Oxfordshire prepares to go WILD

Liz Nicholls

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Attention festival-lovers! Wilderness is all set to make a glittering return to Cornbury Park, from Thursday 5th August – Sunday 8th August

This year’s homegrown headliners are all genre-smashing: international DJ Jamie xx, Mercury-nominated, heartfelt rapper Loyle Carner and the MOBO and Brit-winning Rudimental. The Valley is your seismic slab of cutting-edge electronic music served over a forested amphitheatre, topped with lasers and pulsing with insane production.

This year it’s The Blessed Madonna, Jayda G and Eats Everything on the ones and twos.Also set to dazzle for lucky ticket-holders are Irish underground bloggers turned house-megastars BICEP, original reggae selector and soundclash champ David Rodigan with his Outlook Orchestra, Holly Humberstone – runner up on BBC Sound Poll 21, Craig Charles with one of his trademark funk and soul-drenched sets and many many more.

It’s not just about the music:

Food is always top of the bill. Wilderness were the first to introduce long table feasting as a festival way of life and have always been untouchable with their food programming. This year is no different, as Wilderness announces its first fully vegetarian and vegan banqueting tent – The Wilderness Kitchen. Helen Graham, Robin Gill, Lee Westcott and wild food restaurant Native will each join forces with Social Pantry to deliver the four mouth-watering vegetarian and vegan feasts.

The Chef’s Table is the intimate, hilltop perched restaurant for 26 diners overlooking the lake. This year celebrates the hottest young chef talent, with sustainable Mayfair restaurant Fallow joining Michelin-starred Mei Mei founder and ex-Masterchef Elizabeth Haigh, returning chef and Osip founder Merlin Labron-Johnson plus Brad Carter of Michelin-starred Carter’s of Moseley.

The Feasting Tents are Wilderness’s answer to bookable restaurants and feature some of the finest chefs from across the country. Continuing the Woodfired and Friends series, Ben Quinn’s Woodfired Canteen deliver their own feasting tent for the whole weekend, cooking over live fire for long table extravaganzas and featuring guest chefs such as Smokestak’s David Carter. Patty and Bun return with their winning beats and burgers formula, with more to be announced.

Letters Live return to headline the Talks programme at The Atrium for a fourth year. Always star-studded, their Wilderness guest list in previous years has included Olivia Coleman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ben Kingsley and Russell Brand.

As usual, this year’s line-up is a tightly kept secret. Its mission has always been the same: to harness the unrivalled power of old-fashioned correspondence with the help of an ever-changing cast of some of the most acclaimed performing talent from around the world.

Tickets were sold out earlier this summer, but you can sign up to the waiting list in case of cancellations and make sure to put your name down for next year!

wildernessfestival.com/tickets

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August recipes: Rays of sunshine

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We’re serving up two dishes from Sunshine Kitchen: Delicious Creole recipes from the Heart of the Caribbean by Vanessa Bolosier, published by Pavilion Books.

Carnival equals sweet fritters! These treats are traditionally served in the Caribbean every Sunday throughout January and until Ash Wednesday.

Banana & rum fritters

Ingredients:

• Four ripe bananas
• 60g/2¼oz/5 tbsp golden granulated sugar
• Two eggs
• 125g/4½oz/1 cup plain (all-purpose) flour
• 1tsp baking powder
• One vanilla pod, cut in half lengthwise
• Grated zest of one lime
• A pinch grated cinnamon
• A pinch grated nutmeg
• 1tbsp white rum
• 1 litre/1¾ pints/four cups sunflower oil
• 1tbsp icing (confectioners’) sugar

PREP:  2 minutes

COOKING: 5 minutes

MAKES: 20-30

Method:

1. Peel the bananas, put them in a bowl and mash with a fork. Whisk in the sugar and eggs, then the flour and baking powder. Using a small knife, scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod and add to the mixture, then stir in the lime zest, cinnamon, nutmeg and rum.

2. In a deep pan, heat the oil over a medium heat until it reaches 180°C/350°F, or until a cube of bread browns in 30–40 seconds. Make sure the oil doesn’t get too hot and start to smoke. Gently drop tablespoonfuls of the batter into the oil and cook for about 2 minutes on each side, turning occasionally, until dark golden all over.

3. Scoop the fritters out of the oil and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve hot.

♥ Tip
I like to add a tablespoon of unsweetened desiccated (dry) coconut to my banana fritters to add texture.

