road is that you can actually be part of their family by having them come to the show and share the experience. The other thing I’ve been doing in the pandemic is writing songs, so that’s been a very positive experience and I’m hoping to share some of that music with you when the time is right, in the autumn I would think.”

Q. What can the fans expect from the tour? “Well, I want to effectively give the fans what they want. We’re gonna perform our ‘best of’, we’re gonna perform the biggest songs of our career and some familiar album tracks from over the years, but it’s just gonna be a real review of the story of Simply Red from 1985 to now, and we hope to give you the big hits.”

Q. Do you have a favourite song to perform and why? “I guess I have to say the favourite song to perform will always be Holding Back The Years. It’s just such a key song on so many levels. But then again there are others. Stars is always a favourite to perform. But always I think, for everybody, Holding Back The Years, it’s the first major song I ever wrote, and it’s something that will always be played.”

Simply Red join headliners Lionel Richie, Simple Minds, UB40 featuring Ali and Astro, and David Gray (celebrating the 20th anniversary of his seminal album White Ladder) on the line-up for the popular concert series, which will run across five nights from Wednesday June 15th to Sunday June 19th 2022.

Support acts for next summer’s event include the likes of Macy Gray, Deacon Blue, Brand New Heavies, Nerina Pallot, Jimmy Cliff, Aswad and James Morrison (full details below). Tickets, along with a limited number of VIP packages – which provide an exclusive opportunity to dine in the State Rooms of Blenheim Palace – are available from www.nocturnelive.com.

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David Gray prepares for Nocturne Live

Liz Nicholls

Twenty years on since his masterpiece White Ladder, Liz Nicholls chats to musician David Gray

Q. Hello David. We’ve been enjoying the deluxe edition of White Ladder, 20 years since the album was released. Does it feel like 20 years?! “It does feel like 20 years – it’s not gone by in the blink of an eye. There’s been a lot going on, a lot to negotiate in these intervening years. It feels good to be at this moment now. I was a bit ambivalent about the idea of a tour when it was first hoisted up the flagpole. But I think years went by and then I thought maybe this is the time to do it because people get sick, things change and then suddenly things aren’t possible in the way they used to be. None of us are getting any younger, so this is the time to give it the full celebration. Then I’ll move on to creative pastures new.”

Q. I’ve been reading that White Ladder came from a dark place… “I think the press use the word ‘dark’ a little too liberally… I mean, let’s face it, I was living in north London. I wasn’t in Bosnia. Or Syria. I was eating croissants from the local patisserie… such was the darkness that was engulfing me! I think things hadn’t worked out [with sales] and that was a hard pill to swallow. I was in a place that, after three albums, I thought ‘is this it?’ When that happens to a musician over a course of many years, it gets worse & harder. A real sense of futility permeates everything you’re doing. Apart from in Ireland, importantly [where David’s music started selling first]. That kept me going; the fact that I had a real connection over there and a fan base kept me believing something could still happen. But I did think, ‘I can’t go on like this, I think I have to change paths’. Then I thought, ‘well, maybe I can make a better record’. You can blame the world, you can blame the journalists, you can blame the record company but I thought: ‘can I make a better record?’ And the answer was yes.”

Q. Did going lo-fi help? “We took the record production in-house with what money was left. We bought a few bits of gear. We got back to making music in my spare room. And that was the best sense of freedom and intimacy. The freedom to explore and discover and get more hands-on with the recording process was the beginning of making this album. A very limited palette of options ended up  one of the strengthening factors in the sonic world we created. We pooled all our creativity. There’s a brightness to the record, even though a sort of melancholy creeps in here and there. It’s the negative charge flipping into positive. It was a ‘do or die’ moment – how do you face the world after it’s shunned you or been indifferent? You open your heart even wider and you go again. That’s the answer. Openness hurts, as Rumi once said. That’s the approach and it’s just incredibly open, melodically unfearful. [White Ladder] is a record that’s happy being exactly what it is. We made the record and we were proud of it when we finished. We’d taken such pains over every tiny bit. It would have been preposterous to imagine the success that was going to come.”