Creole rice

Ingredients:

• Two eggs
• 2tbsp vegetable oil
• Onion, very finely chopped
• One spring onion, very finely chopped
• Four garlic cloves, very finely chopped
• 1⁄2 tsp Colombo powder
• 1⁄2 tsp tomato purée (paste)
• 500g/1lb 2oz/21⁄2 cups jasmine rice
• A can (about 300g/101⁄2oz) sweetcorn, drained
• 500ml/18fl oz/two cups water
• Two chicken stock cubes
• A bay leaf
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Colombo powder:

• 2 tbsp coriander seeds
• 2 tbsp ground turmeric
• 1 tbsp cumin seeds
• 1 tbsp mustard seeds
• 1⁄2 tbsp fenugreek seeds
• 1 clove
• 1 tbsp garlic powder

PREP: 15 minutes

COOKING: 32 minutes

MAKES: 4

Method:

Creole rice (also called riz melangé) is a housewife’s godsend. When she serves this — to which you can add chicken or fish — it means she was either in a rush, or just used whatever was in her cupboard. It’s also a favourite to bring when spending a day on the beach with the family and barbecuing some chicken wings in situ.

Many of the migrants who arrived around 1862 came from southern India and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), so this is how their spice mix acquired its name. Make your own by putting all the spices in a spice grinder or mortar & pestle and grinding to a fine powder. Sieve it, keep in an airtight container and use within two or three months:

1. Put the eggs in a saucepan of cold water, bring to simmering point and simmer for 7–10 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water. Set aside.

2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan, add the onion, spring onion, garlic, Colombo powder and tomato purée and cook until the onions start to soften.

3. Add the rice and corn. Stir to coat the rice. Add the water, cubes & bay leaf and stir well. Season. Cover and cook over a low heat for 25 minutes, stirring two or three times so the rice doesn’t stick Cut each egg into six and stir into the rice.

4. Remove the bay and serve hot, for example with chicken fricassée.

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Star Q&A: Andre Rieu

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Liz Nicholls asks international classical music champion & dad Andre Rieu, 71, about life, love & music ahead of Together Again which comes to cinemas on 28th & 29th August.

Q. Your concerts look so joyful! How do you create that magic? “Wherever we play in the world, people start to dance when they hear The Blue Danube. Magicians use their wands, I have my violin and my bow. But there is also the joy I feel when I play my music. It’s real, and luckily, my fellow orchestra members share that joy and passion. And then there is this unmistakable interaction with my audience: we face them and they can see our faces too. You know, classical music has been composed for all of us – not only for the elite like some people tend to think. Johann Strauss, Mozart; they were pop stars in their own times. Music is my oxygen!”

Q. How have you coped over the last 16 months? “When a concert was over and we were travelling to our hotel, I used to watch baking tutorials on YouTube. So that’s what I’ve been doing: making cakes, pies and all kind of pastries for the street, haha! One of the most famous cake bakers in the Netherlands (Cees Holtkamp) gave me a masterclass on my birthday, that was a nice surprise! Nevertheless, I missed contact with my audience and my big family; that’s the nickname for all my fellow orchestra members. My saviours? My wife, our sons with their wives and our five gorgeous grandchildren. I am looking forward to touring and returning to the UK in 2022.”

Q. How did your father shape your path in life? “I was raised in a classical family. My father was a symphony orchestra conductor, all my brothers and sisters play one or more instruments, chosen by our mother. She thought the violin would suit me and she was right! No other instrument translates my inner feelings so well. My first violin teacher was an 18-year-old blonde girl with whom I instantly fell in love (I was five years old, haha!).”

Q. What’s the key to a happy marriage like yours with Marjorie? “The key to our blissful happiness is the 100% mutual trust, but also sharing the same sense of humour and giving the freedom the other needs. We’ve been married 47 years, we work together but we’re also still each other’s lovers. Most people forget but it’s important to enjoy life and laugh. In the Netherlands we have a saying: ‘Not having laughed one day is not having lived that same day’.”

Q. What surprising lessons have fatherhood, and being a grandpa, taught you? “Not a single day is the same as another. Try to enjoy every moment because your (grand) children grow quicker than you think. Besides that: freedom is the secret… they’ll come to you as a father or grandfather when they’ll need you. Last thing: I love to spoil my grandchildren once in a while…”

Q. Who would be your dream dinner party guests? “Walt Disney who said: ‘If you can dream it, you can do it!’ Next to him, the one and only true King of the Waltz: Johann Strauss. Albert Einstein because of his knowledge about the universe: Jules Verne and Columbus.”