Q. What’s your first memory of music? “Two things. It would be my dad playing records when I went to bed. The smell of fag smoke, cigar smoke, wine, beer and then The Beatles or Elton John’s Yellow Brick Road. Particularly Cat Stevens’ Hard Headed Woman, Wild World. Those songs really take me back. Rod Stewart, Atlantic Crossing. That was the early ’70s soundscape I remember and also all the beautiful TV music. Bagpuss. Hector’s Garden. All those sounds were very entrancing.”

Q. What format do you listen to music on? “Well I’ve succumbed to the algorithmic world of Spotify, and for some things YouTube. I might occasionally play a record… three months later you come back and the turntable’s still going round and round. Sometimes a CD. Some songs don’t exist as streaming music. I’ve got some records you can’t listen to any other way. It’s a bit like DVDs. I’m still watching a lot of films on DVD…”

Q. Any talented up-and-coming singer-songwriters worth your time and a leg-up? “I don’t think they need a leg-up from me but I will mention a couple of people I’m enjoying. One would be Big Thief; a group of musicians from America . And a Bristol collective called This Is The Kit [alias of Kate Stables]. They’ve grabbed my ears in recent years. I could go on but I’ll just meander out into obscurity. Word of mouth is still the most potent means of discovery. If Spotify or Apple recommend I listen to something, 99 times out of 100 I will refuse. That’s the kind of stick-in-the-mud that I am. I’d rather sit on my own at the bus stop with the rain lashing down on my face listening to nothing than listen to their recommendations based on everything I’ve already listened to. One problem with the predictive thing is that if your kids are listening through the same service, it suggests you listen to all the stuff that they listen to, which at the moment is a heavily urban kind of vibe. Not my chosen mood of reflection.”

Q. Mind you, I sometimes discover rare delights from my daughter’s choices before they go mainstream, such as Billie Eilish… “Billie Eilish is one of those rare successes; there’s real talent there. The record production as well. She gets all the plaudits but really her brother [Finneas] is a big talent sculpting the whole thing. It’s really nicely done so hats off to them.”

Q. Do you have a favourite book? “Well, I’ve got lots. Moby Dick by Herman Melville would have to be one of my favourites, an enduring favourite which I’ve read several times. You could do a lot worse.”

Q. What about your favourite film? “You’ve switched tack… you’re not going to ask my favourite colour next, are you?! Well, as it happens I was rather disappointed by Parasite, which got a huge amount of publicity with its bizarre Oscar-winning run. But that’s because I’d enjoyed their previous film Burning more – it’s a really good watch. It’s a dreamlike, based on a Haruki Murakami short story. You never know what’s real or what’s imagined; it’s set on the border with North Korea. I loved that film and it should be the one everyone’s watching. It’s more fully realised and poetic than Parasite managed to be.”

Q. White Ladder means a lot to me and was the soundtrack to a poignant breakup in my life 20 years ago! Have you had any weird fan mail or comments from your fans? “Course I have… but whether I’d want to draw attention to how weird, or how… suggestive, would not be healthy for people to hear! I’ve had some very odd things. Generally the things I get to read or that are sent are very touching, moving. People’s lives, deaths, disaster, triumph, childbirth, illness, madness. It’s all bound into the album & what it meant to people at that certain time in their lives. I came out of a pub earlier this year and this guy was hanging on to a Rottweiler which was dragging him down the street, with his dodgy mate, in the rain. One eye slightly off to one side. The kind of person you step out of the way of. And as I was stepping out of his way he grabbed me and [adopts husky, menacing shout] ‘David Gray mate! Yeah your record saved me; I got off heroin.’ Suddenly I was having this very intense conversation with him about how his friends were dying and as he got into his recovery process he discovered the record. Something about it helped him strengthen his resolve. Well, as he puts it, it made him feel ‘there was something bright out there he could grab hold of’. You hear mad stuff like this and it’s quite hard to process.”