Q. What wish would you grant the world? “World peace. Not to fight for, let’s say, one year. Try to make music… more fun than weapons!”

For tickets please visit andreincinemas.com

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Local Sue Ryder Hospice launches appeal

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National healthcare charity Sue Ryder, which runs Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent Hospice in Reading, has this month launched an appeal asking people to help them fill families’ final days together with love.

The charity is asking people of Berkshire to support their ‘Room Full of Love’ campaign, so Sue Ryder Nurses and expert care teams can continue to go above and beyond, helping to give families a better goodbye.

Families like David’s.

They made it possible for our family to be together

David’s family were supported by the Sue Ryder Hospice at Home team, who ensured he was able to spend his final days in the comfort of his own home, surrounded by photos and memories, with his wife and daughter by his side.

David’s daughter, Joanna, said: “When we found out we had been allocated care from the Sue Ryder Hospice at Home team, I felt as though a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. Where I live, the words “Sue Ryder” are synonymous with care, love, support and sanctuary. Knowing we would be supported by the team meant that Mum and I felt able to take the decision to care for Dad at home in the last weeks of his life.

Some of the care team brought humour – much needed at such a difficult time. Others connected with us on shared interests and experiences. In their first couple of visits, our carers took time to find out about Dad – where he used to work, what his interests were, and to look at old family photos. He wasn’t just a patient to them: he was a person.

It takes a very special person to carry out the work that the Hospice at Home team does, every day, for families like ours across the country. They made it possible for us to be together as a family in one of the most difficult times of our lives, and I will always, always be grateful and thankful for their love and care for us.”

Going above and beyond

“We often talk about the photos that people have around them and I really think patients like there to be a bit of normality”, shares Sue Ryder Nurse Melissa, who was one of the Sue Ryder care team who helped care for David and his family.

“I remember when we suggested it was time for David to have a hospital bed, the family all got together and rearranged the front room and it became a beautiful bedroom for him.

On the day David died we called their vicar for them and he came and I hope that gave them some comfort. David kept his Bible beside his bed, so we knew his faith was important to him.

When the family stepped out so we could perform the last offices we picked a rose from a bush in the garden and laid it on his pillow and placed his Bible under his hand. It’s a way for us to say that we have been privileged to look after your family.”

A room full of love

The past year has been difficult for everyone, with many families experiencing loss. Sue Ryder wants to take away some of the tough things that come with losing a loved one, helping to fill rooms with music, much-loved pets, or the people who mean the most, to help families have a better goodbye.

By supporting the appeal you can help Sue Ryder take the pain, stress, and uncertainty away through their medical expertise, emotional intelligence and practical support, leaving families like David’s free to focus on what’s really important – love.

To help Sue Ryder Nurses fill a room with love,  click here

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July recipes: Tutti Fruity

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It’s barbecue season! We’ve teamed up with home economics star Jack Monroe & Del Monte to serve this sunny delight

Jack Monroe’s Del Monte® spicy pork belly with prune chutney

Ingredients:

• 1 (425g) can of Del Monte® prunes in juice
• Two fat cloves of garlic
• 1 tbsp light coloured vinegar – cider, red, white or rice are all fine
• 1 tbsp light cooking oil
• 1 tsp Chinese five spice
• 1 tsp fennel seeds
• 1/2 tsp coarse salt or 1/4 tsp table salt
• Plenty of black pepper
• 800g pork belly, sliced
• One large onion
• Two large stalks of celery

PREP: Prep: 6-24 hours

COOKING: Cooking: 40 mins, plus 10 minutes cooling time

MAKES: 4-6

Method:

1. Strain the prunes, putting the juice in a large jar with a lid for the marinade. Set to one side.

2. Peel and crush (or mince) your garlic and add to the juice, with vinegar and a little oil. Mix Chinese five spice, fennel, salt & peppe and add most of this to the jar. Lid tightly and shake to mix and emulsify. Pop pork into the smallest food-safe sealable container that will hold it and pour 3/4 of the marinade carefully all over. Refrigerate for six-24 hours (no more).