• David Gray will star, as well as Simply Red, Lionel Richie, Simple Minds, UB40 featuring Ali and Astro on the line-up for the popular Nocturne Live concert series, across five nights from Wednesday June 15th to Sunday June 19th. Support acts include Macy Gray, Deacon Blue, Brand New Heavies, Nerina Pallot, Jimmy Cliff, Aswad and James Morrison. Visit www.nocturnelive.com and www.davidgray.co.uk

Making massage a regular, guilt-free treat

Liz Nicholls

We’re all up to our eyeballs in depressing news about the rising cost of living… But we also know how vital self care is for good mental health… So what’s a stressed out, strapped-for-cash girl to do? 🤔

As far as luxurious treats go, a great massage is top of my treats list. You’re either a massage person or you’re not. For me there is no other wholesome indulgence that quite hits the spot when it comes to topping up that mojo. Being a single mum, prone to life-ruining migraines and living with a non-hugging teenager, the prospect of some no-strings touching always appeals. 💆

So the ethos of The Massage Company, born in Camberley in 2016 and growing ever since while winning a few industry awards, really appeals to me. It’s a subscription-based service on a mission transform massage therapy from a “once in a blue moon occurrence” to a regular part of our wellbeing routines. This brings the costs down, and helps you enjoy a regular top-up just for you, so you can enjoy the benefits (better sleep, reduced anxiety anyone?) without feeling guilty or waiting for another birthday to roll round.

I popped into the High Wycombe branch and shared my goals with the friendly team. Although petite and dainty, Gabi the therapist was happy to indulge my “go-hard or go home” approach. Her Swedish style massage was expert, and incredibly relaxing, along with the calming fragrance ooozing out of the mister. You can also opt for deep tissue if you’re the hench type, or hot stones. I treated myself to an additional scalp massage which involved Gabi focusing on my temples and neck, gently pulling small sections of my hair which unleashed all sorts of weird & wonderful sensations elsewhere.

I wafted out into the real world feeling light as a feather and full of beans. And I was plagued by none of my usual headaches for more than a fortnight (and counting). I hope many more of these franchises spring up and urge everyone to put themselves first and treat themselves. We’re all cancelling treats and direct debits but this one should pay for itself.

*The Massage Company branches include Camberley and High Wycombe. To find out more, visit massagecompany.co.uk

Star Q&A: James Blunt

Liz Nicholls

Musician & dad James Blunt, 48, chats to Liz Nicholls ahead of his performances at Cornbury & more festivals this summer…

Q. What’s your first memory of music? “My parents wouldn’t allow music at home. Even nursery rhymes were banned. My sister and I would whisper the melody to American Pie through the bars of our bunk bed.”

Q. Thank you for championing the great British boozer! What’s the recipe for a perfect pub? “A fire burning in the corner, You’re Beautiful playing on the jukebox, and me pulling pints behind the bar. You can find all of this at The Fox & Pheasant in Chelsea.”

Q. We love your acerbic humour on social media. Did the Army sharpen this skill? “I was sent to an all-boys’ boarding school when I was seven and yes, the Army then removed any last bits of emotion.”

Q. How do you feel about the return of get-togethers & festivals this year? “Get-togethers in the Cotswolds never stopped, I’m told… But the return of festivals is very exciting. I’ve missed the energy of lots of people coming together.”

Q. What’s your essential piece of festival kit? “A car battery for the fridge.”

Q. What’s your stand-out festival moment? “I’ve played Glastonbury three times, the Pyramid Stage twice. The second time, I crowdsurfed, and when I returned, discovered the stage was too high for me to climb on to. There was a man I didn’t recognise on stage, so I started shouting at him to help me, then realised he was holding a camera, filming for the BBC, so I was basically shouting ‘HELP ME!’ to the nation. It was this moment I realised I was the least cool person in the music business.”

Q. Who on the summer festival bill are you looking forward to seeing? “The Darkness! I toured with them round Australia and Japan in about 2006, and they are GREAT fun.”

Q. What’s your favourite book, film & piece of music? “Book: The Snail and The Whale. The film Up! – the first seven minutes reduced me to tears. I love Chill Out by The KLF. It’s just a beautiful journey round America told by two Scotsmen using borrowed sound effects.”

Q. How was lockdown for you? “I was very lucky to be able to go home and spend time with my family. I learnt how to use a chainsaw, and defend my house from a gang of thieves who tried to rob me three times.”

Q. Any unsung hero musician who deserves the spotlight? “I think I’m quite underrated.”

Q. What lesson did parenthood teach you? “Go on tour for at least the first nine months.”

Q. If you could make one wish, what would it be? “That humans would make the changes necessary to curb our impact on the planet, because if we don’t, we’re going to be f***ed much faster than we think. I spend time in the mountains, and have seen the glaciers shrink over the years, and I live in the Mediterranean and there are very few fish left in the sea.”

Visit cornbury festival.com & jamesblunt.com

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Green dream

Liz Nicholls

The Green Hub in Milford, which has just had its first birthday, offers a vital support space for teenagers struggling with their mental health

Just one year ago you‘d find the Green Hub Project for Teens on Facebook looking for local folk to join a DIY SOS-style weekend, to transform their tranquil garden in Milford. This month the garden celebrates its first birthday.

Over its first year Green Hub Project for Teens has transformed from an idea in its embryonic stage into a confident adolescent.

The garden is the vision of local chiropractor Tone Tellefsen Hughes. “I’ve seen so much trauma through my clinic in recent years,” she says. “But since Covid, it’s become unimaginably bad, so many young people experiencing a tough time – it’s heart-breaking. This is why we are reaching out to families with teens struggling with low to moderate social anxiety, stress and overwhelm.”

Tone’s co-chair, local business coach Vanessa Lanham-Day, has been instrumental in creating the momentum behind the project. “The garden and teen volunteering is such a simple concept – it’s all about providing time out in nature and calm.

But, for the teens to benefit from time spent in the garden, there has been a whole machine that needed to be created. We have been busy spreading the word as well as building relationships with GPs, schools and youth organisations – but the most passionate requests come from parents themselves.

Teens spend up to 12 weeks becoming garden volunteers, under the guidance of adult leaders – there are morning and afternoon sessions (all free) each Saturday for up to eight teens. The process isn’t “therapy” problems aren’t discussed, and no advice is given – but the process is undoubtedly therapeutic.

Tone adds: “Science shows that being in nature allows the brain to calm down and settle a little, like a busy snow globe when the snow falls. When you immerse yourself in an activity – especially in nature – your brain is unable to do anything else and this gives the busy teenage brain a chance to rest and make sense of what’s been going on in their world. There are long term benefits after a garden session, as well as finding a connection which has been so sorely missed since the pandemic for so many.”

Tone and Vanessa would also like to find other garden spaces to extend the programme.

Parents who want to refer a teen to the project should visit greenhub.org.uk/parent-refer

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Festival fun for all

Liz Nicholls

Festivals are back on! Yes, after two fretful years of disrupted fun & frolics, there’s a summer sizzler of festivals ready to rock your world, whatever you’re into… writes Liz Nicholls

Close your eyes and imagine you’re in your happy place… Maybe you and your tots are wafting amid rainbow bubbles, singing along to Justin Fletcher, deluxe doughnut in hand? Are you waiting for the bass to drop beneath the strobe lights as the stage is set for Pete Tong or Orbital? Supping a craft ale getting crafty on your village green? Getting grimy at Reading..? We all have different ideas of a good time.

Whatever your jam, there’s a festival for you.

The excitement among musicians, as well as everyone involved in the festival scene, is palpable

Ronan Keating, who stars at this year’s Cornbury, tells us: “It’s just great to be back on stage with my band again. After the last couple of years I think everyone feels a huge sigh of relief that we can all get back together again to do something we truly love. I was due to perform at Cornbury in 2020 but understandably everything had to be moved. It’s a great line-up with Bryan Adams, James Blunt and then me on the Sunday. I was lucky to be able to release two albums during the pandemic, Twenty Twenty and Songs From Home.