3. Make the chutney. Destone the prunes by gently squeezingthem & pop into a medium saucepan. Peel and halve, then very finely slice onion & celery. Add to the pan with the remaining marinade and an extra tbsp of vinegar. Bring to the boil, then reduce to simmer and cook until the veg is very soft. You may need to add a splash of water, so keep an eye to make sure it doesn’t dry out, but it should take around 25 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer to a clean, heat-proof jar, screw lid on while hot and leave to cool fully before popping in fridge.

4. When it’s time to cook the pork, take from the fridge for 20 minutes. Preheat your oven to 210oC, gas mark 6, with a shelf in the middle of it or just below. Transfer the pork to the small roasting dish and pour over the marinade to just below where the top fat layer starts. Rub the remaining marinade on the exposed fat. Pop the pork in for 10-12 minutes to crisp fat. Turn oven to 140oC, and cook further 90 minutes. Ovens vary, so check.

5. Place a wire cooling rack on top of a roasting tray with sides. Take pork from oven and place pieces on the wire rack to rest for 10 minutes.

6. For the gravy, mix 1tbsp each of oil / butter & flour in a small pan over a low heat. Gradually add the juices, stirring the whole time, and thin with stock or water as desired. Taste and season. Serve hot – it will thicken as it cools.

Jack Monroe’s Del Monte® mandarin, pickled bean, feta & herb salad

Ingredients:
For pickled beans:

• 1 can (400g) borlotti beans
• 1 can (400g) cannellini beans
• 1 small onion
• 6 fat cloves of garlic
• 1 tsp mixed dried herbs or a few sprigs of fresh thyme or rosemary
• 2 bay leaves
• 400ml light coloured vinegar
• 100ml light cooking oil
• 1 tbsp of salt
• Plenty of black pepper

For the salad and Mandarin dressing:

• One can (300g) Del Monte® mandarin segments in Juice
• Light-coloured vinegar
• Light cooking oil of
your choice
• Salt and pepper
• A handful of fresh basil
• A handful of fresh parsley
• 100g mixed salad leaves
• 100g feta or other Greek-style salad cheese

PREP: 30 minutes to prepare the bean pickle, four days to settle, 20 minutes to prepare the salad

MAKES: 2 or 3 as a main dish or 6 to 8 as a side

Method:

The pickled beans will need to be made well ahead; they start to come into their own about four days after bottling, but it is worth the wait!

1. Drain & rinse your beans. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Peel and very finely slice your onion and garlic, add. Measure in the dried herbs, mix & set it all to one side.

2. In a saucepan, combine vinegar, bay leaves, salt & pepper. Place on a medium hob ring on a high heat. Bring to the boil, then reduce to simmer. Add the bean mix and pour over the oil. Simmer for four or five more minutes. Remove the pan and stir well. Ladle evenly into clean, sterilised jars, filling to the neck to create an airtight seal. Fasten the lids immediately and leave to cool completely before transferring to the fridge. Gently turn the jars a few times at least once a day to redistribute the ingredients, before returning to the fridge.

3. To make the dressing: strain the mandarins through a fine-mesh sieve into a mixing bowl to separate the juice from the fruit. Pour the juice into a jar or bottle with a tight-fitting lid. Add an equal amount each of light-coloured vinegar and oil. Add a few pinches of salt and some pepper, and seal the vessel tightly. Shake well to emulsify and make your dressing and set it to one side.

4. To make the salad: add your salad leaves to a large mixing bowl, along with
most of the chopped parsley and whole basil leaves. Using a slotted spoon,
add a generous amount of the pickled beans, then add your drained mandarins and crumble in your feta. Dress generously with the mandarin dressing, toss briefly to coat everything. Serve with more black pepper to taste and any reserved herbs to garnish.

Jack’s tip 1:

The beans will keep for two months in the fridge unopened, but use within a week of opening.

Tip 2:

The salad dressing will keep in the fridge for up to 10 days, shake it every few days to re-combine it and it will last a bit longer.

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Star Q&A: Paul Stellar

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Singer & dad Paul Weller, 63, opens up about his new album Fat Pop (Volume I), collaborations and a hopeful return to live music.

Q. Congratulations on the album! How was it born? “Most things become more apparent when you’re working on a record, so I don’t think I had a masterplan, I just wanted to make a record as I was facing a whole year or more of not doing anything, as all the live stuff had been cancelled.”