“It will be great to be back on stage and play some of the new tracks along with all the hits from my solo years as well as a few of the great Boyzone hits that everyone loves. I’m still loving being live on Magic Radio every week day morning, along with Harriet Scott, and you’ll still be able to see me each week on the sofa co-hosting The  One Show. I feel very lucky to be in people’s homes across the UK each day on TV and radio but finally  being back on stage is the thing that’s making this year so special.”

Kaleidoscope – credit Lloyd Winters

So, here’s a round-up of the big & small gems which are all set to dazzle between now & the end of summer…

The Investec International Music Festival celebrates composer Ralph Vaughan Williams’ 150th birthday and strong local connections with world-class concerts, walks and talks across the Surrey Hills, 5th-14th May. Featuring Sitkovetsky Trio at Charterhouse in Godalming, Modigliani Quartet & cellist Gary Hoffman with Wu Qian at Cobham’s Menuhin Hall, and clarinettist Michael Collins with an all-star chamber ensemble at RHS Garden Wisley. Please visit iimf.co.uk

Cookham Festival in Bucks is a celebration of the arts by the village for the village, 6th to 22nd May. You can enjoy music, spoken word, workshops, kids’ fun, sculpture & more; visit cookhamfestival.co.uk

Are You Listening? Alfie Templeman, Pip Blom, Pixey & dozens more will rock Reading in aid of Mencap on 7th May; areyoulistening.org.uk. And there are classical delights aplenty at Newbury Spring Festival, 7th-21st May; newburyspringfestival.org.uk

Join beloved local legend Tom Kerridge & his foodie friends for Pub In The Park Marlow, 12th-15th May, for Rag’n’Bone Man, Sister Sledge, Sophie Ellis-Bextor & lots more talent; pubintheparkuk.com. And if you love the 1980s, Let’s Rock the Moor in Cookham on 21st May offers Wet Wet Wet, Squeeze, The Selecter, Jason Donovan, Sonique & more; letsrockthemoor.com

Family & planet-friendly WOOD returns to Ipsden near Wallingford, 20th-22nd May; woodfestival.com

Amesbury Arts Festival has two performances open to the public: Scouting for Girls, Indie-pop, 25th May, 7.30pm, and live stand-up comedy from Iain Stirling on 26th May, 7.30pm. Both be held in the school’s magnificent grounds in Hindhead. But tickets via EventBrite, visit amesburyschool.co.uk/artsfestival2022

Celebrate Britain’s rich musical heritage

The 15th English Music Festival at Dorchester Abbey, 27th-29th May, stars Coleridge-Taylor’s Violin Concerto, Holst’s The Cloud Messenger, Vaughan Williams’s Willow Wood sung by Roderick Williams; a song showcase by Havergal Brian; and A Garland for the Queen, commissioned specially for the Jubilee. englishmusicfestival.org.uk

“Probably the finest free music and beer festival in the world…” Rokefest will rock The Home Sweet Home in the glorious Oxfordshire countryside, 27th-29th May, starring Bottle Kids, The Skandal, the MFU & more, all for great causes; rokefest.com

Among the many festivals DJ Yoda, AKA Duncan Beiny, will perform at this year is the fabulous Great Estate in Cornwall, 2nd-5th June which also stars Manic Street Preachers, Electric Six, The Sugarhill Gang and more; greatestatefestival.co.uk. The turntablist is looking forward to this summer…. “Oh god I’m champing at the bit!” he says. “If anything I feel a bit nervous about it.  I’m even seriously getting myself in physical shape for it with diet and exercise. The pandemic ruled travel out for ages which was grim for me; I’m looking forward to getting to New York, Austria, Portugal, Ireland. Kaleidoscope festival at Ally Pally is near where I grew up so I’ll see a lot of old friends, that will be really special for me. Musically there’s Mostly Jazz in Birmingham [8th-10th July; mostlyjazz.co.uk]. Standon Calling [Hertfordshire, 21st-24th July; standon-calling.com] is always good, Y Not? is always good… [Derbyshire, 29th-31st July; ynotfestival.com]. It’s going to be week-in, week-out party times. As a DJ I’m constantly checking out new artists. My favourite rappers at the moment are Roc Marciano and Your Old Droog and I really rate the singer Grace Lightman. I love seeing other acts at festivals so this quest lives in my head very much, I can’t wait!”

Jubilee joy awaits at Shynefest at Merrist Wood College in Worplesdon, on 3rd & 4th June. The Lightning Seeds top the live music bill & you’ll find bucketloads of family-friendly fun such as escape room games & animal encounters, food, plus there are camping & glamping options; shynefest.uk

Enjoy a folk, doo-wop & jive weekend at the Fleur De Lys in East Hagbourne near Didcot, 3rd-5th June; thefleurdelyspub.co.uk

And Wychwood Festival will rock Cheltenham racecourse, 3rd-5th June, with Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Levellers, Boney M, comedy, a kids’ lit fest, headphone disco & idyllic camping beneath the Prestbury Hills; wychwoodfestival.com

Hampton Court Palace Festival offers legends including Elbow, George Benson, Jack Savoretti, Ministry of Sound classical mash-ups, The Human League, Crowded House, Michael Ball & Alfie Boe, 8th-16th June. With Fortnum & Mason picnics & bouji hospitality packages, this is a classy affair… hamptoncourtpalacefestival.com for all you need to know.

Richard Dawkins (on defying gravity), Delia Smith, Jarvis Cocker, David Miliband, William Dalrymple & David Olusoga are some of the mind-expanding stars at KITE, a new festival of ideas & music in Kirtlington, near Oxford, 10th-12th June, with Grace Jones, no less, topping the music bill! kitefestival.co.uk

All hail the return of The Isle of Wight Festival!

The iconic shindig just over the Solent stars Lewis Capaldi, Madness, Nile & Chic, Kasabian, Pete Tong, Muse & more, 16th-19th June. isleofwightfestival.com

Blenheim Palace is the superb backdrop for the Nocturne Live performances from the likes of David Gray, Lionel Richie, Simply Red, Simple Minds & UB40 starring Ali Astro, 16th-19th June; nocturnelive.com

Beacon Festival returns to raise funds and spirits in Watlington on 17th & 18th June, with a Queen tribute, Noble Jack, Kioko, Fontana, SkaSouls UK, Chic to Chic and lots more across four stages. Over the last decade the eco-friendly festival with a free shuttle bus & camping has raised more than £25,500 for local charities; beaconfestival.net

We can’t not mention Glastonbury in a festivals special… If you’re lucky enough to have bagged a golden ticket, at the end of June, you can enjoy Paul McCartney, Billie Eilish, Diana Ross and legions more… If not, watch from the sofa!

Fancy a little opera? After wowing thousands since 2018, Scherzo Ensemble return to Longhope Opera in Newton Valence, near Alton, 2nd & Sunday, 3rd July, to perform L’elisir d’Amore by Donizetti. longhopesummeropera.com

A$AP Rocky & Tyler, the Creator star at Wireless Crystal Palace, 1st to 3rd July and Cardi B & Nicki Minaj at Finsbury Park (8th-10th July); wirelessfestival.co.uk. And BST Hyde Park is the glorious setting, 24th June to 10th July, for Pearl Jam, Robert Plant, Pixies, Stereophonics, Rolling Stones & more, bst-hydepark.com

Haslemere Fringe Festival, 1st-3rd July, has music, comedy, dance and more, 1st to 3rd July. Sleeper, Sophie Ellis-Bextor & The Feeling will star, along with so many more stars, at this community highlight with heart; haslemerefringe.co.uk

A trip to Devon is always a mood-booster

Powderham Castle near Exeter is the suitably stunning setting, on Sunday, 3rd July, for A Perfect Day. The line-up will include our former cover star & crush David Gray performing his White Ladder 20th anniversary Show, James Morrison, Tom Odell, Gabrielle, The Shires & Wildwood Kin; aperfectdayfestival.com