Q. You recorded in each of your homes, coming together at Black Barn studio in Surrey didn’t you? “In the first bit of lockdown, I was recording my vocal and a guitar or piano to a click track, then I’d send that to the band members… so there was a bit of to-ing and fro-ing until we could all get together. It was very weird, and I wouldn’t say completely enjoyable as little things kept coming back that we could have easily fixed if we were all together, but it enabled us to stay working. Getting together in person though, was special. I’d say like the first day of school, but I hated school, so it was more like the last day, a real f***ing joy.”

Q. With your huge back catalogue you like to keep it fresh don’t you? “I’m always trying to keep my own interest and not repeat myself, which when you’ve been recording music as long as I have, can be difficult. The older I get, the less cautious I am about trying things. There was a similar ethos in The Style Council, I just don’t think I had the chops to bring it off successfully at times. If I believe in something though, I want people to hear it.”

Q. What was it like working with your star collaborators Andy Fairweather Low and your daughter Leah? “It was so easy and natural with Leah. We were sitting around the night before and I was playing this song on piano. She’s doing an album just now that Steve Cradock is producing. Even without doing the proud dad thing, I can see she’s coming up with really good songs. Andy Fairweather Low? Well, it was a joy to have him on board. We sang together a couple of years ago on a charity thing round my way in Guildford and our voices went really well together, so we’ve often said we should do something together.”

Q. What’s on the horizon? “My only ambition is to have more of what I’m having now; life, music, family, children and all that. I don’t have long-term plans because, as we’ve discovered in the last year, there ain’t no plan. As long as I get a bit more of this, I’m a happy man.”

For the latest news on Paul’s tour dates and releases, visit paulweller.com

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June recipes: Cupcakes & kindness

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Dust off your baking bowls, whip out your whisks and unite against dementia by signing up for Cupcake Day

Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes

Ingredients:

• 125g Dark Chocolate (minimum 56% cocoa solids)
• 125g Unsalted Butter
• 1.5 tsp Instant Coffee
• 90ml Boiling Water
• 120g Plain Flour
• 30g Cocoa Powder
• 1.5 tsp Baking Powder
• 100g Golden Caster Sugar
• 150g Light Brown Sugar
• 2 large eggs
• 95ml Sour Cream
• 1 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste

For the icing:

• 360g dark chocolate
• 450g unsalted butter (at room temperature)
• 450g icing sugar

PREP: 20 minutes

COOKING: 25 minutes

MAKES: 4

Dementia is set to be the 21st century’s biggest killer and affect 1,000,000 people by 2025. Each cupcake sold this Cupcake Day, June 17th, will help Alzheimer’s Society reach more people, find out more about how you can help at cupcakeday.org.uk

Method:

1. Set the oven to 160C/150C fan/Gas Mark 3. Set out 12 cupcake cases in cupcake trays.

2. Melt together the chocolate and the butter in a medium pan. Separately, mix the instant coffee with the boiling water and then stir into the chocolate mixture until smooth.

3. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and sugar. Give it a quick mix to combine. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, sour cream and vanilla extract.

4. Mix together the wet ingredients, then fold into the dry ingredients.

5. Fill each case 2/3 of the way up and bake for around 25 minutes or until firm to the touch and a skewer poked in the middle comes out clean.

6. Cool in the tray for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

For the icing:

1. Melt the chocolate in a small pan and set aside to cool slightly.

2. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter with the icing sugar until pale and creamy (at least 4-5 minutes).

3. Fold the chocolate into the mixture, and use to ice the cooled cupcakes.

Very Berry Vegan Cupcakes

Ingredients:

• 240g self-raising flour (or gluten-free flour)
• 220g caster sugar
• 5 tablespoons rapeseed oil
• 225 ml almond milk
• 190g fresh strawberry purée
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 50g dairy-free margarine
• 300g icing sugar
• 50g fresh strawberry purée
• Fresh strawberries for decoration
• Multi-coloured sprinkles (optional)

PREP: 20 minutes

COOKING: 15-18 minutes

MAKES: 12

Method:

Preheat the oven to 350F/180C for 15 minutes and line a cupcake tin with 12 large cupcake liners.

1. Sift the flour and sugar into a large mixing bowl.

2. In another bowl, blend the strawberry purée, oil, almond milk and vanilla extract.

3. Pour the strawberry mixture onto the dry ingredients and use an electric whisk to combine until the batter is smooth.

4. Fill 12 cupcake liners two-thirds full with the batter and bake for 15-18 minutes.

5. Set aside and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

6. To make the sumptuous strawberry icing place the margarine in a large mixing bowl and sift in the icing sugar in stages, whisking well to ensure the icing is fluffy and smooth. Add the pureed strawberries to the mixture.