Morcheeba, Sugar Hill Gang, Badly Drawn Boy, DJ Format & many more will dazzle at Readipop in Caversham, 8th-10th July. Established in 1998, party while helping vulnerable young people and older folk, as well as aspiring artists; readipop.co.uk

Hugh Phillimore has confirmed that it’s officially the final Cornbury (sniff) at The Great Tew Park, 8th-10th July. And it’s a fittingly great line-up starring Bryan Adams, James Blunt, the aforementioned Ronan Keating, The Darkness, The Magic Numbers & many more; cornburyfestival.com

And if you’ve got a ticket to sold-out “Godfather of the small festival scene,” Truck in Steventon enjoy Sam Fender, Blossoms, Kelis, Black Honey & more; see truckfestival.com for resales.

Pete Tong, Craig David, Katherine Jenkins, Jack Savoretti & Tom Jones are among the legends at the smart riverside Henley Festival 6th-10th July; henley-festival.co.uk. Get your glad rags on!

Henley Festival

Our very witty cover star James Blunt will star, alongside Cameo, the Specials, Human League & more at the stunning Rochester Castle Concerts in Kent 6th-9th July; rochestercastleconcerts.com

Reef, The Hoosiers, the Leylines & Dodgy will star at Fi.Fest in Maidenhead on 9th July; fifest.co.uk. And arrive thristy for Twyford Beer Festival, which is alweays fun, and raises money for male cancer charity Orchid, 10th & 11th July; twyfordbeerfest.co.uk

On 16th July head to Newbury to enjoy Weatherby’s Super Sprint Day & Party in the Paddock with the one and only Craig David; newburyracecourse.co.uk

Set within the stunning Henham Park in Suffolk, let your curiosity guide you at Latitude, 21st to 24th July. This East Anglian wonderland offers great music, dance, comedy, poetry, theatre, literature, family fun and wellness such as wild swimming and paddleboarding. This year’s line-up includes Foals, Groove Armada, Fontaines DC & many more; latitudefestival.com

Pennfest near Beaconsfield is one of our favourites here at Round & About Towers The funfest on 22nd & 23rd July has another banging line-up to rev up the Bucks countryside, including Clean Bandit, Sugar Hill Gang, Rudimental, Grandmaster Flash, Shola Ama, The Hoosiers & more; pennfest.net.

Enter our competition to win Pennfest tickets!

Kaleidoscope lands at Alexandra Palace on Saturday, 23rd July, with Orbital, Happy Mondays, Dom Joly, a circus, theatre & more… And Patty Smith will star, alongside Nadine Shah, at Higher Ground, also at Ally Pally on 24th July; higherground.london

Beloved Berkshire beauty Marvellous will offer mighty more tribute acts & fun, 23rd & 24th July in Hurst; marvellousfestivals.com.

WOMAD letters – credit Brenna Duncan

WOMAD, the World of Music, Arts and Dance Music festival, returns to delight Charlton Park near Marlborough, 28th-31st July. Kae Tempest, A Certain Ratio, The Dhol Foundation, Greentea Peng & Nitin Sawhney will star; womad.co.uk

Curated by Josie & Rob Da Bank, Camp Bestival at Dorset’s Lulworth Castle. This year’s line-up includes Rag ‘n’Bone Man, Rudimental, Earth, WInd & Fire, Example, a DJ set from Faithless, Mr Tumble, spas, workshop, and lots of family fun, 28th-31st July; dorset.campbestival.net

Cornbury Park is the wondrous setting for the thrilling Wilderness Festival, 4th-7th August. Wellbeing, theatre, thought-provoking workshops and more will keep you stimulated, and Underworld, Years & Years and Roisin Murphy are some of the gems on the musical line-up; wildernessfestival.com

The brilliantly bonkers Boomtown Fair team are building the Main City for a revitalised living theatre festival on the theme of The Gathering, 10th-14th August in Hampshire’s Matterley Estate, boomtownfair.co.uk

Enjoy wings, wheels and steam with your bands with Retrofestival in Newbury, 12th-14th August; retrofestival.co.uk

Billy Ocean, Cast, Del Amitri, Stereo MCs & The Christians will star at Weyfest, the boutique festival held in Tilford near Farnham since 2007. This year’s family-friendly highlight 19th-21st August will rock The Rural Life Museum, with dancing Daleks, Laserquest, “posh loos” & great food; weyfest.co.uk

Stowaway Festival

Another Bucks beauty, Stowaway near Buckingham will star Orbital, a DJ set from Quantic, Norman Jay, Erol Alkan, The Staves, Roni Size & more, 19th-21st August; stowawayfestival.co.uk.