7. Once the cupcakes are cool, spread or pipe the icing onto the cakes and decorate with multi-coloured sprinkles and a fresh strawberry. The fresh strawberries in the decadently fruity icing means it’s best to ice the cakes immediately before serving.

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Star Q&A: Danny Goffey

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Liz Nicholls chats to musician & dad of four Danny Goffey, 47, who will star with his Supergrass bandmates at Englefield House in Theale as part of a series of gigs which have been postponed to July 2022…

Q. Hello Danny. It’s great that live music is back – do you enjoy playing the hits, getting the bangers out..? “I love getting my bangers out! Our songs are interesting and intricate enough that when you’re playing them, you’re concentrating and getting really into them. We did a tour before Covid, finished with a couple of gigs at Ally Pally and it felt… all right actually! Now playing live has a new meaning. Mind you, we’re doing a year of touring – maybe ask me at the end of that!”

Q. Do you know Englefield House? “I don’t. I moved to Oxford when I was 10 or 11. I went to school in Maidenhead and grew up around Cookham. It was a lovely childhood, mucking about in the woods, on the river, mad stuff.”

Q. Can you tell us about Oxford in the 1990s? “I remember loads and loads of pubs, characters. We had such a good laugh up and down the Cowley Road and in Jericho, at the Tavern, Freud’s and Raoul’s. Down Little Clarendon Street there was a place called Barcelona; I think I got thrown out for wearing pyjamas and acting really stupid. It was so free and easy compared to today.”

Q. Do you wish you kept a diary of those early days? “I suppose the beauty of mad off-the-wall moments is that you don’t remember them, which is sometimes the best way, haha! Some of those times were hectic and insane so it’s great not to be able to remember them. I’ve been writing my book to go with my new record so I’ve been reflecting on old times. I wish I’d written a diary from ages 16 to 20; how the band started, ins and outs. I’d recommend anyone starting something they think’s gonna be great to document it… Which everyone does these days anyway.”

Q. What’s your first memory of music? “Going through my dad’s rack of 45s, the Beatles, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Rolf Harris. Weird comedy records. The first band I got into were Dexys Midnight Runners; that was the first single I bought. I am crap with music nowadays; I haven’t got a record player or good stereo at the moment. I don’t listen to music much, it’s more Radio 4.”

Q. Have you felt insular during lockdown? “I’ve kept busy, with my album and book. It’s about an ageing semi-retired rock star and how he gets bullied by his family! I’ve spent a lot of time at a beach house, trying to fit decking. But I know it’s been really tough for a lot of people so I’m lucky.”

Q. What’s on your rider? “Me and Gaz tend to have a few vodka and Red Bulls before going on stage; it gives you a bit of an edge, lets you go a bit bonkers for a couple of hours. Wine and beers. A good coffee machine. We’re quite easygoing.”

Q. Who is your dream collaboration? “Ahhh, it’s endless. I’d loved to have worked on songs with Ian Dury. David Bowie. Years ago I wangled a way to play drums with Paul McCartney on bass for a Christmas album. That’ll do me.”

Q. Do you still get compared to McCartney? “Not as much as when I was younger. I look really mental at the moment with my long, wild hair.”
• To book your tickets visit heritagelive.net

Star Q&A: James Arthur

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Liz Nicholls asks singer James Arthur, about music, mental health and more. His new single September is out on 11th June, via Columbia Records, taken from his as-yet untitled album out in autumn

Hello James – thank you so much for taking time to share your thoughts with our readers.

 

Q. Congratulations on the new album, and the single out in June. You must be really proud of these? “Honestly, I am so proud of this whole album. I made the whole thing at home during lockdown, and I never could have imagined the difference working in a space I felt comfortable in could have led to me being able to produce the best work I believe I’ve ever made.”

Q. As someone who suffers anxiety myself, and a huge fan of CBT thank you for being so honest about it. How are you feeling now? “I take it day by day, I’ve found really focusing on staying present is the most important thing for me, I can’t control the past or the future, and trying to do so only breeds anxiety, so I focus on being in the present moment and just being grateful for that. What advice would you have for anyone going through a dark time? Speak to someone, you will be so surprised at the support you will receive if you just let people in, all it takes is a text to someone saying ‘I’m really not feeling ok’ which might sound like a scary thing to do, but by doing that, you are no longer alone. There is also an amazing out-of-hours mental health helpline by the charity SANE (sane.org.uk) if you don’t feel like you can speak to someone you know.”