Enter our competition to win Stowaway tickets!

And Rewind South in Henley 19th-21st August will star Holly Johnson, Kim Wilde, The Human League and Pat Sharp; south.rewindfestival.com

Reading (& Leeds) is back to rock the August bank holiday. Arctic Monkeys, Dave, Rage Against The Machine, Megan Thee Stallion, Joy Crookes, Run the Jewels, Griff, Pale Waves & Wolf Alice star; readingfestival.com/tickets

Still rocking near Thame after 58 fun-filled years, Towersey Festival brings you comedy, music & fun, 26th-29th August; towerseyfestival.com

Love cars, love music? Then you’ll love cinch presents CarFest, the family music & motoring festival founded by Chris Evans in 2011, that raises fun levels and funds for children’s charities. Catch Paloma Faith, Rag’n’Bone Man, Kaiser Chiefs, Steps & so many more at Laverstoke Park, 26th-28th August, carfest.org

Finally, 2nd-4th September, community favourite Bunkfest in Wallingford will serve up its beloved brew of music, dance & beer; bunkfest.co.uk

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Star Q&A: Toyah Willcox

Liz Nicholls

Musician Toyah Willcox, who turns 64 this month, shares her excitement for a summer of festivals, including Let’s Rock where she is set to star…

Hello! Given the past two years, do you think 2022 could be the most joyous ever? “2022 will be joyous – the artists have missed the audience and the audience have missed the artists. It’s going to be one big party. Let’s Rock is very special because not only are there back-to-back acts all day who are brilliant and iconic, but also the atmosphere is so friendly and family-orientated. You can look out over an audience and sometimes see three generations of the same family. They are a joyous community with one thing in common – they all love the 1980s! I love performing with the Let’s Rock band (sensationally good musicians). We also get to see the friends we’ve been performing with for decades… for 40 years.”

Q. Are there any other performers you’re looking forward to seeing? “I always end up on the same plane and same hotel as Chesney Hawkes, all over the world… Somehow fate brings us together and we have a scream. Chesney lives in the States, I live in the UK, but we walk into the same room in the oddest places and say ‘What are you doing here?!”’

Q. Which musician, living or dead, would you most like to see perform? “Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, Janis Joplin, Tim Buckley, Robert Plant (with me) and Talk Talk.”

Q. What is your strongest memory of appearing on Top Of The Pops? “Top Of The Pops was an event, every time. It’s a show I used to watch with my family and to be on it was an honour. On my first appearance there was a mini disaster when my costume didn’t arrive and I had to wear a dress I bought as a back-up. Ironically, I think it made me more approachable to the Top Of The Pops audience – less confrontational, image-wise.”

Q. Have you kept any souvenirs from the 1980s? “I have warehouses full of every on-stage costume/every acting costume I’ve ever worn, as well as every photoshoot. They are my life, a life I am immensely proud of.”

Q. What other plans do you have for 2022? “I have three sold-out tours this year, including Toyah & Lene Lovich’s Electric Ladies UK tour in June, followed by the Toyah Anthem Tour in autumn to celebrate of the re-release of my 1981 platinum album Anthem. I will also be making two albums – a reimagining of my 2019 album In The Court Of The Crimson Queen, whilst the second album will be recorded in September and is the follow-up to my 2021 no.1. album, Posh Pop. In the last two years I’ve had four Top 10 albums – Posh Pop out-sold Queen, Metallica and Justin Timberlake in its first week.”

Tickets & more at letsrockthemoor.com

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