Q. What is your go-to album or song to lift your spirits & make you feel good? “Got to be Real by Cheryl Lynn is my jam.”

Q. What is your first memory of music? “My early childhood memories of music are of rock vinyls playing at my dad’s (Thin Lizzy, AC/DC etc) – also Prince, Michael Jackson and soul music on repeat at my mum’s.”

Q. How did you feel about fame when you were young? And how do you feel about fame now? “I don’t think I ever really thought about fame when I was younger – the greats that I looked up to, I didn’t necessarily see them as famous, I was just so inspired by their talent. I also think the concept of fame was very different when I was younger – people that were ‘famous’ were very untouchable, you knew nothing of them apart from their art, and fast disposable fame didn’t really exist, whereas now, with social media, people really have an massive amount of access to a person’s life and personality. I guess it’s a necessary evil. I don’t think of myself as famous which probably helps me, and I’m so grateful to have people who love my music enough that would consider themselves a ‘fan’ of me, but if I could do my job without being famous, I’d definitely take that option!”

Q. How do you take care of your fantas1c voice? Anything you don’t eat or drink, or exercises etc? “I learnt very quickly after back to back tours that if I want to sing the way I want to sing every night I have to look after my voice, so I do an hour’s warm-up before a show and then a cool down after the show too. Even with that, if I don’t have days of complete voice rest built into the tour my voice completely cuts out for a few days, and it’s the worst feeling in the world as there’s nothing I can do to make it come back but wait and rest. It’s one of the most frustrating things about touring for me, so it’s a constant balancing act.”

Q. You have said you miss touring – having had some rest time, are you ready to go & perform live now? “I cannot wait! I’ve got some festivals lined up this summer and I’m really hoping they go ahead.”

Q. Is there an upcoming /lesser-known artist out there who you want to give a shout-out to & urge us all to listen to their music? “Shotty Horroh – I’ve been shouting from the rooftops about this artist for many years and I will continue to do so. He’s the best MC.”

Q. Rule of six time: who would be your dream party guests to hang out or have dinner/picnic with, living or dead, real or fictional? “Kurt Cobain, Jay Z, Elvis, Cillian Murphy, Ed Norton, William Wallace.”

Q. Do you have a favourite book? “My two favourite books are Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.”

Q. What were your favourite saviours of lockdown: i.e. things that made lockdown life better? “FIFA was massive for me during lockdown – I put my gamer tag on Twitter and my requests went crazy. From that I managed to find five guys who have become my really good friends. We spent the first lockdown speaking for hours and hours while playing FIFA every night. I’ve never even met any of them, but I speak to them nearly every day, and having that escapism was massive for me during lockdown.”

Q. If you could make one wish for the world, what would it be? “I’d wish that people would be kinder to each other. I don’t even think that’s that big an ask.”

Q. Is there anything on your horizon or future ambitions you can tell us about? “There’s some exciting acting roles coming up for me, but I might get sacked if I talk about it so you’ll have to ask me again next time!”

Support vaccination with V-star badge

Liz Nicholls

Featured

Lisa Hulyer and Sarah Lewis were so moved by the plight of our NHS heroes and angry about anti-vax scaremongering, that they decided to do something about it…

Over winter they launched their Vaccine Star (V-Star) badge for sale at £3 with all profits going to NHS charities, St John Ambulance and local causes, while sending a positive message to the world.

“We are two British mums who, like everyone else, have been significantly and profoundly affected by this dreadful virus,” explained Lisa and Sarah.
“Like most of you, we’ve been homeschooling our children, whilst struggling to maintain any vestige of normality as best we can.

As we are unable to work as normal, we have created this badge to promote the Covid19 vaccination programme to encourage every person in this country to take up this vital vaccine and to wear your V-Star badge to show your support.

It’s a handy way of being ‘seen’ to support the programme – and the feedback from healthcare workers has been so positive. It’s important everyone, from all communities, comes together to have the vaccine, to enable us to return to normal.”

The high quality 3cm blue enamelled star set in gold metal with a butterfly clasp is a British-made product. The project is helping to promote pop-up staff shops in hospitals for free food and essentials. As well as relaxing staff break areas for NHS workers and welfare packs of snacks, drinks, lip balm and hand creams.

To buy yours, please visit v-star.co.uk and follow
@vstar.uk on Instagram


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